Once considered a rite of passage for those about to embark on the world of adulthood, a gap year is becoming more and more common for people in their 30s and 40s, and even middle ages. Why is that? Many people are discovering that after they’ve spent a decade or more in their career of choice (and maybe even paid off their student loan) they are left feeling unsatisfied in not only their career but their lives in general. A gap year for grown ups can be just the thing to open our eyes to new opportunities and perhaps even a new way of life.
Relax and Take a Break from Working
By the time we hit our mid-30s, many of us are left feeling burned out from the nine-to-five grind. We may look at the world we’ve created for ourselves and wonder if this is all there is to life – work, home, repeat. An adult gap year will provide a much needed break from our daily routine and allow us to discover a new way of living. And this doesn’t necessarily mean we have to quit working altogether. Many people quit their jobs for their adult gap year to discover new sources of income that allow them to travel. Thanks to the lockdown, there are more opportunities than ever before to work remotely. Whatever you choose to do, taking a break from your current job will give you the opportunity to step back and reevaluate whether or not you’ve got the right job for you. Some companies may even allow for a sabbatical to allow you to explore your options while having the safety net of coming home to your old job.
Another thing that the lockdown normalized was home schooling or online school. So, if you’re an adult gapper and a parent, you already have the comfort of knowing it is possible for your children to learn without attending a brick and mortar school.
Explore a New Country and Culture
If you come to Costa Rica, you’ll meet plenty of people who came to explore the rich culture and get away from their westernized lives centered around consumerism. Many of those people even opted to stay for good after a meaningful gap year in the land of Pura Vida (pure life). You simply cannot immerse yourself in another culture in the typical two or three weeks’ vacation afforded to most people by their company. Day to day living, volunteering, and engaging in activities that draw you into a community – these are the things that help immerse you into a new culture. Doing this will allow you to see the world from a new perspective, which is an experience you just can’t have from home.
Learn a New Language
No amount of Spanish classes back home will teach you to speak like a Costa Rican. Learning the basics of the Spanish language, such as verbs and nouns, is a great start but it can’t compare to the real thing. Costa Ricans have their own sayings and ways of speaking that cannot be learned on an app like Duo-lingo or Babble! Using words like plata as opposed to dinero for money, chatting with a Tico (local) and throwing around the term mae to sound laid back, and how and when to use Pura Vida, can only be learned in Costa Rica. And you won’t learn it all in a few weeks! You need to be out using your Spanish, practicing amongst the people, to learn their way of speaking.
Give Back in a Meaningful Way
Another great way to learn the language and culture of another country is to volunteer. You don’t have to lay around on your adult gap year. Volunteering your time will give you the satisfaction you may have been lacking at work. There are several opportunities to give back right here in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. A well-recognized and respected volunteer program is CEPIA (Culture, Education, and Psychology for Infants and Adolescents). You can work with at-risk, impoverished children and make a real difference in their lives. Some volunteers opt to help teach English classes. There are many opportunities to help. Those with a soft spot for animals will want to take note of Salve Monos, which help rescue injured monkeys, or Halfway Home Tamarindo, which helps care for stray dogs and cats. These are just a few of many options for meaningful volunteer opportunities in the area.
Pick Up a New Skill or Hobby
If you choose to come to Costa Rica for your grown up gap year, you don’t want to miss out on surfing. A popular pastime in the beach communities of Tamarindo and area, surfing is a bucket list favorite among millennials, gen-xers and boomers alike! Why not make this your year to learn this classic beach pastime? Iguana Surf has been teaching folks to get up on their board since 1989, training over 125,000 people how to shred waves! Since you will have more time to sink into this lifestyle than you would on a typical two-week vacation, why not take up an internship? You can surf everyday while you spend a few hours helping surf instructors and have the rest of your day to explore. This way you can really immerse yourself in the surfer lifestyle you’ve only dreamt about.
Travel and Explore More
An average two weeks vacation just doesn’t allow for much exploring. There are so many places to see and things to do in a country like Costa Rica…and so many places to surf! Once you’ve learned how to surf in Tamarindo at Iguana Surf, you’ll be eager to branch out and see what other waves you can conquer. A gapper has time to spend honing their skills and can take their chances at epic surfing spots like Witch’s Rock or even Playa Negra – made famous after being featured in the movie “Endless Summer 2”. These legendary swells are not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for the beginner with only two weeks of practice under their belt.
Connect with Yourself in Nature
There is no better place on earth to immerse yourself in nature than Costa Rica. The country contains more than five percent of the world’s biodiversity, yet it only takes up 0.03 percent of the earth’s surface. It’s literally teeming with life! The abundance of national parks, waterfalls, volcanos, and empty beaches makes it easy to connect with nature on a higher level. If connecting with nature and yourself is a big part of your adult gap year to-do list, then make sure Costa Rica is a big part of your plan. Due to the expanse of natural wilderness, Cost Rica is a popular destination for retreats of all sorts – yoga, meditation, detox from modern living and fast food, etc. One place near Tamarindo that draws a lot of people looking to get centered is La Senda Wellness Centre. Located on what is described as the world’s largest labyrinth, and the centre of several earth energy points, they host many retreats for those looking to reconnect with themselves.
An adult gap year is about more than taking a break from work, it’s about rediscovering yourself. We can’t be expected to “find ourselves” after high school when our priorities and attitude changes so much between graduation and 30! We need to continue to check in with ourselves, to reevaluate our desires and needs. That is how we grow, and growth can happen at any stage of life. Try an adult gap year and you may just discover a new you at 30, 40…even 60!
Written by Jennifer LaCharite