When it comes to having regrets, I try not to dwell on the could haves, should haves and would have beens. I mean why spend your time pining for a time or missed opportunity in your life if that moment has already passed?
Still, some regrets are harder to bear than others; they linger longer and make you wish that time turners were real and that you could rewrite just a few chapters from the past.
For me, the one thing I wish I could change now, although I didn’t wish it back then, is the fact that I chose not to take a gap year.
READ MORE: This is how I make money as an influencer
When I first graduated from high school, I was certain of one thing and only one thing. And that was that I wanted to dive further into the world of academia. I was fresh from high school and the desire to learn was all consuming and fresh on my mind.
I was ready to tackle higher level education, but at the same time, I also just wanted to finish what I’ve started. I thought that the sooner I get my studies out of the way, the better it would be for me to experience the adventures that I had mapped out in my head.
Ah, to be that young and idealistic again.
Because I applied for a student loan in order to study (I couldn’t afford to study otherwise), I had to find a job pretty quickly after I completed my studies (as was and is the case with most students back in the day and today). Unfortunately, student loans don’t pay for themselves you know!
For a while, I’ve felt pretty fulfilled.
I mean I was fortunate to find an internship in a relatively short amount of time; that same internship led to a permanent position and I’ve been pretty happy in a stable and secure job ever since.
I love my job more than ever, but I can’t help but wish that I had both the money and opportunity to explore my options and travel the world. While I’ve travelled in and around South Africa, I’ve never had the chance to see places I really still long to see.
The opportunity to go backpacking across Europe? To unearth the historic delights of Greece and to explore the cultural makeup of Prague? There’s a longing to expand my horizons that is all consuming.
It’s something that’s always been there, but I’ve always thought that I’d get the opportunity to travel overseas once I was done studying.
Fast forward a few years and it feels as if I’ve gotten nowhere. A big part of me feels like I’m not getting any younger and that the years for travel are quickly passing me by.
With the exchange rate not really being kind to my wallet, I can’t help but wonder, should I have taken the chance as a broke student to go and work for a living overseas back then?
How do I experience the big world abroad when it’s not financially viable right now? Will it ever be?
I’ve asked some folk on Twitter to tell me about their experiences and it turns out that I’m not alone.
People skills, independence and invaluable life skill lessons also formed some of the core reasons why many would recommend taking a gap year.
Many, like me, on the other hand, all found themselves regretting having not had the opportunity to take a gap year.
The reasons varied. From parents who insisted that studies came first, to not having the financial resources required for travel, the overall sentiment was that if they had had the opportunity, they would have taken it.
Then there were also the rare few who didn’t take a gap year and strangely enough, did not regret it.
And of course, the few who did but, in retrospect wish they didn’t.
So, I ask myself, did I spend too little time investing in my personal growth that I feel at this point, I’m now lagging behind? Would I not suffer from social anxiety disorder If I decided to take the leap back then? Would I be bolder than I am today?
That I can’t say.
What I do know is that somehow, these threads are all interconnected and they weave back to the one moment that, in hindsight, would have been the difference between a brand new adventure and more of the same.
I know that travel isn’t the sum of building up your life experiences, but it certainly a missing experience in my life that I feel acutely.
Did you take a gap year? Or are you planning to take one? Send us an e-mail and tell us about your experiences or what you'll be doing during your year off and we'll feature your responses in a future article.
Is working weekends good for you?
10 jobs that are not as glamorous as you think
8 local trips every woman needs to take
Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our hot stories and giveaways.