A gap year is defined as a year in which a student takes out of school to take part in a different enrichment activity before continuing their education. For over a million students every year, this gap year is taken between high school and college or even between college and the workplace. However for senior, Maya Messinger, her gap year was between Elementary and Middle School.
“I skipped second grade,” Messinger explains. “So as my parents put it, I had an extra year in the bank.”
Messinger was moving to Austin for 6th grade and used her grandparents house as a home base while she and her parents travelled across the US and the world, including five weeks in Europe (including Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Luxembourg, and Switzerland) and three weeks in Australia and New Zealand.
“We always joke about the car we had in Europe,” Messinger laughs. “It was a really small car. It was called the Ford K-A, and we make the joke that we couldn’t afford the R. Because it was just like a 2-door and I was in the back with all the luggage.”
Most Americans wouldn’t be able to take off so much time from work for a trip like Messinger’s, however for Messinger and her parents, the stars were aligned.
“My parents have always been travelers and have lived in so many places. My mom worked as a military surgeon so we got discounts at all the hotels we stayed at and she worked whenever we were back in the US,” says Messinger. “And my dad at that time did relief work for other vet clinics and so he didn’t have a set schedule. It’s kind of like substitute teaching only a little more notice in advance but he just didn’t do that anymore for the year.”
But Messinger’s parents had another job whilst they were away: keeping their daughter up to date on all her academics so she could successfully enter 6th grade at ARS, despite her year off from regular school.
“It wasn’t like official homeschool with an actual curriculum,” Messinger acknowledges. “But they got like books with math problems mostly. And then I read in the car because there were long trips in the car. So math, reading, and a bunch of the places we went were historical sites. We also did some work when we were back in Austin.”
Messinger also confesses that she is a history-buff, which she says is apparent to anyone who knows her.
“I don’t know, I kind of liked history before and I do think it [the gap year] influenced me but I don’t know how much. I definitely learned a lot of history though.”
She gained a particular fondness for Italian history and culture (and food!) but recalls that her favorite place she visited was a small valley village in Switzerland called Interlaken which was surrounded by spectacular views of the Alps.
However, while Messinger is grateful for the experience, she acknowledges that she would have enjoyed and appreciated the trip more if she had been older. She complained about not doing what she wanted to do and being lonely and is quick to classify the 2008/09 school year as her “rebellious year” because of it.
“The rebellion was not caused by the gap year necessarily,” she admits. “But I was cooped up with my parents way too much. I don’t have any siblings and we went on long car rides and plane rides and we were doing everything together. And it was just like if you’re together too long with someone, you’re going to end up getting annoyed by them. And so that’s what happened.”
Rebellion aside, Messinger gained a lot from the trip that she still carries with her today. She learned about different cultures and geography and expresses interest at doing another worldwide travel trip in the future. However, one thing she learned has really stuck with Messinger over the years.
“I became very familiar with the Holiday Inn Express Franchise. Very familiar.”
Photos courtesy of the Messinger family.