Thoughts from a Pre-Gapper

A new year, a new frame of mind. After constantly seeing my friends’ travel photos and hearing all their stories, jealousy levels are running high. So, as a result, I have decided that my 2014 deserves to be filled with adventures across the world.

All I need is lots of money, but fundraising shouldn’t be a problem, right? As someone who has yet to venture outside his own country for any longer than a couple of weeks, certain things plague the mind and cause hesitation in booking that plane ticket.

However, before delving into the concerns of a would-be-traveller, it seems more sensible to select a destination first, so as to know what kind of budget will be required for the trip. Europe is the only continent which I have previously explored and seeing as I’m European, I feel as though I’ve never really left my domestic setting.

Now 2014 has arrived, I believe some new adventures outside of Europe are necessary. Speaking with friends and relatives, it seems clear that South America and Southeast Asia are a must for most, and with countries like Brazil and Thailand as potential destinations, it is hard to resist the allure.

Finding adventure

Finding the fun

So, where exactly do you find the fun in these places? Planning the trip of your dreams is a challenging task when all you have to go on is tales you’ve heard on the grapevine. However, speaking to friends and relatives who have visited potential destinations can give you more of a genuine insight into the location and what kind of an experience you can expect there.

The popular tourist harbour of Southeast Asia, it seems, is the staple travel destination for people in their late teens and early twenties, a prime place for those with the priority of having fun at the top of their list. Speaking with friends who have visited the pleasure-filled sub-region and hearing their accounts of how they survived the drunken death gauntlet that is ‘tubing', as well as managing to buy a suit that doesn’t immediately tear apart, does add to its attraction.

However, at the end of the day the choice of your destination will depend on what you want to gain from the experience. So it makes sense to do some extensive research, plan your gap year properly and speak to everyone you know who has travelled to discover your desired destination. This will also assist in uncovering the dos and don’ts before you’ve even set foot there, maybe just so you don’t find yourself drowning in a rubber ring while wearing a cheap suit.

Tubing while travelling

Cash for the cause

Money is always going to be a factor when choosing where you want to escape to, and places like Southeast Asia are renowned for their low costs (excluding the return plane ticket of course). A friend told me if I take a couple of grand to Southeast Asia I can live like a king for a couple of weeks. I don’t know if he knows that most kings don’t tend to get wasted each night and binge on noodles; nonetheless, I got his meaning.

Still, wherever you decide on going, taking the time to calculate the costs of where you wish to visit is a necessity that really goes without saying. For those without their very own silver spoon, the question of how much capital will be needed sits at the forefront of the mind. When thinking about all the expenses that travelling incurs, less is definitely not more, meaning a lot of money saving/making tactics will have to be deployed. So it may be time to crack open the piggy bank and stop frequenting Nando’s.

Losing your way

Getting lost is not something that you want to happen while you’re on your travels, but it is a possibility. A friend of mine lost his way in Prague while trying to find his way back from a club at 4:00am. After exiting the venue, he made the hasty and regrettable decision to head right instead of left, the opposite direction to the hostel he was staying in. After stumbling and swaying his way through the streets of the capital of the Czech Republic for a time, he finally gave up and chose to take up residence for the night in an empty bin.

Getting lost while travelling

For those that wish to avoid this kind of thing, however, the folks at Google have seen fit to bless the world with their maps, which may or may not be so helpful: being lost on the streets of Prague is one thing, being lost in the Amazon Jungle differs slightly.

So gaining some familiarity with the place you plan on visiting before you actually visit doesn’t seem to be a bad idea. Although, you could just trust in the notion that if you somehow do find yourself to be lost in a foreign land, it may turn out to be the adventure you have been craving. Either that, or you’ll die.

Job hunting

Choosing to work abroad is a popular alternative to simply travelling, mainly because the money you’ll be earning while working justifies the travel cost and boosts the budget.

However, although there are plenty of job opportunities abroad, to find one that you may actually enjoy on a daily basis seems to be like finding a diamond in the rough, and when you actually find one, it feels like a shot in the dark as to whether or not you will be the one to get it. From building shelters for under privileged children in Africa, to training as a ski instructor in Canada, the range of opportunities is overwhelming, especially if you have multiple and conflicting interests.

Anything and everything is appealing to me right now. Even passing out in a bin in Prague. Well maybe not. Anyway, despite the vast array of jobs that can be occupied, I believe that my first trip out of Europe should preferably be one that is uninhibited by the restriction a job enforces, in order to possess the free time to explore where I choose.

Strangers in the night

A hostel is an establishment, so I have been informed, that you are most likely to end up staying in while travelling on a budget.  The sociable accommodation sounds as if it is a good chance to meet new people and gain some potential travel buddies. However, there is the underlying anxiety over sleeping in the same room with a load of strangers, but the factor that the majority of people who stay in hostels are also backpackers and are there to have fun, just like you, is a reassuring one.

Sleeping in a hostel

This may take some people out of their comfort zone, quite literally depending on the standard of the hostel, but from my perspective everyone is in the same boat. Meeting new people is going to be half the fun of the journey so to shy away from it would be a big mistake. The forums on various high quality websites seem to be a great source to distinguish which hostels to avoid and which promise a decent stay. Rumours of nightmare hostels, like the one Eli Roth kindly displayed to the world in his horror film, may be deterring, but nonetheless it seems as if it is all part of the experience and is one that I’m personally looking forward to.

Pack your bags

When it comes to packing it seems careful planning and adaptation is required, dependant on where you choose to visit and what you plan on doing. What do you pack other than some clothes and your passport?

To visit anywhere during its wet season is probably not the best idea, but even if you’re planning to go somewhere without one, it would make sense to bring an umbrella or a Pac-a-mac, surely?

Whatever you decide to pack, space must also be available for the wealth of souvenirs that you’ll be hoarding back with you. So perhaps scrap the idea of bringing clothes and purchase all the attire you want in the markets of your chosen destination. You should, however, probably wear something to the airport, otherwise you may look a bit too keen to join the mile high club.