Gap Years

With the number of disappointed students failing to gain entry to so called “uni” or even the most humble of further educational establishments more and more teenagers to whom the prospect of starting work have little choice than to take an enforced gap year.

Traditionally gap years were planned well in advance but the sudden shock of not being allowed to continue education means that there is a huge number of late-comers to the gap year party.

Good Advice For Gap Year Travellers

Planning and packing can be just as stressful as actually taking a gap.  Here are tips on how to make your gap year as stress-free and fun as possible – and how to avoid spending too much of it on the toilet…

1. Make a budget. You might not stick to it, but the guilt of going over it will act to temper your reckless spending.

2. Get decent insurance. Make sure that the policy is usable, with an affordable excess charge and comprehensive coverage. The Lonely Planet’s mantra is right: if you can’t afford good insurance, you can’t afford to go travelling.

3. Be flexible. Don’t stick religiously to your travel plans. If you like a place, stay there for a bit longer. Likewise, if you really hate somewhere, leave. There’s no point forcing yourself to stay somewhere if you’re not enjoying it.

4. Give yourself time. Don’t expect to visit 30 different countries in eight weeks. Even if you manage it, you’ll have spent most of your time on trains and buses, rather than exploring and enjoying your trip.

5. Don’t expect to always be happy. Some days, circumstances will conspire to make you damned miserable. Don’t worry: it’s all part of the experience and will probably turn out to be the anecdote of your entire trip.

6. Pack playing cards. An excellent prop to help make friends and pass long journeys. If you’re travelling in a twosome, steer clear of games liable to make you fall out.

7. Bring hand sanitizer. A must if you’re travelling in Asia, it’s useful on any trip you take. Particularly because it reduces the chances that you’ll need the next tip.

8. Take diarrhea pills. Because a holiday spent on the toilet is no holiday at all.

9. Get your jabs. Vaccinations can be expensive, but they’re mandatory for some places. Bear in mind that some have to be booked weeks in advance. Find out before you go by checking this NHS website

Mind the Gap

10. Learn a bit of the lingo. Even just being able to say “please”, “thank you” and count to ten can make an otherwise surly local grin while they deal with you. Remember a cunning linguist is always welcome

11. Don’t take the guidebook’s word for it. In some cases guidebook tips are out of date by the time they’re published – the bar that was banging in 2008 might not be so hot in 2010. Guidebooks are there to give an opinion – they’re not infallible.

12. Read about the culture you’re going to. Don’t be the guy who gratuitously insults the locals and makes them resent tourists. Try to fit in. But at the same time…

13. Don’t kid yourself. Visiting Cuba does not a make you a revolutionary. Two months in India will not turn you into the Dalai Lama. Concentrate on having fun during your gap year, rather than trying to seek enlightenment. You’re still a teenager. Act your age.

14. Be confident. You’re not five anymore, talking to strangers is allowed. Talk to everyone you meet, whether they’re locals or fellow travellers. A random conversation in a bar can result in a travelling companion for a month and maybe a friend for life.

15. Have fun. You are young and have very few responsibilities. You won’t get that glorious mix in such unadulterated form ever again. Enjoy it while it lasts.