by Danny Hage

I’ve been somewhat reluctant to write this final gap year post. Reluctant not because I don’t want to write down my thoughts, but more because I don’t know what to write about. And to be honest, I still don’t. It’s like I want to write down all of the feelings, experiences, and people that made my gap year my gap year onto this page, but I just can’t do that. I remember typing my post-orientation blog about this time last year. I remember saying something along the lines of ‘the words I’m writing now will soon become a reality.’ At that time, I had no idea what that reality would be, but now, I’m fully aware of that reality, and I miss it. Even though that reality stripped me of my confidence by stealing my Macbook and other material possessions when I was just an amateur gapper and threw me out of my comfort zone by setting me down in foreign places, away from the familiarity of my hometown and family, it also matured me, wiping away fear and clothing me with a sense of belonging as over time, I grew to know and find my place in my homes-away-from-home.

I loved both places I spent the majority of my gap year, Ecuador and Thailand. However, Thailand always comes to mind first because my volunteer work and connections I made were more meaningful to me.

Often times, when I think back on my gap year, it’s often blurred. Everything passed so quickly and is seemingly all smushed together. But sometimes, I’ll listen to a song that I listened to often in Thailand, and it brings me back to Thailand, in all senses. I can picture vividly sitting in the A-frame bungalow of my guesthouse the first week, looking outside where the small pond lay motionless in the middle of an unkempt patch of grass. I remember the tree-filled mountains in the background and ducks floating on the pond because they had nothing better to do. The song brings back all the smells and sounds and experiences I had, even the nervous yet ecstatic feeling when I reminded myself, “I’m actually in Asia!” It’s such a crazy thing how a song can resurrect such senses and emotion, but I delight in the fact that any time I listen to it, I will be transported, mind and soul, back to a land I miss so much. Sometimes, to take me back, I’ll ruffle through the pages of my scrapbook, my going away present. It consists of a headshot of each student with a handwritten message beside it.

Thinking back on the year, it’s somewhat sad in that the experience is over, and that the people I met will only be a virtual reality, as I can only keep in touch over e-mail or Facebook. Everywhere I traveled, I learned something. Ecuador taught me to love and care for nature. Colombia taught me to never drink hostel water, even when they tell you it’s safe. Cambodia taught me that you never really have to travel alone. You just need to muster up the courage to ask fellow travelers if you can join in their plans. And Thailand taught me how to ride a motorbike, even after some severe leg injuries. Most importantly, it taught me that love transcends even the most diverse of languages.

There’s one thing I can say with 100% confidence concerning my gap year: I DON’T REGRET IT ONE BIT.