A guide to gap year travel
Do you want to climb a mountain, save a rhino, tread grapes with your feet, or work with orphaned children? You can! There are so many exciting plans that you can make for your gap year and so many websites to assist you to do just that. We’ve listed our favourites below.
Where should I look first?
Gap Advice.com will help you to select a gap year organisation and give you independent advice on what you can do and where you can go. This site is a very useful starting point for the 230,000 young people every year who undertake a gap adventure. A similar site, Gapyear.com, will help you to plan your trip. You can choose from courses abroad or at home, volunteering, expeditions, work, travelling or achieving life-long ambitions.
Animals or people?
Perhaps the starting point in your decision making could be based on what you want to study at university. If you want to be a vet then working with animals is the obvious choice. Raleigh International have a permanent headquarters in each of the countries in which it operates. The company has built up long term relationships with Governments and local communities and only work in areas where your time and energy will have a positive impact.
If you want to study medicine then working in an orphanage overseas, or assisting in a foreign hospital will help you to achieve your goal. STA Travel has a wealth of ideas for working abroad, volunteering and travel.
I want to learn a language
Planning to study language at uni? Then head off to a country where you can immerse yourself in the language of your choice. The work that you do once you get there is irrelevant as the main point of the exercise is to become fluent in a foreign tongue. Intrepid Travel is a small group adventure travel company that offers approximately 800 scheduled itineraries in Asia, Latin America, North America, Europe, The Middle East, Africa, Australasia and Antarctica.
BUNAC, who have been helping young people to volunteer and work abroad since 1962, claim that the most popular options for post school teenagers are TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) internships, multi project volunteer trips and sports coaching all offering life changing experiences and the chance to travel to exciting destinations. Although you'll be teaching in English, it's likely you'll pick up a bit of the local language.
I don't want to spend that much...
Good, Gap Year's don't have to cost thousands. Most of the time travel isn't included, so make sure you check out our tips on how to fly on a budget. Also, make sure you don't make these travel money mistakes. Original Volunteers pride themselves in being budget volunteering specialists with projects starting from just £37 per week including accommodation. You can choose to teach, work with animals or children, get involved in conservation projects and help with sports.
Like the idea of volunteering?
VSO or Voluntary Service Overseas website links you to the International Citizen Service (ICS) a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for 18 to 25 year olds to volunteer on a development project in Africa, Asia or Latin America. ICS brings young people together to fight poverty. VSO leads ICS, in partnership with other respected development organisations (International Service, Lattitude, Progressio, Raleigh International, Skillshare International and Tearfund). This combined expertise means thousands of volunteers make a real difference in more than 60 countries every year.
If you want to stick to speaking English then why not consider Australia? The Real Gap offers twelve months working in Australia from £299. You can find out about work permits here. You’ll be able to earn a decent wage and explore one of the most incredible countries in the world.
Will I be safe?
Most gap year travellers will stick to well-trodden places and avoid countries at war or affected by terrorism. If you want to find about the country you are planning to visit, look on the Government Foreign Office website for that particular country which will provide up to date information about any risks involved. Remember also to register with the Foreign Office so that they know you are visiting and can assist you if you get into difficulties.
Gapyear.com has a very helpful section entitled “8 Mantras for healthy backpacking”. Read this and learn how to stay healthy and fit whilst you are overseas. Eat right and take some medicine with you to combat “holiday tummy or Montezuma’s revenge”, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, get decent sleep, stay away from drugs and too much alcohol as you may wake up to find that your cash and possessions have disappeared.
Before you go ensure you visit your GP at least three months before you travel as you may require a course of vaccinations. Make sure you take out the correct travel money. Also remember to take out travel insurance. You may think that insurance is expensive, especially if you are planning to undertake any extreme sports like scuba diving or base jumping, but it is certainly worth it just in case anything happens to you. You need to be sure that you can receive medical treatment and if necessary repatriation back to the UK.
Getting life experience from foreign travel and developing new skills whilst interacting with local communities will all prove invaluable to you. Whilst it may be tempting to party your way around Europe, you will not only soon run out of money but you will also waste the opportunity to add something impressive to your CV and give you something to talk about when you go for job interviews back home. You’ll challenge yourself, experience another culture and develop transferrable skills to bring back with you.
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