planning a gap year

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Manuel Delgado

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Aug 2017

planning a gap year

Planning a gap year

While planning your gap year there are some main things that you will need to take into consideration in order to get the best out of your time away. These are as follows:

It has to be structured - The most important thing that you need to be aware of while planning a gap year is that you have to some aims and objectives. You should build your itinerary around these if you want to have a gap year of value. You should try and match your interests and/or future career choices to what you are going to do while away.

Amount of time available - When can you take a gap year? For planning a gap year it's better to think in terms of an academic year. Use the summer holidays to work and earn some money and the autumn, winter and spring terms for travelling.

A gap year doesn't have to be a year -  Smaller breaks have become very popular with many using the summer holidays to get some work experience or volunteering before the start of the next academic year.

The average mini gap lasts five weeks - Allowing you to squeeze a quick trip in during your summer holidays without causing any serious interruption to your university studies. Travelling for this length of time is obviously much more affordable than a full year out, and you still get the chance to explore some of the world.

The idea is that you will be able to achieve the same objectives as you could on a gap year, and have the same positive impact on yourself and those around you. But remember, you will have less time to achieve this, so there a few things to consider when planning a mini gap.

  • Don’t cover too much ground - One or two countries will suffice. Travelling slow is the best option here. 
  • Stay longer in one place and do some volunteering - Get to know the community and you will gain much more than trying to pack in as many places as possible.
  • Choose carefully what it is that you want to do - Find a volunteering or work internship opportunity that you are interested in and give yourself some time at the end for some well-earned rest and relaxation before returning home.

Plan your gap year solo or with a gap year provider - How would you describe your personality? Are you an introvert who find it hard to talk to people? an extrovert? Or something in between? Would you be able to fend for yourself? If for example you need to see a doctor would you be able to ask the right questions?

Some individuals feel like travelling by themselves is the best option, and there are others who want the safety net of going with a provider.

How much money you will need - Do you need to buy flights? Do you need to find accommodation? What is the exchange rate and does it work in your favour?

At the gap year planning stage it would be difficult to come up with a specific figure unless you have a specific gap year program in mind. However, a ballpark figure will be fine and you can work this out (roughly) by researching flights and giving yourself a daily amount to spend based on what previous backpackers have recommended.

Where do you want to go on your gap year - Where to go on your gap year is a hard decision for some. Think about these questions: Are there any languages that you would like to learn or improve on? Are you looking to make some money while travelling? Are there any environments that you would like to experience? Maybe the rain-forest or tropical beaches. Maybe there are places that you have always wanted to go and visit, like Macchu Picchu in Peru or Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

What do you want to do on your gap year - There are so many ways you could spend your time on your gap year. Do you want to work in conservation? Maybe you’re planning a career in teaching or medicine and some relevant volunteer work would be interesting to you. Or maybe you would like to learn a new skill and make some money in the meantime.

There is plenty out there but first you need to ask yourself what are your interests. Make sure you also plan for some rest and relaxation, some time where you can just chill out and be a tourist.

Gap year planning questionnaire

I have created a questionnaire that will help you to narrow down your options by asking yourself the relevant questions that encourage you think about your interests and career aspirations, helping you nail down your perfect itinerary.

With this in hand you can start selecting and combining the things that you would like to do on your gap year with the places that you would like to see. For example, if you wanted to spend your gap year working with animals and seeing the rainforest maybe an animal rehabilitation program on Costa Rica will be a good choice.

If your aim is to learn to dive, maybe a project where you will gain a PADI open water qualification while helping marine conservation in Thailand would be ideal for your gap year.

Remember though, you don't have to plan every last detail! - The first time around people who plan a gap year often make the mistake of planning too much. I am a big advocate of slow travelling, getting to know a place and it's people - collecting experiences and not just passport stamps.

Structure and goals are important but you are in the planning stages so dreaming is fun, don't take it too seriously because things can change and be altered further down the line. This is pretty much guaranteed!

The important thing is to work through the questionnaire and just be truthful to yourself and plan what would be your dream itinerary.

Download my gap year planning questionnaire here