Gap years are more popular than ever, with thousands of people taking 12 months off between school and uni, as a break from university or after finishing studies but before heading off to full-time work. It can be great if you need a break from studies, or if you’re a bit stuck and need some time to figure out what you want to do in life. But, while a gap year can be a hedonistic backpacking adventure around the world, it doesn’t have to be. In fact a gap year can end up being something you can add to your CV, learn a lot of skills from and be super proud of! Here are some unusual gap year ideas that involve travel, but offer more than just travel.
Photo By: iulia Pironea
If you have a passion for helping others, one way to spend your gap year usefully would be to volunteer abroad. You can contribute your skills for example by teaching English, or teaching some other skills. You might need some basic qualifications but in the case of teaching English abroad a TEFL course could be enough! Before you go anywhere read our tips on volunteering abroad and our article filled with sustainable travel ideas.
Some countries even offer state-run volunteer programs like the Peace Corps in the United States. Although the Peace Corps often requires a longer than one-year commitment, the stated mission of the Peace Corps is pretty neat, for example, includes “providing technical assistance, helping people outside the United States to understand American culture, and helping Americans to understand the cultures of other countries.”
Intern or Work Abroad
Get a head start on your career or studies even during a gap year by interning or working abroad. Loads of fields offer the chance to intern or work for short periods of time like journalism, photography, marketing, and more! Check visa requirements before you head off and try to lock in an internship or work opportunity before you land, that way you can hit the ground running. This is great way to meet other locals in your chosen destination and build networks for your career. If you can’t find a position for a full year why don’t you find four different 3-month long opportunities that way you can travel and move around a bit, while 3 months is still a pretty good length of time for an internship!
If you have a particular interest in Scuba diving, or hiking, or tour guiding you can also spend your gap year getting skills in these areas and then teach or leading. Once you have your Scuba dive master for example (which could take up to three months) you can spend the rest of your gap year teaching diving or leading fun dives. Or if you want a career in the tourism industry, you could lead walking tours in a city that you decide to devote your year too.
Research and Conservation Projects
If you’re studying or wanting to set up a career as a scientist, veterinarian, zoologist or similar field then try to set up a gap year doing something in your area. There are plenty of research and conservation programs looking for volunteers – or sometimes paid helpers – who are early on in their career.
Fruit Picking or Labouring
Seasonal work light fruit picking allows you to move around and find suitable work for the different seasons, often visas are more readily given to those helping pick fruit and veg in remote areas as countries are often screaming out for help with labor during peak harvesting seasons. Then, if you have an interest in or skills in various laboring areas like woodwork or building then you can often find openings building, laboring or renovating. There are sites like Helpx.net or Wwoofing where you can provide a few hours work in exchange for room and board. These exchanges are usually flexible so you can spend a few months at each of your chosen destinations. Plus you can meet locals this way, and find out about what working in different countries and cultures is like.
Crew a Yacht or Cruise Ship
Cruise ships and yachts for the super rich are often looking for staff. You might have skills in a certain area like hospitality, speaking several languages, children’s entertainment, bartending, cleaning, admin or one of many other roles. The ships and yachts go from one exotic location to another cruising the Mediterranean Sea, the Caribbean, the coasts of the US or Australia and many other hotspots. Not only will you get to combine travel but you’ll also pick up some great skills by picking a gap year on the high seas. Roles on a cruise ship or super yacht are not for the faint hearted – be prepared for hard work and long hours!
Nannying or Au Pairing
If you enjoy looking after children and/or managing households then you can probably quite easily find nannying or au pairing work in a foreign country like France, England, Australia or the US. For those looking for this kind of work this can be a great way to live abroad for a year, meeting locals and experiencing a different culture while also helping with housework or childcare. Most nannies and au pairs get food, a room and pay so your costs will be very low.