Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Is a gap year right for me? The three commandments

Choosing if and when to take a gap year is a really personal decision and the only one who can make it is you. Having said that I think there are a few things to consider that might help you mull it over.


Timing

There's been a lot of news this week with different opinions on when to travel. On one hand there's been a Millionaire telling young people to work now and travel later. Then, in response there have been a lot of articles written by young people travelling saying to travel now and worry about a career later.

I don't think there is a right time in terms of you suddenly feeling 'ready' to travel alone. When something is scary there might never be the right time to do it and travelling alone for the first time is pretty terrifying (and in my case travelling alone every time is still a bit scary). I think sometimes you just have to embrace the uncertainty and go for it anyway. I haven't been on a full gap-year but I have travelled on my own for quite long stretches in between jobs and it is a scary thing to do but really rewarding and fun once you're exploring your destination.

Something to bear in mind is that although there is never going to be 'right' time, there will be absolutely be wrong times; i.e. if someone very close to you / family member is very sick or if you are in the middle of something (e.g. a contract or university). I'm not saying don't go, but it might be worth thinking of putting plans on hold for a little while.


Finance

Can you afford it? You don't need a lot to stay travelling but the initial costs can be quite high. STA round the world tickets are around the 2K Mark and you'll need to have savings in your account if you want to make it to Australia. Take more than you think you'll need, just in case. If you don't have the money then get a part time job and start saving until you do. Don't get into debt. You can always get a job whilst you go backpacking but if you can, take money so that you don't HAVE to. I travelled alone to Koh-Tao a couple of years ago to learn to dive and it would've been a bit sad to have got there and not be able to make the most of it.


Future

I know this is going to make me sound really old but just think about your future. I'm not saying not to go; I think travelling is a really great idea and I loved it. I do think though that it's important to consider what you're going to do when you eventually come home.
If you're about to go to University, if you've just graduated or if you're between jobs then GO GO GO.

If you're in the middle of your studies or you've just started your career then seriously ask yourself; will I be able to pick this up when I come back home? If the answer is yes (i.e. you can defer the studies or the contract) then why not, but if the answer is no, then why not wait a little longer. For me, I can't fit a gap-year in right this second without compromising my career and I don't want to put things on hold to travel so that's why I do most of my big-trips in between jobs and travel as much as I can around a 9-5. It's all about what is going to work for you and your plans. 

On the same note it's important to think about your future in general. You don't want to end up filled with regret wishing you had done things differently. When you're old, grey and not capable of going to the store by yourself don't regret not seeing the world when you were able.

Timing, finance and future are the 3 main commandments in my mind, let me know if you have any others. Just make sure that whatever you decide it is the right decision for you...and let me know what you get up to!



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