How does one prepare for a transformative experience like a gap year? To close out our second season of Gap Year Radio, we invited three professional gap year counselors; Jason Sarouhan of the Center for Interim Programs, Marion Taylor of Taylor the Gap and Susan Staley of Free to Roam Adventures, to discuss what they think are the most important ways to prepare for a gap year. We’ll cover mental and physical preparation as well as tips for staying safe on your gap time.

Jason’s Advice: Set Intentions

As an ultra-marathoner, Jason knows what it means to mentally prepare for a big event. Jason recommends that all gap year students think critically about their intentions ahead of beginning their gap time. This means thinking deeply about what you want out of your gap year and reflecting on experiences as they are happening, as well as afterwards. Increasing mindfulness around your gap time will make it more meaningful.

How to do this? Journal, scrapbook, vlog or find ways to engage in reflective practice throughout their gap time. Assess and create new goals as needed.

Marion’s Advice: Five Safety Tips for Gap Time

  1. Register for STEP, the State Department’s system for communicating with US citizens abroad.
  2. Be mindful of your food and water consumption. She recommends getting a steripen!
  3. Read reviews for programs and workstays.
  4. Understand what kind of travel insurance you need. Make sure the coverage meets your needs for adventure sports! Mental health insurance is also available.
  5. Arrange for airport pickup when you arrive in a new place – when you are exhausted and disoriented this is the safest way to get to your lodging.

Marion also recommends planning for emergencies with your parents so you have a game plan if something unexpected happens. Grab a Vagaband bracelet, which will list your emergency information right on your wrist.

Susan’s Advice: Physically Preparing for Gap Time

Much of what we do in the months leading up to our travels can impact our time abroad. Susan recommends the following tips for getting ready in the months leading up to leaving home:

  1. Walk every day or otherwise stay active – gap time is often physically active (even if you don’t anticipate it ahead of time) and getting in shape will help you adjust to your lifestyle.
  2. Understand your process for self-care: yoga, journaling, listening to music etc. If you need to check out while with others, this will help you recharge.
  3. Make an appointment to get your vaccinations and travel meds.
  4. Pack light and follow your program’s packing list.

Susan’s Top Gear Recommendations:

Reusable water bottle

Portable charger

Bamboo cutlery

Thanks for an amazing second season of Gap Year Radio, listeners! We are always available online and at gapyearradio (at) to answer your gap year questions. Have a great summer!