It’s January. We’ve sacked off the resolutions – one week of not drinking / no sugar / being nice – is quite enough for one year and it’s time to look to more achievable ways to make 2014 the best yet.
If this is the year you’re due to wave goodbye to mummy and daddy and trundle off into the wilderness, we’re jealous. Good luck. If you’re not quite planned and packed yet, here are 12 ideas – one for every month – on how to make 2014 the one you’ll recall sat in your retirement home playing backgammon with the lads / girls.
1. Set yourself a personal goal
Charity adventures are a great way to spend your gap year or even annual leave. They can be achieved in a just a few weeks and can change lives with the money you raise, you’ll get a sense of satisfaction and also have an awesome time along the way. Everyone wins. Top gapper Tori Oram has donated her top 10 tips for fundraising, and check out our ever-popular A-Z of fundraising too. We’ve also got a dedicated fundraising section on the gapyear.com message boards where you can share tips and find some friends for moral support in the same boat too.
2. Join in an epic celebration
Ain’t no party like a gap year party, that’s for sure. Take a look at the top 5 celebrations around the world – including Rio Carnival, Notting Hill Carnival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and some crazy, crazy festivals in Malaysia. There’s no need to build your gap year up into some huge life changing experience – if you fancy just going partying for a bit, roll with it, enjoy it, and party hard. We’ve even found the best parties on your gap year for you to keep you inspired.
Everyone in the gapyear.com office has done it, and all say it was the best part of their trip abroad. Through volunteering on your gap year you get to meet so many more people and really have an incredible experiemce living more like a local than someone just passing through and checking out the big cities. You’ll be part of a community and make friends in a new destination, trying your hand at a new skill. If this sounds right up your street take a look at Is voluntourism helping the right people and our guide to volunteering in Africa too.
4. Visit South East Asia
Whether you have a fortnight or a lifetime, £800 or £80,000, no friends or a whole army of them, you can have an awesome time in South East Asia. As proven by the millions of gappers who’ve visited the likes of Vietnam, Thailand and Laos over the years. It’s cheap, it’s awesome, and it’s the perfect destination for anyone wanting to take to the road for a while and experience a different way of life.
5. Talk to someone you wouldn’t usually
Making friends when you’re backpacking can seem a bit daunting. Never fear, gapyear.com’s here. Thanks to the awesome gap year community on our message boards we’ve compiled the ultimate top 5 tips for making friends backpacking. If you’re normally the quiet bird in the corner, grow up, knock back a bucket and just go and speak to someone. Or if you’re the loud mouth who won’t shut up, help those meeker and milder than you to join in.
6. Go somewhere different
Branch out. We love Australia, we love New Zealand, and Fiji and the USA, of course, we love all travel. But how about trying somewhere your friends haven’t been? Here are 5 Things to Do in South Korea to inspire you, or how about the bright lights of Macau or even Antarctica? You should also check out our gappers’ best ideas in the top 25 gap year experiences.
7. Learn a new skill
Here’s a brilliant guide to surfing to keep you busy and off the beer – you can even check out some of the gnarliest surf spots in Britain if money’s too tight to mention. You could also learn to TEFL, learn about a new concept (see exploring the mysticism of Kabbalah) or even get a job abroad to really gain a new insight into a destination.
8. Join the animal kingdom
Gap years aren’t just for seeing people, buildings, beaches and temples. Taking some time out to chill with a different species is an awesome use of a gap year. Andrew volunteered with animals in Malaysia, Ruth recommends you go whale watching while Kate went trekking in Borneo. What would your ideal animal adventure be?
9. Visit Europe
“It’s too close”, “I’ll go when I’m older”, “I can go there on weekends” – no, go to Europe now! Europe is awesome, and going interrailing makes it even easier and simpler to get around. If the idea of relaxing in a train seat and watching the beautiful European countryside unfold out of your window appeals to you then you need to get yourself a ticket. We’ve got loads of interrail advice on gapyear.com from the top 10 experiences to InterRailing on a budget. All aboard, choo, choo!
10. Do something absolutely incredible
Something no one else you know has ever done, not even Simon Reeve or Ben Fogle. Our past adventurous gappers have trekked the Himalayas, been on Arctic expeditions, raced to the North Pole and even cycled the length of Chile, at age 54. Or, try and survive travelling with a girl, like our content specialist Will Jones did. Epic.
11. Eat something different
Travelling is a great opportunity to try new foods, experience different flavours and really test your tastebuds. For example, check out all the food you could try in Vietnam – there’s plenty of opportunity for travelling vegetarians too. If your stomach is a sensitive soul, watch out for these 11 dubious delicacies from around the world, you’re not going to like them.
12. Save as much as possible
If 2014 is your year for saving, to make 2015 that epic year for travel, gapyear.com is bursting with advice on travelling on a budget, managing money on the road and saving cash before you go. Take note, take heed and just be patient. You’re gap year time will come my friend, and when it does, all those nights in and days spent working will be worth it.