Last weekend, I left Fort Collins and went “off the grid” for a few days. A friend picked me up and we drove five and a half hours west to a tiny little town on the Western Slope, Paonia. Paonia is a farming town full of happy people and untouched land. We pitched our tent on a friend’s land and experienced a day in the life of a gap year program being held in the town.
What is this gap year program we visited?
The American Gap Association defines the gap year as an “experiential semester or year ‘on,’ typically taken between high school and college in order to deepen practical, professional, and personal awareness.”
This specific program, The High Desert Center Gap Year, is lead by Dev Carey, a man that brings adolescents to his sustainable, off the grid homestead on the Western Slope of Colorado. During this gap year, the participants are active in the fall harvest, learn partner dance, spend two months in rural Mexico building homes and working on securing internships for months at a time. This time last year, I was living on this fantastic homestead as a part of my own gap year and was very eager to make my way back.
What does a Saturday in this sleepy town look like?
It looks like rising with the sun, stretching and thanking the world for its beauty. It is doing downward dog with the farm pup and eating delicious food that had just been picked. We had lengthy, meaningful conversations with at least five people, ate ice cream in a park and laughed around a bonfire.
There are dogs and chickens that love attention, and people that find joy in a big smile and warm hug. We sat in the sun and did nothing. I played with a baby that was yearning to walk. We recounted our past year next to a creek and hitchhiked in the back of a pickup truck to the homestead and made friends in a dance barn.
This weekend was the most revitalizing weekend I’ve had in a full year. A day like this is incredibly unlike my own on campus.
Stepping out of daily life is important; it is a chance to step away from stress and “the daily grind.” It is a moment of clarity, a chance to truly leave it all behind and focus on what really matters. How you behave and treat people, what your ambitions and passions are.
So, do yourself a favor and get out of your day-to-day life for a few days.