Gap Year in the South West & Mexico

Travel, adventure and explore Mexican culture

Spend your gap year road tripping to and around Mexico.

Experience new cultures. Savor the freedom of life on the road. Dive into yourself.
A group of young people hike through the Arizona wilderness


The second part of our time together is about traveling into new worlds as we make our way from the high mountains of Colorado to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.  We learn and adventure in remote untouched nature and also in places full of trash, in Native american reservations and border towns, in National parks and dirt poor villages.  Along the way we will meet and learn from experts and total characters we meet on the street.  We will practice the art of creating community wherever we go--sometimes we pop up a kitchen in a park and feed people, invite them to a music circle or a game of frisbee.  We will find hidden special places, camping on a back BLM road or spontaneously changing our plan to visit somebody we just met.  The goal is to deeply connect with place and people, to dance and play, and to create transformative experiences and stories that change lives.  We won't shower much or do many traditional tourist things, but we will experience what is really happening out there.  This last year we sat with an illegal immigrant who was hiding from border patrol and got his story, we stayed with people who worked in border factories and struggled to find their next meal, we joined the Halloween party in Patagonia and ended up learning from a famous ethnobotonist.

Such experiences lead to connecting with each other as we try to make sense of it all and create our place in it.  Around campfires and under the stars, we'll process how to respond  as we realize our decisions affect everything from rare dolphins, to soil salt levels, to the jobs and health of the people we befriend in Mexico.  We will cry, dance, and fall in love with a way of living that embraces the beauty, complexity and pain of the real world. You won't ever forget it.

Some potential activities and destinations:

  • The Sonoran Desert: eating chollas fruit and making cordage from Yucca.
  • A beach in Mexico.  Sting rays and Pelicans.
  • Navajo National Monunment.
  • The former Colorado River Delta and Cienagua de Santa Clara in Mexico.
  • Backpacking in Utah Canyons.  Find and explore ancestral pueblo ruins and broken potsherds.
  • Stemming across a Utah slot canyon.
  • Dumpster diving.  Busking.  Sneak sleeping in a city.
  • Working with conservarionists in Mexico banding birds and building habitat.
  • Meeting strangers and learning their stories.
  • The border and border issues in Arizona.
  • A long, multi-day hike from the fence in Mexico north towards Tucson, passing through amazing country and by many hidden border patrol cameras.
  • Visiting small organic farms in Paonia and seeing acres of lettuce picked by immigrants in the former Colorado River Delta.
  • Homestays in Mexico in a small, dirt-street rural village.
  • Serving food in a soup kitchen in Bisbee
  • Backpacking the Grand Canyon
  • Waking up to 1000s of sandhill cranes.
Students studying in the desert
after high scool student group gathered in front of the Colorado River


Oscar Wolfenstein


Portland, OR

At the High Desert Center, I felt for the first time in my life that I had a place and a purpose entirely to myself. The environment provides hands-on education in sustainable living and community building, and the staff engages each participant earnestly, asking participants to discover what we truly care about and to explore the numerous options presented by our ambitions. Each day feels like an experience and adventure to itself, and also preparation for the great adventure of life.

Male staff member


Belfast, ME

Let me tell you about the mountains that we wake up to every morning, surrounded by sun-kissed peaks that offered weeks of back country exploration. Let me tell you about the delicious smell of bacon calling me from my bed just before the breakfast bell rings, bacon from a small organic farm down the road where we visited and worked with our hands in the dirt. This gap year changed my life. If it calls to you, I encourage you to take the leap.


Today! We are currently accepting applications.