When most people think of gap years, they think of students saving up their earnings from their part-time jobs, so that they can go surfing, bush-walking, volunteering, or partying for a year before returning to their studies.

In recent years, however, the demographic taking gap years has started to change. Students can barely afford their course fees, let alone a trip to a foreign country, so gap years are becoming something that older people enjoy as a break from their careers – or a chance to further them.

Taking a Break

You’re just as likely to see an accounts executive on your gap year in Sri Lanka as you are a liberal arts student!

Taking Some Time To Find Yourself

If you’re dissatisfied with your job, and feel like you’ve missed out on a much greater calling, then taking a gap year (or even just a few months away from the office), can be invaluable. When you spend a gap year in South Africa you’ll get to meet interesting new people, see a completely different way of life, and learn new skills.

Volunteering and teaching gap years in particular are great for people that want to try something new. Your future (or current, if they’re open to you taking extended leave) employers will value the skills you pick up while working or volunteering abroad, and it’s a great opportunity to “find yourself”.

Getting the Confidence to Explore The World

According to a recent survey by Eurocamp, one fifth of holidaymakers don’t even leave the grounds of the resorts that they travel to. These people are scared to go out and wander around in a foreign country, even one that’s considered to be a tourist location.

This mentality (fearing strange, new places and experiences) is something that could hold you back in other parts of your life. If you’re nervous about venturing out into the unknown, then spending an extended period of time living like a local in a foreign country could be really good for you and your career prospects.

Learning a Foreign Language

The best way to learn a foreign language is to immerse yourself in it. Languages such as Spanish, French, German, Japanese and to an extent Portuguese are incredibly useful in the world of business.

The basic French you learned in school won’t help you get a job, but spending a few months in an area where French is spoken almost exclusively could take your language skills to the next level. If you get confident enough to really call yourself bi-lingual, then that’s a big bonus for your C.V.

It’s Who You Know

While you’re away on your gap year, take the time to head to some networking events, conferences, trade shows, or even just a local club or society that is loosely related to your career.

The people you meet at those events could be your colleagues one day, and having an existing bond with them (because you met in a foreign country, and have experienced things that none of the other people in the office have), will benefit you.

The world is getting smaller, but you can only enjoy the benefits that brings if you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone and explore.