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Gap Year

Gap Year 1-1 Are you Chicken??

We all have different opportunities presented to us at numerous times in our lives but you know what, sometimes we are just too chicken to take advantage of them.  Yeah I said it. You, me, us, we just get so comfortable in our daily routine, in the safety of the known, that we just want to maintain it. Even if what we are maintaining sucks or if we think there is something better out there for us. Better to be unhappy in what we know versus the potential of being even unhappier in the unknown.

Well, let me tell you a little bit of my routine and what is known. I am a consultant and as glamorous as it may sound, what that really means is long hours, constant traveling, early mornings, being away from loved ones, constantly playing the “game”, and walking on water for your clients. (that was a Jesus reference btw)

In the last 1.5 years before I gave the deuces to my job, I would wake up a 5 a.m. every Monday morning after hitting snooze button one too many times and then rush to the Atlanta airport to be herded through the security line with so many other walking dead consultants.  I would take a weekly 5 hour flight to sunny San Diego, which had beautiful weather btw, but then work 10-12 hours day, so never really getting to enjoy it.

Then, I would grab some food after work, say I was going to gym but rarely did, call my girlfriend and talk to her for 1-2 hours while I sat it my hotel room and then hit repeat until Thursday.  On Thursday there was a glimmer of light that the weekend was near but sometimes it would be decimated if I had to take a red-eye back.  If you ever wanted to see an angry black man then come see me when I get off that 5 hour red-eye at 6:30 am.

 

Do I look happy to you??

I was just mad at the world. Even after taking a nap when I got home, my internal clock was just completely disrupted so I was cranky all weekend.  This was my routine and this was what I was holding on to. Sounds terrible doesn’t it?

Gap Year1-2: So, a little about me

So for all intents of purposes, consulting can really weigh on you especially when you’re traveling coast to coast every week.  However, to be fair, there are some pretty darn good perks. I would be remiss with pointing these out and would only telling one side of story. So first, you make good money. My company (which will remain nameless..for now) was kind of skimp on pay compared to other consulting companies but they still paid well comparatively to other industries and they also had great stock options.  I get 5 weeks’ vacation, was promoted a number of times, and flown on private jets for client work, so let’s just say my career progress was going well.  In addition, I racked up a ton of frequent traveler point so Delta and SPG hotels rolled out the red carpet for me.
In most cases I was upgraded to first class for my coast to coast trips and I would get suite upgrades in my hotel at random.  I also used those points to take “almost” free trips to places like Hawaii, Costa Rica, Brazil etc (in prior years).

Oh yeah, and I also got extra cash from my traveling per diem whenever I was on the road. Oh yeah (again), instead of coming back to Atlanta, I had the option to go to any city in the world that was a comparable price on the company’s dime. Whew!! Now, I bet you are like what the heck is he complaining about?

To be clear, I am not trying to brag but just trying to paint a picture of the good and bad of what was major part of my life at this point.  If you haven’t, check out the bad in Gap Year 1-1

Gap Year 1-3: Oh I think I like you..

So rather or not you thought my life sucked, or you thought it was awesome, or it was somewhere in between, something was at least off for me.  I think part of it was that I was about to turn 30 years old and I felt like I was losing myself in corporate America after being in it for almost 7 years.

I was doing well in my career but ultimately I wasn’t happy and really where I wanted to be.  But on the flip side, I really liked the people I was working with.  My co-worker and clients actually became my legit friends.

Although we worked hard, and we did work hard, we played hard and we were really like a family.  I don’t know how many times they helped me plan a surprise or select a gift for Najah (that would be my girlfriend). Or when it was just after 6 p.m. and things started quieting down, it would turn into a Karaoke session.  When my birthday came around they got me a special cake (I required a lot out of the team so when I didn’t get what I expecting they would call me princess…lol)

When you reach a milestone and you decide to pop champagne in the parking lot or you have a van full of consultants that are taking calls on the way up to a vineyard to get lit

 

or you make an unsanctioned trip to Tijuana, you know you have something special.  I went through roladex of pics and even found a pic of me wearing my “princess” crown.

Some of my fondest memories have been with working with people on this project.  Tear, tear.  So if you can’t tell I was hella confused.  However, I still had a choice to make.  Continue with my routine or take on a reckless but potentially very uplifting opportunity of a gap-year.

Gap Year 1-4: The Opportunity (WTH is a Gap Year???)

So my buddy @travelandtruth and I got the travel bug when were college roommates at Georgia Tech. We took a cruise to the Bahamas for Spring Break in 2012 and then the floodgates opened. We were addicted to travel and went on trip after trip after trip.

I mean from going to Cuba illegally before Obama made his historic trip, to playing Mas in Trinidad Carnival and no knowing a single soul there (highly inadvisable lol),

or making our way to the ruins of Machu Picchu,

we have seen a lot of countries together. After going on so many trips and talking to so many non-Americans we always heard this reoccurring theme of a gap year. Our first response was “Ummmm, What’s a gap year?”.
A gap year is break the many Europeans and Australians take to travel the world after graduating from secondary school and before they take job. It is an amazing opportunity where it gives individuals the ability to become global citizens and reflect on what they really want out of life.

 

Some people do the gap year and decide that they want to stay in that country and work as a professional or as a surf instructor. Some people do a gap year and go to just about every country in South America or Asia. The idea is that they learn about the world before they put their heads down in an office or any job for the next 30+ years, something I think Americans can really learn from.

So after hearing all of this insightful information since 2009, are question to ourselves was , why not us?!!!

Gap Year 1-5: Planning For A Reckless Experience at 30

So from the moment we learned what a gap year was in 2009, we started planning and saving for our own. I mean honestly we didn’t know if we ever would do it but we knew we wanted to. It also wasn’t a specific plan just something we kept in the back of our minds.  Well, it was in the back of our minds until January 2015.  You see, this trip would cost a significant amount of money (and still did) but since both my buddy and I were consultants we always planned on using Delta’s Around the World Ticket to help keep costs down.For 180,000 miles we could get to just about every continent in the world with only paying taxes (a few hundred bucks).  Well, on that fateful date in January, Delta forced our hand and really made us put up or shut up.


As I was just perusing the internet one Saturday afternoon I just got the urge to start looking for flight deals. I went on Delta’s site to check what trips I could get with points.  I remember I started to daydream about the possibilities of a gap year and then something caught my eye….Delta’s around the world ticket program is expiring!!!  Wait, it’s expiring?!!! Wait, it’s expiring in literally 2 days!!! <mouth drop>. Are you #@^&$ kidding me.

 

My heart fell out of my chest.  Using Delta’s RTW ticket was the only “affordable” (and I use that term loosely) option for us do the gap year.  So no RTW ticket means no Gap Year!!  I immediately called my boy and we had a long phone call and kind of just went back and forth with each other and were like are really doing this?  We aren’t in our mid-20’s anymore we are grown men that are about to be 30.  Are we going to quit our jobs?

 

I mean no job means no income, we have both have serious girlfriends now, we both have mortgages, this trip is cost a grip, wait so……..are we really doing this????

Gap Year 1-6: The Decision

Man oh man ish got real that day lol.  I always told Najah that a gap year was a possibility in the future but even I didn’t believe it to some degree. I mean, does it really make sense for a 30 year old man to recklessly leave his job to pursue some farfetched passion or dream?  Ugh!! What to do?!!

The very same day we figured out that we had 48 hours to make a decision,  I had an emergency meeting with my buddy.  It was game time. We were nervous, we were scared, and we were mad at Delta for springing this on us and discontinuing the program with points.

 

We spent hours going over the pros and cons of going on the trip. We would constantly pace back and forth in my living room and ask each other question after question.  What about our girlfriends? How do we tell our girlfriends?

What about our jobs? Do we like our jobs? How does this ticket even work? Can we afford this?   If we do it, we are saying “Yes” to an amazing opportunity but also “Yes” to a very uncertain future with our girlfriends, jobs, income, and life!!

If we say “No” we are saying we want to be comfortable and play it safe. We are saying we want to go back to jobs that we don’t really care for but, hey, at least it doesn’t disrupt the routine.  Everyone is happy except us.  Both options kind of suck lol.  What would you choose if you were in our shoes?

Gap Year 1-7: Selfish or Self-Worth To Leave Your Girlfriend Behind

After significant deliberation, and I do mean significant, our eventual decision to do the gap year was ultimately a “Yes”.  Now, I can’t speak for him as to his rationale for still choosing to do the gap year, but from my perspective, it was doing something for the betterment of me. Now some people, specific people, (yeah I am jabbing) thought this choice was very selfish. And you know what they may be right. It is selfish to go after your dreams.  I have dated a beautiful, committed girlfriend for 3 years and now I am about to bounce for at least 6 months.She definitely wasn’t happy about it and she didn’t want me to go. But I can’t lie, in my mind I would have loved for her to say if this is important to you then it also is important to me and just support me through it. However, that obviously didn’t happen lol and I can’t blame her. I mean our relationship was literally on the chopping block so I can definitely understand the concern.

So this is a legit question.  Was this decision selfish or more about self-worth or is there even a difference? (add a comment and let me know).   I really want to know what people think.

Gap Year 1-8: Why I Chose…

Yes, I decided to choose me and do the Gap Year. I am interested to see people’s comments and response but let me now share a bit more of my rationale. Saying “Yes” to the gap year was me deciding to not self-sacrifice for the sake of someone else’s happiness (mostly my girlfriend) for a unique and life changing experience.  This sounds harsh as hell but hear me out (I love you baby!!).Deciding to not do this would have been a detriment to myself and more than likely to us.   Saying “Yes” to the gap year, for me,  was an inward and outward proclamation to myself that I was not a slave to my job or slave to what American society says I should be (umm do you know what America thinks of me..I am a black man by the way).I mean can you imagine if I thought the opposite? So if I said hey baby I will stay back for us but I am going to feel like a slave to my job and also feel like I need to live up to what American society says I am.  Umm, bro, that’s not healthy.  And honestly, that’s how I started to feel being in corporate American for so long.  I just saw a not so good future on the horizon and I had to do what I thought was best to stop that.  I needed a rest clock.

Another reason I chose to do the gap year is that I am hoping this can inspire others. A black Bajan-American male from the ghettos of Boston who sometimes ate bread and butter for dinner (btw bread and butter is off the chain) because there was no alternative and had to keep the oven open to keep the house warm some nights is going to travel to all 7 continents on a gap year.  Umm, you said what sir?  So in other words I am saying if I can do it, you can do it.

Gap Year 1-9: Black Self Worth And Travel

Doing something like this gap year (although it is really not a year) is hard enough no matter what your background is but there is also another reason why I wanted to make the trip.  Self-Worth. How does America see me? Yes me, a black man.  Well, as you can imagine, it ain’t pretty (this trip was happening in 2015).  I am likely going to end up in jail or dead, right?  Oh my, you graduated from Georgia Tech, did you play a sport? I am also extremely prone to violence, you didn’t get the memo?The rhetoric that America is spewing when I was getting ready to take this trip in particular with police brutality was on different level, the worst that I have seen in my lifetime.   Even despite what I was able to accomplish at my firm (I mean I flew on a private jet for client work for goodness sake), all the tragic events with Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Mike Brown etc and seeing it over and over again eventually lead me for the first time in my life to wish I was born a different color. I really just wished I wasn’t black.  I remember I would just tear up sometimes (as manly as I could) and wonder why they just hate us.  Eventually I came back to my senses and realized my black is beautiful but this ish is real.  So doing this gap-year was giving me a break from such a contentious environment, doing my small part in hopefully changing the story-line of what black men are able to accomplish, and motivating people that look like me that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.  I just put my mind on something for 6 years and prepped for it. You can too!

Lawrence – We Work To Travel
Guest Contributor / Blogger
Urban Events Global
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