10 Reasons Why This Gap Year is NOT a Trip


“Let’s hang out when you get back from your trip!!!” one friend texted me. Another, “Danny, how’s your trip going?”

It happens every so often; someone refers to the seven months I’m spending in Ecuador as a “trip”. While one can assume that they mean no harm, it puts me on edge, even for the slightest moment. Because, the fact of the matter is, language has power and I want to be clear about the dialogue surrounding my gap year. Let me clarify why I dislike the use of the word “trip” to describe my bridge year here in Ecuador.


  1. I’ll start out this mildly aggressive numbered list like any B+ sixth grade essay: with a Merriam Webster definition! Skipping the entry about something illicit drugs can give you, a trip (or voyage) as a single round or tour or a short journey somewhere for a particular purpose. I don’t think it needs this needs any more explanation. Is 7 months a short journey?


  1. A trip implies some sort of break from the norm, only to return a few days later to the established routine. My life here is the new normal. When I think of “returning home” after a long day, a small twin bed, ill fitted pink sheets, and a sky-blue soft blanket with scattered small black hearts all below a framed picture of Jesus fixes in my mind. To be perfectly honest, I completely demolished my pre-Ecuador life routine so that when I return home in a few short weeks, my new routine will be unrecognizable.


  1. On a trip, you start at point A, travel to point B through Z, then return back to point A. I left at point A, traveled to point B, and will return to point C. My relationship with my community, friends, family, and myself has all shifted, some more drastically than others. This isn’t the trip where you ask your aunt picking you up from the airport what Trump f*&#ed up this past week, this is a trip where you come back asking if California is still part of the United States of America.


  1. Can you not be more creative with your word choice? “Trip” is what you use to describe my time in Ecuador? The English language has so many adjectives, and being a native speaker, one would think there would be a better word to use. Just saying…


  1. In some sort of way, it shows a lack of interest in my time here. I’m not expecting to be the center of your universe, but in the countless social media posts, have I ever called this part of my life a trip?


  1. In a way, I’m sort of on a seven-month trip– in the drug context—on life. But I don’t think you mean that?


  1. I should not have picked such a high number for this list. I don’t have that much to say. So unlike me.


  1. It has very different intentions as a trip. When people go on a trip, they use it as a time to release and have fun, be it relaxing or packed with activities. My goal on this “trip” is to make myself uncomfortable, to put myself in a place where I am not always having fun and relaxing. Often, I’m not conventionally “having fun” or “relaxing”, but waking up at 6:15 Monday-Thursday to teach English, studying Spanish through reading and Quizlet, or embracing new experiences that I don’t initially enjoy.


  1. On a trip, can you confidently talk about the local Indigenous politics of your community?


  1. Can a trip change the way you look at the world? Yes. Can a trip build you up from knowing next to nothing about Spanish to identifying as conversationally fluent? Maybe… Can you call a community worlds away from your original home a place that feels like home, with all the same familiarity and love on a trip? Don’t think so.


I’m not attempting to alienate anyone who so kindly reached out to me in the past few months. These past six months in Ecuador will always carry a special place in my heart, and it’s hard to find the right words to describe my time here. It was a period of immense growth (mainly internal, but also carbs does a number to your stomach) and learning. It was a time where I made lifelong connections, friends, and family. It was an unforgettable experience.


“Trip” just really doesn’t do it for me.