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Written by Jenny McWhirter on 30 / 03 / 2017

Gap Year Advice

Travellers are a diverse species, so find out what your clan is getting up to…

If you spend enough time on the road you’ll come to realise that there are certain types of people who you are guaranteed to meet. The adventurous one, the hippie and the lad to name a few.

You probably already have an idea of which category you fall into, so read on to discover where to locate your people (groupies, tribe, homies, fam, gang… whatever you call each other) around the world.

I’ve put together some ideas for where to go and what to do to embrace the true traveller inside, whomever that may be.

The Flashpacker: seeking the high life

Young, travel-loving and adventurous, but not quite ready for 12-bed dorms and non-flushing toilets?

A period of hot-tubbing and champagne breakfasts in the ski chalets of Switzerland and France is a given. But what next?

South Africa’s an awesome place to start your journey. First treat yourself to a boutique safari lodge, complete with continental buffet breakfast, hot en-suite showers and resident wildlife roaming through the camp. Then hit Cape Town, where 5 star hotels (if that’s what you’re into) start from as little as £50 per night.

There’s an ambitious music scene, an iconic mountain backdrop, cinematic beaches and a remarkable history. You’ll be well-fed and hydrated too, with an irresistible range of world-class cuisine and the magnificent winelands of Stellenbosch, Constantia, and Franschhoek.

Another African flashpacker hot spot is Marrakech: other end of the continent, but a speedy trip from London.

You only need a few days to get a real taste for this city, but that part of you that appreciates the finer things in life will be right at home.

Visit a Moroccan Hammam spa for the ultimate relaxation. Sip mint tea from a rooftop café. Feast on Jaama el Fna’s premium snails, and even hike the Atlas Mountains if you’re feeling a little daring.

Then before the hard work begins again, there is certainly still time for a few weeks (or months) exploring the delights of the Caribbean. Antigua, Grand Cayman, Barbuda and more are all calling... Indulge in island life, where the cocktails and beaches are simply unavoidable.

Don’t worry, your fuss-pot needs won’t be slumming it in a hammock drawn up between the trees each night. There are plenty of hostels, hotels and even resorts to suit your fancy.

The Adventurer: getting off-the-beaten-track

This crowd are far more accepting of the ‘true’ backpacker lifestyle. Up for pretty much everything and all about seeking out the path less travelled.

For starters, I highly recommend a good month (at least) hostel-hopping in Central America. You’ll be amongst countless like-minded travellers: lives all strapped to their backs and boots glued to their feet.

Panama is possibly the most built-up, and so a good place to ease yourself into life on the road. Then, with the greatest concentration of national parks in the world and sloths hanging from the treetops, Costa Rica will satisfy off all your wildlife needs.

Next you cross into the mysterious Nicaragua, where you can really start to get off-the-beaten-track. Time to visit the places the guidebook hasn’t, untouched and undisturbed by tourists. From here on up, through Belize, Honduras and Guatemala too, you can expect majestic volcanic islands, crumbling colonial cities, breath-taking lakes and waterfalls and never-ending, stunning, panoramic views.

Sometimes the best way to ‘discover the undiscovered’ is with an organised trip. Those in charge will have the connections and knowledge to fulfil all your authentic travel dreams.

In Ecuador you could be mountain-biking through the Andes, bathing with sea lions on the Galapagos and canoeing through the Amazon rainforest, all while working with some of the most remote communities in the world.

Namibia means star-gazing in the middle of the Africa bush by night, and white-water rafting, horse safaris and rhino tracking by day.

Lastly, there’s Madagascar. The adventurer in you will be tingling at the thought of telling your mates you ventured to Madagascar on your gap year. Who else can say that? The famed lemurs, pristine white sandy beaches, ethereal forests and abundant sea-life (from turtles to whale sharks) certainly won’t disappoint.

Get yourself off the beaten track

The Lads: beers and beaches

In search of a good tan and a good time. Somewhere to show off the rippling muscles. Where life’s simple, sun is plentiful and beer’s cheaper than water.

Well Asia's always a good place to start! Unrivalled nightlife. Prices as low as they come, and endless lad-like adventures to be had.

Some of the world’s top coastal destinations are found in Asia: cliff-jumping hotspots, hidden caves, water sport havens and pristine sandbars galore. You could spend anywhere from a month to 12 months hopping from place to place…

A great route begins in Bangkok, where an abundance of spectacular temples will allow you to snap that classic ‘lads on tour’ in Asia photo.

Move from there down to the picture-perfect islands and beaches of Southern Thailand, before hopping over (internal flights come cheap) to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Relaxation, partying and incredible culture all intertwined.

If your plans take you in the other direction, be sure to hit Rio when going south and Miami going north.

In Rio, Copacabana calls: it’s almost wrong to not spend your trip’s duration in board shorts and sunnies.

Then Miami’s got the jetskis and flyboarding to show off the abs, or you could even indulge the kid inside with waterparks, zoos and more!

Learn how to point out the 8 types of traveller you're guaranteed to meet on your gap year right here. From what they'll wear to what they'll be doing!

Take me there...

The Hippie: just enjoying the journey

There are enclaves all over the world where peace and love are rife. Where your dreads and bandana will be right at home.

India is the ultimate place to embrace you inner hippie. In Goa, while the nightlife is bringing in the more party-orientated travellers, there’s still much of the old, laidback city to enjoy. The relaxed local culture, delicious cuisine and endless white-sand beaches attract chilled-out travellers in need of a break, with an optional side of spiritual exploration of course.

Nepal is another country that draws in the spiritually curious travellers among us. There’s nowhere on Earth quite like Kathmandu – the awe-inspiring natural setting of the Himalayas and a city filled with treasures. With an abundance of temples and monasteries adorned with prayer flags, it’s a key site for both Buddhism and Hinduism. Trekking off into Pokhara and Everest region afterwards will give you the breathing space and fresh air needed to truly find yourself.

gap year Nepal

Hippies often make the best volunteers too, filled with care and compassion.

Lose yourself in the kingdom of wonder that is Cambodia. Teach English in the chilled-out Siem Reap, bathe elephants in their jungle sanctuary, soak up the spell-binding ancient culture at Angkor Watt, build fresh-water wells in rural villages and sample a myriad of tongue-tingling exotic flavours at the local markets. What more could you want?

If it’s the waves that speak to you, then Costa Rica is your destination. The ultimate dream for any nature lover.

Spend your mornings surfing the waves and protecting the turtles and your afternoons meeting tree-top sloths and enjoying some alone-time yoga on the beach... Take me there now please.

The Party Animal: ready to forget their own name

We all know plenty of these guys. Many of us probably are this guy. Others may frown upon you, calling you out for killing off brain cells and cultural neglect, but sights by day, parties by night is most certainly an achievable motto. After all, life’s about enjoyment right?

Interrailing is the ideal summer for any gapper, but even more so if you’re in search of the after dark watering holes. With ample affordable hostels offering scrumptious European breakfasts to cure that hangover, you’re all set to hit the streets.

Be sure to include Budapest and Amsterdam, two of Europe’s hottest destinations right now. They’re cheap, wild and attract top international DJs.

Once the sun’s out, Budapest’s rooftop bars and decadent spa parties take over. Unique to the city and located in derelict buildings from the war, ruin bars have transformed Budapest’s old Jewish district into a buzzing haven for party goers. There are over 20 to choose from and many paprika-filled street food stalls for those 3am cravings.

If you’re touring America, join the hordes of students flocking to Cancun in Mexico for Spring Break. Be aware though: everything you’ve seen in the movies is true.

Over the other side of the world there are the world-renowned party places. Where waking up in someone else’s clothes or on another island is almost an everyday occurrence. To truly bear the name of a ‘party animal’ when travelling, a full moon party is a rite of passage.

Koh Phangan, Thailand, is the place to forget it all and dance until the sun comes up. Koh Phi Phi is super cool too, with a nightlife scene that really knows no bounds. I mean, they’re obsessed with fire… fire skipping ropes, rings of fire, professional fire jugglers, you name it. Every bar will compete for your attention with discounts, specials and raging tunes.

For somewhere a little less obvious, try Sihanoukville in Cambodia. Ridicule yourself singing karaoke to your heart’s content and join their very own version of the Full Moon party. Just be quick as word is spreading fast.

The Giver: humanitarian through and through

All about selfless acts and giving back? Volunteer work is where your people are at.

Join an internship abroad to make to real difference to the lives of those most in need.

Teach in some of the world’s poorest countries, where staff are untrained and low in numbers and resources are severely lacking.

In Kenya, they fully realise that education is the key to development and progression. As a result, volunteers are welcomed with open arms to take the pressure off the teachers and provide the children with the tools necessary to make a living in the working world.

internship abroad

Working in care is also hugely rewarding as you will quickly see and feel the impact of your energy and kindness. All the children really want to a little love and companionship!

Even the Jesus’ amongst us need a break every now and then though. Take Sri Lanka for example and your weekends could be packed with Buddhist ruins, rolling tea estates, national parks, jackfruit curry and, of course, cricket.

Those feeling both strong and charitable can get involved with disaster relief work. After Nepal’s devastating quakes in 2015, over 50,000 classrooms were damaged or destroyed. Roll up your sleeves to dig, mix, lay and paint away, creating safe learning environments and clean washing facilities for those affected.

You’ll definitely have reaped the rewards of your efforts just in the inspiring faces and appreciative smiles that you encounter. But maybe you’ll also allow yourself a little ‘me time’: set free the hidden adventurer or party animal inside of you.

Found your calling?

The world’s a huge and enchanting place. If it was possible to see it all in a year, we’d all be doing it. Money and time pose the biggest issues however.

Perhaps now though, you know a good place to start to suit you. Find some like-minded travellers and get on your way.

Let us know in the comments below if we’ve missed out your travelling tribe!

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Reducing plastic in our oceans, protecting turtles and saving the rhino is just the tip of the melting iceberg.

All experiences include a mix of projects and adventures, travelling with a team and, of course, are risk assessed.

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