Don't do a Gap Year. Instead, do this!

Don't do a Gap Year. Instead, do this!

“Put your yes on the table and let God put it on the map.” 

This is the best advice I’ve ever received when considering my future and knowing God’s will. 

As you consider how to invest the next season of your life, are you ready to trust God and put your yes on the table, and let God put it on the map? Trusting God and taking this step is the starting point of Map Years. 

Map Years is a term that refers to Christians committing to invest two years in global cross-cultural service. Map Years are motivated by the fact that God’s heart and God’s mission is global, and therefore, as his followers, we should expect that following God will often lead us across the map. 

Over the last decade, GoCorps has helped hundreds of young adults who have chosen the Map Years path move overseas for two-year global placements. They represent every type of person, from artists to athletes. Black to White. Left Coast to East Coast.  

Map Years is a new way of envisioning what’s strategic and even possible for your next season. Perhaps you’re in college getting ready to graduate. Or perhaps you’re looking for a new job, a new challenge, a new career. Map Years is an invitation for you to put your next two years on the table, and let God put them on the map. 


Map Years vs. Gap Year

The concept of taking a Gap Year after college has gained popularity in recent years. Like a Gap Year, Map Years involves travel and learning, but Map Years is different in length, purpose and potential. Start with the idea of a Gap Year, but double it, and then picture yourself using your skills and your degree to make a real difference on the other side of the planet. 

Map Years is not just a time to travel and observe. Map Years is about moving into the neighborhood, diving into relationships, and getting your hands dirty in the fight for justice. While a Gap Year’s primary impact is on you - Map Years don’t just make an impact on you, they also make a difference in the world. When considering your next step, our advice is to go beyond a Gap Year and make your next step Map Years.


Map Years is about moving into the neighborhood, diving into relationships, and getting your hands dirty in the fight for justice.

Why Consider Map Years 

Probably the best two verses that explain the why of Map Years are in Romans 12.  In Romans 12:1 we are invited to give our lives to Christ as a ‘living and holy sacrifice.’ God isn’t asking us to die for him. The point of this verse is lordship.  

Being a living sacrifice means that we live for His purposes, not for our own. God doesn’t want us to crucify our personality, passions or dreams. Instead, He’s calling us to invest our time, talents and treasure into His dream and His purposes. That’s what a living sacrifice is all about - living for Christ!

1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2 NLT

Verse 2 tells us what a ‘living sacrifice’ life looks like in real life. It means that we don’t conform to the world and culture around us. It means that we as Christians look and live differently than those around us.  

Cardinal Suhard says it well, “Live in such a way that your life would not make sense if God did not exist.” When we’re living out our priorities and plans aligned with God’s purposes, it’s going to make those around us scratch their heads! Real obedience to God looks radical and sometimes even like insanity to others who aren’t captivated by Him. 

But for those who are called according to His purposes, nothing makes more sense. Because check out the amazing promise in Romans when we live our life this way. God promises us nothing less than the holy grail of what we all constantly seek as we make decisions about our lives… He promises that we’ll know His perfect will for us!

Map Years is doing your best to live a Romans 12 life as you launch into your next season.

There are three things that define the concept of Map Years: being mobile, being global and moving in. 


Map Years are mobile

When most of us are pursuing options of how to invest the next two two years of our career, we often put a self imposed limit to consider 2 or 3 familiar zip codes:  the place where we grew up, the place we went to college, and maybe one or two other cool locales in proximity to those places.

Map Years are about leaning into your mobility. It means you don’t limit what you will do or where you will move in your next step to only a couple familiar or desirable zip codes. Instead, you open yourself to the idea that God could put a map pin in a country on the other side of the world, and if He did, He can provide the way for you to get there and to be His hands and feet when you arrive.

A special note to recent grads: Map Years is especially suited for you because you are at the most mobile part of their lives. No kids, no mortgage and you’re not in the middle of your career! For the first time in your life, you are able to look at a map and literally choose any place on it. So why limit your choices only to local zip codes? That would be crazy!


Map Years are global

Our God is a global God. His mission is global. His heart for all peoples is global. His will is global. So it makes sense that if we wholeheartedly give ourselves to Christ and his will, there’s a good chance that he’s going to call us not only outside our comfort zones, but quite possibly outside our borders. 

Further, never before have the world’s economies, countries and cultures been so interconnected and global. Because we serve a global God and live in a globalized economy, all of us should aspire to be global in our faith, in our worldview and in our living. Map Years means intentionally making your next step global. 

While you may not see yourself always living and working overseas for your career - that’s the beauty of Map Years! It’s an intentional couple of years that makes sense no matter what your long term career trajectory is. Want to go to grad school? Global experience in your degree will set you apart from all the other applicants! See yourself working in the marketplace in the U.S.? Did you know cultural intelligence, team work, and initiative are some of the most sought after skills by employers; and the best way to gain those is living cross culturally for a season. Interested in working in the non-profit or ministry sectors? Your global experience will uniquely enrich and prepare you.  


Move In and Make a Difference

Map Years goes way beyond the idea of taking a couple months to backpack across a continent or even taking a gap year for travel and experience. Instead, it’s about recognizing that in your next season, you are uniquely positioned to actually move into a new neighborhood across the world! 

By moving in, you’re no longer a tourist. You grow to become a part of the fabric of the neighborhood, making relationships over various seasons, and growing in your understanding of your new culture in the process.

That’s why Map Years are two years, not just one. Two years is long enough to learn the local language, make real friendships, and sustainably contribute to a community. 

Map Years is trusting God enough to open the map all the way. 

Moving in opens up the opportunity for you to invest your unique skill-set in order to make a real and lasting difference. It means finding a placement where you can use your degree or passion alongside a longer-term project or local business. 

Your ability to coach or play sports, your administrative or media skills, or even your interest in coffee can lay the foundation for an amazing way to invest your first years after college in a global placement.

Either way, Map Years is about God using you to make a difference, and you going all in and moving into a new neighborhood in a distant land!


Open your map all the way

If you’re reading this, you are probably at a transition point. You might be graduating from college soon, or you’re in a place where you need a career change or you simply are looking for something new.

Our passion is to help put you on the map toward a fulfilling life, faith and career.  

GoCorps specializes in helping young adults who are in transition to consider a global next step. We can help you connect the dots between your gifting and degree, your faith and the gospel, and how to serve globally.

Map Years is freeing yourself to trust God and open the map all the way… to zoom out to see the whole map, and then ask God where he wants to put your map pin for the next two years!

Make your first years after college Map Years and expect God to lead you to a global placement where you can use your degree, live on mission and be mentored... joining God on the front lines of His global work.   

Are you ready to go beyond ordinary and trust God to put your yes on the map? Our passion is to help put you on the map toward a fulfilling life, faith and career.  

Check out this year’s two year global placements to find your best fit, or set up a time to chat with a coach who can talk with you about your specific background and dreams.

Now available for pre-order! We've created an ebook that outlines the 10 Map Years essentials.  This ebook comes from everything we've learned in the last 10 years of helping hundreds or recent grads find and live globally for their Map Years. Get your FREE ebook here.

Paul Van Der Werf

Paul Van Der Werf is the founder and executive director of GoCorps. Paul spent four years after college living overseas and serving through a Dutch NGO doing ministry in Amsterdam’s Red Light District and doing community development and ministry among overlooked communities in Mexico along the Texas border. His firm belief is that God’s mission is too important to be left just to the missionaries, and so he’s made it his life’s work to help ordinary Christians find their place in God’s global work.