I am a traveler through and through. I am German, was in exchange in Paris, spent half a year working in South Africa, strolled through Buenos Aires, hitchhiked from Munich to Istanbul, studied in Switzerland and now live in New York. Being in another country is pure energy for me. All my sensations double in intensity, I am incredibly aware of my surroundings, everything is exciting. In short – it is a huge, super long flash.
I always knew that I would take a gap year after graduation. Actually, it was my second one as I had already taken time out after finishing highschool. After all: When would I again have time in my life to do only what I want for extended periods of time? It is simply great to have more than a couple of days to explore another country. It gives you the opportunity to experience the small
things that differ, but also to see the little habits, dreams, wishes that people share around the world regardless of background and nationality.
But what about your career you might ask? What about an employer that interprets traveling around as laziness and lack of ambition? Well, McKinsey (the European equivalent to Deloitte) didn’t seem to mind when I interviewed with them. Actually, I even heavily draw on the experiences I made while traveling. After all – what better way to showcase an international mindset, cultural awareness and the ability to adapt to a broad variety of different circumstances? But my biggest learnings were on a very personal level. Because yes – there are the odd stories about the really creepy Turkish truck driver, walking around in the maze-like alleyways of Zanzibar by night during a power cut or waking up in a broken down public bus in the middle of a highway somewhere between Punta del Este and Montevideo because you were curing your hangover and didn’t hear all the other passengers deboarding. Those things are not only great stories – well, at least looking back… – but also teach you to fully appreciate having good friends at your side that have your back. Life comes to you with adventures you wouldn’t even have dreamed of if you just let it happen. During my time at McKinsey I had coffee with someone who by chance connected me with the people I ended up working for in South Africa. Being in Johannesburg, I met a bunch of people I am now I touch with in New York.
You might say – well, she is from Germany, people take gap year over there. But so can you! If other friends don’t, be the first. But actually I am pretty sure that as soon as you start being more aware about who actually is traveling, you will discover tons of people that rave about the adventures they had or those they are planning. Believe me, you would be surprised.
I would be lying if I said that I always have the confidence or trust that things will work out. I had big dips worrying about how my life might look like in the future, whether that was after high school, graduation, you name it. But if you stay alert and do what you love, then, in my experience, there is only so much that can happen to you. And traveling, well traveling gives you the opportunity like nothing else in the world to learn exactly that: Have faith in life and enjoy the moment.
Viola currently lives and works for Bus2alps in New York City. She took 2 gap years, one through Europe and another in Johannesburg. Taking a gap year enhanced her life and her future. If you want to join Viola, you can send her an e-mail to pick her brain at [email protected], or check out these great post-grad trips.