How do you plan an entire 365 days on the road? For some travelers, their gap year has been mapped out since the first time they started dreaming of exotic destinations. Others might be a bit fuzzy on the specifics, content to wander wherever their whims take them. Either way, uprooting your life to take a gap year overseas is no small endeavor.

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 endless vacation days lying ahead of you.

However, don’t let leisure activities dominate your year. Volunteer at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, teach English in Spain, or work the ski season in New Zealand to round-out your time overseas (and, in some cases, replenish your wallet). With the right balance, a gap year abroad inspires a fresh perspective that will resonate with you throughout your life.

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 internships, and volunteer programs in Cambodia tackle big issues like homelessness.

Europe

For a travel gap year in Europe, the possibilities are endless. Work 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. 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 experiences await you in Africa. With an abundance of unique wildlife, Africa’s travel gap year 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 programs that will help you grow as a professional, explore teaching opportunities 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.

General Tips

First things first, how do you pack for a gap year? If you’re traveling through multiple climates, 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

Travel gap years are, unsurprisingly, on the pricier side of overseas experiences. 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.

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 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 different stories, and for these types of gap years, you’ll almost definitely need a visa.

Housing

Your housing situation will likely change over the course of your year of travel. 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.

Guide Author
Photo of Mellisa Pascale
Go Overseas Writer

Gap Year Travel Programs

Displaying 151 - 165 of 499 programs
Africa & Asia Venture (AV)
Visit Nepal for a Gap Year of Volunteering & Adventure Travel
Nepal
5 reviews

Climb to the Mount Everest base camp, trek through Nepals famous...

Outward Bound
Oregon to India: A Gap Year Semester to Discover the World & Yourself
India
1 review1 interview

This 45-day expedition takes you from Oregon to India. The expedition...

Outward Bound
A Dream Gap Year: Patagonia, The Everglades & Blue Ridge Mountains
United States of America
1 review1 interview

Embark on the adventure of a lifetime on this 72-day, multi-region...

Alltracks Academy
Gap Year Backcountry Skiing Course
Canada
2 reviews

The ALLTRACKS backcountry ski course aims to take confident resort...

Go To Grow Abroad
Colombia Personalized Gap Year Experience
Colombia
2 reviews

Live, learn, and grow in Colombia. Participants live in Colombia's...

Tru Experience Travel
Wildlife Conservation Programs: Volunteer on Your Gap Year
Multiple Countries
3 reviews

Our Wildlife Conservation, Rescue and Community Projects take place...

Habla Ya Spanish Schools
Learn Spanish & Surf in Panama's Caribbean, in Bocas del Toro
Panama
3 reviews

What better way to learn Spanish than surfing uncrowded waves in the...

International School for Earth Studies
Fall Gap Program - Explore Canada
Canada
3 reviews2 interviews

You want a Gap Session that increases your environmental literacy...

Stepabroad
Work & Travel South America: Chile Working Holiday for Canadians
Chile
2 reviews1 interview

Stepabroad’s Working Holiday Program for Canadians allows you to...

Putney Student Travel
Costa Rica Service & Adventure Programs | Putney Student Travel
Costa Rica
4 reviews1 interview

Experience Costa Rica, a leader in conservation and biodiversity, and...

Experience Institute
Experience Institute
United States of America
2 reviews2 interviews

Design your education through Experience Institute. We’re an...

Camps International
Camp Kenya - Volunteer in Kenya 1-3 months
Kenya
3 reviews1 interview

Kenya is a really popular choice for a gap year experience because it...

Africa & Asia Venture (AV)
Visit Malawi, the Warm Heart of Africa for Volunteering & Travel
Malawi
4 reviews1 interview

Malawi is known for its amazing people and beautiful landscape...

What People Are Saying

Turtle week

So much fun, everyone extremely friendly, staff very friendly and welcoming, helps you grow as a character and you do really feel you are making a difference to the local community. Such an amzimg...

A particularly scenic spot along the Great Ocean Road

Australia was my first backpacking trip, and a wonderful place to do it. I went all over the country, from Darwin to Adelaide, from Melbourne to Cairns, and Tasmania. After the countless activities I...

Celebrating Christmas by decorating a Christmas tree with my host family

I started out as an au pair with the intention of living in places such as Italy, Australia, etc. in order to broaden my horizons. When Sarah from Edu-Pal China reached out to me to join the program...

Related Gap Year Articles