Moustakas (1994) emphasizes that phenomenological study arises from the experiences and passions of the researcher that in turn focus and drive the research. This researcher’s own experiences include a 9-month trip around the world with my family that led me to conduct this study exploring the phenomenon of the family gap year. Existing research focuses on the traditional gap year taken by a young person in between graduation from high school and beginning college. This study seeks to add to that knowledge by exploring the related, but also unique, experience of families who take an extended time period off from career and formal school in order to participate together in a multi-continent international trip. The study addresses why families may decide to take such a trip, what they hope to gain from such an experience and whether or not the trip actually met those expectations. It is also attempts to establish whether or not any changes in family members were identified by participants and believed to be attributable to the experience of the family gap year. Findings from this study indicate that the families examined chose this experience because of a desire to travel and see the world with their children. Subjects agreed that the experience met or exceeded expectations in that it provided a unique opportunity to learn about other peoples and cultures and also provided concentrated time to be together and grow closer as a family. Subjects also however referred to less desirable aspects of the trip related to the maintenance required to keep the family on the road, such as travel planning and laundry. Finally many of the participants in the study referenced learning and personal growth in family members that they attributed to the experience of the family gap year. Together these findings represent an early effort to establish an understanding of the phenomenon of the family gap year.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Non-formal education; Gap years; Family recreation; Cultural intelligence

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Allen, Mark;