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  • Writer's pictureAlmeera Eman

Biggest Gap Year Mistakes of 2022 (and how to beat them)

Calling all 2022/23 Gappers! With your gap year in full swing, there may be some challenges surfacing. Perhaps you’re having trouble with organizing your tasks and events, or maybe you're overwhelmed by your gap year finances, you may even be struggling to make a decision.

But don’t worry, because in today’s episode Michelle shares how you can fix these mistakes to have the most EPIC gap year possible!

Remember, CanGap is here to support so don’t miss out on the amazing resources or the opportunity to book a FREE 30 minute call so we can help you on your journey.

Topics Discussed

  • The top 3 gap year mistakes of 2022.

  • How to develop a healthier relationship with saving vs. spending your money.

  • Implementing organization systems that will help you manage your time and be on top of your gap year game!

  • Michelle’s decision making mantra; “there are no wrong decisions BUT there are also no right decisions - the only mistake is to NOT make a decision.”

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Connect With The Canadian Gap Year Association



So it’s October and we’re very early into the 2022-2023 gap year, but some trends are already emerging about some of the key mistakes that are happening and I wanted to share some insights with you as to what those mistakes are and how do we avoid them or how do we overcome them if we see them popping up in our gap year.

Take a listen.


Hey there and welcome to the Gap Year Podcast. My name is Michelle Dittmer and I am your host and gap year expert. These episodes always get so much love because everybody wants to know what are the pitfalls, what are the mistakes that come up on gap years and how can I avoid them?

Because we all want to have a really successful gap year, so every year I see some very classic mistakes that come through once people are jumping into their gap years. But this year I have seen a couple new ones surface that I really, really want to share with you along with one of our classic mistakes.

So stay tuned, we've got tons of stuff coming up in this episode. I really, really want to help you avoid these pitfalls and give you some tips on how to navigate your year with a little bit more ease and maybe avoid some of these pieces or deal with them head on when we see them coming because we know they can be very challenging for gap years. So I've got three I want to share with you today.


The first new trend that I'm seeing is an obsession over the financial components of your gap year and we just finished a gap year Frosh week and when I asked all of our gappers what was their biggest concern or their biggest stressor for their gap year, it was pretty unanimous that finances and paying for things was one of the very, very top ones. Now it's always been in our list of concerns, but it's never been this close to the top.

Well, money is important and gap year experiences can cost money. We know tuition is right around the corner, so I fully understand why finances are top of mind and being financially savvy and financially aware is a very good trait to have.

But when we allow the dollars and cents to completely consume us, it can be very, very debilitating. And that's true of life and in this kind of microcosm of a gap here, it can also be very true. So it's a really great opportunity for us to practice what happens in the real world and to adjust our relationship with money, which I'm going to talk about in a second.

Now, we know that for gappers, this is often the first time that they are aware of how much things cost because it's that transition out of adolescence and kind of into adulthood, and they start taking on the research for themselves. They start to actually do that and then look at the price tag because maybe you've decided as a family that they're on the line for funding part of their experiences or they have decided themselves that they want to become more financially independent from parents and so taking on that research you start to see those price tags. But I'm always curious because money is just a fact of life and things do cost a lot of money.

So how many gap year gappers out there actually know how much drivers Ed costs?

How much does it cost to see the tutor that they see? Or they're Kumon or how much are their student athletic fees because I think the reality is that probably not a lot of students have had exposure to that and I think if they did they would probably be really surprised at how expensive it is to live and how expensive it is to invest in ourselves.

Now I know that working part time for minimum wage is a very common experience for youth. So there your perception of money is very different. Money seems quite sparse when we're looking at these things with larger price tags because when you look at things like the cost of a plane ticket being $750, do you know how many hours at minimum wage that is? And so that connection between earning and spending becomes very, very real on a gap year.

And yet a year ago, that family trip to Florida at March break, they didn't even bat an eye at the fact that the plane ticket was almost $500.00 because it wasn't part of your reality when you're not thinking financially minded and that shift happens on a gap year.

Now how do we, how do we overcome? How do we rectify or address this, overwhelm, this consuming thought of finances. So let's talk about how do we overcome this mistake here?


The first thing we have to do is we have to adjust our perception of money.

And what I mean by that is often we think of money as a finite resource that we need to hoard, we need to keep it all because we have these expenses coming up.

But I'm going to encourage you to consider money as a renewable resource.

So this is saying that when you spend money, it is not gone forever, it does not disappear. You have the opportunity to earn it back. And that's the nice thing about a gap year is that you do have a significant amount of time to save or spend or spend and save and spend or save and spend and save. Whatever that pattern is getting comfortable with the idea that money is going to come and go for the rest of your life, I think that is something that is a very, very important shift that we all need to do.

I also think we need to realise that spending money on yourself and life experiences is actually an investment in your future. So I would encourage you to actually see your gap year as a year of higher Ed. We don't bat an eye when we are thinking about paying tuition because there's a perceived outcome, there's a perceived value associated with that, whereas a trip to learn Spanish in Spain, for example, is perceived as frivolous when in fact that is actually significant life experience.

That's developing your independence, that is developing cultural competencies, being able to work in other cultures, that's developing more financial literacy, that's developing even just the fact that you can speak another language. All of those things have outcomes. We just need to adjust our perception of what we are investing in when we are investing in ourselves.

So education, formal education is not the only way that you can do that and I think that adjustment will help you look at the fees for all of these experiences in a different way. Now, we definitely have to be diligent with our money.

We're not here to just throw around 10s of thousands of dollars for our gap year.

That's not the reality for most folks, but also it's not very healthy to just hoard any money that you have or that you're making.

I have seen too many gappers let amazing experiences just slip by because they thought they were too expensive without even exploring what the costs covered and what the potential outcome could be for their personal and their professional lives, so they just completely shut it down because of the price tag, without exploring financial aid, without exploring how they might actually bring down the cost. There are so many ways and you should check out our episodes on budgeting for your gap year like, I'll link to it in the show notes. If you haven't listened to that one, I highly recommend you jump in and take it out because there's so many great tips when it comes to budgeting for your gap year.


So let me give you a very concrete example for this. Let's say you want to get into shape. That's your gap year goal. You want to take better care of your physical health. But you've never really been a gym user before, so your first commitment is you're going to find the cheapest gym out there, you've got your $10.00 a month membership and you are good to go.

While you're doing that, you consider a personal trainer. But that $300.00 seems way too expensive, so we're not going to invest and that we're going to do the $10.00 a month gym membership and away we go, because that is the cheap option.

So you don't get the trainer, but now you don't go to the gym because you don't have the confidence and you don't understand how to use the equipment and it's just too overwhelming. So you lost out on that by having a personal trainer perhaps they could actually teach you how to use the equipment and you would be more confident to go on for the rest of your gap year. So that initial investment would have really served you.

Maybe even worse, maybe you do go and you use the equipment incorrectly and you injure yourself and you're paying hundreds of dollars in physiotherapy to recoup from that accident. We actually sometimes need to adjust what we need to invest in.

So maybe this example of that personal trainer to help you achieve your goals is in fact actually a really good investment for yourself. So think about that, just noodle on that for a bit because I think it's it illustrates and can be extrapolated to so many other situations.


I think you also need to know that not all gap year programs are $6000 plus. There are so many things that pop up when we Google Gap year programs because those programs that have those higher price tags have a higher marketing budget. They can get those ads up at the top of our Google searches and they can have the web pages with the best SEO. So just filter through this lens when you do your Google.

searches, there are many gap year programs that are free. There are programs that are subsidized by the government and there are ways to live somewhere else in the world and even get paid for it.

I'm gonna give you a little shameless plug here. If any of these ideas are interesting to you, or you need some help finding those experiences that are within budget, please book a free call and find out which one of these is the right fit for you.

Because that's part of what we offer is those free 30 minute consultations to help you get those things all sorted out for you. So that's my little soapbox on finances and how do we move away from feeling overwhelmed by them.


Now the other new trend that I'm seeing, so we're on to point 2 here is such a lack of organisation, and this is something that's new this year, there's been some sort of shift. I'm not sure if it's related to the pandemic or what, but here we are.

It's been an issue in the past, but it's completely cranked up a notch this year, which is really interesting and what I'm seeing showing up is young people having challenges with scheduling and maintaining a calendar or missing meetings or missing shifts at work. I've seen young people losing notes that they've taken or resources that they found on various programs and experiences, and I've seen young folks not being able to prioritize what needs to get done first because their mind and their notes and their ideas are scattered all over.

So this one kind of concerns me because this is a life skill that shows up in every area of our lives, from personal to professional to academic and we need to get a handle on this, um, because without organizational skills, life is going to get much harder.

Now, I must put a little, little note in here. I acknowledge that there are always people who have clinical executive functioning challenges. And my hope is that the folks who have these executive functioning challenges are working with people who are professionals who can support them with developing these skills. And if you haven't, definitely reach out to an executive functioning coach because they have so many tools and resources to get you to a place where you are much more comfortable with all of these skills.

But I'm seeing this on a global scale. So not necessarily just those with this specific need, but almost universal, we could say. So while it does really concern me because it is such a fundamental skill, I'm also breathing a sigh of relief because what a better way to develop these skills than to take a gap year and to practice them?

Much easier to make these mistakes on a gap year when we're not paying tuition and our grades aren't depending on them, so this is a great time to practice.

Now, I think when we're looking at the example of a gap year, um, those skills of managing a calendar, things like managing shifts from two different jobs or not being able to decide what to do first and jumping straight to booking a flight before even talking to mom or dad about budget. These are the types of things that I am seeing.

So what can we do about it? What can we do about this challenge with organization?


Now, the number one thing, and this is really top of mind for me right now, is learn how to use your calendar app. Whether that is iCal, Google Calendar, an app on your phone, whatever it is, whatever you want to commit to, pick one and learn how to use it.

I want you to jump on YouTube and watch a video or two. I want you to think of your most organised friend and give them a call and have them teach you. I think learning to use your calendar app will give you a power over your gap year. It will give you a sense of organization and it will prevent you from missing shifts at work. It will prevent you from forgetting about special events like dates that you want to go on, or when you need to apply to university on your gap year, or that hackathon that you found in September but doesn't open until March and you really, really wanted to join it. Putting those things in your calendar will allow you to be able to not miss those experiences.

It will also let you to pick your best gap year experiences that makes sense for your plan. You don't want to book a trip to Australia over our cousin's wedding and you just forgot that was happening, so putting these things into your calendar is going to be so helpful for you.

Now putting these things into your calendar will help you get organized and that kind of leads into this idea of planning and that leads into the final point I want to talk about and this is a classic mistake.


This classic mistake is all about indecision and sometimes due to overwhelm.

So making decisions is a complicated and very challenging skill, especially when you haven't made a ton of what people consider life altering decisions. A lot of those bigger decisions, it's not just what am I gonna wear today, what jeans do I wanna buy these are these are larger decisions and being able to weigh all of the options, the pros and the cons, and to pick what's going to be the best decision for you is going to be very, very hard.

And even more complicating on top of this, with access to infinite possibilities through Google, things can be very, very overwhelming because there are literally thousands of options of activities for your gap year.

Now, this might not be the first time you've heard this, but I'm gonna repeat it anyway because it is my mantra when it comes to decision making. So I hope you're listening. Here we go.

There are no wrong decisions. You hear that there are no wrong decisions, but.

There are also no right decisions. There are also no right decisions. The only mistake is to not make a decision.

I'm going to say it again. There are no wrong decisions, but there are also no right decisions. The only mistake is not making a decision.

And I see this happening all the time. I see young gappers not making decisions.

Sometimes it's because they are completely overwhelmed and they just shut down.

Sometimes it's because they are waiting for something better to come along.

Sometimes they lack the confidence to make a decision. Sometimes fear gets in the way maybe they don't want to get their hopes up only to be rejected like so many times during the pandemic.

So all of these things are getting in the way of committing and making a decision.

So gappers end up sitting at home or working way more than they thought they would because it's comfortable and easy and that decision was already made so they don't have to make another decision.

But in this instance, they miss out on so many other opportunities that are there.

So what can we do about this? What can we do about this challenge with decision making? And this is one of Can Gap's superpowers. We can help connect you to a short list of activities, organisations, programs, experiences, whatever you're looking for that will fit with the goals that you want to accomplish on your gap year.

So definitely book a call with us. It is free. We can help you narrow down those choices and we can help you to articulate what you want to get out of it so that choice becomes a lot easier for you and we have tons of resources in our Gap Year Gameplan program. Which would allow you to navigate through the gap year planning process and the decision making process. So I highly recommend you come and join us in the gap your game plan. Again, we'll link to that in the show notes if you want to check it out or book a call and we can chat through what that might look like for you.


Now, when I'm talking about decision making, you heard me reference goals, and I'm going to sound like a broken record here, but it's crucial that you know what your gap your goals are, because those goals act as your North Star in all decision making on your gap year.

If you know where you're headed and what you want to get out of your gap, that path becomes a lot clearer. It's a lot easier to see which is a yes and which is a no when we're evaluating all of those opportunities.

Now, we must say decision making is one of the age-old things where practice makes perfect. So practice making small commitments, getting comfortable with that.

Maybe it's committing to a weekend camping trip somewhere, or booking a campus tour, or deciding to increase or decrease your hours at work, or signing up for a ballet class once a week, or joining a book club. All of those small decisions are great ways to gear up for those larger ones.


OK, so there you have it. We covered three of the mistakes I'm seeing in 2022 gap years.

So number one, it was obsessing over finances and remembering that we need to

adjust our relationship with money and allow ourselves to find those opportunities that fit within our budget because investing in ourselves is worth it.

Mistake #2 is lacking organisation, and to overcome that, we need to be able to manage our calendars, be able to manage your ideas. Put all of our things in one placea and the last one is that overwhelming decision making. So practice with the small ones, narrow down your choices with the support of can gap and commit to something.

Now, if you need a hand for any overcoming any of these mistakes, if you see them popping up in your gap year, that's what we're here for. Our website has tons of great resources for free for you to download. Just a reminder, we are a nonprofit and we have those resources for parents, we have them for gappers, we have them for educators.

So definitely head to the website and see what we've got there. The fastest route to getting your answers is to book a call with us so we can help you on your journey. We can pick the exact resources that are going to support you. We can look at the exact opportunities that might lie in front of you and help you to overcome any of these three big mistakes that we're seeing in 2022. So there you have it. Those are the top three mistakes and I hope this was helpful to help you overcome them and to head on to your gap here with a little bit more confidence.

So thanks for joining me, and until next time, keep on adventuring.

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