Gap years are just for kids, right? Teenagers who have just left high school, trust fund babies, and uni students who just want to grow some dreads and “see the world” with a dirty pack strapped to their back? Wrong! So, what are gap year travel programs? A gap year abroad is much more than you think.
What is gap year travel?
First off, gap year travel programs are a chance to reflect on your personal mantra, goals, and values. When you observe and experience how people live in other parts of the world, it can give you the perspective you need to reevaluate your life and your problems. If you’re fed up with your current way of life, a gap year may even inspire you to change your entire life’s direction completely. You will learn more about yourself and what you’re capable of, without the comfort of family, friends, a job, and a native language you’re fluent in.
It’s also a chance to explore. You can follow the crowd and spend a year abroad racking up Instagram followers or getting a tan or you can spend it productively, traveling with meaning: working abroad, volunteering abroad, or learning a new language. Use your year abroad to discover new interests or dig up old passions. Always loved animals but couldn’t afford to go to vet school? Spend a year abroad conserving wildlife in sanctuaries.
Not only that, a gap year is open to everyone, whether you’re pushing paper in some corner cubicle or have risen the ranks of the corporate ladder. Yes, you can even find gap year programs abroad after college! If you’re tired of talking about the latest “Game of Thrones” episode at the water cooler every Monday morning or just wrapped up an epic four years of university — not to mention you’re truly ready to live your own adventure — you should DEFINITELY consider gap year travel.
There are lots of gap year travel programs out there for the not-so-cliche gap year traveler — so let’s dig into some of our favorites.
Gap year internships
What if you’ve hit a rut in your career and you’re thinking about changing jobs? Have you not even jumped into the working world and are instead looking for gap year programs abroad after college? Our best advice — take a year to explore possibilities you never even considered at home because you were always too busy or afraid to take the risk.
Though it can be difficult to find gap year internships that are paid, there are a span of opportunities that double as intensive learning and passion exploring. Transitioning from your current lifestyle into one that incorporates structured professional experience in a brand spankin’ new place isn’t as easy as it sounds — but it’s more rewarding (both personally AND professionally) than you can imagine. That's why we love these travel gap year programs!
Suggested gap year internships programs:
Why not get a headstart in one of the world’s most exciting tourism industry while taking a tiki-tour in the wop-wops? The New Zealand Internships Tourism Program offers flexible options depending on your start date, duration, and location request. Some of the perks of this program include a money back guarantee if you don't find placement, free shared accommodation (or equal value pay), travel discounts across the North and South Islands, and the chance to make new contacts and friends in the industry. All you need to be is 18 to 30 years old (perfect for gap year programs abroad after college), have or can apply for a working holiday visa, or be currently enrolled in a university.
What if you’ve scored thousands of followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram but never really worked in the industry? Top Israel Interns offers professional social media internships to boost your resume if you’re looking to change careers. In five months, you can learn what it’s really like to live in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the Middle East, get a handle on Hebrew, and experience ancient and modern Israeli culture. Bonus points: your program fees will include high-end apartment accommodation in the city centers of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.
China Internship Placements (CIP) offers customized and flexible gap year programs across China, including big cities like Beijing, Chengdu, and Guangzhou. You can start anytime in the year and intern in a range of sectors including business, engineering, environmental studies, international relations, marketing, law, even web design. Program fees include one-on-one immersive Chinese language classes, cultural activities, professional mentoring, networking opportunities, fully-furnished accommodation, and 24/7 support during your time abroad.
Want to get a leg up in travel writing and journalism? Become a media and journalism travel intern in Vietnam for up to two months. The program is looking for adventurous spirits who want to experience this Southeast Asian country and create stories, pictures, blogs, and vlogs to market its destinations online and offline. Program fees include a homestay with a local family which will help you experience what it’s really like to live a local and get insider tips about where to go, what to do, and where to eat in the country.
Are you an aspiring filmmaker who wants to make a difference? Sign up for The Film in Action Documentary Filmmaking Course in Costa Rica! Experience the pura vida firsthand and get involved in community media while you’re there. Learn the fundamentals and take part in workshops in the country’s capital, San José, spend two weeks getting inspired while working with local community radio stations in Ortina and the Gulf of Nicoya, then return to San José to edit and screen your masterpiece. This is not your average voluntourism program but an immersive travel experience that will develop your creative skills and produce a film at the end to help document the experience.
Gap year volunteer programs
What if you’ve always wanted to do some volunteer work but never had the time? It’s never too late so why not sign up for gap year volunteer programs — this is your chance.
You won’t need experience to join most projects, just a passion for the cause, and a willingness and enthusiasm to learn. If this is your first time trying out gap year volunteer programs, and you aren’t quite sure what to expect, program fees include pre-departure and on-the-ground support, advice on how to best prepare, how to apply for the necessary visa, and answers to any questions you might have before you leave.
Suggested gap year volunteer programs:
Projects Abroad has so many international volunteer program options it will make your head spin! In particular, this program provider offers Projects for Professionals, a program designed specifically for graduates, professionals who want to take a career break, and even retirees who want to use their golden years wisely. Many of these projects seek qualified volunteers to attend to the needs of local communities.
Kaya Responsible Travel tries to match your knowledge, skills, and experience to a project where you will have the greatest impact. Volunteer abroad in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the South Pacific. Projects include working on archaeological sites around the world, advising local entrepreneurs or NGOs, doing human rights work, working in the medical field including veterinary medicine, volunteering in social work, and teaching.
Frontier also provides over 300 cool gap year travel programs across the globe that combine volunteering and traveling. Join an ethical adventure trail through Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica while teaching or helping to conserve the environment. Learn to dive in the clear waters of Tanzania and educate yourself about marine wildlife, habitats, and conservation. Safari lovers, help preserve the big five - the lion, buffalo, elephant, leopard, and rhino by volunteering at a game reserve in South Africa.
If your love for humanity extends to an equally deep love for our furry friends, consider GoEco as your gap year volunteer programs experts. With the abundance of native wildlife hopping, flying, and waddling around our environs, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer in animal welfare and conservation. To volunteer with animals on your gap year is to participate in projects that range from caring for abandoned critters, to roaming slightly further afield, monitoring and protecting native species, to reforestation, water, and marine conservation projects. Use your paws to make another’s life a little less ruff.
Create your own itinerary!
The beauty of gap year travel programs is that there are no rules. Want to volunteer for a few weeks, then start an epic internship, then kick back for a few weeks on an adventure travel program? Have at it! Want to bounce from Latin America to the South Pacific and onwards to Southeast Asia? Yup, there’s a “gap for that.” Gap year travel programs span the gamut and it’s up to you to establish your goals and craft a year-long itinerary that helps you get closer to (or surpass!) them.
Remember: You don’t need to be a teen to sign up for travel gap year programs.
Taking gap year programs abroad after college (or during, for those who need some time away from campus) can seem intimidating at first, but trust us, it will be one of the best experiences of your lifetime. Take the time to choose gap year travel programs that suit your needs — from destination, to preferred level of support, to aligning your gap year itinerary with your life mission and learning goals for the year. No matter your status — student, dropout, young professional, et al. — there are gap year internships and gap year volunteer programs out there just waiting to add sparkle to your life (and resume!). Get after it!