Instead of joining an expensive program, let me help you custom-design an affordable and meaningful gap year. Learn more, grow more, and save thousands in the process.
What’s a gap year?
A gap year is a period of purposeful learning and exploration that helps you make you prepare for your next phase in life.
Traditionally, young people take gap years in the “gap” between high school and college. But a gap year doesn’t have to be a full year, and it can happen before, during, or after college—or instead of college. You can take a gap month, a gap semester, a gap “I-have-exactly-7.5-months”, or a gap whatever. It’s really up to you.
What’s the popular approach to gap years?
Many people sign up for organized gap year programs (like these) that bring together a group of 10-20 young adults to travel together in developing countries and focus on international service learning, volunteering, and outdoor adventure.
These are wonderful programs, and I wish everyone had a chance to join one. But the reality is most organized gap year programs are prohibitively expensive for most families. Even with scholarships and financial aid, most families cannot afford—or don’t wish to take out the loans to afford—a $10,000 or $20,000 program.
Why should I consider taking an independent gap year?
Custom-designing your own gap year experience will save you a ton of money. A 12-week experience with an organized program might cost $15,000; doing it independently might cost $3000.
Building your own gap year means more growth, self-direction, and independence. By taking responsibility for all parts of your adventure, you learn more and build more skills. That’s what gap years are all about. (And that’s how Europeans, Australians, and New Zealanders have been doing them for decades.)
Most importantly, taking an independent gap year means doing exactly what you want to do. Perhaps one cool-looking organized program focuses on SCUBA diving, but it also includes a bunch of volunteering that doesn’t interest you. By taking the indie route, you can focus exclusively on SCUBA. And when your interests shift, nothing will stop you from shifting your energies accordingly.
What role do you play as a gap year consultant?
Many young adults and their parents want to do an independent gap year but, putting all the pieces together proves difficult. Often the parents don’t trust their child to do the research, understand the risks, and budget appropriately—and often they’re correct! Wading through endless opportunities, making decisions that balance risk intelligently, and figuring out how to do it all affordably: these are big challenges. They make you want to give up and just sign up for an organized program—or not go at all.
I’m here to help young people embrace the challenge of independent gap year planning: to get excited about it, to learn from it, and to make it their own. I think the design and planning stages of gap years are just as important and rewarding as the “doing” stage, and we do young people a disservice by signing them up for an organized program that they don’t necessarily need.
In addition to helping design gap years, I provide support throughout the gap year experience. I do regular, one-on-one video check-ins with those taking independent gap years. I also organize weekly group video calls that bring together young adults across the world. These calls offer the support and community that an independent young person needs to continue pushing forward when times are tough, and it helps them reflect on (and celebrate) what they’re already doing.
What makes you uniquely qualified for this role?
In addition to my personal independent travels—a month spent in Chile at age 14, five weeks in Europe at age 19, three months in South America at age 24, and much more—I’ve spent ten years running Unschool Adventures, my travel company for 14- to 20-year-olds.
Through Unschool Adventures I’ve designed and led over 20 unique, multi-week adventures—each of which granted large degrees of freedom and responsibility to it young adult participants—totaling more than 100 weeks of my life. I’m skilled at rapidly discovering new opportunities, assessing them for risk, and assembling realistic budgets. Most importantly, I’m dedicated to the safety of the young people I serve, as reflected by Unschool Adventures’ perfect safety record.
Between Unschool Adventures, my work at Not Back to School Camp, and my books and public speaking, I’ve accumulated vast experience coaching independent and self-directed young people: those who want to blaze their own trails. These young people have turned to me for advice for years, and now I’m making myself available to a wider audience than ever before.
Check out these articles I’ve written about gap years and related topics:
- Tools for Building a Cheap and Meaningful Gap Year (November 2017 / Blake Boles dot com)
- What Matters More Than Talent: Meta-Learning (January 2017 / Gap Year Association)
- How to Bootstrap a Solo Gap Year (November 2016 / Gap Year Association)
- 20 Non-Awkward Ways to Meet People While Traveling Solo (September 2015 / Huffington Post)
In the eight years I’ve known Blake, he’s inspired me to climb Machu Picchu, write a novel, become proficient in Argentine tango, and make many lifelong friends. He presents opportunities, encourages me to be bold, and helps get out of my own way as I’m figuring out what to do next in my life.
I once spent a good chunk of time talking about inflation and world currencies on a bus in the middle of Argentina with Blake. This is the kind of experience you should expect working with him. He knows his shit, and he is good at sharing that shit. If you’re looking for someone who is genuine, compassionate, educational, and life-changing—I recommend working with him.
Age 22 — Denver, Colorado
Blake is a very genuine person and one of the easiest people to communicate with who I’ve ever met. One of the most meaningful conversations we had took place on his Unschool Adventures trip New Zealand in 2016, where he helped me push myself to see how far I was willing to defend my values in a very fun and engaging way, which helped me sort out some deeper inconsistencies in my thoughts. Our time together has, without a doubt, made a positive impact on my life.
Age 21 — Portland, Maine