If you've been waiting to close the textbooks and open the door to adventure, a gap year might be the perfect solution. It provides a break between two stages of life (commonly between high school and college or a job) to travel, see the world, and learn new skills.

Your life-changing year of travel will likely involve a blend of experiences. Snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef, observing lions in Kruger National Park, or hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu are all possible when you have a planned 365 days lying ahead of you.

You can also find meaningful and adventurous gap year experiences by being a volunteer at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand or working the ski season in New Zealand (to replenish your wallet!). With the right balance, a gap year abroad inspires a fresh perspective that will resonate with you throughout your life. Uprooting your life to take a gap year overseas is no small endeavor, so keep reading to answer all your burning questions.

Thankfully, gap year travel programs can be found in almost any corner of the world. From hiking in the Outback to zip-lining through the cloud forests in Costa Rica, your gap year can be full of overseas travel adventures.

Asia

From trekking through the Himalayas in Nepal to scuba diving off remote islands in Indonesia, adventurous souls will find no shortage of things to do for a year in Asia. Additionally, Asia is also a wonderful destination for professional and personal development. Urban hubs in China are the site of many global business internships, and volunteer programs in Cambodia tackle big issues like homelessness.

Europe

For a travel gap year in Europe, the possibilities are endless. Work as an au pair in Ireland and take advantage of weekends to explore other countries. Volunteer opportunities exist across the continent, with Scandinavian nations like Finland popular for teaching English or working with sled dogs. Alternatively, European travel programs can also take you to language courses in Germany and Mediterranean cruises departing from Croatia.

Oceania

Navigate island life on a gap year through the water-locked countries of Oceania. Most travelers under the age of 30 can obtain working holiday visas for Australia and New Zealand, allowing them to pick up casual gigs as they travel around. These are also terrific destinations for overseas adventure programs, some of which will have you acquiring a scuba diving license in Fiji or skiing down slopes in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Africa

An array of exciting travel experiences await you during your gap year in Africa. With an abundance of unique wildlife, Africa’s gap year travel programs may include volunteering with great white sharks in South Africa or taking a multi-day safari through the Serengeti in Tanzania. If you’re looking for overseas programs that will help you grow as a professional, explore sports coaching or teaching English in Kenya or medical internships in Ghana.

Latin America

A gap year traveling in South America mixes immersive experiences with outdoor getaways. Spend your days engaging in cultural activities, like Spanish language learning in Guatemala or soccer coaching in Brazil. Adventurous-minded travelers will love escaping to the Patagonia region of Chile, where they can hike amongst jagged peaks and view massive ice fields.

North America

Don't forget that you don't have to go far to have an eye-opening gap year experience. The United States has many gap year programs with opportunities to travel to different areas in the country while expanding your world view, like by volunteering with the Blackfeet community in Montana or backpacking through the Colorado Rocky Mountains. You can also spend a winter hitting the slopes in Canada while helping children and adults learn to ski and snowboard

General Tips for Your Gap Year Travels

First things first, how do you pack for a year of travel? If you’re traveling through multiple climates during your gap year, this will be tough. Of course, versatile pieces and clothing that can be layered will be helpful as you leave warm weather for cold. Additionally, try packing attire that you don’t mind donating along the way and turning to thrift shops rather than retail stores if you ditched something too soon.

Some odd items you might find useful during your year-long travels include:

  • Earplugs (For when hostel roommates snore and get up at 5am to catch flights)
  • Flashlight (Because sometimes you’re the one up at 5am and it’s dark.)
  • Needle & thread (Your clothes will rip, but it doesn’t have to be fatal.)
  • Dryer sheets (They trick your clothes into smelling clean, further delaying laundry day.)
  • Packing cubes (Emptying your bag to find one loose item gets old after a day. You have a whole year.)
  • First aid kit (In case you have to self-stitch a shark bite, or just need a bandaid.)

Costs for Gap Year Travel Programs

Travel gap years are, unsurprisingly, on the pricier side of overseas experiences. Especially if you want to take part in adventure activities such as skydiving, bungee jumping, skiing, or scuba diving, each of these activities has their own materials, props, and program fees to cover. Many gap year travel programs have all-inclusive program fees that include adventure activities, education, housing, meals, visas, and transportation costs (not flights). Additional costs to consider include airfare, travel insurance, and other entertainment.

Even if you’re jetting off to a place with a lower cost of living, there will be 365 days of transportation, accommodation, food, experience, souvenir, and toothpaste costs to cover. While there’s no better way to spend your savings, you can work abroad for a portion of the year to offset some of your travel expenses. Learn more about how to budget your gap year travels.

Visas

With each country having its own visa rules, you’ll have some homework to do if you plan on entering multiple countries during your gap year overseas. Luckily, traveling as a tourist usually requires no permits, or ones that can be acquired a few days in advance if not upon entry. Work programs and long-term stays are a different story. However, there are plenty of countries that provide working holiday visas that can be taken advantage of during your gap year travels.

Housing

Your housing situation will likely change over the course of your year of travel. Gap year travel programs generally provide shared housing with fellow participants or help you look for your own accommodation. If you’re working overseas, you might be able to support yourself in an apartment. Foreign volunteers will likely be placed in dormitory accommodations, while nomadic travelers will find similar living arrangements in hostels. Other housing options to look into as you travel are Airbnb and Couchsurfing.

Health & Safety

Like many aspects of planning a gap year, health and safety risks will need to be assessed on a regional basis. You’ll always need to be up-to-date on immunizations, but additional shots or medications may be recommended based on the countries you’re visiting. If possible, it’s best to sort this out beforehand with your doctor at home, rather than trying to book an appointment in a foreign healthcare system.

Risks to traveler safety will also vary by destination. With pickpockets roaming big cities, earthquakes shaking countries that lie in the Ring of Fire, and civil unrest in unstable regions, there’s a lot to look out for on the road. As such, purchasing travel insurance would be wise, no matter where your travels take you. A lot can happen in a year, but with the right preparation, you’ll be able to handle anything.

Gap Year Travel Programs

Displaying 16 - 30 of 510 programs
1 new reviews
Carpe Diem Education
Carpe Diem Education | India Semester: Spirituality & Service
India
9.56 •18 reviews

Discover the incredible depth and diversity of India. Witness how...

Carpe Diem Education
Carpe Diem Education | South America Semester: Spanish Immersion & Conservation
Multiple Countries
9.8 •10 reviews

Trek to the sprawling Incan ruins at Machu Picchu and try your hand at...

Pacific Discovery
Pacific Discovery | Thailand Summer Program
Thailand
9.87 •15 reviews

Experience the exotic and varied landscapes, tastes, wildlife and...

Seamester
Seamester: Virgin Islands to Dominica - 40 Days
Multiple Countries
9.55 •11 reviews

Seeking a Caribbean adventure that's shorter than a full semester but...

BUNAC
BUNAC: Work in Australia
Australia
8.33 •6 reviews

Australia offers everything you'd want from a work abroad experience...

GapForce
Australia Adventure with Gapforce
Australia
9.3 •30 reviews

Join one of our groups for an action-packed 7 week tour combining...

4 new reviews
EF Gap Year
EF Gap Semester: Customizable 12-Week Program in Multiple Destinations
Multiple Countries
9.75 •8 reviews

Embark on a unique global experience in 12 weeks. EF Gap Semester is...

Pacific Discovery
Pacific Discovery | New Zealand & Fiji Summer Program
Multiple Countries
9.94 •16 reviews

Experience the local lifestyle, explore incredible landscapes, and...

GapForce
Nepal & India Adventure with Gapforce
Multiple Countries
9 •36 reviews

Journey on this epic adventure amongst the lofty, glacial landscapes...

Carpe Diem Education
Carpe Diem Education | Southeast Asia Semester: Human Rights & Cultural Exchange
Multiple Countries
9.78 •9 reviews

Study Human Rights and Cultural Exchange with a community of students...

GapForce
South America Explorer with Gapforce
Multiple Countries
9.06 •33 reviews

Discover the lost lands of the Incas! Whether the awe-inspiring...

1 new reviews
EF Gap Year
EF Gap Year: Customizable 25-Week Program in Multiple Destinations
Multiple Countries
9.56 •9 reviews

Eager to become more worldly and prepared for college in just 25 weeks...

Global Works
Costa Rica Summer Service Adventures
Costa Rica
9.69 •26 reviews

Are you a high school student looking for volunteer opportunities in...

GapForce
Southeast Asia Explorer with Gapforce
Multiple Countries
9.27 •26 reviews

Travel to three of Southeast Asia's most sought-after destinations...

Pacific Discovery
Nepal & Tibet | Cultural Immersion, Service Learning, Adventure
Multiple Countries
9.75 •8 reviews

Discover your passion and purpose. Join us for an impactful, overland...

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the most popular places to take an adventure gap year?

    There are adventures on every continent and every part of the world! Asia, Europe, Oceania, Africa, Latin America, and North America all have exciting travel opportunities for your gap year.

  • What kind of adventures can I take during a gap year?

    If you can dream it, you can probably do it! A few adventure ideas include hiking through the Himalayas in Nepal, working with sled dogs in Finland, scuba diving in Fiji, and taking a multi-day safari in Tanzania.

What People Are Saying

My case is a little unusual, I decided to take a gap year after already completing a year of college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I stumbled upon this program and knew it was something I...

Me in front of the Eiffel Tower.

My gap semester was tailored to my interests and exceeded every expectation I had of living and studying abroad! I went into the semester not sure where my path after high school was headed, and left...

In front of tower bridge, London

Before I started this program I had no clue who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. This program helped me discover my values, and helped me gain the confidence to follow my own path in life...

Top of the rock

Popular Gap Year Articles

Related Gap Year Articles