Live the Good Life


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


8-12 participants, ages 17-23; plus our Dev and other staff.

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


Thailand, Arizona, Colorado.

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


Feb 15 to May 23, 2024

young man smiling on the side of the road with his thumb up, hitchhiking


$9,900, excluding airtravel to Thailand and home from Denver, CO.

Join us as we explore community and freedom in three dramatically different locations. Dive into food culture, place, spirituality, and adventure. Learn, grow, and make memories that will be with you for a lifetime.

Week 1-6: Thailand

In Thailand you will explore Thai culture, food culture, and spirituality as we trekk, get our hands dirty, and explore the local landscapes. You will immerse yourself in local community, experience a homestay, sit with Theravada monks, and explore landscapes from mountains to beaches. You will explore big questions in an immersive, intentional, and authentic way. Our goal is to truly experience the rawness and realness of the people, landscapes, plants, animals and special moments.

Week 7-10: The South West

Headed to the US, we will drive into remote deserts, canyons and wilderness but also into small towns and even a couple big cities.  The goal is to create community and connection wherever we go, to make quality moments that change lives. We will practice meeting our basic needs (food, water, shelter, friendship, service) in any place or situation. We will also create more magic moments than you thought possible. We guarantee you’ll feel alive and shake up your life.

Week 11-14

During the latter part of this program we will return to our base camp in Paonia, Colorado.  This is a place for us to go into greater depth with the skills we've been practicing.  We dive deep into self-sufficiency skills learning from locals who tan hides, create herbal medicines, carve spoons, or live offgrid. Throughout our time, we will be making many group decisions and practicing that important skill wherein all great things begin–a small group of people choosing something big and then making it happen.

In the end, most of us feel more alive and connected, and our challenge becomes figuring out how bring these qualities into the next stage of our lives.

group of young people with backpacks on smiling in nature


a young female student is 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.

A male teen student 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?

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.

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