Gap years were once derided as an indulgence reserved for the ultra-elite but like many things, including the ease of which we now travel, the act of taking a gap year has become commonplace. Whether you have just graduated from high school or university, gap years promise novelty, excitement and a chance to discover yourself and grow into a person that is wiser and more experienced in the world.
Are you looking to travel on your gap year? With so much opportunity out there, it is important to make full use of your gap year by planning ahead. This post will highlight all the things to take into account, as well as the things you can do to have the best gap year of your life.
Image by Adolfo Felix
Firstly, remember that your gap year doesn’t have to be a year long. There is no rule when it comes to how long your gap year can last. It can be more than a year or even as short as one month. Who knows whether your gap year travels might help you find your passion in life?
If you are looking to see more of the world and be inspired by it, then travelling is a solid (and popular) option. If you have a country or region that you know you want to see, that can be the starting point for your research. If you have no idea where you would like to go, take a world map and stick a pin at a random spot!
That said, there are some things you might want to bear in mind when deciding on a location to spend your gap year (or act as your starting point!):
How safe is it? Safety is a prime concern, especially if you are a single female travelling to a far-flung country where you don’t know the culture and language. Places like Singapore, Denmark and Norway rank highly for safety, but that doesn’t mean you should. Just make sure you know what to do to stay safe.
Do you know anyone there? Having a local friend or connection can be invaluable, especially when you are trying to lock down on accommodation or to reach out to if you need any help.
Do you know the language? Not understanding the local language is one of the most crippling things to overcome, even with the help of Google Translate. If you know that you want to travel to a place where the local language is something that you don’t understand, you can start taking beginner lessons at home before embarking on your gap year. Having the basics can make all the difference! Or just make things easier for yourself by picking a country where you know you will understand the locals.
What is the cost of living? Again, a huge consideration to take into account. We would advise against choosing a place that will leave a huge dent in your wallet. Prioritise the experience. You might never be so obligation-free later on in your life.
Is it popular among expats? Even if you don’t know anyone in the country, a vibrant expat community can help you settle in fast and make adapting so much easier. Expats are also a lot more welcoming to fellow expats.
Image by Christian Dubovan
You don’t need a trust fund to go on a gap year.
Here are some ideas on what you can do to be able to afford a gap year:
Save up: Starting today, maintain a full account of your daily expenditure for several weeks before doing a personal audit, identifying places where you can minimise your spending. A good tip is to skip the avocado on toast or caramelised, brown sugar Black Whale boba milk tea and opt for local produce only. Channel those savings into your gap year funding account.
Personal loans: Take out a personal loan from your family, close friends, and loan companies that might offer such options.
Fundraising: Look at the skills you have, whether it is baking, playing a musical instrument or making leather goods from scratch, and turn it into a fundraising event, inviting everyone you know to come and support you.
Crowdfunding: Alternatively, start a crowdfunding platform and ask all of your friends to donate a small amount to support your dreams.
Summer job: Take on summer jobs that will earn you extra income that can go towards funding your gap year.
Work during your gap year: This is an increasingly popular option where you take on jobs during your gap year. Read below for further details.
Image by Rana Sawalha
If you are going away for a year-long gap year, you will need to learn to pack only the things you most need. After all, you never know how many souvenirs you will end up bringing home as you travel the world!
Here are some of the things that we think you must pack before embarking on your adventure:
Passport cover: Keep your passport in a distinctive passport cover to (i) protect your passport; and (ii) make it easy to spot.
Clear bags: Bring clear plastic bags that will allow you to pack your toiletries into your cabin luggage while also avoiding any leakage disaster.
Dry bags: Dry bags are invaluable in keeping your things dry. There is nothing worse than getting caught in a downpour and discovering that you have no dry clothes left and your powerbank/phone/laptop is drenched!
Keep all your essential details in your wallet: Some of the essential things you should keep in your wallet includes your travel insurance card, a copy of your passport, your driver’s licence and emergency contact details. You never know when you might need it. Even better, make several copies of these essential items and put them in your check-in and cabin bag as a backup just in case something goes missing.
Silicone squeeze bottles: Pack travel minis into your luggage as these are easy to lug around and can be easily refilled. Full-sized toiletries are too heavy and take up too much space when you are trudging around a new country.
Image by Gabbitas
Volunteering with non-profit organisations is a popular gap year option and one you could explore if you are interested in gaining work experience in a new field, and/or leaving a positive impact on the world. Volunteer positions are much easier to get then a paid position, so this is the perfect way to get a foot into an industry that might otherwise be very hard to enter. Furthermore, there are many exciting volunteering opportunities that include building schools in third world countries and participating in wildlife conservation projects.
Secondly, be a freelancer on your gap year. This option is perfect for those who don’t want to be tied down to a particular location but still want to have an ongoing income (it’s good to not fully rely on the funding you generated prior to your gap year!). Get familiar with freelance job boards like Craigslist, Upwork, Fiverr, and Elance and apply for jobs that fit your skillset.
Thirdly, look for opportunities on workaway.info. Workaway is unique in that it is essentially an exchange of goods and/or services between a host and the applicant. For instance, a couple in France might offer free accommodation and food at their bed & breakfast in the French countryside in exchange for you agreeing to help them tutor their children in English, help build a shed or run the B&B. The terms of exchange are up to both parties. Some of the more unique opportunities include the chance to live with Buddhist monks in their monasteries in the Thai countryside! Definitely something to talk about when you get home from your gap year.
Fourthly, look for paid opportunities in countries that you want to travel into. Popular options include teaching English abroad, being an au pair, scuba diving instructor or snowboarding instructor. Unique jobs that will give you all those “transferable skills” that corporations are always looking for in fresh graduates!
With all the opportunities now available, gap years are a fantastic way of going beyond one’s comfort zone, seeing the world and growing as a person. And if you are looking to travel somewhere for that global experience, be sure to check out mayflower.com.my for some fantastic travel and hotel deals.
A faith-driven Sarawakian lawyer who believes that it is never too late to start crafting a socially impactful legacy. When not grappling with warranties and liabilities, she loves pursuing adrenaline-fueled adventures, improving her Español and playing the violin. You can find her at @vidadeliya or https://www.vidadeliya.com