Written by The Leap on 03 / 11 / 2014
Gap Year Advice
Can you feel it? Guy Fawkes Night is coming. A celebration that sees people of all ages waving sparklers, gawping at fireworks and chomping on toffee-coated apples - not to mention hauling a life-sized doll onto a huge fire to watch it burn. It's an evening full of excitement.
As you put on your hat and scarf this November 5th, do me a favour. Consider the following:
How much have you really reflected upon the events on which this night is based?
You may not realise it, but there are actually a number of ways that backpackers can relate to Guy Fawkes (though I'm not implying you intend to blow up any buildings). Moreover, there are a whole bunch of lessons to be learned from his actions that demonstrate distinct parallels with the ordeal of planning a gap year.
Not convinced? Then allow me to highlight five of the more important aspects of poor old Guido's plight, and the things you can learn from them...
There’s no denying it, Guy Fawkes was extremely brave, devoting himself to the freeing of the English Catholics whilst fighting against the Protestants. He put up a good fight at the time of his arrest too, enduring a lot of torture before giving away the names of other conspirators.
Anyone planning to fly across the world into unfamiliar surroundings, where they don’t know the language or any of the locals, is also pretty brave wouldn't you say? Though of course you’ll gain a great deal more by taking a gap year than you would attempting to destroy the houses of parliament.
If you’re wondering how to be bold and take the plunge, consider this: travelling with a friend or in a group is a lot less nerve-racking than travelling alone, plus it’s much more enjoyable to share these kinds of experiences with others.
Of course, you might not be able to drum up interest for a trip to your dream destination from enough friends to make this possible. If that's you, then you'll be pleased to hear that organisations like Raleigh International and ours - The Leap - offer the kind of ready-made, structured programs that allow you to join a team of other guys and girls like yourself.
Not only does this mean you'll meet new, like-minded people whilst travelling, but you'll also benefit from the safety in numbers, help and guidance that only gap year programs like these can provide.
We all know that Guy Fawkes wasn’t exactly the silent, obedient type. Today, the stylised portrayal of his face on a mask (see photo at the top) is an international symbol for anti-establishment movements and protests.
If you've got your heart set on taking a year out of education to travel the world, you may find that your decision is met with widespread disapproval from 'the establishment' - parents, teachers and guardians. Whilst hatching a plot to destroy them all is certainly one course of action, you'll find it's much more straightforward and compassionate to just reason with them.
How should you go about this? Start by explaining the benefits of taking this time out to travel because, as I’m sure you know, there are a great many. Be aware that the naive assumption you'll likely be fighting is that 'students that take gap years turn into drop outs'. Thankfully this couldn't be further from the truth, so temper your explanations with cold, hard facts per the American Gap Association:
Amazing Fact #1: A recent poll of American universities showed that students who took a gap year achieve 2.3% higher grades than students who went straight to college.
Hard to believe, right? Studies actually suggest that taking it easy for a while after school ends will aid academic performance in the long run. Perhaps the following is an indication as to why...
Amazing Fact #2: 60% of gap year students said that they took their academics more seriously after taking a year out from education.
...and if that wasn't enough...
Amazing Fact #3: 60% of gap year students said that a year out helped them decide what they want to study and realise their future career direction.
In other words, you need to make the people the matter realise that you’re not flying across the world just to party. A sound plan (more on that later) to get involved in educational and worthwhile volunteering projects will convince your folks that a gap year isn't going to harm your prospects. Who knows - it could well enhance them. As Joss Kent, CEO of &Beyond - one of Africa's leading safari companies - said:
"In the process of being exposed to much sought after local knowledge, you will be challenging and perfecting your people skills, budgeting and general organisation... these skills are essential in all industries, all careers."
Guy Fawkes eventually got what he deserved by rebelling. Adopt a more thoughtful approach to the problem and you will to. Except it’ll come in the form of beautiful beaches, rare wildlife, staggering mountains, tropical jungle, friendly people, delicious delicacies, and stories to make your friends back home green with envy.
Our friend Guy had to contend with some pretty horrific hospitality whilst he was a guest in the Tower of London. Between horrifying torture sessions, he was confined to the infamous cell known as 'the Little Ease' - a cramped room designed to prevented its occupant from standing up straight or lying down for hours on end. And yet he still managed to withhold his identity and that of his fellow conspirators for over three days. Incredible.
There's no question that you'll also be exposed to some less-than-perfect conditions on your travels. Run-down hostels, crowded buses and very basic toilet facilities are the norm in many parts of the developing world, and you should brace yourself for these. But, assuming you're cautious and avoid the fictional Slovakian hostel that serves as the setting for the horror film of the same name, hostel accommodation in places likes Africa or South America normally just takes some getting used to. A few things to remember:
First, remember to keep your nerve and put on a brave face in these situations, as you’ll only make things worse for yourself and others by kicking up a fuss.
Second, pack sensibly - a well-stocked medical kit or inflatable pillow can be a lifesaver, both literally and figuratively, in certain situations.
Third, to avoid actual danger stick to the safe parts of the country you’re visiting and always behave with caution. If you're travelling with The Leap, you can find out how to stay safe on one of our briefing days, which are held once a month. Alternatively, check out Lonely Planet’s Top tips for safe travel and always check the FCO's Foreign Travel Advice page for the country you're visiting.
Unfortunately for Mr. Fawkes, his plans were foiled just hours before he was due to go ahead and blow up the Houses of Parliament. One of the conspirators sent out a warning to stay away from parliament, as it was about to receive a ‘terrible blow’, which alerted authorities. Sir Thomas Knyvet discovered Fawkes in the cellars beneath Westminster in the early hours of November 5th 1605, along with 36 barrels of gunpowder.
What can you learn from this? First, make sure you choose your group a little more sensibly than Guy did. Whoever sent that anonymous warning letter really stitched him up. If you're travelling with friends, make sure they're ones you can rely on not to bail at the last second and that won't leave you stranded halfway around the world.
The real lesson here though is that no matter how well you think you might have planned for something, there can - and often will - be major hiccups along the way. For a step-by-step guide on how to prepare for your travels, check out Plan My Gap Year: How to Prepare in Five Simple Steps, which features information on choosing the right placement, raising money and what to pack.
Who can deny that what Guy Fawkes did was memorable? Four centuries on we’re still commemorating his part in the failed Gunpowder Plot across the UK. And Warner Brothers have made millions from those masks.
Be brave (with a stiff upper lip), plan well, and travel with the blessing of your parents and your amazing gap year (trust me, follow the advice on this blog and it will be amazing) will live in your memory for years to come.
So with that, I wish you a Happy Guy Fawkes Night. Once you’ve recovered from the excitement, feel free to call us and talk gap year options - we're always available for a friendly chat and some impartial advice.
Do you agree with this advice? Are there any other unusual things about Guy Fawkes that we could maybe learn from? Let me know in the comments below!
on 03 / 11 / 2014