Make gap year travel tax deductible, because seeing the world is the best education for young people.

11. March, 2017

Besides obviously being a big fan of traveling, I’m also very interested in education. I’m probably a bit critical about traditional education, but I think there are so many other ways to learn and create a good mindset, develop skills and be a happy person. Travel is one of them and I believe it’s incredibly important for especially young people to travel.

I actually believe that young people should be motivated and pushed even more towards traveling than they are now. Yes, there are a lot of programs, a lot of young people take a gap year, but it’s far from the majority. I don’t like forcing people to do something, I prefer motivating people.

Instead of making traveling something you have to do while for example studying, I think gap year travel should be tax deductible. Doing that, governments would send a clear signal to their young people that travel is good and that it’s valued. This would encourage more young people to take a gap year and they would get more out of that gap year. Instead of working 8 months to be able to travel 4 months, maybe they can just work 4 months and travel 8 months.

I think that if more young people traveled it would be good for them and it would be good for society. Let me explain you why:

 

We need more creative people in the future and travel makes you more creative

In the future, one of the most important skills will be creativity. When robots are taking over routine tasks, we will have to make a living by using our brains.

Many developed countries recognize that we’re transitioning to another kind of society where we need other kind skills. The vast majority of people in the Western part of the world is already making a living by turning their knowledge and creativity into value and the transition to that kind of jobs will only continue.

We have to focus on what leads to more creative people and travel is one of those things that makes us more creative, documented by research.

At the same time, many things show that we’re getting less and less creative the longer we go to school. If we are serious about adjusting to the new reality, we should be serious about getting more young people out and traveling.

 

Finding the right path earlier on

Only by trying different things, you can find the right path for you no matter if we’re talking about how to live or what to do for a living. Finding the right path will mean that a person will be more likely to thrive and if a person is thriving he or she will be more likely to create more value.

In Denmark, it’s very normal to change education after you have started one at University level. Actually, the government is trying to do a lot to stop that, because it’s expensive and because it’s good if people get out and get jobs as fast as possible, so they can pay taxes.

I’m sure we would get more people to make the right decision about their path if they had a break from formal education, tried something completely different and saw things in a broader perspective.

 

We need people who have a deep love of learning

Another fundamental skill is to have a deep love of learning. If you have a deep love of learning, I think you’ll be more likely to try things out and find the path that is right for you. There is happiness in the act of learning.

In all education, it should be a part of the goal to help develop a love of learning. Travel makes you curious, open your senses and makes you question yourself and the rest of the world. Travel gives you ideas and those ideas and that curiosity is fundamental for having a deep love of learning.

While we’re often busy following the norms of our busy societies, actively developing a deep love of learning would help us lead better lives and this is especially important for young people, who are building a foundation for the rest of their lives. While it will be difficult to transform schools into institutions that are better at helping young people develop a love of learning (and not taking it away), travel is something that we can decide for ourselves.

 

Everything will be global in the future

The young people that stay in their own country, speaks poor or none English at all, will be more likely to be the losers in the globalization. We can’t and shouldn’t stop globalization, but we should learn about it, adopt and make it work for everyone.

To be able to make global solutions, adapt to globalization and make it work for everyone, it starts with a global mindset. The more people who have a global mindset the better.


“Nothing would transform America as having oversea experience for the majority of people”
- Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired

 

In the future, the world will be much connected. We will have friends from many countries, do much more business across borders and be more likely to (and have the tools) find like-minded people on another continent than in our own city. That transition is a transition from “us and them” to just “us”.

Traveling will broaden young people’s sense of being part of a global community and give them the mindset to seek opportunities in the whole world and not just the city where they were born.

 

Everything is going faster and faster and we need to understand that.

While the globalization is just moving faster and faster, so is everything else. Poor countries are getting richer faster, the development of technology is just going faster and faster and we need to understand that.

In the future, understanding how fast development is and how fast everything will change will be crucial. In our lifetime we will see things getting disrupted much more than generations before us. This can, for example, be whole industries, which will impact our jobs.

Traveling away from our own countries can learn us how the rest of the world is developing, how globalization and technology are impacting other countries and continents. Traveling from the US to South Korea, you will probably learn that maybe the US is not per definition the technology center of the world. Traveling from Europe to Kenya, you will probably learn that in the future Africa can have the same level of life as us.

 

“I think gap years should be mandatory”
- Tim Ferriss

 

The relationship between travel and happiness

But it’s not just about financials, it’s also about happiness. While we slowly transition to the world with an abundance of wealth, one of our next big challenges will be to make people happier. This will be something that governments will focus more and more on. Bhutan doesn’t just have Gross National Product, but also Gross National Happiness and other countries are likely to follow.

Travel can in many ways make us happier, but all of the above things can also lead to more happiness. Finding the right path for you, being able to adapt to change and being more creative are all things that can lead to more happiness. So to make our young people happier than previous generations, travel is a tool we can use.

 

How would it work

While making traveling tax deductible for gap year travel is probably not going to happen anytime soon, I think it would work. There could be different models. It could be as simple as making travel tax deductible up to a specific amount if you can prove that you have spent the money on travel. Of course, there would be a risk, that young people would just go to Thailand and get drunk for tax-free money, so maybe there could build some rules into it, or maybe it should just be specific elements that should be tax-free.

At the same time, I think it would be a good idea not to limit it too much, as whatever way people would travel, it would help them and learn them something. Also if the rules were too specific, we’re actively saying what is the right and wrong way to travel and I don’t like that. People are different, come from different backgrounds and have different travel experience, so in general it should just be an opportunity to get people abroad. I think that could be enough!

Nikolaj Astrup Madsen I am the founder of Refuga. I'm danish, but I'm traveling the world while building Refuga and whenever I have time I go for a run in the mountains. I hope you will join me on this journey!

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