It’s no surprise here that I love the idea of living one’s life to the fullest. I know travel isn’t necessarily for everyone, but there’s no question in my mind that my year of backpacking around the world was one of my most amazing years.

I did so much during my round-the-world trip that it’s hard to imagine my life without all those adventures (and those stories!). It was my most amazing year, inspiring me to make some pretty big changes to the way I live my life. That year was a life-defining point, and I suspect most people who take gap years—whether in their 20s, their 40s or their 50s—encounter some sort of eye-opening experience.

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I recently heard from the author of a new book about his very own “gap year.” Adam Shepard (not this Adam — FYI) lived the stereotypical (but far from typical) American dream throughout his 20s, and in 2011 decided to take a year off to see the world. In 2010 he had published the book, Scratch Beginnings (inspired by a favorite book of mine, Nickel & Dimed), where he lived a brief life of self-imposed poverty before setting out to achieve the American dream. His most recent adventure, detailed in his new book One Year Lived, takes the “American dream” and turns it on its side:

We want life to be cushy and regimented, but that’s not how we can create a lasting impact on our lives or the lives around us. There’s only so much you can learn in the classroom. Sometimes you have to get out there to experience it, to touch it, to feel it, to see it for yourself. It’s fascinating the perspective we can gain when we step out of our bubbles of comfort, even just a little bit.

One Year LivedShepard’s year abroad sees him volunteering in Honduras, bungee jumping in Slovakia, learning Spanish in Central America and talking politics in Australia. “If you can lend a hand to someone, educate yourself about the world, and sandwich that around extraordinary moments that get your blood pumping, that’s a pretty full year,” Shepard writes.

Reading his story I couldn’t help but remember my own most amazing year—cruising down the Nile in Egypt, sleeping on rooftops in Tel Aviv, attending a Hindu wedding in India, partying in Bangkok and sleeping on beaches in Cambodia. Thousands of those little experiences—some things I always wanted to do, many things I never imagined I’d do—added up and gave me a lifetime of excitement. All packed into a year. Now I’m curious: how many of you have lived your most amazing year? What have you done to try and live it out?

Shepard’s book is a nice reminder to live out the experiences you want to live—to make the most of your time, your money and your experience. You can check out his website with details on his book, or simply subscribe to the newsletter below for information on how to get a FREE copy of his inspiring story! (For a limited time only! His book is typically priced for sale at $15.95)

Get FREE copy of the book One Year Lived

Shephard has agreed to give away FREE digital copies of his book. Simply subscribe below before May 1st and I’ll send you details on how to download his story—a special offer exclusive to readers of this blog!!

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And please leave a comment below. Let me know if you’ve lived your most amazing year. Was it travel-related?

Please note: All subscribers to the Travels of Adam newsletter (above) will receive a FREE copy of the ebook, One Year Lived. You must be subscribed before May 1st, 2013.

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9 comments

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  1. All the travels that you write about…It;s inspiring! Considering that I’m a student, I don’t want to take a gap year (even though I can) because it would be to hard to go back and study again :) but I try to travel at any time I can. In the summer I choose hot countries (like Greece) as my destinations, and when I have a few days off, I try to go somewhere in my country (Poland).
    The book seems to be interesting, it’s a pity I didn’t catch on a free copy of it (9 days late!).
    Seeing that everything is possible if you want it….i start saving money for my holiday trip! and I promise – I’ll live it up!

    • Glad to hear Patrycja that you’re living your life the way you want to… Way to go!!

  2. I can say that last year (2012) was my most amazing year so far, though I am pretty sure some other year would probably swing by and trump it. Last year, several things happened; some are travel-related, some are not.

    First, it was the first time I traveled with no plans except for a round-trip ticket and a booking for just the first night in a hostel, for 3 weeks. I love my routine, and I typically hate spontaneity, so when my sister dared me to travel without drafting a full itinerary, I went to Guatemala and Honduras. I based my decisions on where to go based on which bus leaves next. That was awesome, and I want to do that again.

    Second, I finished my PhD! Yeah, I am a nerd, and so I went to graduate school immediately after undergrad, and just went all the way. Summer of 2012 was when I finally defended my dissertation and now can be properly called “Doctor”.

    Finally, I also landed a job as a research scientist in Berlin! The academic job market isn’t pretty, and so I applied to many places, thinking I’d go wherever there is a position, and I totally didn’t expect the opening to be in one of the coolest cities in Europe. I’ve always wanted to live in Europe for a bit, so that finally happened.

    So yeah, there were plenty of nice things that happened last year, coinciding with when I turned 30. It was a great culmination to my 20s, so here’s hoping my 30s would be the same, if not greater.

  3. Adam Shepard

    I like where Scott is going with his answer. Last year was my best year ever, no question. And I’m always looking to make the next year even better.

  4. The newsletter subscription form above isn’t working for me … not sure if something’s wrong, or if it’s just me?

  5. Ashley Kingham

    Last year was my best year. I spent it studying abroad in Paris living between Versailles and the rough suburbs. Midwinter champagne and musicals in London, backpacking up the East Coast of the US, Arabic breakfast in Abu Dhabi. Summer in Berlin. Fireworks at a Castle in the South of France for Bastille Day. Autumn in Tokyo, ended by Christmas in the New Zealand summer. A year never to forget!

  6. Thanks for the tip about the free ebook. My greatest year or years would probably be the last 2 years I spent traveling. Its such an overwhelming (in a good way) experience. I learned so much and I really enjoyed almost every singe day.

  7. Nice giveaway – this sounds like an interesting book. So does Scratch Beginnings – I’m going to seek out that one since I’m always curious how other folks get by on tight budgets.

    I like to think my most amazing years are still ahead of me. If I ever get to the point where I realize that is not the case, that will be seriously depressing!

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