10 Productive & Fun Things To Do During Your Gap Year

10 Ways to Keep Yourself Busy and Improve Your Life

By Eliana Oliver

One year ago, my gap year between high school and college came to a close. Because of this, I feel it is my duty to share all of the fun things I was able to do with you! I was the only person in my friend group who decided to take a gap year, so as I was entering the transitional period between high school and college, I had to come up with my own itinerary for how I was going to make the most of my time.

If you know you are going to take a gap year, great! If you are still deciding, that’s okay too—take your time. Let this non-exhaustive list give you some inspiration on how to transform your gap year from a waste of time into an engaging and growth-filled life experience.

1. Take a New Hobby on a Test Drive

There is almost nothing as stimulating as picking up a new hobby. Here are some to consider: gardening, knitting, crocheting, chess, sudoku, crossword puzzles, drawing, writing, Zumba, meditation, zentangling, yoga, sewing, video games, collecting, modeling, blogging, biking, singing, acting, and list goes on and on.

2. Develop Healthy Habits for a Sound Mind and Body

Now is the time to create the lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of, no excuses. 

Consider these: fix your sleep schedule, work out, learn to cook, eat foods that make you feel good, cut down on (or cut out) unhealthy habits, stretch, meditate, limit your screen time, clean up your social media, organize your room, put on sunscreen, etc.

3. Read Books Like You Never Have Before

Is there a book on your shelf that you bought years ago and have never read? Is there a childhood book series that you want to revisit for the sake of nostalgia? Have your friends been telling you non-stop to read their favorite murder mystery? Have you always wanted to get into reading, but have been too busy or stressed to start?

Take time during your gap year to read a book from start to finish. Whether it’s 30 minutes a day or 5 minutes a week, reading is so good for you! You can listen to audiobooks. You can read at your favorite cafe. You can visit a local library. Please, for the love of stories, read!

Book pictured here is “101 Essays That Will Change Your Life” by Brianna Wiest.
4. Go on a Road Trip

You would be surprised how much fun road trips can be. If you don’t drive, use your local public transportation.

Some tips: Fill up your tank the day before. Bring a friend or a family member. Switch drivers occasionally. Blast some tunes. Play car games. It doesn’t need to be long because there is so much you can do in a day. Plan your stops ahead of time, but leave some time for spontaneity. Take the time to explore.

5. Get a Job and Start Saving Money

Jobs are a great way to gain real-life experience as well as skills that will help you down the line. When looking for a job, you’re allowed to be picky. Do multiple interviews and look for a company that wants you just as much as you want them. 

Pro-tip: work at a place you love, and they’ll usually give you an employee discount. For example, Starbucks employees get free drinks on their shifts as well as free coffee beans and generous discounts on food and drinks bought while not working.

Once you secure your place in the workforce, take a part of each paycheck (even if it’s just $10) and put it into a savings account for future needs or adventures.

6. Reorganize and Redecorate Your Living Space

Assuming you are planning to go back to some sort of school, work, or internship after your gap year, be conscious to take the time to organize your belongings and declutter your space. Give thought to what you may keep, put into storage, sell, donate, or throw-away.

Redecorate your room so that it fits your current style. Walking into a space that feels like you will improve your mood and encourage your productivity. While you do this, listen to a new podcast, music, or audiobook.

7. Take Your Friend Hang-Outs to a Whole New Level

If you aren’t able to meet with your friends because they’ve gone off to college, don’t fret! There are many-a-ways you can keep your friendship thriving through a virtual space.

Screen-share with Zoom. Take quizzes and play cahoots together while on FaceTime. Use a free plugin called Teleparty to stream the same content together. Create a Minecraft server. Send each other vlogs through Snapchat.

Whatever you do, don’t lose the friendships you value. Make sure to communicate and catch up with your friends monthly. Their schedules may change and become busier, but if you want to hear from them, there’s a good chance they want to hear from you too!

8. Start a Gap Year Journal

Make a new note in your notes app, grab a post-it, or buy an actual journal—it doesn’t matter what you write on as long as you’re writing from the heart. Sometimes it’s hard to decipher our own thoughts, but writing them down makes them so much easier to comprehend and process.

Here are some topics to get you started: gap year goals, self-care, mental health check-ins, book/movie/TV log, activity log, future plans.

9. Learn a New Skill–or Ten

Thanks to the internet and social media, there are numerous free resources where you can learn a new skill. New skills open up even more career and school opportunities. You may even discover a new passion you want to pursue in the future.

A few useful skills: cooking, marketing, SEO, photo editing, foreign language, coding.

Once you’re proficient, don’t forget to add the skill to your resume!

10. Explore the City You Reside in

It’s so easy to go along with life, walking the same paths each day. Don’t let that be you. Something as simple as turning down a different street can take you on a whole new adventure. However, while you think you know the city you’re living in, I guarantee you there is still much you can explore and uncover.

Try local restaurants. Go to public parks and buildings. Take a scenic drive without your navigation turned on. Traverse local farmers markets and gatherings.

If you can take away anything from this list, I hope you’re inspired to push yourself to try new things—whether they are on this list or not. If you grow as a person during your gap year, that makes it successful!

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