1- Travelling is for everyone. We are talking about gap years here not ‘gap yahs’. You don’t have to be funded by the Bank of Mum and Dad (although donations will be welcomed…) or even be deferring a university place.
Take a year out before starting that apprenticeship or searching for that dream job, this is one of the very few chances you’ll get to truly take a break from everything.
2- Learn how to save, and spend, money. Funding a gap year isn’t easy but don’t be daunted by the price-tag, saving can and will be done. Saving for travel gives you a goal to work towards and a set date to achieve this goal.
When you’re sitting on that picture-postcard beach you’ll be sure to give yourself a pat on the back for all that hard work stacking shelves or working the phones. Sure it was pretty rubbish for a while, but the feeling of sand between your toes is definitely reward enough.
If you’re not planning to work on your travels then you should budget around £1000 a month for when you’re away. This figure shifts depending on which countries are on your tick-list, Australia is more £1500 and South-East Asia, £800.
Sticking to a budget is a real life skill. Yes, I know that sounds like one of those boring parental lectures but the truth is that you won’t be able to survive off your pocket money forever. This is especially true for those of you wanting to go to University or move away from home, budgeting is something you have to pick up quick. What better way to learn than deciding whether a sky-dive or a bungee jump is more budget busting?
3- You can go anywhere and everywhere. Always wanted to whale-watch in New Zealand, live on a cattle ranch in Texas or lie on a deserted beach in the middle of the South Pacific?
The cliché, ‘the world is your oyster’ is a cliché for a reason.
Stop daydreaming about it and do it! This is your chance to create the trip of a lifetime and your chance to tailor it to you. Want to road trip across Australia or teach in Thailand? Want to do both? Travel is full of infinite possibilities all of which are yours for the taking.
4- Go when you’re young. It’s not easy to take a year or even a couple of months out of ‘real-life’ once you’ve got a full-time job or a mortgage. Your late teens or early twenties are the best time to jet off before you have to think about settling down.
If you’ve been thinking about travelling then don’t be sitting at your desk in ten years time looking back with regret.
Make the most of being young and having fewer responsibilities; you’ll probably never have it this good again.
5- Escape the monotony of a 9 to 5. When you travel everyday is different. One day you could be lazing on the beach and the next you could be hiking through rainforests.
Knowing that your friends at home are slaving away behind a desk or revising for that big test may make you feel guilty… for a second. This soon gives way to a rather smug sense of self-satisfaction. You know who made the right choices.
As the brilliant Jack Kerouac once said, ‘In the end you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.’ Wise words Jack. Climb your literal or metaphorical mountains and leave the corporate world behind, for a while at least.
6- Meet people. You can’t avoid making friends when you travel. Even if you trek to the remotest parts of the planet there will come a time when you will come across other human beings.
This is one of the best things travelling can give you.
Staying in multi-national hostels across the globe or joining a tour group for a leg of your journey leads to meeting many cool and crazy characters from all over the place. Cosying up to your new best buds can open up a world of opportunities and experiences. They might know the city’s wildest underground bar or where to go to get the best view. On top of being a fountain of knowledge and having a plethora of travelling anecdotes, they can be great company, especially if you’re travelling solo.
Cheeky tip: hunt out those from exotic and exciting destinations, free accommodation next time you’re popping by the Maldives…
7- Why not? What do you have to lose? Taking a gap year looks great on your CV, especially if you do something worthwhile such as volunteering or working when you’re away. It will also be infinitely beneficial in how it helps to shape you as a person. Travelling inspires confidence, adventure and vastly improves your cultural awareness and knowledge. Hey, you may even learn how to read a map!
Whatever you take from travel, whether it’s new life skills, new friends or simply an awesome Facebook timeline, at least you know that you will never look back and think, ‘what if?’