After high school, Christian Heath ’18 wanted to explore his newfound freedom—the freedom of living, the freedom to do what he wanted when he wanted, and most importantly, the freedom to travel the world.

“It was more after senior year, I had graduated and it was summer—I was just enjoying the freedom of having school done and just didn’t really want to go to school yet. So I drew up a plan—and I was like ‘Can this work?’” said Heath.

It did. Heath went to Central America for three and a half months, worked the winter season to make money, and then headed to Europe for three and half months. His first stop was Costa Rica, where he intended to WWOOF. WWOOF—which stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms—is an organization where farm labor is exchanged for food and a place to live.

“I was going to do that in Central America, but the first farmer I went to—it was an awful experience. She wasn’t feeding us enough food so we were really hungry all the time. After three weeks, I was done,” said Heath.

Fortunately, Heath did not leave empty handed from the farm. He made a German friend, who went on to become his Central American travel partner. After leaving the farm, they moved to Jaco, Costa Rica to work in a hotel.

“They let us stay in a room for free. They had all these doors that they needed sanded, so for like four weeks we just sanded doors, which was really easy work. It was like a twenty-hour work week, so we got to hang out for the rest of the time, it was awesome,” said Heath.

After about a month at the hotel, Heath travelled around Panama for a couple of weeks, before finally finishing his Central America trip with a month in Nicaragua.

Heath then worked for two months back home in the United States before starting his tour around Europe.

“In Europe, I had a Eurail Pass—you pay money up front for a rail pass and it works for all of Europe. It was a ticket to go free to anywhere I wanted, and just being able to do that was sick,” said Heath.

After his journey around the world was completed, Heath finally found himself at Bowdoin’s campus. All in all he had visited sixteen countries: Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Spain, Morocco, France, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria and Italy.

“At first it was kind of tough—in Europe I was all alone for the majority of it—which was cool, but you get lonely. So getting back was a bit tough, going from being alone to being with a roommate and getting more social again, but on the whole it wasn’t too bad,” said Heath.

Heath’s experience was one he could learn from, grow from, and one he will always remember.
“When you have a memory that’s shared, I feel like it has a longer life than when it’s just you. You never really have anyone to talk with about it,” said Heath. “[Memories] probably have a bit more value when they’re shared, so if I were to do something like this again, I’d totally want to start it with someone or know I was going to meet up with someone to travel with.”

When asked if he would recommend a gap year to those who were considering the idea, he replied:
 “There were some negatives—I was lonely at times—but as a whole experience I would one hundred percent recommend it.