My Gap Year Across America

Thinking of taking a Gap Year after graduation? Struggling to decide where to go? Have you considered America? HCX writer Madison Stewart shares her experience of touring the States, an unforgettable experience…

From around the time I was 15 years old I knew I wanted to take a gap year before starting university. The prospect of being able to branch out on my own, travel, do something completely independent was incredibly enticing.

I was born in the USA but I have spent most of my life living in the UK, so despite my accent, which for some reason never budged from its east coast twang, I have always recognised my national and cultural identity as predominately British.

Around the time I began to wonder what I might do during my year off I read Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”, which made me consider taking a road trip around the USA. The decision was solidified by my desire to reconnect with my American identity and heritage, before I began university at Exeter in the UK.

Once I’d decided on the road trip, I spent months scouring US road trip books and websites, and then visa applications when we decided that my British boyfriend of 3 years would be accompanying me on the trip.  

The lead up to the road trip was such a long process, and I had been dreaming about it for so long, that when it finally arrived I almost couldn’t believe it was really happening, and I think a part of me didn’t think it ever would. As a result, I got the equivalent of cold feet, all of a sudden I was so nervous about the trip, I worried that we had taken on too much, and that I wouldn’t be able to handle it.

But I swallowed my fear and we took the leap. In early March we flew to the US, bought a car, and hit the road. During the first few weeks of the trip I was still a bit nervous as we were getting used to the lifestyle of constant movement. However, in what seemed like no time at all my worries and fears fell away as I got swept up in my love of being on the road.

I had thought that always being on the move would be draining, but it was invigorating, energising. I loved the thrill of waking up every day not knowing what new place or experience was in store, being able to go to so many incredible places and meet so many interesting people. I found that the more we travelled the more I enjoyed it. There are so many moments that I will never forget, from hiking down the Grand Canyon at sunrise to attending the biggest native American powwow in North America.

By the end of the 5 month trip we had visited 37 states in just over 16,000 miles. I look back and I’m still wowed by how much we accomplished.

What is most unforgettable, in my opinion, is the profound impact the road trip it had on me. Not only did I establish a stronger connection with my home country, but I learnt so much about myself. The trip challenged me both physically and emotionally and showed me that if I put my mind to anything, I could make it happen, and that I am much more capable and resilient than I had ever believed. It also showed me how important travel is in my life and how much it enriches me as a person, changing the way I think about my future and the possibilities open for me.

My gap year was the best year of my life, so far, and is a testament, I think, to how much you can gain from taking time for yourself and taking risks.


Photo Credits:

Madison Stewart

Currently studying English Literature. I was born in New York, but I call England home. Before starting at the University of Exeter I took a gap year. I spent 5 months road tripping and blogging my way across the USA, seeing 37 states in just over 16,000 miles. Needless to say, I love to travel. I am also an avid bookworm, a writer, a yogi, and a (lazy) hiker, among other things. I have a soft spot for bees, sci-fi, and red velvet cupcakes.

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