Educationists and psychologists now concede what young doe-eyed high school graduates have always known–taking a gap year from school actually enriches your learning experience rather than hindering it. Now that you have decided you want to take a year off for gap travel (well you googled it, didn’t you?), here’s how you can make it more meaningful than just, say, partying all night in the moonlight on a beach in Bali (not that that’s a bad idea).
This is one of the most rewarding ways to spend your year. Of course, if you’re anywhere between 18 to 22, going abroad alone to volunteer can be a very daunting prospect. The good news is that there are a lot of organised volunteer programs geared exactly to cater to gap year students. They provide an eclectic mix of activities that are great adventure but also look good on any resume. You can search for those programs, but to kickstart your effort, this is a good place to begin. It allows you to volunteer in three different continents over the course of a few months on different options of projects you can choose from.
Independent gap travel and volunteering
If organized packages doesn’t fit your idea of true volunteering, you can try looking for some independent gigs too. Southeast Asia is a popular destination choice as it is relatively safe for Westerners compared to the rest of Asia or even Africa. Just make sure you have your purpose clear and that you go into it with all humility. Volunteering is noble work, not some activity you strike off from your bucket list of gap travel. Here’s a good website to check out some opportunities in Southeast Asia.
Work on a farm and discover a new culture
If you haven’t heard of WWOOF…then we’re glad to be the first ones to tell you about it because really, every independent traveler worth her salt has tried her hand at it. It stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It’s exactly like couchsurfing or warmshowers etc. except instead of plonking on someone’s couch, you earn your stay and food by working on their farms. WWOOF is an intermediary that helps connect sustainable farmers worldwide with volunteers willing to exchange labour on farms for food and lodging. It’s pretty neat. You can either opt to stay a few months at a farm, or hop between farms for a year. Most hosts expect you to stay at least a few weeks though.
Learn a new language abroad
Language are all the rage now, and the more you know the brighter your career prospects in whichever field. This is certainly the coolest, and personally productive way to spend your gap travel year. Practice your Italian with a native at a cafe while slurping on spaghetti (yes you got that reference right), or discover a whole new culture in a Spanish immersion course in Latin America. There are scores of programs out there which can make it happen for you with minimal effort from your part. It will include airport pickups, a ready host family, admission procedures at the University etc. and all you have to do is fork out some dough. Here’s a cool website to help you compare over a 50 different language immersion courses tailored for gap travel students around the world. It has reviews from actual alumni and logistical details on each course. The link opens out on the relevant page.
So there you have it! Make sure to leave us a comment on any ideas you might have about how you would spend your gap travel year!