Looking back, many different factors influenced why I decided to take a gap year after my first two semesters at college.
I’m a first-generation college student with no tremendously high expectations set for myself, except for the ones I created. During college, I found out almost immediately that life doesn’t always go according to plan. My grades started falling, I couldn’t pick a major and I had little to no desire to be there.
I needed a change.
A gap year to many people means a relaxing break and the chance to get more hours in at work. However, I saw it as putting my life, goals and ambitions on hold. This terrified me because it goes against what my family and friends continuously told me. “If you take too much time off of college, then you won’t feel any desire to go back.”
I struggle to make decisions, especially when those decisions determine my future.
The choice to take a gap year was challenging to say the least, but necessary.
Once the first year came to a close and I had a whole year off, I picked up additional hours at work to keep myself busy. Immediately, I felt like I wasn’t progressing enough in life. I compared my life to others daily, which then started to take a toll on me. It seemed that nothing could make me feel that same accomplished feeling that I got when trying to reach my goals in college.
One day, I got a phone call from my cousin.
He abruptly mentioned that he wants to go on a road trip to California. It took me less than ten seconds to include myself in these plans. This impulse decision was shocking. I had never been on a vacation without my parents before, so I knew this adventure would be a completely new experience. Maybe just the thing I needed to set me in the right path. We started discussing the stressful details from there such as cost, places to stay and the ultimate game plan for how we would even make this trip a success.
Although we were preparing to take this road trip on by ourselves, my cousin’s two friends also wanted to come along. I ended up the only girl going on the trip. That didn’t bother me though—less drama. Besides, everything seemed to be coming together well, or so I thought.
Chaos arose the morning we planned to leave. My cousin’s friend’s dad told him we can’t use his son’s leased car for the travel. If we couldn’t drive his car, we couldn’t go. His dad held his ground until we came to the agreement that if his son takes the car, he would have to make all of the payments on it. We were able to stick to the original plan and leave for California that morning.
We stopped in St. Louis, Missouri at the Ball Park Village. Our late night arrival didn’t stop us from exploring the place. The lights that filled the village were colorful, vibrant and instantly caught our attention. Since we planned on driving throughout the night and into the next morning without break, we hit the road once again.
We had no plans on stopping anymore, until we stumbled upon this enormous painting sitting in the middle of a field of Goodland, Kansas. What was this random painting all about? We read a sign that said, “World’s Largest Easel.” Both the Easel and the painting were so tall my camera couldn’t even capture the right perspective. Imagine witnessing art placed directly in the sky. I can’t seem to describe how breathtaking this piece was.
Next stop — Salt Lake City, Utah.
While putting the details of this road trip together, my cousin contacted one of his high school teachers who lives in Utah. When we arrived, she generously gave us a tour of the beautiful city. The billions of stars at night were unbelievably close. We went hiking, ate at the famous In-N-Out Burger and visited the building that the movie High School Musical filmed at, East High school. The salt water taffy wasn’t too bad either.
We had a good time, but our final destination was so close so we moved on.
Our first stop in California was none other than the hilliest city, San Francisco. After struggling to find parking and lugging our bags up the hilly roads, we finally made it to the hostel. Our stay here consisted of visiting hippie hill (also known as the hangout for most college students) and the houses of the well-known television shows That’s So Raven and Full House.
Still, we had more to experience.
We headed to Hermosa and Venice Beach for our last stop. Surfers competed in the waves, making me add “learn to surf” to the top of my bucket list. Since we were on-the-go most of the road trip, sitting down and reflecting on the experience as a whole was both enjoyable and also reassuring of the decision I made in going.
The ride home felt quicker than the ride there. On the way back, I noticed how carefree I felt because for a week, I wasn’t continuously thinking about what’s next with school and work. A huge weight had lifted off of my shoulders. Taking one day at a time, I relished in all of the silly and spontaneous moments with my cousin and his friends. I no longer wondered what life is like when you actually take time for yourself.
Thomas Edison once said that our most significant weakness lies in giving up. With my education, I didn’t completely throw in the towel, but I came pretty close. This 2,243-mile trip put things into perspective. The next semester creeped up on me as soon as I arrived home. However, this time, I was ready to begin again.