My soul was filled with crystal light.
November 7, 2008 12:22 AM   Subscribe

Where can I disappear in the world? I'm stuck between majors in college, and want to take a 6 month to 2 year break from school.

An American citizen living in the U.S.

I am okay with living communally, doing volunteer work, working hard, etc.

When filled with the world, I fantasize about living somewhere without worldly care; where life is straightforward, but I understand that the reality of this may be harsh.

FWIW, I am 18, Eagle Scout, semi-fluent in Spanish, have some money saved in the bank and in bonds, and have an associates' of science degree. I am on scholarship now (with deferrment available).

Was for many years actively LDS, and sometimes consider going on an LDS mission, but I'm hesitant to take this route.

Current major is international business, but I am looking at international studies, sociology, anthropology, music degree?

I am torn, and would rather spend time with people at this point than stumble around the major pool and spend money living until I find something to settle upon.

So I come to the hive in search of the answer :)
posted by bradly to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Bolivia, maybe? Shouldn't be too expensive, plenty of opportunity to improve your Spanish.
posted by matkline at 12:48 AM on November 7, 2008

Take a gap year, preferably (for money reasons) not to Europe.

And, take it earlier than later. In a few years (especially if you are a semi-typical LDS member) there will be many more social and professional reasons (which I don't mean to imply is bad) to NOT go.
posted by Spurious at 12:50 AM on November 7, 2008

Mexico. The language would be easier, your citizenship isn't a problem (as long as you have enough funds (by Mexican standards) to support yourself, you can extend the six-month tourist visa stamp you get at the border by visiting a local immigration office anywhere in the country), your Spanish will improve, and it's easy to come home if you get tired. There's so much happening down there - it's the biggest economy in Latin America, it's our most important neighbor, there are millions of Americans and Mexicans in each others' countries.

I say head down there, travel the length and breadth of the place, and see if you can find some fulfilling job offers - then come back to the States and get the right visa.
posted by mdonley at 12:52 AM on November 7, 2008

I recommend a book called "Short Term Job Adventures" that includes so many rewarding experiences, internships, communities, and jobs all over the world that you may be tempted to take more than one year, or even a decade!
Here's an amazon link:

You won't regret it, it will change your life :-)
posted by wavejumper at 1:02 AM on November 7, 2008 [4 favorites]

Best answer: There's a good book on working your way around the world called surprisingly enough "Work your away around the World." It's in it's 13th edition and is updated almost yearly - it's a very valuable resources, but don't take my word for it - have a look at the reviews on Amazon.
posted by bigmusic at 1:18 AM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Peace corps?
posted by paultopia at 1:18 AM on November 7, 2008

Best answer: WWOOF -- I have not done it, but the reports I have read tend to be pretty glowing. The "Frugal Traveler" reporter for the New York Times has built some time on WWOOF farms on his trips; you can read about it here, here, and here.

It's been the subject of previous AskMe's, too.
posted by Forktine at 1:24 AM on November 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Volunteer at a Scout campsite. Here's a European Programme, but there are hundreds, if not thousands around the world that you could go to. Some will even pay you.
posted by Helga-woo at 1:47 AM on November 7, 2008

Go to the north west of Western Australia. Hitchhike through the Pilbara and the Kimberly.

Bloke has room to breathe when there's not another soul for 500km in any direction.
posted by flabdablet at 2:30 AM on November 7, 2008

If you're up for working with people with developmental disabilities, try L'arche -- room and board provided in exchange for helping out in group homes. There's a Latin American branch as well.
posted by greatgefilte at 4:50 AM on November 7, 2008

My cousin joined the Peace Corps, and came back recharged- maybe supercharged. He ended up going to medical school and helping lots of folks out.
posted by jenkinsEar at 4:53 AM on November 7, 2008

2nd for mexico...

i went to puerto vallarta.... it's cheap... & easy to disappear. IN fact, head south & goto the small village of Yelapa... only accessible by boat, as it's tucked away in the jungle... they cater to some tourist...but you can easily get comfortable there & live amongst the locals.... for even cheaper.

It's been well over 15 years since i been there, and i see there's now a website... it maybe alittle more commercialized, but that means just more comforts of home for you.

Check it out.
posted by foodybat at 5:13 AM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Would it be possible to get a job with Outward Bound? You could utilize your Eagle Scout skills and see interesting places and meet interesting people from different walks of life.
posted by indigo4963 at 6:17 AM on November 7, 2008

Another possibility could be to work for Omega in Rhinebeck, NY. They run self-improvement and spiritual workshops and need a support staff for running their facility. I think during your off hours you could probably attend a couple of workshops that are in-line with your major and/or career interests.
posted by indigo4963 at 6:22 AM on November 7, 2008

I'm more or less in the same boat. I just graduated from college in August, and I'm taking a year off before I make the decision to pursue grad school or get a real job.

I currently live in Bocas del Toro, Panama. I've been here for about 7 weeks now, and I'm really enjoying my time here. It is a bit of a tourist spot later in the winter, when people come from all over to surf and relax, but it's been super chill since I've been here. There's also a bit of a permanent, middle-aged gringo population and they're all pretty interesting; lots of good life stories and whatnot. If you're looking to interact with a lot of people, the tourist turnover rate will keep you shaking hands and sharing stories every week. I've met a lot of really cool people that are on incredible adventures in central america, only to have them move on a few days later and get replaced by a new batch of wanderers.

Housing isn't too hard to come by, there's always an apartment or place that you can rent for as long as you need it, and you can probably get a few people to go in on it with you. It can be a little difficult, but you could probably find some work too. I got a job at a hotel where I wait tables and although it doesn't pay me the big bucks, it keeps me afloat.

I'm done lobbying for Bocas, but I'll say that no matter where you choose to go, good luck.
posted by Jehosophat at 10:14 AM on November 7, 2008

(Peace Corps generally requires a college degree, though there are sometimes exceptions I understand if you have relevant experience.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:17 PM on November 7, 2008

Best answer: Serving a mission might not be so terrible, although it's not disappearing, like you want to. In fact, it's probably exactly the opposite of disappearing. However, if your commitment to your religion is not high, it's probably not the best route to take.

I know that it's not cool to be an LDS missionary, or probably any missionary, but if you are a believer it is probably the best thing you can do for yourself. And I probably won't get favorited for this answer. But the list of "life skills" gained from serving is long. I remember my time spent as a missionary in Denmark very fondly. The people I met, the things I learned, the companions I served with, all shaped me and changed my life. Additionally, the ability to learn to motivate yourself (and others) in an environment with little supervision is one which will serve you well for the rest of your life. But for all the great times, it was physically, emotionally and mentally demanding and occasionally depressing. Some of your companions will be a$$holes without peer, others will be guys you'll want to know for the rest of your life.

Of course, you will be with your comp. nearly every second of the day. You will be with other members of the church consistently, you will be sharing your beliefs with the people of your area for large chunks of every day. Your ability to make friends will increase and you will pretty much be surrounded by people who really appreciate you. That's not to say that some people won't think you're overbearing or naive or even spit on you for wanting to share your religion.

Additionally, while the lifestyle may be difficult, constrained and confined, you may find, as I did, that the elimination of so many "worldly cares" is rather liberating. Your family will be far away, someone else will be paying your rent (I mean the actual sending of the payment to the landlord), and utilities. Relationships with the opposite sex are off-limits, so that's another life-complicator put on the shelf for later. You won't have much money so your lifestyle will be rather spartan. You will have little time for things other than study, journalling, prayer, preaching, eating and sleeping. Life as a missionary is extremely uncomplicated.

I don't know. I'm currently having a little trouble with my own "testimony". But, I rarely think that serving a mission was the wrong thing to do or regret having gone. To a very large extent, it made me who I am and shaped my world-view in ways nothing else could have. If you believe your religion, consider it.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 3:26 PM on November 7, 2008

Response by poster: Wonderful answers, everyone. This is exactly what I was looking for, and I appreciate the deep personal insight graciously shared with me :)
posted by bradly at 5:38 PM on November 7, 2008

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