Time to take a break from studying and have a gap year abroad
THERE comes a time in your life when you may decide to have a gap year and you have to ask yourself the question ‘what will I do in my gap year and what do I need to take on my gap year?
It could be to take a break from studying, to spend more time with your family, do some volunteering, or travel the world. If travelling is your option, it’s a great time to have a think about what you want to do in life and how you are going to achieve it. You will be making all the decisions and planning a list of things to take with you will be one of them.
Many students decide to go backpacking which can be rewarding in helping them to mature faster and getting to learn about life’s experiences. You may make friends along the way, look good on your curriculum vitae, avoid a work or school burnout, and you will get real-life experiences that you can’t get in a classroom. In a recent study by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at UCLA found that only 3% of American students take a year off before heading to college.
There is even a Gap Year Association, a non-profit organisation based in Oregon that helps students access gap year opportunities. It estimates that on average, between 40,000 and 60,000 students take a gap year each academic year
Living out out of a suitcase can be tough
Living out of a large bag or suitcase can be tough, especially if you are on a tight budget. There’s a chance that you may find the whole experience stressful and you may get homesick. You could end up in debt when you come back. Nobody will say it will be easy, but here’s a few tips of what essentials to take to make your trip safe and more comfortable.
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Don’t forget the essentials
Top of your list will be your essential documents like flight tickets, your passport and visas. If you haven’t been vaccinated you might not be allowed into certain countries. When I went to the USA I made sure I had travel insurance, as ending up in hospital in the US can cost hundreds of dollars a night.
Before going on any trip, I would check that my accommodation has been confirmed. If I want to use my car, then an international driver’s licence has to be obtained – usually from your local post office. God forbid something bad happens, next-of-kin emergency phone numbers are essential, not to mention a large wallet with some local currency; a prepaid travel card; and debit and credit cards.
The next thing to consider is a good 40-litre backpack which will be big enough to carry all your things plus food. You will also need a smaller daypack with zips and padlock for day trips. The bigger backpack can come with wheels, which will weigh a tad more, but in the long run, if you’re overloaded, you will find it easier to manage.
It’s good to get backpack with mesh covers, inside pockets, carry handles and padded straps. If you’re doing a year gap, it’s definitely what you need.
Security is No1
The first thing to consider is your security. A door wedge to prevent anyone coming into your room when you are asleep. A padlock will come with your backpack, a personal alarm and a money belt which prevents high-tech scammers from stealing your money. You can always hide your valuables in your sleeping bag.
You need to keep clean when travelling so a towel which is absorbent and light in weight and dries quickly will come in handy, as dirty towels do smell. Soap, shampoo, shower gel, razors, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodarant, perfume, aftershave, flip flops so as not to stand in the shower bare foot, and wash bag.
Many places of accommodation save on hot water by removing sink plugs, so one should be kept in the bag. A first-aid-bag with plasters, scissors, paracetamol for any unexpected accidents is a necessity. You can also add into there water purification tablets, re-hydration sachets, contraception, and medication for diarrhea. If you are in a hostel buying a sleeping bag liner will offer you protection from bed bugs.
For those little emergencies it is good to have a small supply of toilet paper. Girls will need a small mirror, tampons, sanitary towels, hair conditioner, nail scissors/emery board and tweezers.
What to wear in a nutshell
Probably not good to take too many clothes, just things that are practical. I usually overdo it and then have to bring back stuff that I didn’t wear because I wanted to wear the same t-shirt twice. But here is a short list: hiking boots, sun hat, trainers, swimwear, waterproof jacket, long-sleeved tops, t-shirts, a fleece in case it is cold in the evenings, a couple of pairs of trousers in case you spill something or have an accident, a few bits of underwear, skirts and shorts.
Little extras if you have space
These can be a torch and extra batteries, ear plugs if you are staying in a noisy area, an alarm clock, travel guide, laptop, sleep-mask if there is too much light in the room, sunglasses, mobile phone charger, and a water bottle, come in useful.
A pack of playing cards is useful for those long journeys on the bus or train. It helps break the ice with strangers and makes the time pass faster. You could end up finding a friend for life, someone that you may wish to keep in touch with well after your gap year or holiday.
I usually take a good crime story book with me on holiday. If you do get lonely, you can touch base with home if you have an international calling card. Otherwise, why not crack open a nice vegan-friendly cider and make some new mates. Crafty Nectar has come up with one that is gluten free, has 100 per cent fruit juices and has no flavouring, syrups or as the company calls it nasties. It’s well worth a try.
Be a volunteer – you will not regret it
While you are young you have plenty of opportunities, so grab them while you can. As you get older and settle down, commitments come into play, and you may find your options are more limited.
At least you will have some fond memories from your youth. If you decide not to travel but want to do voluntary work during your gap year, you may consider one of the following organisation: Gapforce; International Volunteer HQ; RSVP Caribbean Volunteers; Pacific Discovery; Raleigh International; United Planet; TIVNU Building Justice; Carpe Diem Education. Whatever you decide to do, have a great year.