Join the Gap Year to expand your awareness of self, hone practical skills, travel internationally, and cultivate an intentional relationship with nature. Let’s weave together tight community and creative adventures, and deepen connection with ourselves and the West.
WHEN: 3 Sep 2018 – 1 Jun 2019
WHERE: The West: California, Washington, Arizona, Utah, & Baja and Sonora, Mexico
WHO: 10 Participants (ages 17-22)
LEADERS: Julie McPherson, Jesse Olson, and others TBA
Over the course of this Gap Year participants will:
Backpack & Camp
We’ll sleep under the stars together during the seasons of autumn, late winter, and spring. We’ll live out of our backpacks and embrace self-sufficiency while practicing Leave No Trace principles.
Harvest & Plant
We’ll connect with the Earth and its soil and water by creating a direct relationship with our food in different regions throughout the seasons. We’ll explore the realms of agriculture, permaculture, water systems and natural resources.
Cook & Preserve Food
Group cooking will be a daily component in the backcountry and front country and participants will plan, budget, prepare and cook nutritious, diverse meals. When fruits and vegetables are ripe and in season, we’ll can, dehydrate, ferment, and save a stock of the abundance to eat later in the program.
Learn to Communicate Effectively, Create Community, & Network
Through work exchanges, volunteer experiences, and workshops we will amplify the bond within our group and build extended community in the places we visit. We will develop and practice our interpersonal skills through the process of group decision making, direct communication, and giving and receiving feedback, while embodying vulnerability.
Explore Baja and Sonora, Mexico & Immerse in the Spanish Language
A month in Mexico will set the stage for us to speak lots of Spanish, live with host families, experience small town Mexican culture, and adventure on the beaches of Baja and among the volcanoes of Sonora.
Dance, Engage in Creative Arts & Assemble Personal Portfolios
We’ll encourage expression and discovery through play, partner dance, site specific art installations, video documentation, photo blogging and journaling. Together, we’ll maintain a public group blog, design personal websites, write resumes, and film interview videos of each other.
Excite Nature Awareness & Adventure Outdoors
We will learn to notice the patterns and relationships of birds, wildflowers, edible plants, wildlife, weather, and geology. Mountains, rivers, canyons, rock formations, forests, and the sea will become our playground when we backpack, hike, camp, rock climb, swim, long boat, and train in Wilderness First Aid.
Specific dates are flexible within the Gap Year itinerary except for program start and end dates.
CALIFORNIA 3 Sep – 21 Oct
The group will gather at San Francisco International Airport and immediately journey to the Sierra Nevada. Gap Year orientation will span a few days while we camp along Lee Vining Creek. We’ll acclimate with day hikes into the high country of Yosemite National Park and then explore the High Sierra from the East Side. Day adventures to Mono Lake and the Owens River Valley will provide a platform for discussing western water rights.
On our two backpacking trips we will travel through glacier carved terrain, pristine alpine meadows, dense pine and fir forest, and over granite ridges.
In between trips we will resupply and prepare food, recuperate with showers and downtime, connect to the Internet, and attend local events. Spanish language practice will begin and staff will host workshops.
We’ll leave the Sierra Nevada on the east side of California and head to a handful of farm exchanges in the Central Valley and Coast Ranges. We’ll arrive in the fog filled redwood forest of the Pacific coast and backpack through the oak forest and chaparral ridges of Big Sur from the east side of the Santa Lucia Mountains.
Time in the Central Valley will be spent working on farms, volunteering at a harvest festival, and exploring the Cache Creek Wilderness or the Trinity Alps.
Our drive to Joshua Tree National Park will lead us south through the expansive Central Valley. Upon arrival in the desert of southeastern California, we will rock climb and explore this totally new environment. We’ll open the conversation about self designed Winter Break projects.
On our way to the border, we will drive through the Imperial Valley and camp along the Colorado River. Staff will begin to prepare participants for time in Mexico.
MEXICO 22 Oct – 16 Nov
We’ll live with local families for two weeks in the small towns of Mesarica and Ejido Luis Encinas Johnson, located along the border of Baja and Sonora. We’ll immerse in the Mexican culture and speak Spanish daily, as English is not commonly spoken. We’ll venture out to the Cienega (the incredibly biodiverse estuary where the Colorado River meets the Sea of Cortez) frequently, work on projects, and learn about local agriculture and water rights. When we go to Cincuenta, the small city nearby, we’ll use the internet to correspond about Winter Break projects.
On our way to and from our home stays, we’ll beach camp on the west and east sides of the Sea of Cortez and explore the similarities and differences of the Baja and Sonora coastlines.
ARIZONA 17 Nov – 19 Nov
When we’re back in the United States, we’ll camp close to the border in Organ Pipe National Monument to celebrate and debrief the fall.
We’ll drive north to Tucson International Airport where the fall Gap Year program concludes.
SELF DESIGNED PURSUITS IN A LOCATION OF CHOICE 20 Nov 2018 – 17 Feb 2019
The Winter Break portion of the Gap Year offers a platform for participants to step outside of their comfort zones by launching a self-designed project.
When we are together during the fall, participants will create goals, ideas, and dreams about possibilities for their winter. For almost three months, participants will have time during their Winter Break to embark on personal adventures, participate in apprenticeships or internships, reconnect with family and friends, earn money working a job, travel in the US or abroad, or work on a project of their choice.
These individual adventures will have the support of the Gap Year community as staff will host weekly group check-ins and be available for one-on-one conversations throughout the Winter Break. However, this is a break time in the Gap Year program and participants are responsible for themselves; Curious Kaleidoscope staff are not responsible for participants during this Winter Break.
Specific dates are flexible within the Gap Year itinerary except for program start and end dates.
ARIZONA 18 Feb – 21 Mar
The spring program of the Gap Year will kick off once the group gathers together at Tucson International Airport. We’ll spend a week camping, climbing and reconnecting as a group in the Dragoon Mountains at Cochise Stronghold and spend a weekend training in Wilderness First Aid. Participants will get certified if they pass the test at the end of the 2 day course!
Participants will create the itinerary for the next ten days. Options could be to head east toward the Chiricahua Mountains, explore the Sky Islands and volunteer with the Sky Island Alliance, hike a section of the Arizona Trail, or head further east toward New Mexico’s Gila National Forest.
We’ll reinforce the time we shared in Mexico in the fall by devoting time learning about what is happening on the US side of the border. A few days spent in Tucson attending Social Justice events and an Operation Streamline hearing will prepare us for a week volunteering along the border with a local organization.
After leaving the Sonoran Desert for the second time in this Gap Year, we’ll ascend to the higher elevations of Northern Arizona and tour the Arcosanti Urban Laboratory. We’ll camp near the rim of the Grand Canyon and explore its majesty and colorful layers by hiking down to the Colorado River. We’ll continue our quest for knowledge of western water.
UTAH 22 Mar – 31 Mar
We’ll cross into south eastern Utah immerse ourselves in the colorful spring bloom. We’ll backpack the canyons of Cedar Mesa and explore Anasazi territory.
ROAD TRIP FROM THE SOUTHWEST TO THE NORTHWEST 1 Apr – 14 Apr
Together as a group, participants will choose the route! Let the adventures continue.
We could travel up through Idaho and into Eastern Washington, or through Nevada and Eastern Oregon and up the Columbia River, through Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, or through Nevada and the coasts of California and Oregon. We can drive to Washington in a handful of days or we can stop frequently along the way.
WASHINGTON 15 Apr – 1 Jun
Upon arrival in Washington, we’ll dive into six weeks of adventure in the mountains, on the water, at the farms, and among the islands of the Pacific Northwest. We’ll welcome the lush, dense, green of the landscape and witness the Northwest spring bloom.
We’ll backpack on the Olympic Peninsula in Olympic National Park and camp along its West Coast. We’ll explore the rugged shoreline and the temperate Hoh Rainforest.
We’ll explore the Salish Sea on longboats and the North Cascades on feet. A shared overnight experience on the water in a longboat will be memorable, as it will be invigorating and humbling. We’ll explore multiple watersheds that feed into Puget Sound.
Outdoor adventure will be balanced with farm work and the planting season. We’ll witness a world renowned permaculture hub when we visit the Bullocks Brothers Homestead on Orcas Island in the San Juans. We’ll work trade on farms and volunteer with Earthcorps in urban Seattle.
Family and friends can join us to celebrate for a few days at the end of the program and we’ll share, dance and engage in a volunteer project. The Gap Year spring program closes at Seattle International Airport and participants travel home or onto the next adventure!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the extra costs on this Gap Year?
The program fee does not include certain variable costs: travel to and from fall and spring trip locations, traveler’s insurance (for our time in Mexico), and personal money. We recommend a personal spending budget of at least $150 per semester for toiletries, snacks, gifts, etc.
Who is leading this Gap Year?
Julie McPherson and Jesse Olson will lead this trip. Both are veteran travelers, frequently work with young adults and possess current Wilderness First Responder certifications. Guest trip leaders will join us for specific components of the year. Read about our trip leaders on our Leaders page.
Can you accommodate my special diet?
Yes! Omnivores, vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free diets can be accommodated on this trip. Please inquire about further specific dietary needs.
Is Mexico safe?
We will be traveling in the states of Sonora and Baja. Our home stays are located in the Colorado River Delta in quiet, calm, off-the-beaten-path towns. Trip leaders have stayed with our hosts multiple times over the past few years and look forward to sharing an immersive experience with genuinely sweet people, practicing the Spanish language and experiencing Mexican culture. Curious Kaleidoscope leaders will prepare participants for rural Mexico living before crossing the border.
Please read about our risk management practices on our general FAQ page. We hand-picked this destination based on personal experience and diligent reconnaissance in this specific location, and direct conversations with local people.
How will participants communicate with trip leaders?
Each trip leader will carry a cell phone that is accessible to participants and parents. When we are in Mexico, trip leaders will stay in the same small towns and be neighbors with participants.
How will participants stay in touch with family and friends during this extended program?
We recommend bringing a wi-fi enabled device for the entirety of the program. Having a cell phone is important as it will allow you to be in touch with trip leaders and other participants as well as family and friends; however cell coverage won’t exist when we’re backpacking and it will be spotty while traveling in Mexico. You can choose to bring a laptop or tablet for when we work on our portfolios and document our year. When we head to our home stays in Mexico, we’ll go into town at least once a week to use wi-fi. You can stay in touch with family and friends by email, Skype, and WhatsApp.
If you do want to digitally detox on this trip, we’ll support you in that endeavor too!
What resources exist in case of a medical emergency?
All trip leaders are certified Wilderness First Responders in case of an emergency in the backcountry. Whenever we enter the backcountry we will have our InReach satellite devices. Our home stays in Mexico are an hour and a half from the hospital in Yuma, Arizona. Each participant is required to have health insurance for the duration of the program (including our time in Mexico).
What are the bathroom facilities like and how often will we have access to showers?
We will have access to an array of bathroom facilities during this Gap Year. When we are volunteering on farms we will have access to compositing toilets and flush toilets and a combination of normal showers and solar showers. When we are backpacking we will bathe in rivers and lakes and poop in the woods. When we are on the road and car camping, we will hang solar showers from trees to bathe and will sometimes have pit toilets at our campsites. When we are in Mexico there will be a combination of flush toilets and pit toilets, normal showers and bucket showers. There will always be toilet paper and we will practice Leave No Trace principles when in the woods.
We recognize that this may be challenging for some participants, and we’re absolutely willing to offer guidance and support in this arena.
What is the behavior policy for this Gap Year?
During our trip orientation, the group establishes agreements that include respecting each other, respecting property, and behaving safely. Consent is an important practice within our programs. Participants are allowed to be in consensual relationships.
How does the application process work and when are payments due?
It’s an application and interview process! Skype interviews for this trip began in December 2017 and are still happening as we receive applications. If you are offered a spot on the trip, you’ll have 2 weeks to submit trip paperwork and a $1500 non-refundable security deposit to secure your spot on the trip. The rest of the program fee is due June 1st. We will accept applications on a rolling basis through spring. If the trip does not fill minimum enrollment numbers by May 31st, we will cancel the trip and refund your security deposit.
Should I sign up for this Gap Year? How can I prepare?
This Gap Year is for young people who are mature, self-aware, and ready for more responsibility in their lives. Curious Kaleidoscope trips thrive on cultivating curiosity, exploration, and independence. To be prepared for this Gap Year, you must have experience away from home (at least 2 weeks). This should not be your first trip away from home. We want YOU (the participant) to sign up for this trip, and demonstrate that you can fill out your own application and engage in your interview by yourself.
To prepare for this Gap Year now, you can choose to have an intentional experience away from home before the program begins (attend an overnight summer camp, go on a road trip or train trip, visit friends outside of your city or state, embarking on an extended backcountry trip). There are a few flexible components of this Gap Year where the participants, as a group, create the plan and choose the adventure. To have fun with this process, absolutely do personal research about places, people, events, and activities that excite you; we may incorporate some of these things into our itinerary!
You will need a Passport for this Gap Year: U.S. Department of State Passport Information.
I’m outside of the age range, can I still apply?
Our age range is flexible because we understand that you can be totally psyched and ready for a trip, but fall outside of the age bracket. So go ahead and apply!
Photo Credit to Journey Temple for “Tamales” & “Mesarica Party,” Jesse Olson for “Longboats,” and Jenna Bradford for “Mesarica,” “Partner Dancing,” “Nest,” “Cienega,” and “Border Fence.” All other photos were taken by Julie McPherson.