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Fall Gap Year 2022

Live the Good Life

An action packed gap year program for adventure seeking folks. Experience new cultures. Find your people. Dive into yourself.

  • Who
    12-16 participants, ages 17-23; plus our staff team.
  • Where
    Colorado wilderness,  the Southwest, and Mexico.  Post program options to travel to Australia, Thailand, Spain and more.
  • When
    August 23, 2023 to November 15, 2023
  • Cost
    $7,700-Includes travel during the program (but not travel to Paonia to begin or home from where we end).


Living the Simple Life

August 23- October 4

The first section 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.

Read More Here 

Hitting the Road

October 5- November 15

With hints of Autumn in the air, we jump in our multi-colored bus and head south.  We will travel and adventure throughout the southwest and Mexico having memorable moments along the way.  We will explore the people and the landscapes in a way that is raw, real, and spontaneous, We will minimize the tourist feel and maximize the connection. We will camp in hidden special places, climb to ruins, learn about border issues and desert landscapes, and climb sandstone towers to watch the sunrise.  In the end, the whole southwest and northern Mexico will feel like home.

Read More Here 

Throughout the semester we will focus on:

Community Living

Do you crave the feeling of belonging and connection? Does growing your self awareness and your ability to navigate sticky situations sound exciting and a bit scary? You will create a tight-knit, magical community here. Together you will live in cabins, cook your meals from scratch, take on ambitious projects as teams, and learn about the practices and principles that create a deep and rich community. When things get challenging, you can count on someone checking in with you, listening to you, and asking questions that broaden your perspective. Over the semester you might find yourself surprised how close you feel to a group of people who were strangers only months before.


Adventure is a frame of mind.  It can happen anywhere and anytime when you say “yes!”    You can expect to climb mountains, explore canyons, or purposefully get lost without a sleeping bag only to spend a night around a fire-eating cactus fruit.  You can also expect to be surprised and find adventure in unexpected places, like the kitchen or under a bridge.  With adventure comes not only learning about things like primitive skills, orienteering, birding, and the night sky, but also the chance to practice designing and leading new adventure.  Most importantly, there comes the adventure mindset, and with that, even when you’re not in the mountains, the everyday challenges of work and home life can feel like adventurous fun.


One of our biggest modern-day challenges is living in a way that feels like a solution rather than part of the problem.  To us that means minimizing our negative impact while growing our resilience and adaptability and willingness to make courageous choices.  At the High Desert Center you will grow greens and make bread; build with recycled and natural materials; conserve water by using a composting toilet; and minimize fossil fuels use by taking showers with solar heated water.  You will also meet and learn from people who are happily living the simple life. And you will practice the process wherein all great things begin-a small group of people choosing something big that matters and then making it happen.

Looking for a Gap Year opportunity in the winter? Check out our HDC Winter Partners

We’ve found that some participants want to go abroad and desire some structure and support to get the most of their experiences after the program ends. Here are some partners we work with. Note that these have additional costs associated with them and are not a part of the fall gap year program.


Travel to the coast south of Valencia to live with a host family, volunteer at the local democratic school, and learn about artesian bread making from a local baker. Improve your Spanish, build relationships, soak up the culture, and don’t forget to eat the paella. This adventure is best suited for someone with a basic foundation in Spanish.


Read More Here


Experience Thailand while living in a community center focused on building the skills of self-reliance. You will learn how to save seeds, garden, and practice natural building. Take advantage of getting to know the indigenous cultures of the Karen, Hmong, Lisu, and Lahu people and experience life from the vantage point of a vastly different worldview.


Read More Here


 Enjoy the fun of a family homestay in a wonderful old seaside home nestled among the urban Henley Beach. With good public transport and cycling path access, the city of Adelaide is in full summer swing for adventures and exploring.  Learn about permaculture, the indigenous Kaurna culture, and seaside lifestyle in Australia.