How a Gap Year Abroad Gave Me a Break from My To-Do Lists

How a Gap Year Abroad Gave Me A Break from My To-Do Lists

We awoke before the sun’s web-like rays had cradled the Kathmandu valley to venture an hour’s drive away from the city.

Each minute seemed to take us leagues away from the metropolis. As we climbed higher up the roads, fog’s dewey fingers clutched us closer and closer until we were so suffocated by its presence that the driver insisted we walk the remainder of the way.

Our destination was a restaurant that boasted jaw-dropping views. Hardly able to distinguish the front steps in such fog, we took their word for it and shuffled on towards breakfast. When we emerged from the dining hall an hour later, the fog had lifted and like the curtains at a grand opera, revealed the masterpiece that lay beyond: 180 degrees of majestic Himalayan mountains.

I remained paralyzed by their massive stature for several minutes before beginning a five-hour hike back down into Kathmandu Valley.

For as long as I can remember, there has always been something on the horizon that must be done. Even in summer. Especially over breaks.

The wafts of solitude and fresh air made me realize how much stress has been lifted off my shoulders since leaving Colorado.

For as long as I can remember, there has always been something on the horizon that must be done. Even in summer. Especially over breaks. There is always a sports try-out to train for, an independent study to complete and a plethora of books to meticulously annotate.

But now, 18,000 kilometers away, I feel… light! It is as if every choice I make, ever step I take is by my own accord!

I can stop books after the third page, watch a full episode of television, and go two days without running hill sprints!

What bliss there is to be found in the voids between activities! If I had committed to a school by now or even to a school for after my gap year abroad, there is no doubt in my mind that the cycle of to-dos would never have stopped, making this level of guilt-free lightness unattainable, locked in a transparent box labeled “do not touch”.

But my choice to “seize the gap (year)” could not have come at a better time as there are two other “gap year musketeers” in my travel group here.

If I had committed to a school by now or even to a school for after my gap year, there is no doubt in my mind that the cycle of to-dos would never have stopped.

One is 42, the other 34 years of age. Despite our similar choice to take a year off and travel/work around the world, the timing in our lives makes our journeys strikingly different. They have brought to my attention that, even if I could squeeze out the time to do extended travel during my career, I would be bogged down by the situations they find themselves in: keeping up with co-workers to stay informed, calling fiances, paying bills online, contacting offsprings… the list goes on.

Not only do they have far more restrictions, they also have fewer opportunities remaining to pursue after their “year of self-realization” concludes. So the saying stands; seize today (because it only gets harder tomorrow).

About Monika Lutz

Monika LutzMonika Lutz has lived in seven countries and is the author of “Now What? How a Gap Year of International Internships Prepared Me for College, Career, and Life.” Although originally from Boulder, Colorado, she now resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Government with a double minor in Mandarin Chinese and General Management at Harvard University.

5 thoughts on “How a Gap Year Abroad Gave Me a Break from My To-Do Lists

  1. Avatar
    November 17, 2014
    Reply

    Inspiring post, thank-you. I met a hippy girl recently who told me that you don’t ‘have’ to do anything, go where the wind blows you and live in the present. I’m not sure I could ever quite live like that, but some of the spirit is good to remember.

  2. Monika
    Monika
    March 13, 2011
    Reply

    Hello Yulia, Thank you for your post! I am a dual-citizen (German and American) and as half my family either lived or currently resides in Germany, I was raised with the perspective that I am not a citizen of Colorado or of America, but of the world. Even with parents who firmly believe in this philosophy, when I approached them with my gap year plan, one jumped right into helping me, the other spent weeks trying to convince me to attend the local college (in fact, I am still getting hinting emails from her about it…). As the weeks go on and they realize how happy I am to be following my own path (while calling them to talk twice a week:), their support grows and grows. I believe the biggest question to answer before taking a gap year is, “Where do I want to end up?” That can be physical, but also emotional (more independent, more knowledgeable, to have a better understanding of myself). If a year off is what it will take to achieve those goals, go for it! And it would be my honor to answer more questions along the way:) Wishing you the best! –Monika Lutz

  3. MoniaLutz
    MoniaLutz
    March 13, 2011
    Reply

    Hello Rachel, Thank you so much for your response! I chose to travel to India because I had a connection to the social entrepreneurs that I worked with to distribute solar powered lights. Kathmandu came about because, ironically enough, it was a necessary connecting flight coming from Colorado and on my way to India. I figured that stretching this layover for several days would be beneficial and it absolutely was! Nepal may not have had as many “tourist-y” sites as India, but the sheer volume of natural phenomena could fill weeks of travel time. The rest of my locations came about through passions I wanted to explore. England will fulfill my curiosity of history. I will learn Chinese in Shanghai, and I wanted to go back to working in New York City. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to comment on my post. Let me know if there are any questions or stories you would like me to elaborate on in future posts!

  4. Avatar
    Yulia
    March 13, 2011
    Reply

    My daughter is interested in participating in a gap year experience when she graduates high school. I am getting more comfortable with the idea as I read the posts on this site. How did your parents feel about the gap year experience when you approached them? Thanks, Yulia

  5. Rachel
    March 13, 2011
    Reply

    Wow your travels sound incredibly liberating! How did you choose where to spend your gap year?

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