10 reasons to take a gap year and travel the world

Taking a gap year to travel will change your life and totally transform the way you see the world. You’ll step out of your comfort bubble and enlighten yourself about the beautiful cultures and places around our planet. Discovering hidden treasures and meeting heaps of amazing new friends along the way. Unforgettable memories don’t make themselves, so get ready to challenge yourself and go exploring! Here are 10 reasons to take a gap year and travel the world.

  1. To experience and adapt to new environments

The most popular reason to take a gap year is, of course, to experience and explore new places. Rather than two weeks in an all-inclusive hotel, why not spend three months backpacking around a different continent, getting acquainted with an entirely new culture? Just like moving out for the first time, travelling for longer than you ever have before will teach you to adapt to new surroundings, new people and new experiences – talk about jumping in at the deep end! Embracing all these changes, however intimidating they might seem at first, are key to making the most of your time travelling the world.

reasons to take a gap year, man standing under washing line in kotor montenegro

📷 @_nana.kweku_ 📍 Kotor, Montenegro

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  1. Get to know number one

We know it sounds hella cheesy, but exploring the world always leads to exploring who you are. You’ll discover things about yourself you never even knew! You might realise you love hiking after climbing to see Lagoinha do Leste in Brazil, defeat a fear of sharks as you dive with them in South Africa, or develop a new-found love of history as you wander the grounds of Trakai Island Castle in Lithuania. Perhaps you’ll simply learn that you love travelling and will have to tell your mum that that return flight isn’t looking so appealing anymore…

reasons to take a gap year, girl sitting on the beach stroking a dog

📷 @wheretomonkey 📍 Malapascua, Philippines 

  1. Make the most of your freedom

We never know what life’s gonna throw at us, so it might be a while before you have the freedom to say “screw it” and jump on a one-way flight with nothing but a backpack again. Before adult life fully starts and you have university/work commitments to think about, take some time out. What better way to celebrate your freedom from school than taking a gap year to learn from places and people rather than textbooks? Your hardest test will be mastering the currency conversion every time you hop over a border.

reasons to take a gap year, girl sitting on a rock overlooking a valley in Krabi Thailand

📷 @pakuphostel 📍 Krabi, Thailand

  1. Find your passions

Discovering new interests before you begin your degree or career is another worthy reason to take a gap year. What you learn from your epic adventure may help shape what you want to do with your life. Time spent wandering around galleries in Paris may inspire you to take an art module you’d never have done in a million years. Or, authentic experiences in under-the-radar Tokyo neighbourhoods might give you the bug to move there. Unlocking new passions is a major side effect of travelling the world.

reasons to take a gap year, girl standing on a rock looking at palace in petra jordan

📷 @cakestravels 📍 Petra, Jordan

  1. Take time to recharge

Not everyone can spend years moving through the education system and then jump straight into working life without getting bored. Taking a gap year is way more likely to increase motivation, as it gives you the chance to reflect on your interests and goals. Sometimes you just need a breath of fresh air and you’ll come back energised with a clearer focus for your future.

reasons to take a gap year, man sitting in a hammock by pool at hostel de haan

📷 @hosteldehaan_cr 📍 Jaco Beach, Costa Rica

  1. Bring back more than the memories

If you’re the sentimental type, another reason to take a gap year is all the things you’ll bring back. Memories that you’ll never forget and experiences that’ll shape you and your future. You’ll have photos to share with your friends and family once you get home, and to print and stick around your university dorm if that’s your next step. Local souvenirs will remind you of your time whenever you glance them in your room, like a shawl you’ll keep forever that cost £1 from a Bangkok street market. The new friendships you picked up along the way, even the most fleeting, will always stay with you. Hey, if you really embrace local life then you might even come home with a new language!

reasons to take a gap year, girl sitting by the taj mahal

📷 @michaelalewendon 📍 Taj Mahal, Agra, India

  1. Nurture your independence

Travelling the world will really put your life skills to the test. Not only might there be a language barrier, you’ll also be miles away from your support network back home. Being in charge of your every decision in a totally new environment, managing your finances and keeping yourself safe is guaranteed to rack up serious adulting points and prepare you for the future. It’s the perfect introduction to adulthood, as you’ll still be enjoying your freedom and living your best life at the same time!

reasons to take a gap year, girl standing with a bicycle in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

📷 @anasirventm 📍 Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

  1. Give back

Applying for a volunteering project on your gap year will allow you to give back to the community you choose to join. Opportunities can be found all over the world, whether you want to teach at a school in Fiji or help out with an animal rescue project in Tanzania. There are all sorts of projects to choose from, so pick the one best suited to you (or why not something you’ve never tried before?) It’s a wonderful chance to get valuable life experience at the same time as getting to understand a different culture. Most schemes involve living with locals, meaning you’ll get to try traditional dishes as well put your language skills to the test. Of course, you’ll also be given time off to explore with the new friends you’ve met. You can choose from multiple placements in your gap year, with openings all over the world. Just make sure you research the volunteer organisation before signing up as it’s important both you and the community are well looked after.

reasons to take a gap year, girl standing by handbags in Maputo in Mozambique

📷 @ritacostamestre 📍 Maputo, Mozambique

  1. Learn a new language

The best way to learn a foreign language is by living in a country where it’s spoken. Every day will be a challenge, forcing you to constantly practice your language skills. Why not soak up the sun while learning Spanish in Madrid, or get to grips with Mandarin while travelling through China? Smashing the language barrier means you’ll be able to make lots of new friends with locals and not just other travellers, giving a whole new depth to your gap year experience. It’ll also be a big bonus on your CV!

reasons to take a gap year, two men sitting on a boat in Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

📷 @markwumitchell 📍 Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

  1. Gain work experience on the move

Your gap year is whatever you want it to be, so just because you’ve turned your back on the traditional 9-5 doesn’t mean you have to live off instant noodles for the next 12 months. Whether you want to work for short periods of time while travelling through Europe or apply for a year-long placement in Hong Kong, working during your gap year is a great choice for many wanderlusters. You’ll be able to splash out on hostel privates if you like your creature comforts, and you’ll also have the chance to visit new cities or countries during your time off. There are plenty of job opportunities abroad, so you can improve your CV while you jet set!

reasons to take a gap year, girl sitting on the edge of the grand canyon

📷 @kashishkhannn 📍 Grand Canyon, USA

Hands up who else votes to keep real life on hold! What do you think are the best reasons to take a gap year? Let us know in the comments!

Wondering where to stay on a gap year? Check out our hostels all around the world for great places to stay on a budget.

About the authors:

Francesca and Amy are our Hostelworld Student Explorers from the University of Nottingham.

Keep reading: ⬇️

🌟 The ultimate guide to backpacking Southeast Asia

🌟 The ultimate guide to backpacking South America

🌟 The ultimate guide to backpacking the USA

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