Spending a gap year abroad? How to plan and prepare

Career Advice
15 February 2018 | Career Advice | Guest Author

A gap year sounds fun and exciting, especially after all those endless exams and hard work. Still, your gap year will be as good as your preparation and research before the departure is. So, take a look at the steps you need to take before you leave if you want your gap year to be the best year you have ever had.

1. Choose the perfect place for you

The most important thing is to know what you want to achieve with your traveling and what country you would like to go to. Are you only interested in sightseeing or you would like to explore less known parts of the country? Some people choose to volunteer during their gap year, but as rewarding as it is, it's not for everyone, so here are some other ideas on how to see a country:

  • hiking - for those who enjoy an everyday workout, this is a perfect way to know a country and its wilderness and hidden natural beauty.
  • safari in Africa - definitely unorthodox way of getting to know a country, exploring amazing landscapes and watching unique and beautiful creatures that roam the land.
  • internship for an international company - not only this will be an excellent addition to your CV and would broaden your knowledge of your area of expertise, but it will also enable you to get familiar with a foreign culture.

2. Start saving money

You'll need quite a big amount of money to get through the gap year traveling. You should set up a saving account and make an effort to put aside a couple of hundred pounds every month. Give up on eating out and buying coffee, know what your necessary expenses are and what aren't and you'll see the difference within a couple of months. If you don't have that much time for saving, consider finding a source of income while traveling. It can be an online business like blogging or teaching a foreign language.

3. Prepare the family and friends

As soon as you decide to take a gap year, inform your loved ones about your decision. They will need some time to get used to the idea of you being away for a long time in another country. Start setting up online social accounts such as Skype, so you can get in touch with them whenever and wherever. If you have Facebook or Twitter account, encourage your friends and family to follow you, so they can see how you are spending your days. 

4. Deal with the documentation

Documentation is one of the most important things to sort out before the departure. Maybe you will need to get certain vaccinations, depending on the country you're about to visit. Be sure to check it - not only it is crucial to your health but it's also a prerogative to enter certain countries. Another thing that immigration lawyers often warn about is getting a visa on time. This means that it would be wise to start the process of acquiring a visa 3 months ahead if possible because the period for sorting this out in some countries is painfully long. And lastly, find a good insurance before you leave - it should be better than standard ones, as they don't cover the majority of things you could wish to do on your adventure, so take some time to find a really solid one. All the photocopies of the documents should be kept in a separate part of your luggage.

5. Start packing the essentials

It's always easier to leave if you are living with your parents. If not, you first need to declutter your home. Separate the things you'll need on the road and the ones that you don't need anymore when you get back and get rid of them. Maybe you should consider renting your flat - this will not only be a safe way of keeping the flat safe but also a valuable source of your income while you are on the road.

Regarding the things you will carry with you, don't pack anything you couldn't bear to lose, such as expensive jewelry or watches. You won't have a lot of room in your backpack, so remember that there will be plenty of markets and shops where you will able to buy day-to-day necessities. In short, the golden rule is to pack the half of the things you think you'll need.

All in all

If you follow all the steps, there is no need for you to worry. You did your part of the job; the rest is left to chance, more or less. The only thing you need to do next is to go and enjoy yourself, making memories that will last a lifetime.

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