What is a Gap Year?

Written by: Macca Sherifi

Thousands of people are taking gap years all over the world, travelling to destinations such as Australia, New Zealand and Thailand for months on end, travelling with relative comfort and ease. Today, a gap year can be anywhere, for any length of time, doing anything you want. You can volunteer in Belize, teach English as a foreign language in Israel, trek through the Himalayas in Nepal or travel around the ‘banana pancake trail’ in South East Asia. A gap year really is whatever you want it to be.

A gap year comes under many guises – backpacking, a career gap, a short gap year, travelling, time out, a sabbatical – but they all mean the same thing. A gap year is constructive time out to travel in between life stages. It usually means travelling, volunteering or working abroad. Often it means all three!

Backpacking and travelling is particularly popular among students in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the Netherlands, and a number of countries (including the ones stated) offer working holiday visas to improve cultural ties and foreign exchange.

Another country that is starting to get in on the gap year action is the United States of America, with more and more people travelling each year.

Gap years are now seen as a way to improve your CV and to gain relevant work experience in a particular field, with employers actively employing people who have taken a gap year.

Whether you see a gap year as backpacking or taking time out, it’s about living life to the full and realising that there is a world of opportunity out there just waiting to be explored.

What is a Gap Year?

What is a ‘traditional’ gap year?

In the UK a ‘gap year’ was traditionally viewed as taking a year out to travel before university. The word on the street was that it involved travel for the wealthy few and pretty much nothing for the rest of us. Nowadays, however, all sorts of people are going backpacking and travelling, doing a thousand different things. The people who are out there taking gap years are of all ages, from all walks of life, but they all have one thing in common – they want to see the world!

Gap years are now as common as going on holiday, and people are treating them as such! People aren’t just content with sitting on a beach for two weeks. They want to sit on every beach and travel around. With cheap flights and countries opening their doors to tourism, taking a gap year has never been so easy, and it’s now seen as a positive rather than a negative.

Everyone’s talking about travelling and gap years. And when they’re not talking about it, they’re sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram; photos, updates, videos, blogs. They’re all linked together, and they’re all promoting gap years. Nothing makes you want to travel more than seeing a friend’s photo of a beautiful beach with the tagline “Wish you were here…”

girl traveller grand canyon

What is the future of gap years?

What is going to come of the gap year? Pre-university gaps, during and post-university gaps, career-gaps (fastest growing gap year market), pre-and-post-baby gaps, ‘stag’ and ‘hen’ gaps, post-wedding gaps, pre-retirement gaps (second fastest growing market) – the list goes on. But do you see the one thing in common? Gap years. One thing’s for certain is people love them and they’re becoming more and more popular.

From the age of 18, people will now become ‘serial gappers’ as they head through each life stage, taking a gap year to prepare themselves for the transition ahead. The result will be a change in the mentality of society, away from the ‘live to work, work to live’ routine of a slow climb up a career ladder to a more exciting life path which simply involves doing what they enjoy in life and achieving that dream.

People will forever want to travel, to experience and to share. After all, life is short. Why waste your time doing things you don’t enjoy?!

Take a gap year and see the world


Top Tips for your Gap Year:

  • Do your research – speak to people who’ve been there and done it. Have a search around the site and ask questions. We’re here to give you the best possible gap year advice and information, so get stuck in!
  • Take time to plan and prepare – it can take 9-12 months to plan your gap year and to raise the funds, so make sure you give yourself time to prepare.
  • Budget, but don’t get hung up on saving money at all costs so that you miss out on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities – have a reserve of money to fall back on. A gap year is about enjoying yourself – don’t forget you can do that at home too!
  • Be open-minded – a gap year is all about new experiences. Often you’ll find that the word you use most is ‘yes’.
  • Use the time to make contacts – this is an important time to develop networks that could help you in your future career. Get on the message boards and see if anyone is planning a similar kind of trip as you. Be friendly, get chatting, and start planning your gap year!
  • Enjoy it – This is, of course, the most important thing.

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