Traveling, Risks and Rewards

Crouched on the edge of a cliff – albeit a small one – I gaze down at a beautiful 30-foot waterfall plunging straight into a gurgling little pseudo-stream running along the untouched, charcoal-colored sands into clear, blue water. Suddenly, I’m immersed in this fantastic environment. Just listening to the spray of the water onto the cool rocks and breathing in the saltiness of the ocean breeze, I feel at home, in my element; I feel peaceful and exhilarated at the same time. In that moment, I realize that I’m incredibly happy. Over the past 4 weeks, I’ve seen beautiful, monumental architecture and world-famous museums, and loved every minute of it. But nothing compares to the way I feel right now. Being on the edge, the only thing between safety and disaster is control of my body and faith in the ground beneath my feet.

 The waterfall as seen from below on the beach.

Photo: The waterfall as seen from below on the beach.

I’m describing my last morning on the tiny Isle of Eigg in northwestern Scotland. My sister – one year my senior and just finishing her gap year – and I are on day 29 of a 38 day backpacking trip through Western Europe. My Europe trip has given me so many opportunities like this moment to catch a glimpse of what truly makes me happy and what I want to do – not only during the rest of my gap year but also in my future.

I’m sure of only three things which fall into this category: risk-taking, physical activity, and hands-on learning.

So basically I should be a lion tamer.

 What I do while my sister is busy appreciating good sculpture.

Photo: What I do while my sister is busy appreciating good sculpture.

But lion taming just didn’t seem like enough risk so I decided to be a small business owner this year. The focus of my gap year is supporting my family’s business, a parent company which grows through acquisitions of other small businesses. Most of the businesses we own deliver technical services for industrial machines and instruments – generators, radiators, flow meters, etc. – providing me with ample opportunity for hands-on learning.

Photo; Completely candid photo of me working hard, as usual.

Photo: Completely candid picture of me working hard, as usual.

However, there are many other things I want to pursue on the side of my time at the business, mostly activities which fit in to the categories of being active and learning by doing – and risk follows me wherever I go. I’ve started to make a large list of potential undertakings. I want to study web design, play rugby, practice piano, surf, learn how to play the guitar, learn how to slalom skate, continue bodybuilding, make art…and the list keeps growing.

I did a lot in high school, but I haven’t found that one thing that I love and want to really pursue throughout the rest of my life. It’s hard to come to terms with that as I’m entering such an important and influential period but I’m learning to accept that this uncertainty is part of my experience.

 Fireworks and sunset over the Versailles gardens.

Photo: Fireworks and sunset over the Versailles gardens.

*By the way, if you want to see more about my backpacking trip please check out!

Posted in: Gap Year Blogs