Results day and the stress of A Levels are already starting to feel like a distant memory once you decide to take a gap year – finally a year to yourself! But where exactly do you go from here, whiles your friends make the exciting journey to their first year of uni? Keep reading for 10 tips for surviving your gap year.
1. You gotta work work work work work.
Although having a full year off sounds like the best vacation of your life, unfortunately money doesn’t grow on trees, so work as hard as you can to save up; work over time, work weekends, get two jobs – keep yourself busy and all that hard work will eventually pay off. Alternatively, you can work abroad easily in countries such as Australia and New Zealand with a Working Holiday Visa. This is such a great way for a new start, to meet amazing people and to experience news things all whiles earning enough money to fund your travels. Just make sure you know your working rights and understand how their tax system works.
2. Don’t pack too much.
There’s nothing worse than having to lug around a 25kg backpack with 5 pairs of two weeks’ worth of outfits you’ll never wear. Only bring clothes that you don’t mind loosing or getting ruined and try to pack lightweight so you have space for souvenirs and the harem pants that you’ll be inclined to buy. If you are planning on going to Asia you can pack even less due to the hot climate (think your cutest shorts and vest tops) and because you can buy clothes so cheaply, you’ll have a wardrobe you won’t get tired of, plus unique clothes that remind you of your travels during gap year.
3. But don’t forget the essentials.
Packing light is all and well until you remember those little things that are still lying on your bed on the other side of the world. If you take daily medication, see you doctor to get enough supply (plus more) for your travels and documents for customs. A padlock is essential for keeping your belongings safe in a hostel and an eye mask and ear plugs will guarantee a decent sleep and a small first aid kit for those little emergencies. A sarong can be used as a blanket, a light weight towel for the beach, a scarf to keep you warm and can easily roll up small into your hand luggage. And always be aware of new climates and new food – Electrolyte tablets, paracetamol, Imodium and Senokot will be a life saver!
4. Be snap happy!
It’s important to try and capture every single little experience when you’re travelling, from the gorgeous sunset to that funny guy who you beat at bear pong that one night. So a camera that is sturdy, small and tough is perfect to take with you; GoPros are perfect if you plan on scuba diving / snorkeling or want to do any kind of extreme sport, and many other companies do action cameras which are similar for a quarter of a price. Google Drive and Drop Box are great storage websites to upload your photos to when you have free Wi-Fi so you can easily share them with friends and family, keep them safe, and to safe storage space on your camera / phone.
5. Keep in contact.
It’s important to let your worried parents know you’re safe/ happy / alive you’re travelling, and keeping in contact with your friends makes you that little less home sick. Ask your friends for their new uni addresses before you leave so you can surprise them with postcards, and Whatsapp is perfect for calling / texting when you have WiFi, as well as helping you to keep in contact with foreign friends you’ll meet. Look into mobile contracts which allow you to use your phone abroad; Three lets you use your phone abroad in most countries for no extra cost.
6. Don’t be scared to go out of your comfort zone.
An entire year sounds like a long time, but before you know it you’ll be sitting at the back of a desk wondering where all the time went, wishing you had done that 15,000ft skydive. Do things you never thought you would do! If you are given the opportunity to do something insane, do it twice and really make the most out of your trip; plus you’ll have some incredible photos to hang up in your new dorm room. Never be afraid to have adventures on your own, and you’ll come back as an independent young adult, with life experiences and a compass tattoo on your ankle. Don’t be scared to rough it a bit!
7. Do your research.
Look long and hard into the countries you visit during gap year: How safe is it? Do you need vaccines? Should I get an open flight? What insurance do you need? How can you respect the culture? The best way to travel is to be spontaneous and open to change, but having some knowledge about the places you’ll visit will avoid any nasty shocks and help to save money too; the TripAvisor app is brilliant for getting the best prices of hostels near you and Lonely Planet have about three books per country packed with information so you’ll never be too lost.
8. Remember your uni responsibilities.
It’s so easy to forget about the real world when you’re out having the time of your life, so make a note on the important things such as; when you have to apply for your accommodation, the deadline for student loans, and when your course starts. It’ll make going to uni a breeze once you get back, so you can spend more time on the important things, like catching up with your friends and re acclimating to the ever-changing British weather.
9. Make loads of new friends.
One of the best things about travelling isn’t the places you go to, but the people you meet. It’s amazing to learn about new cultures, and most people you meet travelling have the exact mind set as you are there for one reason – to meet people. Hostels are great environments to meet people and usually have activities on every night so in the space of 12 hours you would have found your new best friend and are planning to travel together. Always add people you’ve met on Facebook and don’t be afraid to invite them to your next destination or for a few drinks out; it’s surprising how often you’ll bump into people you’ve already met and there’s nothing better than your Facebook news feed being filled with tropical destinations!
10. Keep a journal!
Even if writing isn’t your cup of tea, it’s a great way to remember all the places you’ve been to, the people you’ve met and it’s something unique to take home from your travels during your gap year. You don’t have to treat it like your A Level Art course work, so make it as detailed or as minimal as you want – just make it something you’ll love to look back on in 30 years’ time, to recapture all those feeling you had travelling. Now what are you waiting for? Get out there and explore the world!
What do you have planned for your gap year? Comment below and share the article!