Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Gap Year Planning: A Kick-Ass Guide

So I'm a huge fan of gap years. They're just the weird and beautiful bridge between student travel, volunteering, and freedom. After finishing secondary school I needed a break, and decided to take a year off to explore my interests. I met hundreds of people doing the same thing, and I'd like to breakdown what a gap year may look like for those of you that choose to explore.

Travel - Travel is the big one. The one I think everyone should try. I think you learn more about yourself when you're away from the things you know. Some may choose to travel their own countries, others will fly as far away as possible. Don't limit yourself to iconic destinations. Don't settle for places you've already been. Just run away and explore. 
  • Backpacking - If you're happy to sleep in hostels and only wear clean clothes most of the time, backpacking may be the way for you to see the world. It's my travel style of choice because it offers a lot of freedom and you can virtually do it with an empty wallet. 
  • Tours - There are a few popular companies like Contiki and Topdeck that offer planned tours for young people. I think trips like these are great if you're hesitant to travel alone. They're also quite expensive. A two week tour will usually cost around $2000. If you were to take that $2000 and go backpacking you could travel for months. 
  • Hike/walk/cycle/kayak - Some people get really creative. There are plenty of long distance treks across Europe. El Camino de Santiago is a great place to start! Camping along the way can make this one of the cheapest ways to travel. 

Work - Many choose to work for 12 months. The idea makes me dizzy.
  • Working holiday - If you do want/need to spend your year working, most countries offer a 'working holiday' visa. Some people just move from country to country working for long periods. While maybe not appealing, it's very sustainable. 
  • Au Pair - becoming an au pair allows you to work as a nanny for a family in a foreign country. Usually the work is in exchange for accommodation and food.  
  • Join the army - An army gap year might seem a bit crazy, but many countries offer roles in the military with one year commitments. 

Volunteer - Perhaps you're passionate about social justice. Try to ensure that the organisation you're working for is a not-for-profit, and try to take part in something you really care about it.
  • Community work - Consider looking into volunteering in your community.
  • WWOOF - If you're already on the road, some families will let you stay on their organic farms in exchange for work (check out WWOOF if you're interested).
  • Teach English - You can do a short course online and then find work all over the world! Most jobs will have you teach in exchange for accommodation and food. Some will even pay you!

Summer Camp - I was going to put this under the category of work, but how could I? Some cool kids run away to the United States, Canada, or Croatia to work at summer camps. It sounds like you get paid to hang out by the lake all day! If you can cope with the consistent company of teenagers and children it might be a great option. I've heard it's also a great way to get a visa for a few months after camp ends.

Start a business - This may be one of the only times in your lives when you have very little to lose. 

Live abroad - I think living abroad is like stepping out of a party to get some fresh air. It's the perfect opportunity just to click reset. You can learn a new language and make friends with your neighbours.
  • Friends/family - Maybe you have some kind relatives that would be happy to take you in?
  • House sitting - Many people go abroad and publish advertisements asking people to walk their dogs and water their plants while they're away. In exchange you receive free accomodation. Two bloggers known as the Travelling Weasels have been doing this for years and years.

Start a band - It doesn't have to be a band. It can be any wacky thing that you've wanted to do with your friends for years.
  • Bucket list - Consider making a bucket list with your friends for the year ahead.
  • Learn a skill - Go and learn to skydive with your friends for a few weeks. Convince your volleyball team to take pottery classes with you. Take Polish classes at a community college and only go to class drunk. The world is your oyster. 
  • Secret weekend getaways - Set a budget for each weekend (maybe $150 per person). Take turns planning trips for each other secretly. If there's 4 of you you can go away once a month and you only have to plan one of the trips. Imagine the freedom and terror you would feel each weekend knowing that you're going on an adventure but you have no idea where you're going.

Keep in mind that your gap year can be a beautiful combination of all of the above. Just have fun with it and enjoy the deep breath. 


Make sure to leave a comment if you have ideas that you think I should add to the list. 

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