One Student’s Gap Year Plans

By Christopher Belluschi ’14

From left: Cooper, Jack, and Chris. The three plan to travel together during their gap year. (Photo: Cooper Lazar)

From left: Cooper, Jack, and Chris. The three plan to travel together during their gap year. (Photo: Cooper Lazar)

While many high school seniors are waiting to see where they will spend next year as a college freshman, a handful are planning to take a different route: a year abroad. One of those students is Cooper, a senior at Catlin Gabel, who plans on traveling with Christopher Reimann ’13 and Jack Schrott, a senior at Grant High School. The following is an interview with Cooper about his planned trip.

What first inspired you to travel abroad?

Instead of a specific story or event inspiring me, the idea’s inception began my sophomore year during a discussion with my friend Jack Schrott. One of us kind of just threw out the idea of traveling around the U.S. for a while, and we both immediately knew it would be a sweet trip. After a few weeks of liking the idea, we suggested it to our parents, who, surprisingly, suggested Europe instead. Jack and I talked it over, and decided that is what we’d do.

Where do you plan on traveling?

Despite the constant meetings and trip planning, we have purposefully left our trip destinations blank. Initially it doesn’t sound too smart, but one goal of ours requires us to just have a somewhat low-stress and carefree attitude during the trip. We don’t want to stress about hitting travel deadlines, or declining offers from newfound friends for these reasons. Ultimately, we just want to have the option to maximize our experience and opportunities while on our stay. That said, there is a 90 out of 180 day limit for a large chunk of Europe, so we will have to retreat to countries outside of this zone (if you know how to avoid this then help us!). One such country will ultimately be Thailand.

How do you plan on getting around once you arrive?

Despite Europe’s great public transportation, we have so much stuff, and need to get to such remote places, that we are going to buy a car. Our biggest problem currently, we are going to talk to people we know in Europe to look out for cheap vans for us. We are going to ‘pimp’ it out a bit … then bam! The dirt-mobile is ours.

What are your expecting to learn?

Overall, since we are going for such a long time, we are going to experience dirt-bagging as a way of life, instead of a trip that we can look forward to the end of. We expect some climbing and mountaineering awesomeness, and hopefully we will go on some interesting adventures, maybe even make some great friends and connections there. But besides those vague hopes we don’t have much to go on. And that experiment vibe, to me, is part of what makes this trip so exciting.

Why travel abroad?

Initially we were going to stay in the U.S., but then we realized that the trip we were going to plan, and the mountains we were going to climb, would be much more plausible later in life. And then the strive for an experience we’ve never had before helped us commit to going abroad. If anyone else is interested in a trip like this, I suggest that they get serious about it soon, because everything I have heard during my research has suggested that a trip like this doesn’t happen after you are over about 27 years old. By then you are going to be too settled or tied town to cut all ties, run around the world with no plans, with one friend, while sleeping on the side of the road for nine months.

What are your previous international traveling experiences?

I have traveled to some of the main tourist places in the world (Rome, Paris, general Europe, main China cities) but haven’t done anything like this.

When will you leave? When will you return?

Currently the plan is for me to leave in September by myself as the other two continue working. I’ll travel around Europe for a couple months then meet them in Thailand a couple days after Christmas. I will probably return home in June, while they will stay all through the summer.

What research and planning will/have you done?

We have done a pretty good amount of research finding different climbing areas for options, determining the rules so we don’t have many logistical challenges, planning cost, speaking with friends, and other such tasks.