Taking a year off between graduating high school and continuing to post secondary education is a great opportunity to take some time and think what you want to do with the rest of your life.
Those who’ve done it, say it was the best decision they ever made - those who haven’t wish they did. The myth that it might discourage people from returning to college is just that, a myth - as 90% of gap year students don’t wonder off and pick up their studies when they return, with more focus and determination. It is not to say, that some might not redefine their choices as to what they want to focus on in their adult life, but that is a great thing. If you take the time to learn what is it that you want to focus on - you motivation will be much stronger. But enough about it being a great choice - it simply is. Now, how do you make the most out of it?
Below are some helpful tips to make sure your gap year spent travelling or volunteering abroad runs as smoothly as possible, so you can focus on you and your future.
Make sure that you research and take out comprehensive medical and travel insurance before you go anywhere. You need to make sure that you are well covered in the event of an unexpected occurrence, because you don’t want to worry about getting best care or getting into debt if something happens.
What are the local laws? What is the currency exchange? Where are some of the off limits areas? What is the slang that might offend someone? These are some of the questions you should be asking and researching ahead of your trip. The more you know - the better prepared you will be to when you arrive, avoiding any legal or cultural misunderstandings.
You are some of the luckiest generations around - with several hospitality apps doing a phenomenal job helping travellers - you can meet people at your destination even before you go. You can meet locals on destination specific Facebook expat groups, or apps like Like-A-Local, where you can ask locals for advice. Services like Airbnb are also great to meet the locals - perhaps consider staying with a local at the beginning of your trip.
If you are traveling to an exotic destination, make sure you visit a doctor before your trip to get prescription medication or vaccination that might be required or advisable.
Getting a guidebook can save you a lot of time. A lot of professional research and insight went into compiling those books, so if you get a good one, it might save you a lot of time doing your own research.
Plan ahead at least 6 months. If you have a plan of what you want to accomplish your time will be meaningful and will really help you focus on your future.
Make sure your passport is up to date and is valid for at least 6 month from the anticipated return date. Also get visas sorted for where you are going, as some visa processes could be very strict, might need an invitation letter from a local or take a long time to get.
To ensure safe travels it’s probably best that you don’t lug around a lot of cash. Getting a card that has low foreign service fees, good safety protocol and fast customer support service to mail one to you in case yours is lost are some of the factors when considering what card to take with you.