Gap Year Planning? 4 Challenges for You to Consider

Written by Milly Whitehead on 09 / 09 / 2016

Gap Year Advice

Home is officially emptying out. School has started, university is around the corner and for those taking a gap year thinking autumn is all about Cold Feet and Poldark, think again. The family focus is about to land on you … so brace yourself for the following questions from Mum, Dad, family allies and even the post man ...

“What are you going to do? Where are you going? Have you got a job yet?”

The time has come to pack away summer and to get busy with your gap year planning. Over the course of the next few weeks we will help by giving you the heads up on ski seasons, internships and volunteering but right now I want you to just consider the following 4 challenges or insightful considerations(!) which will help steer the course of your gap year planning to make it a winner. Trust me.

Here goes:

1. Own Your Gap Year by Earning Your Own Funds

First up, as I actually think it is the most important, (sorry). We see this time and time again …those who get ‘up and out’ to earn their gap year funds will have complete ownership of their gap year planning and will get more out of it. That's a promise.

It is a fact that if you’ve earned the money you will have more ownership of your gap year planning, your parents will be thrilled and you will make the most of every minute available – so please get out there and get working.

There's a whole chapter on fundraising and saving in our comprehensive (and completely free) gap year advice guide The Gap Adventure Blueprint, and plenty more advice besides that will help you get your head around all your options for planning a gap year.
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2. Friends - Find them on your travels

One of the stumbling blocks for many gappers when in the throws of gap year planning is the question “but who will I go with?”. I understand that life will feel more comfortable with a friend in tow but don’t let this restrict your gap year planning as there are ways round this, for example:

Join a team

Lots of team based programs out there who combine travel with adventure. The leap, for example, are leaders in this field and we started doing this to help the lone traveler join an automatic friendship group recognizing that there were thousands of gappers out there who wanted a half way house. Still a challenge (so don't’ underestimate it) as the teams first meet each other at the airport and head off to a country to travel, explore and contribute. First day of school ring a bell?

Pre-arrange a job or internship abroad

Teaching in Tanzania

You might be travelling out alone but once you get there you are automatically picked up and swept into the community of the job or internship. Have a look at GapYearDIY where you can find jobs overseas. One of my favorites is a job working in a safari camp in Kenya. Just saying.

3. Challenge Yourself - Physically and Mentally


A gap year isn’t just about travelling to some of the worlds best beaches and selfies with famous monuments in the back ground (nice as they are)…Think about popping a challenge somewhere in your gap year planning as you know there’s nothing quite like it to get the adrenaline flowing and to test your mental grit, after all this is the time to find yourself!

Lots of popular destinations offer landscapes or mountains with incredible physical challenges which take days, rather than months, to complete whilst you’re on your travels. So why not make the most of your youthful fitness (!) and take your body to its limits by challenging yourself to climb a mountain, trek through deserts or survive in a jungle?

Come on, you can do this. A few ideas for you:

Jungle trekking in Borneo

Every year we send lots of volunteers to test the Bear Grills in themselves under the great canopy and amongst the stunning wildlife of the jungle. They always start with the “I hate creepy crawlies” but the sense of achievement and self congratulations when walk out alive is immense. Check this Borneo program out.

Tackle Mt Kilimanjaro

At least half the volunteers The Leap send to Tanzania tackle the mighty Mt Kilimanjaro. Known as ‘the roof of Africa’, it’s the highest mountain on the continent and climbing this beast of a peak is no mean feat. But with a good guide and the right attitude it can be done. Check out how you do this.

Ski Season

A ski season is no longer a jolly in the mountains - it has dramatically changed it spots and offers a long haul physical and mental challenge. The physical challenge obviously comes with the skiing but the mental challenge of juggling the demands and logistics of the guests, cleaning and cooking with very little reward in terms of pay or thanks is huge. Successful ‘seasonaires’ need to tap into their resilience, team work and sheer determination.

All the above look great on a CV by the way.

4. Get off the Beaten Track

Ecu - tribe

Most independent backpackers barely scratch the surface of the country or culture they are visiting, merely passing through with a day or two in each place, meeting up with friends, having a hoolie as they go. Their memories will be great but I would encourage you to go a little deeper by taking the time in your gap year planning to meet and live amoungst local communities, learning about their culture and contributing to their livelihoods.

A good volunteering experience can help you achieve this where by you will make a contribution to your stay and become a valued guest in the community. Whilst you may be motivated by the desire to help others, volunteering is not a one-way street. You’ll learn just as much from being immersed in another culture as others will learn from you. It’s a perfect two-way exchange and one I completely and utterly support. Look into this. Promise me?

Enjoy the Gap Year Planning

So there we have my top 4 challenges for you to consider as you start to unpick the internet, as you undertake your gap year planning.

One last thing to remember - don't let it overwhelm you – this is an exciting time. Do your research and make the most of it every second as there will never be another year like it and that's a promise.

If any of you are thinking I need more help with my planning then panic not. The Gap Adventure Blueprint Our comprehensive gap year advice guide, which contains several chapters on preparing for your adventure, where to go and what to do.

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Check out our gap year programs

We have award winning programs across Africa, Asia, South and Central America. All include a mix of projects and adventures. All are supported. All involve team work.

Gap year programs

Got a burning question?

Got a burning question you can't find the answer to? Filled with panic about organising your gap year? Or maybe you just fancy a friendly chat and some advice about your options? We're here to help.

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