Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to find.


A gap year semester of adventures, community, & sustainable living

Simply living feels a lot better when you’re thriving, and at the HDC you will put your focus there.  Sometimes thriving while living simply is easy, like when you’re sitting with your friends around a campfire under the stars eating pizzas you just made on a rock.  Other times it’s harder, like when you’re packing up your tent in the rain or when you find yourself washing other people’s dishes.

You don’t get to thriving by avoiding what’s hard or uncomfortable.  You don’t get there by doing what you “should”.  You get there by finding that spark that lies in each of us and courageously saying “yes.”   Community, adventures and sustainable living all follow.

group of young people with backpacks on smiling in nature

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? Here 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 adventures.  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.


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 a 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.

young woman smiling with her hand in the air standing on a hole in the snow


Rohnert Park, CA

During this gap year, I have grown into myself. I first joined the High Desert Center (HDC) feeling unsure about the future and nervous about my responsibilities in it. Throughout this year I have become grounded in my sense of self and excited to go out into the world. I attribute this to the spaciousness of the program.


Today! We are currently accepting applications.