Home » Past Programs » Past Gap Year Programs » 2015-16 Gap Year

2015-16 Gap Year

When: September 4, 2015 — May 27, 2016

Where: Paonia, Colorado

Who: 8 – 12 students ages 17-23 plus program leader Dev Carey and a host of guest instructors including Cameron Lovejoy, Blake Boles, and more

How Much: $6,600 (program fee includes all food, housing, and activities while the group is together)

Priority Application Deadline: April 1, 2015

Program Itinerary

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Picking apples in Paonia

September 4th to Oct 18th: Farm Work, Dance, Communication, Adventure

The first 6 weeks will be spent on a variety of activities that emphasizes group work, group communication, and interpersonal skills. Based out of Dev’s property (the High Desert Center for Sustainability Studies) in Paonia, Colorado, you’ll spend your days working with your hands, feet, and head. Activities will include:

  • Harvesting fruits and vegetables on neighboring farms
  • Canning peaches
  • Becoming skilled at partner dancing (Blues and Lindy Hop)
  • Attending short communication workshops
  • Climbing a couple mountains and taking a backpacking trip.
  • Developing a personal online portfolio
  • Planning your winter adventure
Backpacking in Colorado
Partner dancing in Paonia

October 18th to November 18th: Writing Retreat

Come mid-October we will head to a youth hostel in Crested Butte and join with up with the 2015 writing retreat.  There we will write while continuing to dance and work on developing our online portfolio.

Nov 19th to January 6th: Holidays at Home

The next month and a half you’ll spend at home for the holidays–but don’t worry, the group connection continues! While at home you’ll:

  • polish your online portfolio
  • chat regularly with Gap Year members via email and videoconference
  • receive one-on-one guidance in order to prepare for your upcoming winter adventure

Students cover their own living expenses during this time.

Keeping in touch via the internet
Keeping in touch with during the holidays via the internet

January 7th – February 7th: Winter Adventure (Solo or Small Group)

The Winter Adventure a month-long adventure of your own design. You’ve been preparing for this since September, and now it’s time to fly. What can you do on your Winter Adventure? You’re limited only by your creativity. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Backpack around Central America with other group members
  • Build a business and attempt to make your first sale
  • Intern for a company or individual you admire
  • Work or volunteer for an organization you discovered in Paonia

Students choose their own partners and pay their own way during the Winter Adventure. Gap Year staff (including Blake Boles) assist you in planning, budgeting, fundraising, and staying on track toward your adventure goals.

Where will your Winter Adventure take you?

February 7th -April 7th: Travel in the Southwest & Mexico

For your next 8 weeks, you’ll travel across the Southwest in a van with the entire Gap Year group, dipping briefly into Northern Mexico to live and work with with Dev’s friends. The itinerary includes:

  • Visiting and backing in iconic landscapes in the desert southwest.
  • Trekking in the Grand Canyon
  • Staying with a family in Northern Mexico
  • Learn to speak basic Spanish

During this time you’ll gain a big perspective on how our lives affect others and looking at whole systems of water, food, immigration, and culture.

Searching for wildlife in Northern Mexico
One of the many fun stops on the Southwest Roadtrip

April 7th – May 27th: Design & Build

The Gap Year ends with a fun, hands-on, and practical experience: learning how to build and design your own small house. Using strawbale and natural building methods, you’ll learn how to create a well-insulated building for very little money. When not designing and building, Dev and the Gap Year staff will help you complete your portfolio and think about the next phase of your life—whether that’s college, work, or more self-directed learning—and launch you into it with confidence.

Installing solar panels
Cobbing an earthship

What to Expect Day-to-Day

Through the Gap Year, routines will vary, but some things will remain constant. What you can expect every day is (1) a mix of physical work, intellectual learning, conversation, fun and relationship building; (2) daily check-ins; (3) cooking and eating together; and (4) an individual project or practice—maybe exercise or writing poetry or building a bee box—something that is important to you.

Autumn in Paonia

Mornings will be full of picking apples, harvesting kale, maybe slaughtering some chickens or a goat, digging potatoes. Afternoons might involve some canning and solar drying interspersed with workshops on communication. Evenings will be dancing, conversation, sunset hikes and listening to coyotes.

Southwest Adventure Travel

Imagine an Outward Bound Course combined with hobo adventure skills. You’ll practice living out of a backpack and hike the Grand Canyon and other wild places of the Southwest. You’ll sleep under pines and under bridges. We’ll eat food we gather from the landscape and ponder 1000-year-old potshards laying in the dirt under a sagebrush.


Picture a small town and dirt streets with chickens and little kids sucking chili mango lollipops. The schedule here means doing what the locals do. Sometimes that’s getting up early in the morning to work in the onion fields or mist net birds. Other times it means sleeping in and playing soccer with the local kids. You’ll eat with families, get by on sign language and your growing Spanish skills, and practice rolling out tortillas. There will be workshops too to help you understand the local culture, economy and ecology. The little bit of water that makes it to small town Mexico comes from the same river that passes by Paonia, so we’re all interconnected.

Spring in Paonia

On building days we’ll be up early, turning salvaged pieces of plywood into homemade roof joists or stuffing old tires with dirt to make an earthship foundation. It will be hard and rewarding work and you’ll walk away with carpentry skills and a sense of achievement and inspiration. In the afternoon we’ll take breaks, tour innovative houses, and visit people who have figured out how to balance their checkbook while doing what they love. Then we’ll settle down over dinner and figure out how we’d like to build our own lives and what we want to do next to make it happen.

Gap Year Staff

Have More Questions?

Read the FAQ here or contact Dev with any other questions.

Apply here!