March 09, 2017 3 min read
A Gap Year – it’s every student’s dream! Having an extended period of time off before continuing school or starting a new job is both an exciting and fulfilling prospect for students. It’s a prevalent custom overseas, and it is slowly becoming more popular in the States.
When I think about a gap year, I bucket ideas into three options: work, play, or a combination of the two. What do I mean? Work involves volunteering, working, studying, or teaching; play involves traveling (typically backpacking solo or with friends).
Regardless of your aspirations, there are plenty of options available, but planning for an experience of this magnitude takes a lot of research, time, and energy. It can be overwhelming, but I’m going to outline everything you need to know to optimize your planning process.
Keep in mind that this is more art than science – there is no exact formula, and everyone’s situation will be different. Because of this, I’ll be guiding you about asking the right questions, rather than telling you what to do.
Understand your budget
Regardless of your financial situation, it is crucial for you to have a comprehensive understanding of your finances and budget. Ask yourself, how much money can you afford to spend each month? This question will dictate your entire trip. Exactly how much you need will depend on where you’re going, for how long, and whether you will be earning an income while abroad.
Develop a framework
Determine what type of experience you are looking for. Work, play, or both? What are your interests? Where will you go and for how long? What will you do? Are you traveling solo or with friends?
Do your research – there are a lot of really cool options out there. Talk to friends or family who have traveled. Read about your favorite blogger’s adventures. Get inspired. This is an opportunity for you to pursue a dream! I challenge you to take a risk and to go outside your comfort zone; you’ll look back on this trip and be happy that you did.
There are a lot of great resources available online and programs you can join. Check out: GoAbroad, American Gap Association,GoOverseas.
Hammer out the details
As your trip starts to take shape, you need to dig into the granular details. Finalize your routes. Where will you stay? How will you get around? What do you want to see? This process will take time and some like to plan everything out in advance, others prefer on the go. It’s up to you, but you should have a general idea before you take off.
Preparation is key
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
As your trip approaches, learn as much as you can about where you’ll be going. Familiarize yourself with a few common phrases in the local language. Take a look at the exchange rate. Get a guidebook.
Make sure you have all your affairs in order (i.e.: cell phone, bills, rent etc.), copies of important documents, and an up-to-date passport. Alert your credit card companies. Purchase travel insurance. Get visas and vaccines if needed, and register with your local embassy. Most importantly, don’t forget to prepare your travel capsule!
Ian Ellis-Jones left a cushy job to embark on an epic journey around the world. Join him as he begins his amazing adventures on Escaping Expectations.
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