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Bridge the Gap

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We grow up on a path. We go to school, get good grades, go to a good college, get good grades there, get a job and live happily ever after. This is how we have been told to live a fulfilling and successful life, but what if this isn’t the only formula for success?

Graduating after four years of high school and then taking the leap into another consecutive four years of college is a lot to ask of young adults. What if they want to take a break?

That’s where a gap year comes in, a break from the rat race and a chance to experience the world before hopping back onto the hamster wheel.

A gap year is a chance for students to take a year off between high school and college and do, well, whatever they want. A gap year doesn’t have to involve traveling around Europe partying and drinking or working at a startup. For many people being immersed in nature and by themselves is exactly what they need to clear their mind and help them evaluate their life.

The ability to take a gap year is certainly a privilege, but it doesn’t have to be expensive five-star treatment and nice hotels. For many, the traveling and the experiences had on a gap year can be the most memorable of a lifetime and the last chance to set out without any agenda. With limited vacation time because of their careers, many students feel they need to make the most out of the time they have left to be a young adult and explore before taking on the responsibility of being fully employed.

There are endless ways to make a gap year enjoyable, and that is really the best part. For the first time in your life, you have the ability to direct your own life. This is a real chance to meet new and interesting people, see places that you have never seen and be truly free.

Many Paly students feel the need to take their trip after high school because of all the stress the school causes.

We talked to a few Paly alumni that were willing to share their stories to inspire others.

Joshua Rapperport

Joshua Rapperport, a graduate from Harvard who is working at a technology startup in San Francisco, knew he needed a break in the middle of his academic career.

“I had been so caught up in the race to get to a good college I kind of wanted to slow down and find what I wanted to do,” Rapperport said.

Rapperport had been working hard for the 4 years of high school and 2 years into Harvard he realized he needed to take a step back. “I wanted some alone time and traveling around Asia on a motorcycle seemed like the best place to get it,” Rapperport said.

Rapperport set out alone with only a few hundred dollars, ready to start his adventure, “I bought the motorcycle there, and just set out to ride across Thailand and visit different villages and places of natural beauty,” Rapperport said.

Rapperport claims that he never doubted his trip and even after he came back he never regretted his decision.

“My one piece of advice is ‘just do it,’” Rapperport said. “Don’t worry about what other people say or think because as soon as you get back everyone will be jealous. Every reaction I got was ‘I wish I took a gap year.’ Nobody has ever said ‘I am so glad I finished college in 4 years.’”

Nathan Zeidwerg

Nathan Zeidwerg had a different goal for his trip: see as much of the world while he still could. “I’ll have reached 12 different countries by December and somewhere over 20 by April,” Zeidwerg said.

Zeidwerg had his heart set on seeing all corners of the world and that is what he did. “This semester I’ve been traveling primarily in Europe, with a brief excursion to Mexico in December,” Zeidwerg said.

The Paly graduate had never done an adventurous trip like this before, but that didn’t stop him. “Going and traveling around the world is a romantic idea with a lot of flexibility so there wasn’t much to find unappealing,” Zeidwerg said. “I went alone at first and it wasn’t particularly daunting.”

Without a real plan in place, Zeidwerg set out with almost no structure for his trip, all he knew was that he wanted to travel the world alone. Without relying on other people he was able to experience the world in a much different way than many who take gap years.

“I’ve been traveling alone, primarily, but I’ve been meeting up with friends in different countries and sometimes people accompany me on certain trips.” Zeidwig said.

After all of this Zeidwig had one piece of advice, “If you plan it like a short trip or vacation, you’ll exhaust yourself and ruin your opportunities for spontaneous trips or detours, which almost always end up better than what you’d planned.”

AUGUST Ramberg-Gomez

Just four days after receiving his Paly diploma at the class of 2016 graduation, August Ramberg-Gomez flew to Maine and embarked on a journey on the Appalachian Trail with a friend. The expedition would last four months and twenty days, covering 2,200 miles from the state of Maine to Georgia.

“I’d been backpacking before, but nothing even close to four or five months,” Ramberg-Gomez said.

This journey was just the beginning for Ramberg-Gomez as he fell in love with hiking and the challenge of completing one of the nation’s long distance hiking trails within one season.

Using the skills he learned from the Appalachian trail, Ramberg-Gomez returned home to Palo Alto and worked tirelessly to save four thousand dollars, to embark on a second long distance trail over his gap year, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

Stretching 2,650 miles, the PCT spans the entirety of the west coast, from Washington to Mexico. He started by hitchhiking 120 miles through northern Washington to the trailhead, which was quite the feat for a 18 year old.

“I had already experienced what it’s like to thru-hike with another person and surprisingly, starting the PCT alone was quite nice,” Ramberg-Gomez said. “It’s exciting to spend time moving through the backcountry alone.”

Ramberg-Gomez began his expedition on July 11 of this year starting at the Canadian Border. He is now 78 miles from the Mexican border and excited to finish with four months remaining of straight backpacking.

“My best piece of advice would be to take pictures of and with the people you meet,” Ramberg-Gomez said. “I have found that these are always the ones I want to look back on since my travels are often heavily influenced by the connections, acquaintances and friends I make along the way.”

In the rush to success, many get wrapped up in the need to reach the finish line but forget to find what they really want out of life. It is important to have a chance to see a new perspective and get the experience necessary to come back to college and life with a new sense of understanding.