We hear from our Project Co-ordinator, Charlotte, about why taking a gap year is important and how it can impact your life & future career.

I remember hatching the plan to go on an adventure to Australia on my gap year. I excitedly told my friends about the idea – but discovered that nobody else wanted to go. They were going to straight to university.

Was that going to stop me? Absolutely not. I marched down to the library and got a lot of books out and decided I was going to make my own adventure by myself. (Yes - we did have the internet back in 2006, but it was more fun to D.I.Y. with good old fashioned books).

I was lucky enough to find a volunteer opportunity in South Africa, helping to teach students about recycling, planning lessons and I got stuck in coaching netball are just some of the things I did – with absolutely zero experience! I also managed to do a bit of travelling around taking in the sights & sounds of South Africa.

After that I travelled Thailand from top to bottom, followed by Australia and New Zealand by bus. If I had listened to my friends and gone straight to uni, would I be the same person that I am today? Absolutely not.

Here are my top gap year tips:

  1. Volunteer. Volunteering in South Africa was not only perspective changing, but I was thrown into new situations which allowed me to grow new skills I didn’t even know that I had at 18. Helping to teach students about recycling, planning a lesson and getting stuck in coaching netball are just some of the things I did!
  2. Explore. Travelling around on a budget can feel a bit daunting but staying in backpackers & travelling around in local buses/trains are great ways to meet new people & make friends with the locals. The journey is half the fun! Whether you’re sharing your bus with a few chickens or on a fishing boat in Thailand, these are the memories you remember.
  3. Learn. Being open minded might sound obvious, but when you are meeting different people from all kinds of backgrounds and cultures, it’s important to be considerate of people’s views. Especially in today’s world!
  4. Inspire. Let your gap year experiences inspire what you do next. Whether it’s your next career step, your new hobby or lifestyle.
  5. Work. It’s the “boring” part of your gap year, but start early! Get a part-time job at college, before your year out even starts. It’s a great place to make new friends and you’ll be surprised how quickly the months whizz by before it’s time to set off. It might sound corny, but after all the hard work & graft it makes your adventure worth it because you did it by yourself. /li>

For me – I loved volunteering with children in South Africa, as well as the excitement and freedom that travelling brought me. This is how I ultimately ended up working in the volunteering sector and exploring new countries in my holidays.

Taking a gap year can help you find your passion – develop your skillset and make a difference to your resume & community you visit.

Cultural Exchange between volunteer and locals on volunteering projects and internships in South Africa
Getting to know and understand the culture of the country you're volunteering in is one of the highlights of doing a gap year or adventure travel trip or internship. This is Charlotte (from Travellers UK Office) in South Africa.
Amazing opportunity to explore an ice tunnel in New Zealand. This is Rachel in New Zealand.
Does it get any better than this??!!