Gap year tips

Tips on How to Plan the Best Gap or Sabbatical Year Out

by Natalie Laurence

Taking a year out before university or a much-needed break in your career can refresh, revitalize and give you a new outlook. But what kind of year out should you take? There are three main options each with several subcategories from which to pick your ideal year out. We have made this step-by-step guide on how to organize and choose the right trip to suit your needs.

What type of work?


Volunteering abroad is character defining and immerses you in a new country giving you a unique glimpse into its culture. Getting out of your comfort zone helps you understand who you really are and what you want out of life. You will also gain a deeper understanding of others and the world. There are volunteer programs for all ages, abilities and interests and the diversity of options will ensure you find what you want.

Firstly the issue to pay or not to pay needs to be considered. There are two types of organizations when it comes to volunteering: the local NGOs (non governmental organizations) and Volunteer Service Organization. The NGOs don’t have enough funds to recruit international volunteers and so partner up with the VSOs who charge to recruit, manage and support all volunteers.

You can go independently and not pay the VSOs fees however this is better suited to experienced or confident travellers as you have no support. The great thing about VSOs is that they organize everything for you and you don’t need to worry about food, housing, travel insurance, transportation and finding work in a foreign country.

Paid work and travel

With this type of year out you will combine travelling and working. HelpX is an organization that puts people who want to work in touch with projects that need helpers. You can do any form of work from shops, farms, wine making and building to apple picking, restoration and chocolate making. In each country you can contact different hosts and complete an assortment of jobs. By the end of your trip you will have tried your hand at a myriad of occupations.

Travelling gap year

On this kind of gap year you save all the money beforehand and then spend the entire time

The meeting and greeting gap year – This kind of gap year is perfect for those looking for an independent year abroad but with the reassurance of a few friendly faces along the way. For this option you plan your year abroad and in some of your stop offs aim to meet up with a friend who is also travelling there or family and friends who live in that country. This allows you to be completely liberated but at the same time the regimented timetable and regular meet ups let you relax and catch up with a buddy. This brightens travelling alone and ensures that any home sick feelings don’t become too overwhelming.

The half and half gap year – This gap year is self-explanatory; half the year you travel with a friend/family member/buddy and half the year by yourself. For first time travellers this makes utter sense and lets you get use to the ways of the world with a companion before you make the move alone.

The totally alone but happy to mingle gap year: This is the traditional gap year: travelling alone and staying at every hostel and making the most of its group activities. This type of year is unexpected and exciting and with hostels peppering every region of the globe, very easy.

Gap year tips

Who to go with?

Solo – If you’re an intrepid traveller and confident to see the world alone then a gap year alone could be perfect for you. It allows you to do what you want, when you want and you are in total control.

Friends – Going with a mate can make the trip a fun and easy and you always have someone to share the memories with. This is a softer transition into travelling and you won’t become so lonely or scared as you might when alone.

Boyfriend/Girlfriend –  They say travelling with a partner makes or breaks the relationship and it’s true it is a great test. If you are suited well, can give each other space and desire the company this can work very well. But be warned it really can make or break you; but this is actually a positive.

Random buddy – Finding a random buddy allows you to travel with someone but you aren’t tied to him or her and can break away (like you couldn’t do with a friend) if you get sick of each other.


Take a diary – Writing down numbers, emails, dates and any other important facts gives you a personal account of everything you need and you won’t get muddled, confused and miss coaches or flights. This is very, very important as no one wishes to be stuck somewhere or miss a flight, especially when alone.


Making a small, rough plan for yourself will ensure that there are no awful oops! moments and that your trip runs smoothly. Working out your budget, where you can stay and your travel insurance along with other essential ingredients will allow you to hit the road with a carefree spirit.

Common sense
It sounds obvious but so many people that go away don’t use their common sense; if you want to stay safe it is essential. Some travellers think anything goes in another country and end up in trouble; either facing prison, fines or dangerous situations. Know what’s illegal and stick to the rules; nobody wants to end up in Thai prison for a crime that could have easily been avoided. This becomes more important when you are traveling alone as with no one you know in the country to help you, getting in trouble is all the more scary.

Hostel world and Trip advisor are your friends when it comes to finding a great hostel.

If you’re travelling alone you need to be assertive and happy to chat to anyone. In order to make friends and travel with ease it helps if you are not a wall flower.

Challenge yourself but don’t choose something you won’t be able to see through; there is a thin line between getting out of your comfort zone for a challenge and pushing yourself so far you can’t cope. This is meant to be enjoyable so pick a type of year you will like, it sounds obvious but some people choose projects on area and not enough on the work.

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2 comments to Tips on How to Plan the Best Gap or Sabbatical Year Out

  • The Guy  says:

    You’ve covered some great ideas here. I really like your suggestions and how you’ve handled travelling alone v with a companion.

    • Shane  says:

      We’ve most experience travelling with a boyfriend/girlfriend. I think Natalie, our guest writer, nailed it about travel making or breaking a relationship.

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