Gap Years for all ages

Leia Morales on 05 May 2020
At age 16, while studying for my GCSE’s, the opportunity presented itself to travel to Ecuador with my school. We fundraised and I worked part-time in a fish and chip shop to fund the month-long trip, which saw us trekking in the Andes, exploring the Amazon and volunteering to build an orphanage. It was a life changing experience for me that sparked a desire to explore the world and lead to me taking a post university gap year (or 2!) Here are some of my tips from my travels and experience of helping hundreds of other young (and old!) explorers head off for extended travel.

Pre-University vs Post-University vs Career Break

When to take your gap year is a personal choice, there are no rules and certainly no judgements. The obvious main thing to consider is finances. Working as a teen, not paying rent to my parents and having zero financial commitments, I had the disposable income to spend on travel pre-university. But I didn’t feel that I had the confidence to head into the world on my own. Post university, having been fortunate enough for my parents to continue to support me, and continuing to work part-time, I had the finances and had developed the confidence to be a solo traveller. I have also arranged gap years and sabbaticals for those looking for a career break. I have had clients who have sold their houses to fund their travel, because they “missed out” when they were younger. You are never too old for a gap year!

Working Holiday Visas

These visas are a fantastic way to travel and not spend your savings. I had these visas for Japan and Australia but they are also available to UK citizens for a number of other counties. There are usually some criteria to meet, such as upper age limits and available finances. The work you can do in country might be limited, for example in Australia you can’t be with the same employer for more than 6 months. The visas usually last for a year, but some countries allow a second year. The onus is on working to fund your travel in the country, but they are an amazing experience. In Tokyo I lived in a tiny room in a gaijin house, sharing with Japanese, French, American and Australian nationals. I worked in an Irish bar for 6 months and explored out from Tokyo, before travelling around the rest of the country. In Australia, I started in Melbourne living in a hostel for a month and working in a restaurant before travelling to the Gold Coast for the next 6 months. I chose Melbourne and the Gold Coast because I had met people in Japan from those places. I worked for Subway while on the Gold Coast, other popular jobs are fruit picking and telesales. I didn’t manage to explore Australia as much as I had planned, only really travelling the Queensland coast. But that is just a reason to return in the future!

Round the World Tickets

When I went off on my travels, I travelled down to Africa for 3 months before returning to the UK for my older brother’s wedding. I then set off east, starting in Japan, across to Bangkok where I travelled overland to Singapore, flew to Melbourne and on to the Gold Coast, before returning to Japan en-route to Las Vegas, finally a return trip down to Chile before arriving back in the UK. All of this spanned for 2 years from August 2007. Traditional round the world tickets have a maximum validity of 12 months, and do not necessarily offer the best value. The tickets appear expensive but offer lots of flexibility, should you be unsure of the dates you will move on to your next destination or if you want some flexibility to change your destination. It is always worth weighing up the cost of one of these tickets against a combination of separate flight tickets. There are a few ticket options with different price brackets, depending on the number of flights, miles flown, or continents visited. There are lots of complexities to consider and I enjoy the challenge, when other agents might shy away.


There are lots of volunteering opportunities available all over the world. I spent 3 months in South Africa in a monkey rehabilitation centre. The experience was amazing but there was plenty of people who didn’t survive the experience. You are usually volunteering your time and paying for the experience, to cover food and board. The accommodation I lived in for those 3 months was very basic dorms with outside showers. The work itself involved cleaning out enclosures daily (literally scrubbing monkey poo!) and preparing their food twice a day. There was free time, and the hosts would provide excursions to Kruger National Park and Blyde Canyon. But the main attraction was the interactions with the animals; they were our babies. Each of them had a name, and every volunteer would have their favourites because of the different personalities they have. There are lots of conservation and community-based volunteer projects around the world. It is important to research the company you are volunteering with to ensure they are impactful and ethical.

Solo vs group

You might have a friend or partner that you want to travel with. I have even booked this type of trip for a family with 2 young children! But you can also do this type of trip on your own, like I did. I was never really on my own, as I joined small group tours around South East Asia, but it meant that I could decide what I wanted to see and do. The small group tours are fantastic for meeting other people but also having some flexibility. The route was set, and accommodation arranged but there was plenty of free time to explore solo or with others from the group. The group size is usually around 12 and so you aren’t being herded around in the same way as a larger coach tour. Of course, if you are travelling with a friend or partner you might prefer to stick to just the two of you. You can pre-book your accommodation or just book as you go along, depending on how good you are at budgeting! If you are travelling with someone else there will have to be some compromises as it is likely that one of you has already been to a place that the other hasn’t or has no interest in.

These are just some of the things that I think you need to consider when planning for extended travel, but of course I am here to help you all the way to plan your ideal gap year. Get in touch to let me know what you are thinking and I will make it happen!