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  • Writer's pictureAlmeera Eman

From Skepticism to Support: A Family's Journey Through a Life-Changing Gap Year

In our latest episode of the Gap Year Podcast, we're breaking new ground with our first-ever family interview! 🎉 Join us as we dive into the transformative journey of Pranav and his parents, Pooja and Ashu. From initial skepticism and fear to becoming the biggest supporters, this episode is a heartwarming testament to the power of trust, communication, and growth. 🌍✨

  • Hear how Pranav's gap year adventures in Asia helped him gain independence, confidence, and a clearer vision for his future.

  • Discover the vital role of family support in making a gap year successful.

  • Get inspired by the incredible growth and life skills Pranav developed during his travels.

  • Learn valuable tips and advice for families considering a gap year.

Tune in to hear this inspiring story of courage, transformation, and the lifelong benefits of taking a gap year! 🎧💪

Topics Discussed

  • Pranav's Gap Year Experience: Pranav discusses his gap year activities, including volunteering, traveling in Asia, and how these experiences prepared him for university.

  • Parents' Perspective: Pranav's parents, initially skeptical and fearful about the gap year, share how they became supportive and recognized the benefits of the experience.

  • Growth and Responsibility: The family highlights Pranav's growth in independence, responsibility, and planning skills, which were evident through his travel and university preparation.

  • Importance of Support and Communication: The episode underscores the value of having a support system, planning, flexibility, and open communication in making a gap year successful.

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Connect With The Canadian Gap Year Association


Michelle Dittmer 00:00 

Today's episode is a first! It's our very first family episode where we have a gapper and both parents on board for a conversation. This is one of my favourite stories when it comes to transformations not only for our gapper, Pranav, but for his parents as well.

Going from very skeptical and frightened to being the most supportive folks on the planet.

Michelle Dittmer 01:15 Hey there, and welcome to the Gap Year podcast! My name is Michelle Dittmer and I am your host and Gap Year expert.

Today we have a Gap Year podcast first. We have an entire family here, a Gap Year family coming to join us on our episode today to talk about their experience With having their son head out on a gap year. So welcome everybody. Welcome to the podcast. 

Pranav's Family 

Thank you! Hi! 

Michelle Dittmer 01:47Wonderful. Well, let's start with our gapper, our feature gapper here. So this is Pranav. Pranav took his gap year over a year ago now. So why don't you give us a little bit of insight into what have you been doing since your gap year and then let's rewind and give us a short little blurb on what you did during your gap time.

Pranav 2:15 Sure, yeah, so since my gap year I've been in like university for a year like UVic which been pretty cool like a good transition because I feel like before my gap year I wasn't like prepared but I think the skills I gained during my gap year helped me like become the person that I am like ready for university.

Michelle Dittmer 02:34  And what did you do in your gap year?

Pranav 2:38So in my gap year, I did a bunch of things. So I like volunteering a bit around my community.And I think the main thing I did was travel, so for about three or four months, I was in Asia and for a bit, I was with my parents and then I went on my own to like Thailand and Japan and Malaysia, Singapore, just around. Yeah, I was on a bunch of local trips exploring my community and yeah, it was a great year.

Michelle Dittmer 03:05I think it's so understated, all of the things that you did. It sums up in a nice little list, but I think there's so much more and we're going to get into some of the ways that you grew over the course of the year.

And I had the privilege of meeting you and your parents before your gap year started. So maybe mom and dad, do you want to say a little bit of a hello and give us some context as to why you wanted to come on this podcast? What was it that happened during your experience that you want to share?

Pooja 03:41

Yeah, so I'm Pooja, I'm Pranav's mom and When Pranav talked about gap year in almost two years back and he was expect he was already accepted in a few good universities I really freaked out and I was like no way you cannot do that I was thinking he's going to fall off the whole thing of studying and he was not prepared to travel alone and You know, and of course, like as a parent, I was like, will the university give him the extension for the admission? I was like very, very scared. And I just said, you cannot travel. You can only travel with us.

And we were just Googling things about support for gap year when he started talking about it and we are so lucky that we found you.

Ashu 04:41 Yes, I think she has mostly addressed most of the things. So my hi, I'm Ashu, I'm Pranam's dad. And so I was quite in support with a gap year right from the beginning. I feel it's quite important for children to take some time off from what they're doing, just to reflect where they are going.

Otherwise it just becomes, you know, a kind of a meaningless exercise where you're chasing one goal after the other without getting a proper break to understand who you are, what you want to do in life and where you want to go. And so these are not just intellectual questions, they are intellectual in part, but also they are much deeper, because it's a part of you as a person. So what do you want to be as a human being?

Ashu 05:31

That is one part of the question. The second part is we have seen him grow. So from a very dependent child, very shy child, we have seen him grow to a person and he's still growing. It's a process which is on, right?

But he's become quite independent to think about it like a child who had not even gone to, you know, a downtown Vancouver, from where we live to travel all over the world and different parts of Asia and be independent, be able to organize, it was real life skill experiences that he gained and he did it wonderfully, like you know, beautifully.

He did have challenges but he did amazing, he did an amazing job, man. Due to that he gained a lot of confidence as well.

Michelle Dittmer 06:13Yeah, I have seen such tremendous growth in all three of you, quite frankly, in the process because gap years are a family decision. They are a family experience. It's not done in isolation and I remember very vividly the first call. There may have been some tears that were shed and there was a lot of fear and a lot of uncertainty and the transformation that I saw over the course of our time together in terms of understanding how to navigate this transition from adolescence to young adults and how to be parents of a young adult and how to show your parents that you are making that transition.I think that was one of my favorite parts because you came out like, I am heading to Thailand, see you later. And we kind of said, whoa, slow down, slow down, we'll get you there. But you need to get some skills and you need to prove to your parents that you have those skills so that they can trust that you are going to be okay and I think that was just such a beautiful thing to witness that everybody went on that journey together.

Ashu 07:42

And one thing I would like to add is like he was quite responsible all throughout the trip.So it wasn't that he went to Thailand or Japan, you know, just to party because these are like some of these countries like they have a lot of nightlife and a party life, right? But he was very responsible and he chose places where he could learn about the culture of those places.

He could understand the flora, fauna, the people and relate with them. So it was a very different kind of a travel, so yeah, that is something I thought I should mention.

Pooja 08:20 And I think Pranav has always been interested in the world and he used to do his own research. He was always a little bit bored at school for what they were talking about.And so he used to study about the world and different countries and do all these things, especially during the pandemic. Like he got to explore a lot of that and that is when he got a good bike and he started biking because of a pandemic, we couldn't meet so many people.

And that was a good way for him to connect to the outdoors and I think his experience in the outdoor academy in grade 8, 9, and 10 took him to a lot of different places and all that like made him, you know, really be passionate about being outdoors and exploring and, you know, kind of prepared him a little bit.

But as a parent, I was like, that was a good experience. You can't go alone and you really helped to break it down and to kind of slow him down and speed us up and you know, do like a trip to Vancouver Island.And then the second trip was to San Francisco alone for a week and then, you know, we all went together to India and then he took off from there. And when he went, I had that thing like you can come home anytime, buy a ticket, any price and you can come home. You don't have to like going with your whole plan and that is what happened.Like he would plan things maybe a week in advance like this is what I'm doing next, this is what I'm doing next and of course there were some challenges and We got really scared at times but somehow touch wood it worked out okay and he came home safe. 

Ashu 11:13

Nothing out of the ordinary so nothing very fearful. You know the kind of things that you would imagine some usual things, you know, smaller things about tickets or about rental things, you know, those kinds of thing. Yeah, nothing really big, nothing scary. So I just wanted to mention that for that, you know, the other parents who are interested, they shouldn't feel like, you know, this was a dangerous expedition, right? It's quite safe.

If you plan it out well, and you choose the places which are proper, yeah, it is something which is doable and it's quite safe.

Pooja 09:23

And I think he was also very frugal, like, although, you know, he found deals that were good, he found hostels that were, you know, not too expensive. And sometimes I used to say, it's okay, you can go and have a good lunch, you know, today, you know, enjoy your meal or have something warm, you don't always have to have something quick. So, you know, he was very responsible in that manner as well.

Ashu 12:13 

And that is a skill that he learned and still so whenever we have to plan a vacation or go anywhere he is the one who takes the charge right so he finds out the very good deals for hotel for flights where do we want to go you know he plans it out not just vacation but other you know other outings as well so yeah.

And one more thing that I would like to add is that this trip kind of helped him also understand his discipline because we knew at the end of grade 12 he was not ready to go to college. He was saying that we were not listening because we had our own anxiety. The parents, they come with their own preconceptions about things, right? And this is something which is not so acceptable, right? Nowadays, I think it's becoming a more of a trend, but earlier on, like when he did it, it was not something which was very. This kind of helped him, this whole travel helped him also to decide what kind of location or discipline that he would like to take and he's kind of moving in that direction. And it has helped because he likes to understand the people, the culture, the geography.

So he's doing geography and human development, which is a study about human beings, the culture, and also about development.

Do you want to talk about your major a little bit?

Pranav 14:00 So I'm majoring in geography right now, which in part during my gap year, cause I had so much experience doing that, just like having my time to like research and decide what I wanted to do in life. Obviously since growing up high school, like everyone just doing the same path, he didn't know anything, but yeah, the gap year definitely helped me like decide what I want to do in college.

Michelle Dittmer 14:23What does it feel like to have your parents say and notice all of these things about you?What does that feel like knowing how far you've come?

Pranav 14:35 Yeah it feels great because like I remember the start like they were like pretty like scared and stuff they were like oh my god you can't do this because I just wanted to like get out like because the covid I was in I just need to like get out of travel do things but yeah they were at first like super hesitant so just so it's amazing to see yeah how much they were realising like gap years. 

Pooja 14:58 

I think for him grade 10 11 12  was really stressful because of covid and half of the courses are online and even if you're in class you were wearing masks there was you know semester courses there was quarter courses and you know everybody in the school like teachers were stressed like everything was like of course not normal for anybody you know and i think the gap year kind of helped him and initially I would say that when I used to tell friends or if somebody asked me, what is Pranav doing? And they will be like, gap year, why are you doing? Why are you giving him permission to do this and you know, all that, and that would actually increase my anxiety.

I was very affected by that and not them like Pranav and Ashu were pretty okay with that and then later on, I was so proud to tell them that he has done so much.

Ashu 16:00 

They started understanding and seeing the validity and the benefits of the gap year as well. So not everybody, most of the people that we hang around with are friends. For them this is a new idea, right? But still I could see that they thought like this was something which was very interesting. Yeah, something different.

Michelle Dittmer 17:05 Yeah, I think you touched on something really important is the impact of parents' peers on everything. There's a real pressure to have a Trophy, son or daughter that is excelling and doing all of the things, checking all the boxes and to be going against the grain takes a lot of courage as parents to be able to say what's happening, especially at the beginning when there's lots of uncertainty.

And so I really applaud parents who have to stand up to their peers or even the grandparents, the parents, sometimes they don't understand and being able to actually listen to your young person when they're saying, I need a break, I need to do something different for a while.

And listen to them and give them that space despite the outside noise is very difficult to do.But in the end, you can kind of look back at those people and say, see, look at my kid, look at what they're doing now, look at how much they've grown. And I think that that's just such a beautiful thing.

And I'm so glad that you're sharing your story. For other people who are at the beginning of their journey looking forward and going oh no this is too scary you guys are proof you guys are living proof as a family that it can be very worthwhile.

Ashu 17:44

And it's worthwhile mentioning that without you there wouldn't have been a gap year, right? Well, he would have still done it because he was quite persistent, so that's one quality. If he makes up his mind about something, He will try everything, but he will go through with it, right? So he would have still done it, but because of you and your support, it really helped us a lot, right?

There wouldn't have been a gap year as we know it without your presence, without your help and support.

Michelle Dittmer 18:16I really appreciate that. I think lots of people think they can do it on their own.And they try. But having somebody on your side, somebody on your team who can help you with the decisions big and small, who can help you navigate the conflicts that come up. There is so much value in that and that's really what we want to do at CanGap. We want to make your lives easier. We want Pranav gap year to be the best gap year that could possibly happen.And we want the parents to feel comfortable with what's going on. And so that's why we create all the resources we do. That's why we offer all of these conversations with families.And so more people should take advantage of that and don't be shy to book a call with us. Don't be shy to ask us the questions because really that's what we're here for and you guys are just reinforcing that with your testimony and your story here.

If you had to give any advice to people in your situation, so if you think back to yourself leading up to your gap year and leading up to your son's gap year, what is a piece of wisdom that you would like to pass on? So I'll ask each of you to share one thing.

Pranav 19:45

Just like be persistent, like have friends and like go through with them. They'll like think about like a bunch of different things and like end up like just staying home. Like actually go out and like just do like whatever you had planned. That would be a great advice, yeah.

Michelle Dittmer 20:00 

Yeah, I think that's amazing. I think it's really important that you do. There's a lot of analysis paralysis, there's so many options and so many possibilities and you were very good at making a decision and then executing it and not humming and hawing and waiting and watching your gap time just fly by. You were really in charge and making the most of every moment and That's what I hope for all gappers to experience. I think those are really, really wise words.

Ashu 20:32

So, Plan it out because there is a tendency in all of us to get lost. There's no harm in getting lost if you're exploring. Sometimes it's okay with that, right? Because when we explore, we get lost and that's how you find new places, you know, that opens up new horizon for humanity.But see, we can also kind of get caught in a cycle where we are just doing gaming, seeing at home, Doing nothing else, and that's a bit of a danger. So I would suggest plan it out, do things which you really want to do, are passionate about. Of course, have some idyllic time as well. We need to have a balance of both, right?

But yeah, so we need to be a little, you know, aware and careful about that, that we are engaged well. And fortunately, that didn't happen in our case, because he took the initiative and he did what he wanted to do.

Pooja 21:34

Yeah, I would kind of say something similar that it's good to have like a flexible plan in place and like also you know Be responsible, so if your parents are trusting you then you have to make sure that you are responsible in choosing how you use your freedom. That is something that is important because there are lots of things out there that are that can lead to other things so it's good it's really important to keep in touch like prana So, he hadA flexible kind of a schedule, so although he had a general overview where he was going to be, but when he was within the country he had a very flexible kind of a plan. 

Ashu 22:34

So in that he was quite dynamic and be able to plan it out, right? So of course back and forth going with our parents and constantly talking to us that also kind of helped.

So that is one thing and the other thing is also for parents to have that relationship because I feel relationship is pivotal, relationship with you And the relationship with the parents, I think that's pivotal in all of this because that's where kind of you get the stability and the support and you know you're constantly checking in to make sure the things that you're doing are okay, right?

So parents are assured and also the gappers, right? They are also assured about that

Michelle Dittmer 23:20

Yeah, I think communication is huge in making sure that everybody's on the same page. When I was working in risk management, we always said no surprises. I don't want any surprises to happenwant to know if something's not going well. Tell me and we can navigate and work it through together. So I think that communication back and forth and I really like what you said about relationships as well. This transition from adolescence into early adulthood can be a very difficult transition because we're going from child and parents to three adults and that is really difficult to navigate. And the more that you can communicate, the more that the young person can demonstrate responsibility and showcase the mature traits The more that the parents can trust them.

And I think that's how we see that smooth transition happening when we're allowing our young people to take bite-sized risks and demonstrate to us that they are ready for that transition and I think you guys did that so well and I can see in your relationship that is something that has gone quite smoothly, not without not without bumps, but quite smoothly and will lead to a great relationship throughout the rest of Pranav's adult life as well.

Wonderful! Well, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast. It has been so wonderful for you to share your wonderful stories with all of our listeners and we will definitely have you back for some of our parent events in the future so you can share a little more of your stories!

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