The 25 Most Incredible Gap Years

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Vicky Philpott

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Written by: Vicky Philpott

In our recent survey we asked you to shout out about your most amazing backpacker experience so far. The answers were enlightening. Some bought a tear to our eyes, others made us laugh and most made us sick with jealousy. We promised we wouldn’t reveal names, so here goes some of our favourites, feel free to claim your experience at the end if you want to show off.

Prepare to flex that passport.

1. “I volunteered at Sepilok Orangutan Rehab Centre which is a dream come true. Not only did I get to help the rehabilitation of an endangered (and so beautiful and intelligent) species but I made some life-long friends in the other volunteers and rangers.”

Sepilok Orangutan Rehab Centre

2. “Having tea with a monk at 6am upon the top of Adam’s Peak (Sri Lanka) while watching the slightly cloudy sun rise. Having started the climb up the 5000 steps at 2am, tea and nice view were most welcome.”

3. “Holidays in Caribbean, sun, beach, sea, heat and Cuba Libre.”

4.Learning to dive and opening my life to a new 70% of the world.”

Scuba diving c.HamedSaber

5. “Watching the sun rise over Machu Picchu.”

6. “Getting stuck in a Peruvian road blockade and going to Chile by mistake.”

7. “Working the Milford track in New Zealand and then travelling the South Island in a camper van.”

Milford Track c. Jocey Kinghorn

8. “Meeting someone, falling in love and realising 4000 miles isn’t too far when you love to travel!”

9. “Snorkelling with manta rays in Fiji just after sunrise: not an organised tour, just a meeting of a few people, a local with a boat and a willingness to share his beautiful country.”

Snorkelling is awesome! c.exalthim

10. “Visiting the Geisha in Kyoto, seeing them perform and exploring Kyoto to bring the book Memoirs of a Geisha to life, and visiting the natural hot springs.”

11. “Going to a Full Moon Party in the Caribbean, the best party I have been to. Hallucinogenic mushroom tea was served, it was compulsory for everyone to wear a mask, fireballs with a burning man and women propped up in the sea with multiple bands of different genres playing across the beach long into the night, definitely a unique experience.”

12. “Taking a tandem skydive in Cairns – made me a stronger, more determined person.”

Tandem skydive c.rengber

13. “So many to choose from. One of my most memorable was visiting Cape Reinga in New Zealand. We started off in the Bay of Islands and swam in the ocean with wild dolphins which was incredible! Then headed north to Cape Reinga which is the most northern point in New Zealand and it is believed to be the place where the spirits leave to go to the afterlife. It is such a breathtaking place. When you walk to the life house which is at the end of New Zealand, you can actually see two oceans joining. Over all a spectacular and different experience.”

14. “Standing 5 metres away from a wild grizzly bear and her 2 cubs.”

Grizzly bear c. walkadog

15. “Getting on a train to Bosnia I had no idea where to go. Opposite me was an English speaking Sarajevo local who after a 10 hour train ride took me home, fed me, gave me somewhere to sleep and then showed me the city.”

16. “Staying in Keep River National Park in Australia – we were the only people there, 200,000 square miles to ourselves!”

17. “Hanging out in the beautiful beaches of Parque Tyrona on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Camping, eating coconuts and tins of tuna, collecting rain water, sunbathing, telling stories and falling in love.”

Parque Tyrona c.clandestino

18. “Driving through a small French town and taking a random turning that led us to a huge, beautiful lake where we got to swim, free camp and canoe, with only a handful of people around.”

19. “The humbling experience of meeting survivors of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in Sendai. The determination and calm of the Japanese people was truly awe-inspiring.”

20. “Every single sunrise and sunset, but two stand out. Watching the sun go down over the desert in Peru or watching the sunrise over Mt. Bromo, Indonesia.”

Surnise over Bromo c.rbherdiyanto

21. “Learning to surf in Byron Bay when we all of a sudden joined by a pod of dolphins.”

22. “Going to the wrong country as I got on the wrong bus. Meeting amazing people there and then having the best time of my entire year.”

23. “Seeing flamingos taking off/landing in the wild at sunset over the carmargue.”

Flamingos in the wild. c.szeke

24. “Visiting Uluru in the Northern Territory of Australia and learning about the history of the aboriginal people and how they have been cleansed to make way for western civilization. It wasn’t amazing in the same way sky diving was amazing but it was amazing in a way that moves things inside me and makes me angry and embarrassed to represent a society that did not and still does not completely make room for other ideologies and cultures. That struck me in so many ways.”

25. “I think the best experience was just waking up each day, exploring and meeting new people.”

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