Live the Good Life

An action packed gap year program for adventure seeking folks.

Experience new cultures. Find your people. Dive into yourself.

HDC Group Shot fall 2020

14-18 participants, ages 17-23; plus our staff team.

Lake Atilan and the docks in front of the volcano San Pedro in Giatemala

Colorado, Mexico, Guatemala, and options to travel to Australia, Thailand, Spain and more.

Four young people with backpacks smiling together infront of a mountain

Sept 1, 2021 to April 27, 2022

young man smiling on the side of the road with his thumb up, hitchhiking

$9,850–Includes travel to and from Guatemala from Phoenix. Does not include optional winter travel.


The Simply Living Semester

September 1 – November 10 
This semester is about challenge and new experience in rural Colorado. You will have the opportunity to align your life with your values. Together we will practice the skills of self-sufficiency and community living. We will explore what makes us feel alive and how we adapt in challenging circumstance. We'll do this backpacking through mountains and canyons, canning peaches and making bread, meeting people who inspire you, and living the simple life.


November 11-February 10
Between semesters you will execute a self-designed initiative. The options are endless.  You can arrange independent apprenticeships, travel, work or adventure either near your home, in Paonia or elsewhere. We partner with several people abroad in places like Thailand, Spain, and Australia to give you the opportunity to explore overseas with support. During the fall semester we will support you to develop a meaningful project, sharing HDC resources and connections.  We provide weekly support on the phone during this phase of the year.

The Wanderlust Semester

February 11-April 27 
You will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in Guatemala’s rich culture. You will create your own adventure this semester, choosing how to spend your time. You can study the language and the history, volunteer with a reforestation project, or explore volcanoes, jungles, and beaches. As you explore, complex global issues that influence daily life in Guatemala will come into focus.  Together, we will travel over land, on public transit, through the entirety of Mexico rather than flying. This gives you a more real experience and spews less carbon.


young woman wearing red top smiling


Belfast, ME

When I first arrived at the High Desert Center I could never have imagined how much I would grow to love and value all those unfamiliar faces I met in the airport. I wouldn’t have even dreamed of all the laugh-till-you-can’t-breathe moments, the sense of support and excitement every time we accomplished something together, and the tears both of sadness and of joy we would all share.

Young man smiling wearing floral shirt in Colorado desert


Nevada City, CA

If you are looking for a Gap Year program where you expect the unexpected, this is it. Be prepared for something that will change you in ways you never anticipated. This program is an amazing combination of outdoor leadership skills, emotional growth, and community building, which makes for an amazing Gap Year that could never be repeated.


Today! We are currently accepting applications.

Have more questions like:

Where will you sleep? What will you eat? What will each day look like?

Bonus! The HDC Homesteading Term

After saying our goodbyes in Arizona, Dev and Marian will drive back to Colorado. Participants who demonstrated a passion for work projects during the year and who love gardening and building will be welcome to join them for six weeks. During this time we will continue to share in community meals and tackle some fun projects that support the continuous growth of the HDC. We will ask for $50/week to cover food costs during this time.


When we ask our students why they chose us, many say words like “community,” “philosophy” or “strong recommendations.”  Another thing we commonly hear is that our programs are relatively affordable. Read more about how the HDC offers the most affordable gap year program out there.