Why Before Where

Let’s say, for some reason, that you’ve got a bit of a Jones to buy some airline tickets. And, let’s pretend, you have this year where it doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you don’t:

1) end up in a Turkish prison

2) and well…there isn’t really a number two.

The long and the short of it is “don’t end up in prison.” Think of it that way and the entire world is going to open itself up to you. I don’t really want to talk about the “where” in this post, that’s for you to figure out. I want to talk about the “why”. Yes, also something for you to work out on your own, but I figure if I already have your attention, why not drop some knowledge.

The Why (catchy, isn’t it?)

Everyone who takes the fabled gap year trip has their own reasons for doing so. You may think that it isn’t as important as where you go, but if you think about it, the why directly influences the where…which circles back to the what (the trip itself). Who’s on first? Never mind.

Is your trip meant to open your eyes to the world around you? Do you want to immerse yourself in different cultures, live like the locals and slowly realize that it’s a big wonderful world? Then you’re going to want to pack it off to a place where something like that’s possible, and likely not a place that just drips of “tourist trap”. You need to be a traveler, not a tourist.

What about if you want to use the time to help others? Give back to your global neighbors and pitch in your part to help humanity raise the bar a bit? Charity work it is! Get yourself together with an international aid organization and see where it goes from there. Just a word to the wise: please be safe. Some of the places that need help most are the places with an unsavory rep. Going with a well known and respected organization is generally better than showing up wide-eyed with a pack slung across your back.

Not that any of you would ever really want to think this way, but what if your trip was more about fueling a few hours, weeks, months and maybe years (no prison, no prison, no prison) with fun fueled debauchery? Best not show up to a country where alcohol isn’t permitted, or prices are sky high, or the drinking age is something you can limbo under instead of step over. Follow my meaning?

The gap year trip can be a life-changing experience if that’s what you’re going for. Something that forever shapes the person that you want to and will become. Before you set out to spend significant time and money someplace, think about why you want to go there. No need to write a manifesto about it, or a pithy post on the internet (wink), but just get a solid idea and then run with it. Safe trip and travels!

Steve Zimmermann has drank with Aussies in Italy, danced on floating stages in Austria, sailed with dolphins in St. Vincent and pulled boats through creeks in Ireland.  He is a Lancaster, PA based writer who worked on the PR side of travel tourism before embarking on a career as a copywriter who happens to do a lot of traveling.  Follow him @zedcreative and say hello.

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