It was a long time ago now that I took my gap year but as I was talking to a colleague about her daughter taking a gap year it had me thinking back on my own. I loved my gap year, I travelled to so many places at the top of my bucket list and saw so much more than I could ever have imagined. Yet despite all of that, there are still things that I would change. So today I wanted to share with you what I did for my gap year and if I could plan my gap year again what I would do.
Hopefully this will be super useful post if you are looking to plan your own gap year. I flew off at the age of 21 having not been to uni at that point. Since then I have actually been to uni and trained as a teacher showing that a gap year didn’t make any difference to my career, if anything it helped open my eyes to what I wanted to do with my life. My boyfriend (23 at the time) came with me and he had just completed his first year of his career, our gap year fell in a natural gap between contracts for him and he got a job as soon as we came back to the UK after the gap year.
Let’s start by telling you all about the gap year we actually took…
My 2012-2013 gap year
Before leaving the UK we saved quite a bit of money, this was essential as our first destination was Australia on a working holiday visa where you have to have a certain amount of money as part of the entry requirements. We also booked all of our flights for the year on a flexi ticket giving us the option to change the dates during our time away, which we did.
We landed in Sydney, Australia and spent 6 weeks travelling the East Coast this was the perfect introduction to gap year travelling, we had so much fun and saw some amazing sights! After that, we flew to Melbourne, a city we had yet to visit at that point, and tried to look for jobs. We had barely any money left, hated the city and were struggling to get jobs in the city as peak season was about to hit at the end of November.
In a big turn of events we choose to go and complete our regional work in rural Australia picking oranges. This is something you have to do to get your second year visa and is typically well paid. Our farm, not so much… We worked our butts off for 3 months solid to earn enough money for a bit more travelling. Thankfully we managed that and made some amazing friends along the way.
Sydney > East Coast > Melbourne > Rural Work > Great Ocean Road > Melbourne > Auckland to Christchurch > Thailand > Cambodia > Vietnam > Thailand > Singapore
That totalled 5 months in Australia and after finishing the farm work and road tripping the Great Ocean Road we gave Melbourne another change and loved it second time around. We found jobs and a flat easily and again worked our butts off for another 4 months. This time we managed to save a lot of money and of course at this point we changed our flights to fly home later.
The next country on our gap year was New Zealand, we spent a whirlwind 3 weeks in the country exploring. We bought Kiwi Experience passes and travelled both the North and South Islands making even more amazing friends and having the most incredible experiences. It was expensive but thankfully we had budgeted very well for the trip.
We had one final stop before heading home and that was South East Asia for 6 weeks. Probably the biggest bucket list ticket for me having followed Adventurous Kate travel around this area a few years previous. We hit up Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand again and eventually on to Singapore. To get around we used buses mostly with the odd flight to get us between the big distances. We were totally immersed in the culture and we spent most of the time travelling just the two of us.
After 51 weeks of being away we flew back to the UK having had the best time.
If I Could Plan My Gap Year Again
I would look for work within a few weeks of landing in Australia
As I explained above we did six weeks of travelling in Australia before even looking for a job. Although this was great and such an amazing start to our gap year, it left us pretty broke. This meant we were quite desperate for jobs when we landed in Melbourne and didn’t really have time to waste. Had we of got a job at the beginning in Sydney we wouldn’t have been broke and might have been able to get jobs we enjoyed a little more. We could then have saved the travelling for a little later on.
I would research rural work better
The rural work we did picking oranges was one that was not paid by the hour. This is something every rural work tips advises and a big mistake on our part. We also started this job just as summer was beginning, meaning we were working in sweltering conditions. The summer we were picking oranges also happened to be the worst crop for many seasons! So basically do up to date research on the crop, make sure it is paid by the hour and don’t do it in the middle of summer.
I would allow more time in New Zealand
We rushed around New Zealand using the Kiwi Experience for the minimum time they suggest. Although it was nice as we stayed with the same group for pretty much the whole tour (I guess everyone else was in a rush too) we really didn’t make the most of the country. There were a few spots we missed and many we only scrapped the surface of. New Zealand is an amazing country and one you certainly don’t want to rush!
I would allow more time in South East Asia
Much like New Zealand, we rushed around South East Asia too. Although we had more time, we also had more ground to cover. This meant we only spent a night or two in every location and crammed each day to the brim with activities. It would have been nice to have some slow days in some of the locations meaning we could have enjoyed the local way of life a little more. Our time constraints also meant that we missed Laos and had to take flights between some destinations. There is so much more to see in South East Asia it would be easy to fill two or three months!
I would pack for all seasons
This may sound like a silly one but the way we had planned our travels when we left meant we would avoid a lot of winter. Knowing this we didn’t pack much for winter… when we extended our flights we found this to be a big mistake. You never know where you might go or when you might end up there so be prepared and pack a range of clothing especially things that can be layered.
I hope you find this post helpful, honestly taking a gap year was such a fantastic opportunity and one I would recommend to everyone.
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