Stuck for ideas of what to do on your gap year? The best 12 months out are a mix of picking up useful new skills, helping others and letting loose, but the options are endless and sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start.
Here are 7 ideas to help you narrow it down.
1. Ski season
The great thing about working a ski season is, after your daily tasks are done, you’re free to spend the rest of the day practising your skills on the slopes with a like-minded crew. Take your pick from a never-ending list of resorts throughout Europe, or try your luck somewhere like Japan, where you might be able to combine the ski season with some teaching for extra cash.
2. Volunteer at an animal sanctuary
Fancy mucking out the elephants, counting turtle eggs by torchlight on the beach, or feeding orphaned tiger cubs with a bottle of milk? From the cute and cuddly to the slimy and scaly, animals are endangered all over the planet and there are no shortage of projects needing your help. Only trouble is, these kind of projects necessarily charge a lot of money for you to volunteer as they need to cover accommodation and training costs – so be prepared to save up.
3. Interrailing through Europe
A rite of passage for students for decades, interrailing is a classic gap year idea and the best way to experience numerous cultures in a short space of time (plus, try lots of different types of beer!). Start with a Eurostar ticket and you could be in Paris or Brussels by lunchtime. The continent is your oyster.
4. Get your PADI in the Pacific
Few things can beat getting your scuba instructor’s license in a tropical destination. Again this can be costly, but it’s certainly worth it. Plus, you may then be able to follow up with a teaching certification, allowing you to make your money back and potentially open up an amazing career path.
5. Road trip across the USA
Another classic gap year option is the American road trip. Follow in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac and travel coast-to-coast, take the iconic Route 66, or explore the stunning West coast. There are organised gap year trips you can take, but if you prefer to follow your own itinerary you can buy a cheap car and just take off. Stop off at little roadside diners for meals, camp or stay in motels, and fall in love with the wide open spaces.
6. Crewing a yacht
If you love the smell of sea and the wind in your hair, this one is for you. There are thousands of yachts, large and small, being navigated around the world every year. Many need temporary crew to get them from one port or another, so you might be helping with preparing meals, cleaning the boat, or any other minor tasks. In return, you get free travel across the seas, can pick up useful sailing knowledge, and you may also get paid. Just as with ski seasons and PADI certificates, if you really give it your all then this could lead to an incredible job.
7. Scientific expeditions
If you plan to study the sciences at university then taking part in an expedition will look amazing on your application. Imagine saying you’ve been out to the Antarctic on a research vessel, or studied volcanoes up close. But beware – the focus is on acquiring knowledge above human comforts of course, and this sort of gap year can be very costly, often running into the thousands for a week or two, so make sure you choose a course that will be worth it.