Looking for gap year ideas for your ultimate adventure travel experience? We’ve made a list of 11 incredible experiences all over the world for you to get inspired!
On your gap year you can learn a new language, meet loads of interesting people, get some work experience, volunteer, do a course or just backpack around. No matter what you choose, this experience will change your life and you’ll go back home full of amazing stories to tell.
Ready to start planning? Here are 11 awesome ways you could spend your gap year…
1. Work in a hostel and meet people from all over the world every single day
Bananas Bungalows crew 📷@iamigerbase
Can you imagine waking up at a beach somewhere in Southeast Asia, having a healthy brekkie, talking with your international friends and then going to work? What if this was actually your workplace? By working in a hostel you could learn a new language, explore somewhere new, make loads of friends and even boost your CV!
If you’re looking for a complete experience, working in a hostel is one of the best gap year ideas. You can choose from hostels all around the globe and explore nearby countries during your free time. You can have a look on hosteljobs.net to see open positions, or contact a hostel that you love to see if they have any opportunities open. Some hostels exchange work for accommodation and food, while some also add cash into the deal, so you could end up with paid work on your gap year.
How much money you’ll need really depends on the destination you choose. Apart from the flight tickets, consider how much you’ll need to travel around and to do the things you want on your free time. Have a look to see which country you would like to live in and start planning your adventure!
2. Learn a new language and immerse yourself in a new culture
Learning a new language and spending a whole year living in a different country is the best gap year idea if you want to be a bit more settled. You could move to Italy and learn how to speak Italian, while doing some serious research to discover the best pizza with your local friends. Or maybe move to Colombia, become a Spanish master and explore coffee farms during your free time? It all sounds like a dream to us!
The advantage of this gap year idea is that you’ll really immerse yourself in a new culture and get to know how it really is to live in that country. You’ll leave your experience with a new language on your CV, friends from all over and a lot of real-life skills. Depending on the country you choose, you could also get a job or an internship to help you with your expenses and even save some money for the future! If you choose to do so, this could be a cheap gap year idea as you’ll only need to think in advance about the money for the first few months.
If you are unsure which country to choose, you can look on Facebook for groups like “Spanish people in London”, where you can ask about housing, prices, visas, etc.
3. Book a Group Travel Tour
Not sure of your exact itinerary? Why not let someone else do the planning for you! Organised group travel can be perfect for budding backpackers to experience life on the road for the first time. They’ve been planned perfectly, to keep you having the adventure travel experience of a lifetime while making lifelong friends. Roamies trips combine bang-for-your-buck itineraries with the magic of hostels. If you’re new to the travel scene, they’re perfect for giving you a taste of hostel life and mind-boggling adventure travel without breaking the bank. Fancy a microbrewery tour in Hanoi? Or maybe a trek to Machu-Pichu? Experience all this and more in one pretty amazing package.
No one to travel with? Don’t worry! You don’t need a group of home friends, because your new friends will be travelling with you. Group travel introduces you to friendly new faces, who often stay for life. They’re also perfect for easing you into Solo Travel. If you’re feeling up to it, you can stick around the hostel after your tour has ended. We promise you’ll meet even more people with your new adventure travel skillz.
4. Get in touch with nature and learn some serious skills doing farm work
We’ve all had a moment in our lives when we realised how disconnected we are from nature. You go to the shop and you have no idea how a cauliflower grows and how you could plant your own food in your garden. Your gap year could be the moment to change this and get more in touch with nature. Learning about the whole process, from the soil to the table, while meeting like-minded people, is one of the best gap year ideas. We’re sure you’re going to come back home with a different mindset.
There are many destinations where you can do farm work, Australia being a famous one for backpackers, and many websites (GrowFood, Workaway, Helpx) where you can find out about opportunities. The times are very flexible, and you can start with two weeks or stay on for many months, whatever you decide!
WWOOF is a website that links volunteers with organic farmers and growers to promote cultural and educational experiences, and you can find opportunities all over the world. You have to pay a $40 yearly subscription to be able to access the offers.
How much you’re going to spend really depends on the destination you choose and what your hosts will provide, but normally you have to pay for your own flight tickets, and they will provide food and accommodation. So, farm work could be a very cheap gap year idea, especially if you choose a country not too far away.
5. Do a permaculture course in Kenya and explore neighbouring countries
This one is for backpackers looking for unusual gap year ideas. Distant Relative Hostel offers a permaculture design course twice a year in their hostel in Kilifi, Kenya. If you’re a bit confused about what permaculture even is, don’t worry, we’ll get there! Permaculture is a concept created in the 70’s that claims we are able to create and design sustainable living systems, learn from nature and have a minimal impact on the planet.
So, if you want to learn something that could be very useful in the future, join the course at this beautiful location in Kenya. The course lasts for 2 weeks and costs USD 700 including meals, certification, material and field trips!
What do you do with the rest of your gap year time? Explore all the amazing things Kenya and other neighbouring countries have to offer, of course! Create your own unusual gap year experience, visiting incredible mountains and tea plantations in Malawi, sea views and vibrant culture in South Africa or amazing wildlife spots in Tanzania.
There is no limit to your imagination. Do a little research to see which countries you are more interested in, create your route and start exploring after learning everything about being sustainable in Kenya.
6. Volunteer at a wildlife conservation project
Want to do something meaningful and give back to nature? Here is a fantastic gap year idea for you! We know we’ve been privileged to travel all around the world, explore new places and meet other cultures. We also know this has an impact on the environment and on other species that become more and more threatened. During your gap year, you could use your time to make the world a better place, help animals in different part of the world and feel that great sense of purpose we get when we are doing something that really matters.
There are plenty of projects for you to choose from, but you should be very careful about the one you choose and make sure it’s actually helping animals. Do a lot of research and look at reviews from people that have been there before choosing your destination.
We’ve made a list of 7 awesome wildlife conservation projects you could start from. How much you’re going to spend depends on the project you choose. Do you research, see what they offer in exchange to know how much money you have to save before you go. After you’re done with your volunteer work, you could explore the nearby countries.
7. Do a meditation retreat in Nepal and backpack around after
If your gap year has a lot to do with wanting to disconnect from urban life and have some time alone to think about your future steps, a meditation retreat would be ideal for you! And if you’re willing to change your life completely for a few months, why not do it in a faraway place where you can also experience a totally different culture? Well, Nepal is the place to go! The two largest religions in the country are Hinduism and Buddhism, making it the perfect place for a retreat.
You don’t need to have any experience to join a retreat, you’re going to find many options for beginners, and you can choose the duration of it as well. If you already have some experience, you’ll find many retreats where you can go deeper into the practice. Before booking, it’s important to check reviews and opinions from other people that have been there. So, research a lot before choosing your favourite. The prices vary depending on the length of the course and what else they offer, such as food, accommodation and material. Sadhana Yoga Retreat, for example, costs US$ 279 for a four-day silent yoga and meditation retreat. For a more accurate cost for your gap year, also include your return ticket home.
8. Volunteer doing what you love around the world
Volunteering far away from home is one of the best gap year ideas. You can learn a new skill, connect with other open-minded travellers, get to know a new country and help the world to become a better place. However, we need to alert you about something! Even if your intention is good, there are many volunteer organisations that don’t really help the communities they claim to. Before choosing your volunteer work, do a lot of research about the organisation and read reviews from people that have been there so you’re sure that your contribution is going to be good. Have a look at our 12 tips on ethical volunteering and how to avoid the voluntourism trap.
You can volunteer doing many different jobs, such as teaching your native language, doing internships in charities, helping animals… the possibilities are endless! Have a look at grassroots social enterprise GivingWay for open opportunities and choose your next adventure. The cost is going to depend on where you want to go, how long you want to stay and what they’ll offer you. Many of them offer food and accommodation, so you only need to worry about getting there.
9. Live with a family as an au-pair and learn new language skills
Being an au-pair in a different country is a great way to learn new language skills and REALLY get to know a culture – one of the best cheap gap year ideas. If your dream is to live in cities like New York, London and Paris, but really can’t afford to right now, being an au-pair could you give you a real taste of what it is like to live there. This is a great idea for a gap year in the UK! You can find offers on WorkAway or Au-pair World and choose the country you want to go, how long you want to stay and the ages of children you would look after.
The deal really depends on the family. On the advert, you’ll see everything you need to know about their homes and the offer: where do they live, how old are the children, how many hours you’ll work in a week and what they expect from you.
Living with a family will help you really learn a new language as you’ll be surrounded by it the whole day! Even if you choose to work in a country with the same language as yours, don’t worry, we are sure you’ll learn everything about a new culture and plenty of other life skills as well.
10. Stay fit at a boxing academy in Thailand
If you’re looking for a gap year idea more focused on fitness and wellbeing, we have a surprise for you! Battle Conquer Gym is surrounded by rice fields and completely disconnected from modern life. They offer different courses for you to have a detox, learn a new skill and get to know more about Thai culture. Choose between Muay Thai & Western boxing, yoga and meditation, cross fit and strength and conditioning, or do a Buddha Run Challenge!
This is perfect for backpackers looking for a physical challenge during their gap year and to get to know other people with similar interests. Have a look on their website for prices and duration of the coursers. And of course, as you’re already there, why not backpack through Thailand after?
11. Interrail in Europe and explore a new country every few days
If your idea of a perfect gap year is to visit loads of places, experience many cultures and try different cuisines every week, interrailing in Europe is your solution! This is the most well-known gap year idea in Europe and you could be able to visit 33 countries in a space of 3 months. Visit all the famous sights in the European capitals, or choose to go for more unusual destinations. You make your own route!
The first step is to choose which pass is the best one for you (Interrail or Eurail), but don’t worry too much, Interrail does that for you. Just go to their website and tell them where your passport was issued and where you’re living, and the pass you need will reveal itself to you. Then you just need to decide which type is best for you, depending on how much time you have, which countries you want to visit and how much you want to spend. They offer many different options for the Global Pass, such as 7 days travel within one month for €226, or 3 months unlimited for €607 (both for under 27s).
The good news is that this pass also gives you discounts on accommodation, eating out and attractions, so you can save some extra pounds there! Plan your route and see what the best option for you is. If you want to stay on a budget, save the travel days in your allowance for long expensive trips and pay for the short journeys yourself. If the prospect of all that planning scares you, just book an organised Europe tour to ease you into the experience.
We hope you enjoyed our tips about the best gap year ideas! Did you do something amazing on your gap year that you would like to share with other backpackers? Comment below 👇👇👇
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