Planning Your Gap Year & Deciding What to Do

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So you’ve decided you want to take a gap year… You now have a lot of important choices to make!

You’ll need to decide when you want to take your gap year (usually before or after university/college), what you want to do (e.g. traveling, volunteering abroad, working abroad, etc.) and whether you want to do it with the help of a gap year agency or not.

Of course, taking a ‘gap year’ doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend 12 months traveling the world. It simply means that you’re taking a year out of education/work in order to broaden your horizons.

Choosing Your Gap Year

Deciding what to do during your gap year can be an extremely overwhelming prospect, as there are literally hundreds of different things you can do across the world.

Whether you want to spend some time partying in Majorca, Spain, InterRailing around Europe or teaching English to children in Thailand, the world truly is your oyster.

For a lot of people, gap years tend to involve working locally (in order to save up money) then traveling and then possibly getting a placement with an overseas organization.

The first major decision you need to make is whether you just want to travel or whether you want to join a volunteering project, expedition or course.

If you just want to travel (and don’t want to get involved in any kind of organizations), most of your planning will involve deciding where to go (i.e. which countries) and mapping out your route across them.

If decide you do want to get involved with a program overseas, most of your time spent planning will probably revolve around finding the right organization/project.

The most popular/mainstream volunteering choices are community work (usually teaching or working with children), conservation (e.g. studying marine life in a coral reef or working in the Amazon Rainforest) and construction (e.g. building houses for the poor).

Australia sunset

Deciding When to Take Your Gap Year

Deciding when to take a gap year is the next important decision you must make.

I have already written about this extensively, but to summarize, the two most common times when people take gap years are after high-school/college (i.e. when you’re 18) and after university/college (when you’re in your early 20’s).

After this, a lot people tend to find themselves in jobs (and then careers) and often feel that they’ve ‘missed the boat’. Of course, it’s perfectly possible to take a gap year once you’ve started work (as can be seen here), but it often means you’ll have to leave your job or take a sabbatical.

Deciding when to take a gap year is ultimately your decision and should depend on how you feel at the time (and the point you’re at in your life), but there are some interesting advantages to taking a gap year after high-school/college or after college/university:

When You’re 18 (Straight Out of High-School/College)
A lot of young people aren’t yet clear in their goals, are unfocused and haven’t yet discovered their calling in life.

By taking a gap year at this crucial time, getting out there and seeing the world there’s a chance you might see something that really speaks to you or that helps you realize what it is you want to do with your life.

This can help you to decide which college/university course you want to do (if indeed any at all) and the kind of job you want to do in the future.

After You’ve Finished College (in the USA)/University (in the UK)
Few years of a person’s life are more stressful than the final year of university/college. After such an exhausting year a break is often needed (and very much appreciated) before the inevitable jump into work begins.

This makes it a great time to take a gap year, and as you’ll now be older and more mature, it’s likely that you’ll have a better idea of what it is you want to do during your gap year.

For more information on the best time to take a gap year, click here.



If you just want to travel (and possibly work abroad) during your gap year and you don’t fancy getting involved with any volunteering projects/courses, here’s a selection of posts to help get you started:

Getting a Placement Abroad

If you want to volunteer abroad, take a course, go on an expedition or get some work experience abroad during your gap year, the easiest way to do so is to get in touch with a gap year organization.

For more information, check out the following posts:

It is not essential to go through a gap year organization/agency if you want to volunteer or get a placement abroad during your gap year.

You can sort all of these things out yourself (in a bid to save money), although it will require a much greater level of planning.

That being said, it is advisable to enlist the help of specialized organizations (especially for first-time travelers) even if it means paying a little bit more.

For more information on whether you should use a gap year organization or not, click here.

Related posts:

  1. The Top Websites for Planning a Gap Year
  2. Why Taking a Gap Year Before College is Good for Students
  3. 6 Great Gap Year Ideas
  4. When’s the Best Time to Take a Gap Year?
  5. Will a Gap Year Change Your Life?

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