With the summer fast approaching, it’s not too early to start planning your perfect gap year...
A gap year is a unique time of your life to explore new cultures, make new friends and see new places. It can re-write your future and change you as a person. However, there is always the potential for things to go wrong. So, if you're looking for tips on how to minimize the risk of a disaster on your dream gap year, then this article is for you...
1. DON'T GO BROKE
Roughing it is all very well, but without money you're not going to get very far. It opens doors and creates wonderful opportunities... but can also close them in your face. The solution to this problem is simple ... Save! Empty the piggy bank, keep your eyes off the designer jumper you pine for. You won't regret it when you’re walking down that sandy beach on your way to a scuba diving lesson! It sounds obvious, but many travellers underestimate how quickly cash leaks out of their money belts when they're away from home... Good budgeting is another priority, and it's something you can do before you've even left your bedroom! Sites like tripadvisor.com and lonelyplanet.com are great for this, providing prices and information about accommodation, travel, places to eat and things to do, all over the world.
2. DON'T GET ROBBED
Okay, so you've managed to pull together a good amount of money for your travels and you know where you’re going. This is all very well... as long as you can keep hold of it!Don’t get me wrong, the world is full of good people… However there will always be those with bad intentions - and probably a bunch of tricks up their sleeves to take your valuable possessions and run.To minimize the risk of theft, NEVER store your money in just one wallet, pocket, or bag! I recommend investing in a money belt to keep tucked under a shirt. Here your most important items—like a passport—can be safe.A wallet to keep spending money in is also recommended. Top this up each day, with the equivalent of £20, just enough for a meal or two and some souvenirs. This will be the easiest possession to rob, but at least you’ll only lose a small sum of cash.Michael, a keen traveller, also has a recommendation:“Carry 2 wallets. One in a trouser pocket with spending money in, and the other empty, sticking out your back pocket. The back pocket is an easy target, and anyone planning on theft will go for the bait.’Finally, if you’re one to use cards, then multiple accounts are recommended - just in case one is stolen.
3. DON'T SLEEP ROUGH
It's nice to imagine spending each night in an exotic hotel room ... but in reality this will cost a fortune, so it’s unrealistic for the average younger traveller. However this isn't necessarily a bad thing, because there are lots of life-enriching alternatives:Couch Surfing. Websites such as www.couchsurfing.org connect you with thousands of people from all over the world, all of whom are willing and able to give you a place to stay for a few days or more ... for free! This is a brilliant way to learn more about the area you’re in, stick to a budget and maybe even make new friends for life.Youth Hostels. Youth hostels give you the essentials: a bed, a bathroom and a kitchen. The rest is up to you. Sometimes sharing a room with others may be necessary, and expect to cook for yourself. Although they’re not exactly luxurious, they are very affordable and ideal places to meet new people from all over the world. Websites such as www.hostels.com or www.hostelworld.com are good places to start browsing.Volunteering. There are many websites offering volunteering opportunities, but one I’d recommend is www.workaway.info. It allows you to select a country and see the opportunities available in this area. These could be anything, from helping unpack some boxes, to working on a yacht! In return for work (usually 3-6 hours a day) you will be fed and looked after.
4. DON'T GET SICK
Your gap year is now starting to take shape ... but there’s one crucial thing which could spoil it all: your body. If you don’t stay healthy, your dreams can quickly become nightmares. So don’t forget your vaccinations, especially if you’re traveling to under-developed countries. This can be easily sorted by a quick trip to your GP before your departure.
5. DON'T FORGET PAPERWORK
It sounds like a bore, but applying for travel insurance is a ‘must’. Search online for the cheapest offers and read the small print. Travel visas may also be necessary—particularly if you're planning to be away for more than 3 months. The embassy website www.fco.gov.uk/en gives advice about how to approach acquiring a visa for different countries. It’s best to organize this long before you leave - because processing can take from days to months.
Don't forget the most important rule... Have fun! Learn about the places you intend to visit and the cultures you experience. Socialize, try new food, ask questions, keep an open mind and enjoy yourself. It’s a rare time in your life where you’ll have the freedom to go with the flow and discover who you are.