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How to Make Your Gap Year Original

Written by Jenny McWhirter on 17 / 11 / 2015

Gap Year Advice

With the rise in gap years it can be difficult to avoid the “Gap Yah” stereotype...

As The Tab liked to point out back in 2014, a gap year can make you boring. However, I don’t believe this is the case. There is plenty out there to do without falling into the tourist traps.

If you’re resourceful and out to have a fantastic, unique experience then you can prove The Tab wrong. You can fill your year with amazing experiences that people will find anything but boring!

I’ve compiled a few suggestions of how you can beat those stereotypes of ‘Wholesome Helen’ or ‘Tragic Tom’, by choosing different destinations, embracing alternative activities or exploring unique courses.

If you’re ready to prove those haters wrong, you're going to enjoy these ideas...

Get Off the Beaten Track With a Unique Location


If your planning on jetting off around the globe, rather than heading off with the rest of the Gap Year crew to find yourself as you venture through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, why not consider a destination that people haven’t heard of.

There’s nothing better than being able to explore an area of the world that most people have never heard of, let alone know where it is on the map. You don’t have to give away that before buying your flight you didn’t even know this place existed! You can be the expert here.

A sure sign that a place is less-well travelled is through a good old Google search that returns few results!

One such place that I have been exploring this week is Tuvalu.

A Unique Location Like: Tuvalu


It’s the fourth smallest country worldwide and for those of you drawing a blank as to where in the world this beautiful island is located, it sits in the South Pacific, mid-way between Hawaii and Australia.

It offers a peaceful, non-commercialised beach experience that allows any traveller the opportunity to get to know local populations. This little island receives less than 1,000 tourists a year but this by no means is a reflection of the opportunities this island offers.

Aside from the beautiful, verging on private beaches where you can spend the day relaxing, this slice of paradise offers fascinating landscapes, natural views and impressive marine treasures.

Still not convinced that this is the place for you? Aside from the natural wonders, the local population with their rich Polynesian culture offer a friendly welcome and a fascinating glimpse into an alternative outlook on life.

And if you enjoyed Milly’s article on caves, Tuvalu offers the caves of Nanumanga. A series of underwater tunnels that are thought to have been used by past populations when the Island’s elevation was higher.

Get Stuck Into an Interesting Activity

When looking back on the achievements and activities of your gap year, if you want something a little quirkier than surfing the beaches of Australia or raving at a full moon party on the island of Ko Pha Ngan then there are plenty of activities out there to provide an original twist to your year.

For example...

Interesting Activity #1: Publish Your Travels


Many travellers love to keep a journal. It provides a way to document what you’ve done day-to-day and keep a record of those interesting stories, which if you’re anything like me, when you go to recall them a month later will have become blurry. You’ll end up mixing two stories together with a rather bizarre effect and leaving your friends somewhat bemused!

A journal can also act to cheer up any rainy day, I certainly know that when I had to choose between reading a dull article that one of my university professor’s had written and reading back through my travel exploits, the latter always won!

Well why be so selfish as to keep this enjoyment to yourself?

If you consider yourself to have a reasonable hand at writing, then why not publish your travel stories in a novella. This provides a great way to make a record of where you have been and all that you got up to. It also produces a tangible product at the end of your year.

Amazon offers free online publishing so it doesn’t even have to cost you a penny!

Interesting Activity #2: Marshall a Music Festival


Are you an avid festival-goer? Do you dream of attending all the festivals worldwide at least twice!? Then why not spend your gap year making this dream a reality.

It doesn’t have to break the bank and can help to build those vital life skills. All music festivals that take place around the world need a huge staff body to support them and these often come from willing volunteers.

Spend your year festival hoping from Glastonbury to Sziget to Coachella to Primavera Sound. Normally, festivals will ask you to give up around 3 shifts of 8 hours during the festival to help out with manning the ticket gates, being on hand at a particular stage and other tasks!

For these three shifts you will then receive free entry to the whole duration of the festival and often no previous experience is needed as they provide the training. If your lucky you’ll also get free food for the time you are on shift!

Take a look at Oxfam for UK based festivals or find the site of your chosen festival and they often have a section on volunteering! What are you waiting for?!

None of these suggestions so far quite floating your boat? Well take at look at these two courses, they are bound to intrigue you!

Enrol on a Course to Hone Your Skills

If you want to have that satisfied feeling at the end of a year, why not try a course?

I don’t know about you, but I love picking up new skills. And when it allows me to wander many parts of the world I just can’t wait to get started! You could...

Why Not: Learn to Solo Skydive


Do you remember the post back in June all about seeing the world from the sky? If you need a quick reminder have a look here. Well if that tickled your fancy to get out and scale the heights to get a birds-eye view of some of the most stunning locations on earth, then why not start your year out by learning how to solo sky dive.

You’ll start by being accompanied by two instructors and then after around 8 weeks of training you’ll be jumping out of planes all by yourself. It’s a mixture of theory and practice that allow you to understand how this amazing sport works. I guess you could see it a little like learning to drive – just you’re hurtling from 12,000 feet towards the ground!

You can either choose to learn at home, while working to earn your vital travel money. Or, if you’re just too keen to get abroad, then why not learn in Australia or New Zealand over the likes of the Great Barrier Reef and Lake Tekapo.

Why Not: Become a Wine Buff


If you’d prefer to keep your feet planted firmly on the ground, although this may not always be guaranteed after a session with the grapes, why not try your hand at wine making.

If you read last week’s blog, maybe you’ve decided wine is the way to see the world. Well why not also make it a way to obtain new skills during your year out. You can join a course all to do with wine making and care for vineyards.

There are plenty of institutions out there that will walk you through all you need to know when it comes to wine and provide you with the skills to be a real asset to a vineyard.

This could then allow you to travel the world seeing all the beautiful vineyards, pick up some handy skills and provide an added bit of income to fund other travelling dreams you have.

What more could you want?

A Unique and Personal Year Out

So there you have it, a few ideas to get those juices flowing around how to make your gap year a little different. Remember: it is YOUR year out so whatever you decide to do and wherever you decide to go will culminate into a unique set of experiences and adventures that you’ll treasure forever!

Have you had a brilliant idea of what you are going to head out to do? Maybe you’ve had an experience that made your year out extra special. We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

Do you need some help planning all these wonderful adventures, activities and courses you have thought about? Then download our comprehensive gap year advice guide: The Gap Adventure Blueprint, which contains several chapters that will help you get your head around all the options and offer advice on how to raise funds, plus much more.

Check out our gap year programs

We have award winning 'planet saving' programs across Africa, Asia, South and Central America.

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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