Gap Year

Meaningful Gap Year Ideas for Young Adults

Get inspired with these gap year ideas you can do almost anywhere on earth.

A photographer standing on sand dunes with the sun setting behind them

As gap years continue to grow in popularity, deciding when and where to take one is a struggle many young adults encounter. A gap year, often taken at the end of high school, during college, or directly after graduating, is an opportunity to take a break from academia and pursue adventure and growth through immersive experiences. Taking a gap year is much more than taking a year off, and what you do during your intentional break will determine how meaningful it is in your life.

Planning a gap year can be overwhelming, especially while juggling the many responsibilities and stressors students and young adults have today. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone, and we’re here to help with a few meaningful gap year(or gap semester) ideas to get you inspired today!

What are the benefits of traveling with a gap year program?

The benefits of traveling with a gap year program are plentiful, especially for young adults new to solo travel or those apprehensive about all the steps required in planning and preparing for a gap year.

Gap year programs vary in their location, length, cost, and activities. As experts in facilitating travel programs for young adults, these providers will help structure your gap experience and serve as a liaison between you and your host country. Other benefits often include advice on entry requirements like visas, vaccinations, and coordinating room, board, and local transportation.

Gap year program providers also have deep connections in the locations where they operate. These relationships yield authentic, expert advice to get you immersed in the local culture.

Additionally, traveling with a gap year program will assist with the budgeting process as you’ll incur many expenses upfront and have fewer surprises along the way.

How to choose a gap year program

Learn how to choose a gap year program with this recorded webinar from the 2021 USA Gap Year Fairs series!

Volunteer for a conservation project abroad

A sloth at a conservation rescue

Popular countries for conservation volunteering: Costa Rica, United States of America, and Peru

Volunteering abroad is a popular option for young adults looking to travel with purpose, spend time giving back, support communities in need, and work towards the greater good.

While there are opportunities to volunteer in various capacities, many young adults are inspired to focus their volunteering efforts on conservation. Not only do many picturesque locations have a growing need for volunteers to support their conservation goals, but this is a great way to meet like-minded people and see your efforts make a tangible difference.

Work exchange on a farm or in a household

A group of farmers working on a harvest

Popular countries for work exchanges: China, Australia, and New Zealand

For travelers on a tight budget or for those looking for work experience while they immerse themselves in local communities, work exchange programs offer a unique opportunity to trade living expenses for your labor.

The most common types of gap year work exchanges are on farms, like through WWOOF, or in homes through becoming an Au Pair. An Au Pair, or an international nanny, exchanges household work and help with childcare for an immersive experience while being hosted by the family.

Work exchange benefits go beyond affordable living abroad, since you’ll gain work experience and regularly meet new people. Additionally, living and working with a member of the community is a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture and language.

Get a seasonal job abroad

A ski patrol shack

Popular countries for seasonal jobs: Australia, and New Zealand, and South Korea

Similar to work exchanges, seasonal jobs provide gappers with the ability to supplement their travel budget through work. It is common for a young adult on a gap year to work in the tourism sector during the peak season, such as working at a ski resort during the winter, and then traveling full-time during the off-season.

Season work is a great way to balance exposure to an international work culture with the freedom and independence of full-time travel. Additionally, picking up seasonal work is a great way to extend a gap year, as it is an opportunity to build back savings and make connections in the community.

Pursue a spiritual experience

A person doing yoga with a sunset in the background

Popular countries for spiritual programs: India, Thailand, and Indonesia

Since a gap year is about personal growth, pursuing a spiritual experience can provide meaning and insight into yourself and the world. Travelers from around the globe visit countries in Southeast Asia, including Thailand and Indonesia, to experience its deep spiritual history and cultures.

A gap year is a personal journey, so don’t feel limited to traditional programs focused on work or studies. Yoga programs are gaining popularity, and there are plenty of other travel programs for young adults focused on wellness that are well worth your consideration.

Get an internship abroad in your area of study or interest

A group of doctors and nurses

Popular countries for internships: United Kingdom, Germany, and South Africa

If you desire work experience and a real-world view of a potential career path, or you want to test the waters to see if you’ll be satisfied in a particular field, consider applying for an international internship. A gap year internship can provide a break from your academia while you still work directly towards your career.

Interning is a great way to gain many of the life-skills gap years offer without professional consequences. Gap year internships come in all different shapes and sizes to fit your needs, including paid options and internships for college credits. Gap years don’t need to be a year in length, and it is common for college students to get an internship abroad during their summer break, avoiding the need to defer scholarships or financial aid.

Take a working holiday

A barista making a coffee

Popular countries for working holidays: Canada, Australia, and New Zealand

One of the biggest roadblocks deterring young adults from taking a gap year is the financial requirements of a year ‘off’ from traditional studies or work. Fortunately, countries, including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, offer working holiday visas for young adults with specific passports. A working holiday is when a gapper takes on short-term employment to fund their travels throughout a country.

Many gappers find work at restaurants, bars, hostels, or other tourism or service industry jobs in towns that provide access to more of the country. Similar to seasonal work in the tourism sector, short-term employment is a great way to meet new people, immerse yourself in the culture and the local community, and have a steady income. These visas are typically valid for one year, leaving plenty of time for travel, adventurous activities, and days working to fund them all.

Stay close to home with a domestic gap year

A woman sticking her head out the car window as the car drives through the mountains

Popular countries for a domestic gap year: United States of America, United Kingdom, and Australia

While gap years often include or focus on international travel, seeing more of your home country can be just as rewarding! Oftentimes, the opportunity for growth and adventure is right under our noses, and we just have to look down to see it.

A domestic gap year subverts the need for visas, immunizations, and international airfare expenses while challenging you to be a more independent person ready to take on your next life goals.

Start planning a meaningful gap year

A person standing with their arms out silhouetted by the sunset

Now that you have a few meaningful gap year ideas based on your own goals, it’s time to start putting your plan into motion. Read thousands of reviews from gap year alum and search for programs from across the globe right here at Go Overseas.

For prospective gappers from the United States of America, the USA Gap Year Fairs connects students and parents with gap year program providers and industry experts to inspire and educate on all things gap year.

With a bit of research and work, your next big adventure is just a few steps away!

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