Something that I have always regretted not doing before I started a family, was to travel the world and see the places and people that I wanted to learn more about. Until relatively recently, taking a gap year off between high school and college was something international students frequently did, but in the U.S. it wasn’t necessarily a common option. That’s not necessarily the case anymore, with an increasing number of American students also opting for a break before they start college.
In fact, even First Daughter Malia Obama has announced she’ll take a year off before heading to college.
Most young people opt to spend their year off traveling and gaining lifelong experiences and memories, so how do you make gap year going abroad work for you?
Put Effort Into Planning
If you’re young and thinking about taking a trip abroad, it can be tempting to go with a “fly by the seat of your pants” approach, but this isn’t necessarily the best option if you want to do it all on a budget. If you can create a relatively solid plan, book all of your travel including trains and buses ahead of time using a site like GoEuro.com, and create an itinerary, you can actually plan for most of your expenses before you leave. This will help you make sure you don’t run out of money halfway through your trip.
Think Outside of the Big Cities
If you’re planning a trip to Europe, it can be tempting to focus your plans exclusively around the major cities like Paris, Rome, and London, but there are a few drawbacks of this. The first is cost. These areas tend to be the most expensive. Another problem is that you’ll likely face big crowds. If you want to save money and also see unique elements of the places you visit, try to include some smaller towns and lesser-known areas. They often have just as much to offer in the way of culture and opportunities, at a lower cost and with smaller crowds.
Go For Quality Over Quantity
When you’re taking a once-in-a-lifetime gap year trip, it can be tempting to fit in as many locations as possible, but this often leads to the feeling of being rushed and overwhelmed. Try to plan a trip where your focus is on having in-depth experiences where you can go slow and enjoy what you’re doing, as opposed to being in a mad rush to see absolutely everything.
Consider Work Opportunities
Something that can be a good way to fund your travels while you’re away is to work. There are quite a few programs where young people can work abroad during their gap year, which is excellent for replenishing your travel funds, meeting new people, structuring your time, and also immersing you in a new language. Working abroad during a gap year can also be good to include on your college applications when you return.
There are also volunteer opportunities if you’re less concerned with money and more concerned with enriching your experience. Volunteer programs are another good inclusion for your college applications, and they can be a good way to meet people that can become not just friends, but traveling companions.
If you had the chance to “do it all over again” and decided to take a gap year between high school and college, where would you have gone? Do you have children planning on taking a gap year? Where are they headed? Leave a comment for us below and let us know!