Do it. Literally, if there is the slightest bit of doubt in your mind about taking a gap year, do it. I honestly couldn’t be more of a gap year advocate! This is such a special opportunity in your life to take a break! The thought of going straight from A Levels to more work in Uni was just a no no – I needed that time off to rebuild a passion and drive for my learning! For me, this was the best decision I could have made.
It wasn’t until year 12 that I really considered this being an option for me. I was chatting to a friend who was planning these amazing travel plans for her gap year and I thought to myself, hey, I want a piece of the action!
Not necessarily the reason I recommend it, but taking a gap year will also separate you from the crowds. The clique route after school is to head straight to university and get your degree and go to work for the rest of your life. Gaining whatever valuable experience you get from your year will put you one step in front of all the other graduates that went straight to uni (or if you don’t go to uni, you will be set apart from other candidates for job roles you want to apply for). You will be blessed with real life experience and that will help develop you as a person! Employers seriously value experience.
Also, it may not be spoken about so openly as other reasons, however I also needed the time in my gap year to really work on my mental health, and there is nothing shameful about that. I believe you can’t be truly physically healthy if not mentally. With the pressures of our society, mental illness prevalence is sadly really high at the moment, and it’s also a bit of a taboo to talk about. It shouldn’t be as so so many people struggle with this, and if you are at the moment, you are far from alone in this! Taking time to improve this will be invaluable.
Take some time to EARN THAT DOLLAR! Taking a gap year can be a great opportunity to build up savings – whether it’s in a cafe/restaurant, retail, an office, etc, you can earn some money for your future plans/uni, OR if you potentially want to go travelling later on in the year!! It may not be the most exciting thing but it’s definitely a great thing to do. £££!!! Cha-ching!!!
2. Internship/work experience:
This is a fab way of getting some experience in a sector that you potentially want to go into in the future, thus making you a much more competitive candidate later on in your professional career. OR, if you are debating whether a particular career is right for you, what better way to test the waters and see if it suits you?! Journalism, accountancy, PR/administration, finance, sales… the options are endless!
3. Au pair
There are sooo many reasons for people to choose to au pair! For example, exposure to other cultures, to learn other languages, meet people from different parts of the world! The list goes on! For those that are unsure – classic roles for an Au Pair include: nannying the children, gentle house work, potentially some light cooking, homework help, language practise – that kind of thing.
After speaking to 2 friends that have taken on the role of being an au pair, I am inspired to try this myself as I have the goal to learn Spanish! Contract lengths normally vary from 1 month to a year, so you can search for a family that best suits what you want. Although the pay isn’t very good, generally you will be adopted into the household, so you won’t have to worry about accommodation or food cost throughout your stay, and also, the experience is priceless, no?!
4. Work abroad!
Why not pack up your bags at the start of the year and head off straight away! If this is something that you want to do but feel anxious about the thought, or worry that you might not be able to find a job, there are schemes out there which run programmes to help you set yourself up! For example in Australia, ‘Welcome to travel’ has short tours where they help you with things like Airport Pick-Up, 3 nights YHA accommodation, Tax File Number Set Up, Employment Help, Onward Travel Help, Phone Sim Card, Bank Account, City Walking Tour, etc. https://welcometo.travel/tour/4-day-welcome-to-travel-melbourne/
Or Gap 360 has a section that helps you organise a placement for working abroad ( this is the website I personally used when booking my first solo trip alone). I know a popular country to go to is Australia as there is much less of a culture shock than some other places abroad! Also, who doesn’t want to go to Australia!? I know I would have loved to do this if I had been more organised and this is definitely something I’d love to do in the future!
5. Travel South East Asia:
South east Asia is a classic gap year back packer route (with the exception of Australia’s East Coast of course!). Since it was my first solo trip away, I felt more comfortable going on organised tours. Although it was slightly more expensive than it would have been if I’d chosen to go completely solo, it was an easier and safer option for me at the time.
I highly, highly recommend ‘Intro travel’ – you can check out a selection of their tours on this website: https://www.introtravel.com/). I did the Bali intro and Sri Lanka intro and couldn’t recommend them more. Speaking to other travellers that did tours, this is definitely the best company we came across. The accommodation is all lovely and great value, the leaders are all amazing fun and it’s very well organised.
6. Back-pack Australia!
Possibly the most commonly travelled route for young back packers, Australia is famous for it’s amazing hostel communities, gorgeous beaches, and easy travelling! Although it may be slightly on the pricier side than some other destinations it’s renowned for being great for first time solo travellers, plus it may be less of a culture shock compared to some of the less developed destinations.
This is another relatively simple way to travel – you can buy your inter-railing pass, whip out your trusty map of Europe (or just good old google maps :)) and pick where you want to go! This is certainly something I plan to do in the near future – There are so many amazing places in Europe and I’d love to do some more exploration seeing as it’s all so close!
8. Spontaneous trip!
If not inter-railing, book a spontaneous few days away somewhere in Europe! Again, there are so many amazing cities so close to us here in the UK! For example, last December one of my best friends and I jetted off to Rome for a spontaneous weekend away, as neither of us had been before! It was a really fun weekend and can easily be done without spending much money! Easy jet often has many great deals on flights and cheap accommodation can easily be arranged!
9. Back-pack the Americas!
Central/South America is next on my travel bucket list. 100%. Latino vibes, pristine beaches, luscious rainforest… it certainly looks like an adventure I want to experience! My cousin joined a tour she found from Gap 360 and absolutely loved her time travelling here! It’s no lie when people say that you have to be cautious when travelling here, and I hate to say that being a girl comes with more risk (but that’s just the sad reality 😦 ), however, there are dangers everywhere you go! Any big city comes with it’s risks! Being aware of this and being prepared will no doubt help you – especially if you are with someone who knows the area and the culture.
There are so many different ways in which you can give back during your gap year! You can do this either locally (for example charity shops, fundraisers, care homes, etc), or there is also the option for many programs abroad! I would recommend doing your research if you are joining into a volunteering programme abroad – some ‘volunteerism’ really isn’t ethical or sustainable as the big cooperations can charge HUGE fees to take part in their programs, and little of this money will end up going to the good cause you are volunteering for.
This is such an amazing thing to do though, and again the options are endless – you can help with wildlife conservation, marine conservation, environmental conservation, child care, teaching english, community work – whatever you are passionate about there will most certainly be something for you to get involved with …In so many amazing locations too!
ICS (international citizen service) is a global volunteering programme run by the UK government, with all their placements having the main aim to combat poverty. They run 10-12 week programmes in some of the poorest countries in Africa and Asia, where you will work alongside local and UK volunteers in efforts to make a change! I’d certainly love to be involved in a placement such as this in the future with the chance to make a change in the world, but also to partake in such an incredible, rare experience to test my strength.
12. Work away
Work away can be a great option if you are looking to backpack – especially if you are looking to go for a long time and are worried about funds. It’s a website that is set up for hosts and workers to be united – the contracts vary but in most cases you will be provided food and accommodation (and occasionally payment) in exchange for work. You can search for hosts all over the world, with so many different types or roles! They also have a section on the website that allows for you to find a travel buddy if this is something that interests you.
You can find the website through this link: https://www.workaway.info/
13. Develop a skill/learn something new
I certainly found that I had much more free time on my hands when I was working rather than at school. This really is a great opportunity to spend some time learning new things or developing hobbies. Whether it’s watching documentaries, or reading books in topics that interest you, or skiing, or baking, or knitting, or golfing, or drawing, or yoga… the list goes on and on! It’s totally up to you! Personally, I have loved having more time to experiment with cooking/baking and creating recipes (which I love to share with you all here:)).
14. Learn a language
Getting involved in an immersive language learning course is such a great option to do during a gap year! During my gap year, I studied Spanish for a month in the gorgeous city of Valencia, at Taronja school. This was such an incredible experience, and being surrounded by the language and culture really helped speed up the learning process as you are constantly practising and have such a high exposure! Plus, I got to meet so many amazing people from so many different places and have so many treasured memories from this time. I highly recommend this school if you are looking to do something similar – they host daily social events so meeting people is easy and the teachers are all so friendly and amazing!!
However, if this option is not so accessible for you, then of course you can opt to do lessons in your local area, or even online! There are so many resources out there, for example Duolingo, rosetta stone or even free from youtube!
One way I found it useful to keep up my Spanish after returning was finding an online tutor and looking at youtube channels / online podcasts and Spanish TV programmes on Netfilx. Elite is the best programme ever – even if you’re not interested in learning Spanish – my mum and sister were also glued to the screen for this one :).
15. Take time for yourself/mental health
This is nothing to be ashamed about and certainly a very common reason for people to take a gap year! I felt so burnt out after A Levels and really needed that time to refresh and recharge after all the stress of exams. So definitely take that time to get yourself in a better place, and then you will be able to face your future with a much more positive, passionate and motivated attitude! There is really no rush to get to Uni straight after exams. Having a gap year (2 now for me!), really was the best decision for me and has allowed me to develop my confidence and independence so much!
16. Practise yoga/meditation
Yoga, meditation and affirmations are just a few practises I have developed in my time out which have really helped me create mental space and calm my anxiety. Developing these practises, or similar, are a great form of self care – it’s essential to take the time for yourself so you can be the best person you can be!
17. Camp America/Camp Canada
For those that don’t know, Camp America and Canada are kids summer camps in America/Canada that have schemes to employ International (and national) employees to work at the camps. They have numerous different job opportunities, ranging from being a general camp leader/kids carer, teaching certain skills/activities, chefs, etc.
Going to do a summer camp is definitely on my bucket list! There are so many reviews/videos and resources online if you want to get more information on them. People that I know that have taken part in these camps recommend them so much. Fun, friends and community radiate from these placements, with the opportunity to meet so many incredible people from all over the world! It’s such a great opportunity again to develop confidence, but also to just have an amazing, fun filled summer! *think Camp Rock vibes!*
18. Clear your thoughts about your future
Of course I am not saying that you have one year to have your whole future figured out, but taking the time to clarify what your next step is can be so valuable. It certainly helped me, taking the time out to re-evaluate whether my University course I was due to start was right for me. I read a stat the other day that 60% of people that take a gap year come out of it feeling much more certain about their course/next steps, so taking the time to ensure what you are doing is the right thing for you could invaluable to you!
19. Start a blog/youtube channel!
Why not? If you love writing or video editing/photography, this can be such a great creative outlet! I love sharing my recipes and ideas on here and hope to continue doing so in the future 🙂
20. Spend time with your favourite people
Whilst having more time (depending on the direction of your year!) I certainly found that I had much more free time. A precious way of spending this time is with amazing people you love and that lift you up. Whether that’s visiting friends at uni, spending time with friends near home, or even more time with your family – it’s always so uplifting being with people you love!
I really hope this post has given you some inspiration for what you could potentially do on your gap year, or just persuaded you to take one! Whatever you decide to do, I hope it’s amazing 🙂
Lots of love,