Travelling with a bunch of new friends and little sense of time, or even responsibility, means you may do things you never would at home. This can be amazing. It can also not.
You push your boundaries, dare to venture outside your comfort zone and usually end up having more fun than you ever imagined. But, on your gap year, there are just a few things you’ll probably do that perhaps, just maybe, you shouldn’t.
1. Sleep with strangers
Let’s face it; gap year travellers are a raunchy bunch. It happens a lot. All we can say is be safe, careful, and don’t fall for every set of brooding eyes that look your way. And don’t feel like you have to just because you’ve had a snog and a fumble in the beach club.
2. Jump out of a plane
Usually best to tell the parents about this one after it’s happened. They might not think it sounds like the safest of activities, but it’s an adrenaline rush like no other. Go for it.
3. Eat insects
You’ve watched too many episodes of ‘I’m a Celebrity’ not to test out your own stomach with an insect or two when they’re offered up. Those grasshoppers in Oaxaca, Mexico? Delicious!
4. Ride a scooter
You can be let off if you drive safely, but being abroad usually lowers inhibitions and gives you an unwarranted amount of confidence that can easily cause accidents. If you’re going to do it, don’t drink and drive and don’t drive like a dick.
5. Talk to strangers
Striking up a conversation with someone you’ve never met before is the best way to learn about a new place and to make friends, so, despite your parents telling you differently, stranger doesn’t always mean danger.
6. Dodge the showers
Gap year chic tends to mean greasy hair and unwashed pits, and if you’re going to nail that trend it’s almost compulsory that you take a break from the bath and only occasionally scrub. Also, you can’t guarantee hot water, so what’s the point?
7. Drink from buckets
You may have thought your days of playing with a bucket and spade were over, but Asia has different ideas. Drinking out of a bucket is a novelty, but the fast-acting power of the straw means you’ll probably drink way too much without realising. Watch yo-self.
8. Explore the jungle
Who knows what wild, dangerous creatures are looming in there, but that’s exactly why you’re packing the mozzie spray, fancying yourself as a bit of a Bear Grylls and heading straight to the jungle. Just stay with the group, ok?
9. Sustain surf board injuries
Braving the board is like a gapper’s rite of passage and the scars you bring home are like little souvenirs, so don’t feel bad about picking up yours. Tip: if you’re hitting the likes of Bondi or Hawaii, save yourself the pain of rash and sun burn with a rash vest. Damage limitation.
10. Ride down rivers in tyre tubes
High tides, strong currents and no life jackets – sounds epic, right?
11. Skinny dip
You’re young, free and having the time of your life. In some circles, that seems to equate to ‘let’s get naked and swim in the sea, pool, lake or literally any other body of water around’. Make sure there aren’t any bitey fish before you get the bait out.
12. Jump over skipping ropes of fire
The Full Moon Party is really just a danger zone, but when everyone else is jumping over fire, it seems only right that you do too. Burning off those leg hairs will save you shaving anyway.
13. Take up offers to visit random people’s hometowns
Back home it may not be appropriate social etiquette, or very safe, to rock up to a semi-stranger/someone you met once on a bus home, but overseas it’s perfectly acceptable.
14. Sleep on the beach
Again, not the best of accommodation options, but sometimes beach parties go a little late and seeing the morning sunrise is the perfect excuse for collapsing right where you are.
15. Jump in waterfalls
It’s not enough to merely take a picture, you have to dive right in and bask in the pretty pools. And then, if you’re anything like me, try to recreate those hair adverts where you flick it all back. Never quite mastered that oh-so-sexy look, though.
16. Wear grotty bracelets up to your elbow
They’re sooo on trend for travellers, the classic look in fact, and although they’re riddled with germs and possibly carrying some deathly disease, they’ve got to be done.
17. Fall in love with an exotic stranger
Everyone is beautiful, you’re high on life and anything seems possible, which is how you find yourself in the arms of a smouldering lothario declaring your undying love. Make the most of it, my friend.
18. Suspect everyone is trying to use you to smuggle drugs
You’ve watched so much 'Banged Up Abroad' that you’re convinced the only way this trip will end is in a jail. Cue the irrational fear pumping through your veins every time you go anywhere near an airport.
19. Dress inappropriately for a temple visit
It didn’t occur to you to bring your Sunday best and instead your tummy top and denim cut-offs are the only options for a visit to the gods. Yes, you must wear the cloak of doom if you want to enter – only worn by 6000 sweaty people before you.
20. Think you know how to save the world
Your volunteering or orphanage visits are amazing things to do and will have made some small difference, but it’s important to realise that you must listen to and trust the people who’ve run the project from the start. Listen and learn.
21. Get a dodgy massage
After weeks of lugging around the rucksack, a massage is very welcome. However, there’s a 50/50 chance that the parlour you’ve chosen packs more than a good foot rub and you may have to make a quick escape.
22. Buy things for your imaginary home
You carry around pictures, wooden sculptures and Vietnamese rugs you just had to have, but you’re backpacking for a year, which means you actually have no base, so what hypothetical home are you furnishing? And how, exactly, are you planning on paying for it when you’ve spent all your money on buckets, bracelets, and surfboards?