Live the Good Life

An action packed gap year program for adventure seeking folks.

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

A group of young people pose for a gap year program photo, looking hip and silly


14-18 participants, ages 17-23; plus our staff team. 1 Spot Available.

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


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

An outdoor gap year program adventure, four smiling teens are backpacking with mountains in the background.


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.


Fall - The Simply Living Semester

September 1 – November 10 
The first semester of our gap year program is about wilderness challenge and life experience in rural Colorado.  Together we will practice the skills of self-sufficiency and community living. We will explore what makes us feel alive and how we adapt to challenges. We spend a lot of time outdoors: backpacking, camping, hiking and watching sunsets. Canyons, mountaintops and swimming holes on the river will be our playground. When we aren't out in the wilderness, we'll explore at home: canning peaches, making bread, meeting people, making music and enjoying the simple life. (This program can also be joined as a stand-alone gap semester.)

The Winternship

November 11-February 10
We support you in designing and executing your dream-learning-adventure. The options are endless.  You can arrange independent apprenticeships, travel, or find meaningful work. We have partners abroad in places like Thailand, Spain and Australia where you can dive into a new culture and learning. We provide weekly support on the phone during this phase of the year.

Spring - The Wanderlust Semester

February 11-April 27 
The final phase of our gap year program gives you 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 outdoors in the 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:

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

Bonus! The HDC Homesteading Term

When the program wraps up in the spring, participants who enjoyed our work projects and who love gardening and building are welcome to join Dev and Marian on their land for six weeks. During this time we will continue to share in community meals and tackle some fun projects that support the on-going growth of the HDC. We will ask for $50/week to cover food costs during this time.

Can I Afford a Gap Year?

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 affordable. Read more about how the HDC offers the most affordable gap year program out there.