You know what, before we even get into all the practical concerns about travelling, it’s probably worth actually establishing why you should travel at all.
As you find out about all the different amazing reasons to go travelling, you might begin to ask yourself why you wouldn’t take a gap year! Ultimately, the decision will be personal to you and based on your own individual goals, but there are some broad benefits that most gappers can relate to. These range from boosting job prospects, to learning new life skills, to simply having an incredible adventure.
Whatever your reason for taking a gap year, one thing is pretty much guaranteed: whatever you decide to do and wherever you decide to go, it will be the most extraordinary experience of your life so far. And that can only be a good thing!
A gap year is the perfect opportunity to try your hand at a potential career path, and gain valuable work experience in a certain field. This could be in the form of a volunteering placement or even a paid position.
Fancy being a doctor or a nurse? You could volunteer on a medical elective in a developing country. Perhaps you’re interested in teaching? You could spend a term teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) and earning good money while doing it. Want to get into media? You could look at taking part in a journalism internship abroad.
Once you’ve gained this experience, it will look fantastic on your CV and push you above the competition. It will show a future employer that not only are you seriously invested in your career, but that you’re a worldly person too. All big ticks in today’s competitive job market.
One of the most rewarding things you can do on your gap year is to spend some time volunteering, and giving something back to the world. By doing this you can make a really positive difference, whether that’s to a certain environment, or to the lives of children and other vulnerable people, or animals.
It will give you an opportunity to become truly immersed in a local culture, in a way that’s simply not possible if you’re passing through as a tourist (not that there’s anything wrong with that). You have literally tens of thousands of options for volunteering, whether it’s working at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, helping to build a school in Ghana or looking after street children in Argentina.
It will give your travels a sense of purpose, and make them all the more satisfying for it.
Sometimes we all just need to hit the refresh button, and taking a gap year can be a perfect way to do that. Perhaps you’ve been buried in textbooks and exams for what seems like an eternity, and are so swamped you don’t even know what it’s all for or what you want to do with your life. Maybe you’re stuck in a dead end job, and feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Whatever the case, going travelling is an amazingly effective way to gain some perspective on your life, and to figure out what’s important to you. And it doesn’t have to be a whole year! Even just a couple of months is usually enough time to provide that much-needed headspace – you’ll come back a new person with new energy and new direction.
In today’s multicultural world, being bi- or even tri-lingual is a huge asset, and taking a gap year is a perfect opportunity to learn a new language. They say the best way to learn a language is to be around people who speak it all the time – that’s how you learnt English, right? – so rest assured this is a different experience to those French classes they made you take in school when you were 14.
It’s incredibly satisfying and rewarding to speak with locals in their native tongue, and they will respect you all the more for it. If you want to cover as many bases as possible, you could consider learning Spanish, which after Chinese is the second most widely spoken language in the world. This means you don’t just have to be in Spain to make use of it – think Argentina, Mexico, Peru…
You won’t even realise it when it’s happening, but travelling around the world will imbue you with all kinds of important life skills, like organisation, budgeting, negotiating, problem-solving, communicating and empathising.
You’ll also come back a much more confident person – again, this’s difficult to quantify in any meaningful way, but you’ll just feel different, more able, more at ease with yourself. All of this shines through your persona and will make you a more approachable, charismatic, employable, and generally well-rounded individual.
One of the best things about travelling is being able to immerse yourself into a new culture. Sure, you can glimpse different cultures from the comfort of your couch, reading books, looking at photos or watching videos, but none of these compare to the excitement of actually being there.
Most travellers go through something called ‘culture shock’ at some point (it’s kind of a rite of passage). This is when all those new smells, sounds and sights become so overwhelming you feel momentarily like you can’t cope with it all. But you can, and you will, and you’ll emerge a stronger and more confident person.
When you return from your travels, your fondest memories won’t be of landscapes, or wildlife, or food, but the people you met, whether locals or fellow travellers. In many ways, the relationships you create from your gap year are the most rewarding part of it.
You’ll find when travelling with people, when you’re with them 24/7 and creating incredible memories together, you’ll form the kinds of bonds that would take years to make back home. So in a matter of weeks, you can end up with friends for life. If you’re lucky, you’ll also have a chance to bond with local people. The best way to do this is to settle down for a bit, to volunteer or work. Having friends all over the world is an amazing thing, and gives you a great excuse to go back and see them!
All travel is adventure, whether you’re kayaking the Amazon River or InterRailing through Europe. And who doesn’t want an adventure?! What we’re getting at is that to travel simply for the sake of travel is a great reason to take a gap year!
There’s absolutely no obligation to work or volunteer or take a tour: you can simply just buy a round the world ticket to some far flung places and see what happens. Just don’t forget to get in touch and let us know how it goes!
So, what’s it going to be?
Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia? Walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru? Seeing the Taj Mahal in India? Hiking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal? Skydiving over Lake Taupo in New Zealand? Cage-diving with great white sharks in South Africa? Wandering around the Colosseum in Italy? Taking the Trans-Siberian Express from Europe to Asia? Viewing the Northern Lights in Iceland? Seeing mountain gorillas in Rwanda? Partying at the Rio Carnival in Brazil? Volcano surfing in Nicaragua? Going to the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai? Driving the Pacific Coast Highway in the USA?
And they’re just the ones everyone’s heard of. There’s a whole world out there… you should really go and check it out.
Picture the scene: you’re 90 years old and reflecting on your long life, the things you did, the things you didn’t do. One of the things you didn’t do was go on an adventure around the world when you had the chance. Can you imagine this thought running through your head, as a 90 year old?
Wow, I sure am glad I didn’t go travelling around the world when I was 20 years old, and instead started my career a year early. That additional year of the 50 or so I worked really made all the difference!
If you can’t imagine thinking that, then this reason alone is good enough to take a gap year.
It slows time
One of the most delightful things about travelling is how your perception of time dramatically slows down. Think of life at home – you know how the days, weeks and months just seem to race by, faster and faster the older you become? That’s normal – it’s because generally speaking, we end up in routines, and nothing really changes.
But when you travel, every single day is completely different from the last, so your head is crammed with new experiences and memories on an hourly basis. And this makes weeks feel like months, and months feel like years. It’s one of the ultimate gifts of travel. When you eventually get home you’ll feel like you’ve been away for a lifetime.
You know what, forget all of the above for a minute and take a moment to appreciate that you are one of a tiny handful of the world’s population that actually has the means to do this. And that makes you extraordinarily privileged. So you kind of owe it to yourself on that basis alone.
For most people alive today, and indeed who have ever lived, taking a gap year to travel the world would be such an unrealistic option it wouldn’t even count as a dream. You can do this. Even saving on a minimum wage job, you can do this. If you want it enough, it’s possible.