This was my first time travelling alone without my family, which was a daunting experience in itself. That's why I chose to do a guided trip with other people, this was definitely the right decision and it is a great way to start off your travelling in a safe way, it eases you in and makes you so much more confident to go and travel by yourself.
The trip itself was jam-packed with activities and you definitely got your money's worth for 7 weeks of travelling with accommodation and activities included. However, I did find that there were quite a few 'free days' which sometimes was a little frustrating as you just ended spending money for the sake of it. On the topic of money, I should have taken double what I did. The Gapforce website advised that you take approximately £750 for food for the whole trip, this was definitely not enough as Australia is really expensive!! A lot of others on the trip also recognised this, and some of us had to go into extra money or contact our parents because we hadn't brought enough with us. I think it might have been helpful to have known how expensive Australia was and how much money per day you would need (I'd advise £25-35).
The highlights of this trip are definitely the Whitsunday Islands and the trip to the Atherton tablelands in Cairns. Everywhere here is beautiful and therefore your camera roll will be filled with scenic views and many waterfalls! The best times that I had were actually the extra activities that you could pay for like Green Island and Skydiving! (I would recommend taking at least an extra £500 to be able to have the freedom to enjoy these activities if you'd like to) a lot of people also got the opportunity to get their PADI diving certificates over 4 days which I would highly recommend as it is much cheaper than England!
The volunteering section in the last couple of weeks was definitely harder than expected, a lot of us were a little disappointed as on the Gapforce website it states that the volunteering would involve animal conservation such as Koalas and Wallabies. However, we only got told a couple of weeks into the trip that we were actually going to be spending 4 hours in 35ºc heat weeding and planting trees, not what we had expected. Despite this, we all learnt a lot and very much appreciated the week after volunteering where we could relax and catch up on some sleep!
This trip was honestly some of the best weeks of my life and I met some wonderful people. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone who hasn't travelled before and finds it hard to meet new people. You get a wonderful tour of Australia and I don't think anywhere was missed out on the trip at all, the itinerary was great and the Gapforce leaders were even better, they were so supportive and got to know all 23 of us individually, you really felt like a big family only after 1 week of knowing each other. I would highly recommend a Gapforce trip but brace yourself for 7 weeks of beautiful views, unforgettable experiences and lots of partying!
I vlogged my 7 week experience - if you want to know exactly what we did check out the video below!
What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
- Make sure that you take enough money, Australia is expensive!
- Ask what the volunteering is before you go
- Have the flexibility to be able to travel elsewhere afterwards (chances are you'll want to travel with the new friends you've met)