Gap Year in the USA

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Why Take a Gap Year in the USA

When many people think of a gap year, they think of programs outside the US. However, for both U.S. citizens and global citizens alike, taking a gap year in the USA can be a great, underrated option. Here is why we believe that gap year programs in America can give participants exactly what they are looking for in an unexpected place.

For many people looking to take a gap year, the goal is to learn more about themselves and the world around them. It makes sense why people would look outside of their homes and towards travel to meet these desires. Traveling provides a great way to expand comfort zones, learn from new perspectives, gain confidence and new skills, as well as spark self-reflection. So, for those looking for a gap year program, you may be wondering: what would be the benefit of taking a gap year in the US?

Personal Growth and Diversity

You will have the opportunity to harness your creativity towards projects that benefit others or uncover things within yourself. You will find yourself immersed amongst people different from you, growing your ability to embrace difference and learn from those who see the world differently than you. You will travel across the Southwest, learning about social issues, ecology, geography, politics, and more. You will see and experience different ways of being in the world. Our program works to give people the capability to choose and reflect on how they can be the best versions of themselves and give them the tools to go for it.

Additionally, the High Desert Center creates a space to explore what community can mean. As a gap year in the USA, our programs usually host around ⅓ of participants that come from countries outside the USA. This contributes to our diverse communal perspectives. Participants live intimately with each other and together explore the benefits and hardships of living in community. Learn how to communicate amongst difference and build your own-self-awareness of how you show up in relationships and communal spaces. These skills of living in community are transferable for all people, regardless of background, and gives participants the space to ask questions about what community means to them. “How do I live with people different from me? What does genuine connection look like for me? How can I navigate conflict within my relationships?” These are all questions you will explore, learn from and be able to take forward after your gap year.

Epic Adventure, Captivating Beauty

Gap programs in the US, like the High Desert Center, also have no lack of uniqueness and adventure. Our program is used to hosting participants from both across the world and our hometown of Paonia, Colorado. No matter where you come from, our program is designed to create a sense of adventure, challenge, and support for all individuals. You will find yourself amongst unworldly landscapes of deserts and mountains.

Our program home base is located in Paonia, Colorado, a small town nestled between the Rocky Mountains and the desert. Participants will spend time getting to know the people and places of Paonia and the surrounding region. Wilderness areas, organic farms, small businesses, coal mines, ranches, homesteaders, and orchards fill our valley. Participants need not travel far to climb mountains, swim in deep canyons, or help our neighbors during harvest time.

Paonia offers a wide range of diverse perspectives and people, many of whom are not shy about opening their doors to participants looking to learn. We will also spend time traveling around the American Southwest, seeing a range of towns and cities, different ecosystems, and the different, rich cultural and historical influences of the region. To learn more about the American Southwest, visit this link!


Our program is significantly more affordable than gap year programs abroad. You will spend considerably less money on travel and your gap experience. Keeping costs of a gap year low allows participants more financial freedom in their future after the program. We have found that our financial philosophy not only makes gap years more accessible, it also creates a strong foundation for our values as a program. We believe that a sense of adventure, new perspectives, self-growth, and challenge are all available any place we go. Our participants spend time learning how to create a sense of adventure wherever they may be, without the need for many resources at all. If you are curious to learn more about the financial philosophy of The High Desert Center, go here!


This use of minimal resources blends directly into the focus of sustainability within our program. We hope to give participants both real examples and exciting visions of what sustainability can look like within the USA. Through exploring what sustainability can mean and how to live in ways that use minimal resources, our program seeks to inspire change. Within a country that is known for its over use of resources and consumption, the High Desert Center explores alternative ways of being that gives participants the skills to create change in their own communities after the program.

As seen, a gap year in the USA can be everything you are looking for. The opportunity to explore yourself and the world is not far away with programs like the High Desert Center, that value affordability, sustainability, adventure, and community as ways to challenge and learn about ourselves and the world.

To read more about programs offered by the High Desert Center, look here!


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