If adventure is in your blood, consider signing up for a wilderness or leadership gap year. These courses will help you grow as a person and as a leader and test your mettle in a completely new immersive experience.

If you want to cultivate your knowledge as a leader or learn to survive using your wits and skills, then you're in the right place.

The great news is that there are opportunities nearly all over the world! Below are some of the main regions and countries where you can take a gap year abroad:

Africa

From vibrant Senegal to the vast mix of savannas, cities, and villages of South Africa, you can have the perfect gap year experience in Africa. This is a great destination for wilderness gap years, especially if you've never lived in the savanna!

Asia

Asia is the perfect continent if you're looking for a region both very modern and extremely historical. Two of the most unique gap year destinations in Asia couldn't be more different: Nepal, home of the Himalayas, sherpas, and Buddhist monasteries, and lush, rainforest-filled Borneo.

North America

Whether you are hiking in the stark landscapes of the western United States and Canada or volunteering in a pueblo or city in Mexico, the gap year opportunities in North America are as diverse as the countries and landscapes themselves.

Central and South America

Delve into the rainforests of Panama or the wilds of Patagonia in Chile and Argentina for your next wilderness gap year. If you're searching for leadership opportunities, why not practice your Spanish while you're at it?

Australia and New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand are popular with international travelers for a reason. With stunning landscapes and diverse cities, you'll discover opportunities for any kind of adventure.

Choosing a Program

As you are evaluating your gap year plans, consider:

  • What do you want to learn? Certain survival skills? More interpersonal leadership skills? Do you want to get a certification of some kind?
  • What is your ideal location -- a desert climate? A cold climate? A tropical one?
  • Do you want to focus on a particular area in addition to developing your leadership skills; for example, survival skills or environmental health?
  • Do you want to attend an official training program? Volunteer? Study abroad? Intern?
  • Is your program only available to current college students?
Costs

The costs vary per program. You'll find that some programs only last a few weeks (1-4, for example), and will cost anywhere from $500-5,000 USD. A lot of other programs last between 1-3 months or one full semester. They can cost $5,000-20,000 USD. For longer programs (a year or a little less), you may need to pay up to $25,000 USD.

Don't fret at the price, though: a lot of programs offer financial aid and scholarship options.

Housing

If you're looking to attend a leadership gap year, you'll likely be set up with more conventional accommodations: a homestay, dorm, volunteer house, or hostel.

However, if you're applying for a wilderness gap year, you'll find that camping is often a major part of your accommodations. In fact, some only offer camping options. But many others provide accommodations in apartments, volunteer houses, guesthouses, hostels, hotels, home stays, and student dorms.

Health & Safety

For destination-specific health and safety precautions, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) through the U.S. and the travel health and safety section through the Canadian government's website provide great information. Keep in mind that government websites always lean on the conservative side when giving health and safety precautions.

Overall, keep your vaccinations updated, and consult your doctor for treatment tailored to your itinerary, especially if you're traveling to more than one country with different health regulations.

Before you depart, make copies of important documents in case of emergencies, and always bring extra passport-sized photos with you. In destinations where petty theft is a problem, carry a money belt of some kind to keep your valuables close to your body and out of sight.

Contributed by Michelle Philippon

Wilderness & Leadership Programs

Want to take do a wilderness or leadership program on our Gap Year? Check out these programs!
Displaying 1 - 15 of 159 programs
Welcome To Travel
Melbourne: Your Best Travel Week In Australia
Australia
10 •14 reviews

Welcome To Travel: Melbourne is Australia's most unique, diverse and...

Tivnu: Building Justice
Tivnu: Building Justice Gap Year Program
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The Leap
Turtles + Plastic Ocean Conservation in Costa Rica
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9 •12 reviews

Your time will be spent on the Nicoya Peninsula where you will...

Culsans Gap Travel
Hands on conservation, adventure and wildlife trip in Kenya
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Unlike your regular Gap Year trips, Culsans Gap Travel offers a world...

112 new reviews
Warriors Academy
Warriors Academy Gap Year Program in South Africa
South Africa
9.71 •112 reviews

The Warriors Academy Gap Year program is aimed at developing each...

Naropa University|LeapYear
LeapYear India: Naropa University's Gap Year
Multiple Countries
9.73 •11 reviews

This program offers an extraordinary alternative year of college...

The Leap
Wildlife, Reserve Conservation, & Adventure in Namibia
Namibia
10 •8 reviews

For a conservation experience you can't beat this pioneering...

Naropa University|LeapYear
LeapYear Latin America: Naropa University's Gap Year
Multiple Countries
10 •6 reviews

An extraordinary alternative year of college designed to assist you in...

19 new reviews
Seguinland Institute
Good Life Gap Term in Maine
United States of America
9.95 •19 reviews

The idea for this gap term is simple. Set aside 3 months of your one...

International Field Studies
Marine Science Gap Year: Andros, Bahamas
Bahamas
10 •4 reviews

Live on beachfront property, study on the crystal clear Caribbean...

International School for Earth Studies
Fall Gap Program - Explore Canada
Canada
10 •3 reviews

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

The Dragon Trip
25-Day Tour of China with The Dragon Trip
China
9.4 •5 reviews

Explore the tropical south, rural west, historic north and the...

Outward Bound Costa Rica
Gap Year in Costa Rica, Panama, & Nicaragua
Multiple Countries
10 •3 reviews

Two course options available: Outdoor Leader Semester and Coast to...

GapForce
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Multiple Countries
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Follow in the footsteps of past Gapforce Leaders including Bruce Parry...

Pacific Discovery
Australia & NZ | Cultural Immersion, Service Learning, Adventure
Multiple Countries
9.63 •38 reviews

Engage your passions! Join us for a life-changing, overland journey...

What People Are Saying

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As a student who grew up in the hustle and bustle of New York City, it was great to get away and learn in the natural beauty of Maine. Each day was filled with great readings, hands on experiences...

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Taking the Maine Course with the Francis family was one of the most unforgettable experiences. As someone who is well-traveled, I would easily say Maine beat any other location I have gone. From...

The yurt was my home for two amazing weeks. Never thought I would say I miss sleeping in a yurt.

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