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How To Battle Gap Year Nerves and Feel Brave Enough To Travel

Written by The Leap on 10 / 07 / 2023

Gap Year Advice

I’ve always loved travelling and wanted to see as many places as I could, but the thought of actually travelling solo one day seemed quite literally a million miles away. There were one thousand and one reasons why I told myself I couldn’t do it – I’m not brave enough, I’m a control freak, I can’t visualise where I will be going, how do the logistics work? What if I hate it? What if we get lost? How do I sort my visas? This was endless, you name it, I worried about it. Then in a bar in a couple of years ago my friend suggested I go travelling with her over the summer. I laughed it off – what a mad idea – yet there I was lying in bed that night with that niggling thought in my head.

I knew this was something I had to do or I’d regret it forever. My desire to do it only just outweighed the worries I had. Before I knew it, with a deep breath, I had signed up to do 7 weeks travelling across Africa (Cape Town to the Serengeti) and was excited about going on the adventure of a lifetime with my best friend. When friends and family asked about my plans, I couldn’t quite believe the words were coming out of my mouth, I didn’t think I would be able to visualise it happening until I was on the plane. I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to be away for nearly seven weeks. It’s a strange feeling to be a complete home bird and also obsessed with travel at the same time.

The huge backpack that had been sat in the corner of my room pristine for months was packed, unpacked, and repacked and ready for adventure.

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The logistics were never going to be a walk in the park – 8 injections, malaria tablets, visas, and flights all began to weigh on my mind. We ended up travelling to London twice to visit the Tanzanian Embassy (note to self: find out when Tanzania national holidays are to save a wasted trip!). Being anxious sometimes has its funny moments – I was shaking filling the visa form in so much so, that a member of staff asked if I was cold and put the fan heater on!

Our epic 42 day road trip took us to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and then we flew out of Nairobi, Kenya. Sitting on the overland truck that first morning I was silently terrified wondering if this was all a mad idea. Strangely, the minute the engine started and we set off, it all began to feel less daunting. I felt part of something, proud of myself, and couldn’t wait to see the sights.

I really wanted this blog post to be reassuring from one anxious traveller to another – the memories you make and remember far outweigh the fleeting nerves you have. I promise. It just takes a bit of courage to take the leap of faith and immerse yourself in what you’re doing. Here is a list of advice/things I learnt that hopefully will help you too:

  • You will surprise yourself:
    Friends/family laughed when I told them I was camping for nearly seven weeks. ’But you like 5* hotels…’ yes they were right but I also discovered I loved pitching a tent in the desert under the stars in the middle of nowhere in Namibia. It was so peaceful, I’ve never slept so well!
  • Not everything will go to plan and that’s okay:
    Things happen, you can’t predict every single minute of anything (no matter how much of a control freak you may be). Having our overland vehicle break down in the Kalahari desert was not on the agenda, but everyone is in the same boat and with the amazing guides and incredible in-country staff we were soon back on the road (7 hours and a mini bus later). It taught me that things I worry about are often always able to be fixed and you’re part of a team going through little hiccups together. It also makes for good stories when you get home.
  • You will meet people like yourself:
    I made friends for life on the trip. It made me realise that other people were nervous about setting off on this adventure too, you all rally together as a family. Yes it is a big deal, you’re allowed to be apprehensive. Those who say they aren’t are fibbing.
  • You’ll discover a lot more about yourself:
    Sounds cheesy but it is true. I was in my element camping – no make-up, dusty clothes and basic facilities. Everyone is there for the experiences and you all lose yourself in what you’re doing. The old you would be surprised what you are capable of. It was wonderful having chats with people round the fire, no mobile phones, we all got to know each other properly and opened up. Exploring other cultures and being away from home really makes you grateful for everything you have in your life and the family you have. I would prescribe a trip like this to everyone I know if I could.
  • It’s okay to be a control freak:
    It’s actually rather useful while travelling! If it makes you feel more in control then make a spreadsheet listing where you are going to be and when. You can then fill in a budget and work out what you need to save (cash cards are a life saver – no nasty bank fees to return home to).
  • Remember why you took this trip:
    It’s easy to get caught up in the worries or reasons you tell yourself you can’t do it. Try and remember exactly why you wanted to do this and what you will gain from it. The stories and photos will stay with you forever (one more thing, write a diary or keep a scrapbook – future you will not believe what you got to experience). Immerse yourself in what you’re doing if you’re feeling homesick, you certainly will not be alone.

Hopefully this blog has helped you feel more confident in taking a leap of faith. It’s totally normal to be apprehensive. Travelling makes you more confident as you see what you are really capable of and helps you learn to trust yourself more, in circumstances you may not have discovered otherwise.

The Leap helps every step of the way and does all it can to ease any queries you may have. From the moment you book a team programme you have access to your My Leap portal where you can get to know the team before you fly, you all fly out together so you won’t be arriving or flying alone if you don’t want to. We have 24/7 support for both you and your parents should the need arise both in country and at the main office in England.

We keep your parents in the loop with how the trip is going, so if you’re in Kenya with no phone signal – we’ve got you covered. We know the majority of our Leapers are first time solo travellers and it’s our aim to make you as safe and comfortable as possible so you can get the best from your trip. Here are the key reasons we are different. So all that’s left to say is take the leap and surprise yourself with who you can be.


What's the best way to meet new people whilst travelling? You should definitely consider joining a team programme if you'd like to travel with a group of like-minded travellers. If you're flying solo then hostels are the best place to meet people.

Do all companies offer the same level of support on their team programmes? No they don't, and we pride ourselves here at The Leap on how well we look after our Leapers whilst they're away with us. If you're joining a team programme then we provide 24/7 back-up and support whilst you're away, and you'll have a team leader with you throughout the programme. Different companies provide different levels of support so if you're a nervous traveller then it's worth researching how much back-up you'll receive should you need it.

Do people with anxiety ever join your team programmes? Absolutely! Whilst not trained mental health professionals, our in-country leaders are always there to support Leapers, and we do all we can to make you feel more comfortable both before and after your trip with us. We've welcomed lots of Leapers with anxiety in the past, and will no doubt continue to do so in the future!

Be Bold. Take The Leap.

Find out how we can help you start your adventure today

Tell me more

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Here at The Leap we can help both team traveller through our programmes and/or the backpacker.

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