This article was originally published on Medium.
Virtually everyone can recall a moment when they felt completely lost and the only thing one wanted to do was to escape somewhere far away. It’s okay to feel like that, but at the same time it’s super difficult to make good decisions in those moments of weakness.
For me, it happened roughly two years ago. Four days after I turned eighteen, I packed my bag, took a few things, and escaped from my parents’ house… If you try to imagine what happens after such an incident, read on. I had lived on my own for nine months. I learned a lot, I discovered so many new things, and I got experienced a lot. That’s when I started looking at the world from a totally different perspective.
Continuing with my risky life, a year ago, I dropped out of my university after just one and a half weeks. It might sound crazy but my heart and mind were telling me that it was the best path for me at that moment.
Many months later, I can firmly say that I don’t regret anything — I’m really proud that I could decide what I wanted to do in life. I had given up on our education system, but I wanted to learn more, using different sources and techniques.
I learned a lot during my gap year. I wrote this article to share my thoughts and experiences, and to help you save yourself a lot of time and avoid frustrations. If you find yourself at a crossroad and are not sure which path to choose, read on and discover the result of the less popular ways of living.
Table of Contents
Take a risk, it might be worth it
I took the risk and bet everything on one card: Proud — a productivity app my boyfriend & I had been working on for over two years. I studied for one and a half weeks, but I could not see myself in a university. To be honest, I had no idea what I was doing there. I was spending my school time thinking of Proud and the ways I could make it better. (I was working on Proud after I graduated from high school).
I remember coming back from another boring lecture one sunny Wednesday afternoon. I took a blank piece of paper, and created a table with the pros and cons of attending school versus working on my own. It was quite a long list, and it helped me to decide what I really wanted at the time. The day after… I started working full-time on Proud. And…
- My boyfriend and I now have two really successful apps in the US Market. (Proud for iOS & Proud for Mac)— Proud has been featured by Starbucks in section “Pick of the Week” (OMG, yes! My favourite coffee place!) and in Product Hunt, Inc Magazine, The Next Web, Lifehacker, AppAdvice, Applesfera, and fifty other blogs and magazines around the US & Europe.
- Proud has been nominated by TechRadar for best app of 2016. (next to Evernote, Uber, and Instagram).— It has been featured in the iOS App Store 18 times all around the world! And it gained 120k+ users in the first seven months!
- In the mean time I launched two arcade games Mindivision and Trolley Jump (second game was made in just 2 days).
- I wrote three articles about app marketing read by over 10 000 people!You can read it here: I’m 19 and I’ve just launched my first iPhone app!
- What’s more… I created everything from scratch, with no marketing degree. I’m just a passionate girl who wants to create big things…
I learned that traveling is the best way to find yourself.
As soon as I finished high school I decided that I wanted to spend the next few months traveling. So I had a chance to visit seven countries around Europe. I was traveling with my boyfriend Piotr, looking for a place to stay for a bit longer. We’re both from Poland and we had always wanted to live in a warmer place. We found our own paradise (but that’s the story for another time).
During my travels I was constantly writing in my personal diary — collecting ideas, thoughts, and memories. It has helped me find new answers, gave me fresh points of view and, what’s the most importantly, made me realized what my life goals were. To conclude, traveling is the best way to explore your interests through real world experiences.
- 98% of people said that taking a ‘gap year’ helped them develop as a person.
- 84% of respondents said that taking a gap year helped them acquire useful career skills.
- 77% said that a gap year helped them find their purpose in life.
People will criticize you
You can imagine how many times people criticized my choice. “You won’t have a job without a degree”?—?they said. Bleh bleh bleh! Many wanted to discourage me, but I knew that could prove them wrong!
But no matter what… People are also awesome!
Thanks to our app Proud I met so many great people around the globe, a few of I get to see in real life soon. Plenty of our customers became our friends. I talk with them really often, and it makes me really happy and proud. Many of them were really supportive during my bad times.
You can learn anything you want
This is actually my favourite part of the journey! I started my first freelance work when I was sixteen. I read blogs, books, articles, and courses, familiarizing myself with marketing. It helped me jump both into marketing and business world. Of course, I’m still learning and improving my personal skills and I assure you that, self-education can be a really interesting part of everyday life. I also believe that the Internet is the most powerful resource in the world (of course, it depends how you use it).
New research shows the skills learnt on gap years are a key to success in later life.
If you want to learn coding or job skills, you can find all you need online. Want to learn how draw, or how to use Photoshop? If so, I will tell you a secret to become the best in any skill: start now and in ten years you will outclass 99% of people around the world. These are some tools/apps that I use quite frequently… And there are millions of others — the only thing you need is simply a WILLINGNESS to learn.
Here are some apps, websites I use often.
- Duolingo — Learn a language for free.
- Memrise — Use flashcards to learn vocabulary.
- Platzi — Streaming classes on design, marketing and code.
- Udemy — Learn real world skills online.
- Skillshare — Online classes and projects to unlock your creativity.
- CreativeLive — Free creative classes from the world’s top experts.
- Coursera — Free online courses from top Universities.
Others are included inside the articles below:
- The 49 best free websites and apps to learn something new.
- 10 Apps That Will Teach You Something New Every Day.
- The 37 Best Websites To Learn Something New.
- 58 of the best websites and apps to learn something new.
No-one can live your life except you!
Most of us are just scared to take an action and change, to try and discover something new. This fear of being rejected is the main reason why we don’t achieve what we truly want in life. But there’s one solution for it: fuck it. Do your best and realize that some naysayers will criticise and tell you what you can’t do — because they don’t have enough strength to fight for their dreams. It’s your own life, and your own story. You are the sum of your experiences.
Have patience in order to succeed
Anything worthwhile takes time to grow and mature. Yes, we are not perfect, and we make mistakes along the way. Sometimes things don’t work perfectly, sometimes we screw up situations and opportunities. Don’t worry, you have plenty of time to learn everything…
So, here’s a short strategy that worked pretty well for me:
- Understand your end goal.
- Break down the tasks into smaller pieces.
- Trials and errors ;).
- Realize that everything requires time.
- More trials and errors.
- Be consistent.
Never say never!
One year into my gap year I decided to continue. Those months were the most satisfying for me because I was doing what I really believed in. So… Over three weeks ago, I packed my stuff once again and I moved to Valencia in Spain. I get to experience my own Spanish Dream! In the meantime, I got a visa to The United States, so time will tell where I’ll end up in the future.
I’d like to show young people that they don’t have to do what society and parents force them to. I recommend you to take risks, make mistakes, and experience a lot of things. If not now, then when? Remember that there is not such thing like perfect time…
While it was a trying time for me, when I look back, I don’t regret anything and I’m happy where I am now. I haven’t written off University, but now is not definitely the right time for it.
As soon as I moved to Spain, I decided that I want to spend some of my time to help others with marketing. Ask me about your app or product and I will try to help you in the best way I can! Trust me I’m a Wizard and I will be really happy to share my knowledge with you! ?
Have you ever taken a gap year? I’d love to hear what’s your story! Shoot me a tweet or write me personally: firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me about your experience!