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Gap Year Checklist: Essential Planning Tips for Your Adventure Abroad

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: May 12, 2023

A gap year can be a life-changing experience for anyone looking to gain new perspectives, skills, and experiences. Whether you are a high school graduate, a university student, or a professional seeking a break from the routine, a gap year can provide you with a wealth of opportunities to explore the world, learn new things, and make a difference.

However, planning a gap year can be overwhelming, especially if you are travelling abroad for the first time. From visa requirements to packing essentials, there are many things to consider before embarking on your adventure. 

Planning and Preparation

Before you start packing your bags, it’s essential to set clear goals for your gap year. What do you want to achieve during your travels? Are you looking to learn a new language, gain work experience, or volunteer for a meaningful cause? Defining your goals will help you narrow down your destination choices and plan your itinerary accordingly.

Once you have set your goals, it’s time to create a budget. Calculate your estimated expenses for accommodation, transportation, food, and activities, and set a realistic budget that you can stick to. You may also want to research your destination to get an idea of the cost of living and the exchange rate.

Travel Documents

One of the most critical aspects of travelling abroad is ensuring that you have all the necessary travel documents. This includes a valid passport, a visa if required, and travel insurance. Make sure to check the entry requirements for your destination country and apply for a visa well in advance if necessary. It’s also a good idea to make copies of your passport and other documents and keep them in a safe place, separate from the originals.

GVI volunteer programs and internships abroad can be an excellent option for gap year travellers who want to work or volunteer overseas. GVI offers a variety of programs in destinations such as Costa Rica, Thailand, and South Africa, and provides participants with comprehensive pre-departure support and advice on visas and travel documents.

Packing Essentials

Packing for a gap year can be a daunting task, especially if you are travelling to different destinations with varying climates. The key is to pack light and bring only the essentials. Make a list of the items you need, including clothing, toiletries, and electronics, and prioritise them according to their importance.

When it comes to clothing, consider the climate and the activities you will be doing. Bring versatile items that you can mix and match, and avoid packing too many bulky items that will take up space in your luggage. Don’t forget to bring a first-aid kit, medication, and any necessary prescriptions, as well as a universal adapter for your electronics.

Money Matters

Managing your money while travelling can be a challenge, but it’s essential to stay on top of your budget to avoid running out of funds. One of the best ways to manage your money is to use a credit or debit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. You can also consider opening a local bank account if you plan to stay in one place for an extended period.

GVI volunteer programs and internships abroad provide participants with various options for managing their finances. Participants can choose to pay for their program fees in instalments, and GVI provides advice on budgeting and saving money while travelling.

Health and Safety

Travelling abroad can pose various health and safety risks, from infectious diseases to natural disasters. It’s essential to research your destination’s health and safety risks and take precautions accordingly. This may include getting vaccinated, purchasing travel insurance, and familiarising yourself with local laws and customs.

GVI volunteer programs and internships abroad prioritise participant safety and provide comprehensive pre-departure and on-site safety briefings. Participants also receive medical and emergency support throughout their program and have access to trained staff and local medical facilities.

Cultural Immersion

A gap year is an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in different cultures and gain new perspectives. To make the most of your experience, try to learn some basic phrases in the local language and participate in cultural activities and events. You can also consider staying with a local host family or volunteering with a community organisation to get a deeper understanding of the local culture.

GVI volunteer programs and internships abroad provide participants with ample opportunities for cultural immersion. Participants work alongside local communities and organisations and learn about local customs and traditions. GVI also offers language classes and cultural activities, such as cooking classes and dance lessons.

Personal Growth and Development

One of the most significant benefits of a gap year is the personal growth and development that comes with it. Whether you are learning a new skill, gaining work experience, or volunteering for a meaningful cause, a gap year can provide you with a wealth of opportunities for personal growth and development.

GVI volunteer programs and internships abroad prioritise participant learning and development. Participants receive training and support throughout their program and have access to GVI’s online learning platform, which offers a range of courses and resources on topics such as sustainable development and social justice.

A gap year can be a life-changing experience that provides you with opportunities for personal growth, cultural immersion, and making a difference in the world. However, planning and preparing for your trip can be overwhelming, especially if you are travelling abroad for the first time. By following this gap year checklist and considering GVI volunteer programs and internships abroad as examples of gap year activities, you can have a safe, meaningful, and fulfilling adventure abroad.

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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