How to Plan the Perfect Gap Year
As the Summer draws to a close, a lot of teens will be entering their final year of A-levels. It is an incredibly stressful year, and deciding what to do afterwards only makes it worse. There are several options, university, jobs, apprenticeships or taking a gap year. A gap year can be extremely beneficial; it allows you to take a step back, travel and immerse yourself in new cultures and experiences.
Read on for some important tips and tricks that you can use when planning your gap year.
Why Decide to Take a Gap Year?
There are many people who go straight from school to university or work without taking a break in between, and there is nothing wrong with this, but it does not work for everyone. A gap year is a great opportunity for you to discover more about the world around you; you can learn more about yourself as you see things from different perspectives, build friendships with people you would not have otherwise met, try new cuisines, and see some truly astounding sights.
Deciding to take a gap year is a big decision. You will have to leave everything you've ever known, your home, for a while. Some people even opt to go alone, and they leave their friends and family behind too. Homesickness is to be expected, but coming home afterwards can also be a big adjustment. You may feel that you are on the back foot and that your peers are already making headway, but they are likely thinking similarly about you and the experiences that you have had. Taking some time out can also help you to come up with your plan; it gives you more time to think about what you want to do next and, ultimately, what your goals for the future are.
What is the Year About?
The first step to planning a gap year is to decide what you want the year to be about. What do you want to do or see? Are you leaning more towards travel or volunteering, or work abroad jobs? Deciding what function you want this year to serve for you, either personally, professionally or both, is the best place to start. You also do not need to use the whole year, if you only want to travel for three months, it's your choice and really, if you travel for a shorter period of time you have more time to save up and make sure that you have enough money for it.
Where do you Want to Go?
The possibilities are immense, which is why it is better to decide what you want to do first before you think about where you are going to do it. For example, if you want to work abroad, your options will be slightly different from volunteering, etc. However, if you simply want to travel, you arguably have more choice. You could choose somewhere relatively close to your home country, or you could choose to strike out and go further. Some of the most popular destinations for backpackers include Africa, Asia, Australia, and America.
What is Your Budget?
This may also inform where you can realistically travel to during your gap year as well as how long you can stay. Spending the year drifting around the world might be the dream, but your bank balance may say otherwise. When planning your gap year, you need to make sure that you have given yourself enough time to get your finances in order. You might need to get a part-time job and save up. When working out your budget, there are four things that you need to consider: what is the cost of the initial mode of travel? How much will you need while there? Do you expect any other ongoing costs while you are there? And lastly, how much will you need to get home again?
Organise the Essentials
As you are planning your gap year, there are some things that you need to have in place to ensure that it goes well. Obviously, you need to make sure that your passport is valid and in-date. Does your destination require any vaccinations? Have you sorted out your travel insurance? What documentation will you need to take with you? Do you have access to emergency cash? This may mean bringing a debit card with you in case of emergencies, although you may be charged when using your card abroad. Finally, you also need to make sure that your mobile phone will work while you are away. Some networks charge huge premiums if they are used abroad. It may be worth looking into other SIM-only plans like the one's Lebara offer. They have a number of plans, all of which include international calling, which is vital for anyone travelling in their gap year. You need to be able to call home in the event that your plans change or you need something.
Gap years are no more unsafe than any other holiday. The following safeguarding tips can be applied more or less universally, and essentially it comes down to common sense. Firstly, pack well for your destination. Make a note of any local emergency numbers n case you need them, and when you land, it may be worth asking where you can find the local police station and hospital too. Never go out alone after dark, even in the safest cities; this would be risky. Finally, learn and respect the local culture to avoid causing offence and landing yourself in hot water.
Above all, the most important part of ensuring that you have a good gap year experience, is the planning. You need a plan for earning and spending your money, for your destinations and your modes of travel, for your accommodations and activities. There are a lot of online resources that you can use to help you in your planning. Remember, a gap year will often be the only opportunity you have to take a year out; you want to make sure that it is the best it can be.