Gap years have proven to be highly effective for motivating and re-energizing students in between their high school and college years. It completely makes sense why when you take a look at the benefits. Research has shown that students who take a gap year perform better in school than students who didn’t. The former return more mature, self-reliant and self-assured than their counterparts.

Benefits from a gap year:

  1. Recharge your brain.
  2. Ignite creativity.
  3. Meet new people and experience different cultures.
  4. Get a better sense of what you want out of life.
  5. Have interesting stories to tell.
  6. Feel excited to go back to learning.
  7. “Grow up” a little bit more.
  8. Realize there are much larger problems in the world to solve.
  9. Understand you have serious first world problems.

So you’re in the “real world” now, and don’t have parents supporting you. How can you take a gap year? Well, if you have saved up enough money, can quit all your commitments and travel for a year, then DO IT.

Otherwise, I challenge you to take a month off this year.

Gap years shouldn’t only be for kids who need to grow up. It should also be for adults who desire change. And I don’t think you need to take a year off for it to change your life. It can simply be 30 days this year.

Today’s workplace is different from that of twenty years ago. Motivation has become essential to productivity, and there is no better killer of motivation than monotony. And no matter how much you love your startup or job, sometimes we all need a break.

There seems to be a stigma around vacations equating to partying and slacking time. You should definitely have a great time, but instead of just approaching the entire month off with a “drink till I die” attitude, produce some kind of work or learn a skill while you’re there: be it a blog, a volunteer assignment, a small project, a website, crafts, photography, a journal, etc. The goal here is not only vacation time, but also time to pursue personal projects that increase creativity, passion and self-awareness. You get time to step back from work and upon returning, you can re-evaluate your life from a bigger perspective.

Taking a month off may not be the easiest to ask for. If you work for a company, you need to do this ahead of time, arrange a schedule to complete what is needed from you beforehand and explain why this would be essential for your personal growth. But if your company still denies this, maybe ask yourself if that is a company you’d like to spend your life working for.


This can benefit companies as well.

Stefan Sagmeister, a designer in NYC, forces his ENTIRE company to take a year off once every 7 years. They shut down all operations and then spend that year collaborating on projects that take them all over the world.

When the team returns, they feel rejuvenated and excited for work once again. Something interested happens every time. The ideas and projects generated during this sabbatical often become inspiration for the firm’s designs over the next seven years. Giving his employees time off and free range to pursue creative projects essentially becomes Sagmeister’s R&D cost and generates huge returns for his firm.


My 40-day backpacking experience.

I started a company in college and had never really taken the time to travel so in May of this year, I took 5 weeks off to backpack through Southeast Asia. It was enlightening. I met a local artisan who makes metal jewelry from scraps and sells them to tourists. I rode elephants, pet exotic tigers and visited indigenous villages. I witnessed poverty. I experienced new forms of art. I attempted a giant fire jumprope and partially burned myself, mostly embarrassed myself. I tried many things I couldn’t have experienced here. Even after all this adventuring, I remember thinking on my last few days that I was ready to move forward with my life and start working on something I love.

What has been the result from this trip? Well, that’s for a future post. All I can say is the trip has definitely inspired me to re-think entrepreneurship, work and my personal life.

So I’m challenging you to do the same this year or next. Take a month off from work (at least). Just do it, no excuses. Go travel, document it, work on a project, whatever. And see what happens!


If you have done this or will, please keep me updated on your travels/projects/blogs! Would love to get ideas for my future travels. Plus I love hearing about adventures. Twitter: @heyitsfei