15 Things I Wish I Could Tell My 15-Year-Old Self About Gap Years

Lessons in life from an old travelling pro 

Gapyear.com is 15 years old! I've been reminiscing about what life was like when I was in my mid teens, and how my innocent eyes and mind viewed the world. It's been 10 years and counting since I set off for the USA with my friend aged 18 for the summer. It had been years in the planning - from watching Sex and the City with the sound down late at night in my room to a minor obsession with all films NYC-related - I knew I wanted New York City to be the first stop on my travels.

Since then I've been to 30 more countries and gained a wealth of experience in travelling and gap years and if I'd've known the following 15 nuggets of advice before I'd 'come of age' who knows what I'd be doing right now... 

1. Go somewhere epic 

Papua New GuineaCuba or Antarctica are all worthy of being labelled 'unique' , but classics like Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia and Thailand are classics for a reason.

Go somewhere epic - Cuba

2. Do something ridiculously heroic 

You need an exeprience you can show off about for years to come. Scuba divingsand boarding in Peru , running a marathon up Everesthanging out with orangutansorca whale watching or cycling the length of Chile are all good shouts from past gappers. 

3. Don't spend all your time in the bars 

You can do that at home. Think carefully about how to make your gap year work for you and what it can do for you in the future.

4. Volunteering will be the best thing you do

You can easily travel the world on a shoestring budget, you just have to be clever about it - save huge amounts of money by WWOOFing and volunteering and experience a different world at the same time.

5. Work abroad to travel for longer

By working as a holiday rep, on a cruise ship, as a camp counselor or one of the thousands of other jobs you can try on your gap year you can stay on the road for as long as you wish.

Camp counselor at summer camp

6. Stay safe

Don't do anything you feel really uncomfortable with just because everyone else is. Keep it covered, both your back and your (his) penis.

7. Choose your travelling partner wisely

Whether you're travelling solo, with your partner or your BFFs think carefully about whether you're still going to get on down the line and be straight up with each other from the start.

8. Leave a positive footprint

You're going to have an effect on your chosen destination – make sure it's a positive one! Support marine conservation and travel ethically

9. You don't need all that stuff

Follow these packing tips and save your money and energy for fun times and new experiences.

10. Record it all

Whether you prefer to write blog posts on gapyear.com, take epic photos or bring back souvenirs from everywhere you go, in the future you'll be so, so happy that you made the effort to preserve the memories. 

Photographer on their gap year

11. Do your research 

Look for crazy festivals, chat on the message boards and listen to old pros – then make up your own mind. Make the most of all the help and advice you can get.

12. Gap years don't have to be for a year

Short gaps are often more manageable, easier to plan and cheaper – if you want to stay for longer when you're out there, you can.

13. Make lots of friends

The people you meet are one of the most important and memorable parts of travelling, so make sure you make as many friends as possible.

14. The world is not a bucket list to tick off

Take time to get to know your destination rather than rushing around trying to cram in as many countries as possible.

15. Don't let anyone or thing stop you

Going on a gap year will give you more strength and resilience than you ever knew you had. The first test is organising it... 

Above everything - savour it all. The ups and downs of travelling life are what makes gap years so awesome. You are one lucky, lucky person in this world to have the means and drive to even think about taking an extended trip. Respect everyone you meet and enjoy this incredible chance to learn about yourself and this epic world you live in.