Things to Do on Your Gap Year
September 13th, 2019 by David Martin
Don’t fall into gaps on your gap year. Read these top tips before you go.
Taking a gap year is a rite of passage for many people, either before or after they go to college. It’s such big business that there are now hundreds of organizations offering gap year experiences to students and graduates, with thousands of different activities to choose from.
The first thing to decide, before you get into the detail, is what form you want your gap year to take. Here, we break down the top three:
Volunteering is one of the most popular picks for gap year students as it allows them to travel while gaining valuable work experience. What you choose to do as a volunteer, however, can vary widely. You might choose to teach abroad, work on a community project, get into conservation, or simply find a charity you want to work with and take it from there. If you’re considering a volunteering placement, make sure the job is right for you before you proceed.
Volunteering projects specifically designed for gap years can be offered to either individuals or groups, and usually have specific job roles that volunteers perform. You’ll stay with a host family in the local community, which is a great way to learn about the culture and customs of the area, or can be accommodated alongside other volunteers in accommodation owned by the organization.
Trek or expedition
There are several companies operating all over the world that offer expeditions and trekking trips, especially for students taking gap years. These treks can take various forms – staying in one country or taking in several, and can last from several weeks to a few months. The primary things to consider when choosing a trek are the countries you’ll be visiting, whether or not you’ll be working on a local project, for example, while you travel, and the demographics of the group. Expedition groups are often made up of smaller groups of people and individuals from all over the world.
An expedition could be the gap year for you if you’re looking to gain specific experience of leading or working on a trek, build your self-confidence around strangers, or just get out into nature. All treks and exhibitions are led by qualified leaders, so you’ll be perfectly safe whichever you choose.
Many people who decide on a gap year want to set their own agenda and travel independently, either for the entire time or alongside a more structured travel program. Even if you want to travel by yourself and to your own itinerary, there are travel companies out there who can help you put something together. It’s a lot of research, planning, and work for one person to do! These providers can also help put you in touch with organizations you can work for on your route to supplement your spending money.
The reason so many people choose independent or semi-independent travel for their gap year is pretty simple. The tours on offer don’t fit exactly with what they want to do. If you want to do a Phi Phi tour instead of staying in Phuket, you can.
However, it’s important to remember that independent travel can mean you don’t have a support network as strong as people on structured programs do, and that you’ll need to exercise caution when making bookings, take care of yourself while you’re on the road, and make sure someone always knows where you are and can contact you. It’s also a good idea to leave your entire itinerary with a friend or family member at home before you leave, and update them if anything changes. Above all, stick to your budget!