Student Travel Diary: Why everyone should take a gap year

It's early May. This means that for me and the thousands of other soon-to-be-graduated are starting to think of popping the student bubble and entering the ‘real’ world. Impending graduation inevitably results in stress – whether this is thanks to trying to find a job, figuring out if moving back in with parents is really something that has to be done, or simply attempting to establish just what the hell you’re going to do with your life. But embracing the life of a non-student doesn’t have to be all stress and no play. The current economic climate means that getting a job as a new graduate is harder than ever, and the prospect of a post-uni gap year is becoming more and more attractive for many graduates across the country. And guess what? You don't have to be rich or well connected or privileged. Extensive travel is accessible to everyone once you start thinking outside the box, get a goal, work towards it. It can't be harder than the past years of study, right? Invest in your competitive advantage As I've said time and time again, travel is essential. It widens our perspectives, gives us compassion for others that are different from us, teaches us lessons and opens up - literally - a whole world of opportunity. So, is there any better time in your life to travel than straight after graduating? In an over-saturated job market, what is going to make you stand out from the rest of the candidates with 2:1 arts degree? Regardless of the obvious tempting aspects of temporarily ditching all serious responsibilities and spending time travelling the world and having fun, there are also many more practical benefits to taking a gap year after university. This is an investment into your future: you are honing your own competitive advantage. Many employers encourage a period of travelling after you graduate in order to gain skills greatly valued in the workplace, things like developing social skills, time and money management and generally gaining more confidence as a person. For certain types of jobs, the kinds of things you may opt to do as part of a gap year can be a massive contributing factor to whether or not you actually get the job. For many careers involving working with animals, for example, experience is required to even be considered for a position. This requirement doesn’t have to result in a summer spent working in your local cat rescue for nothing. Some of the most popular voluntary projects include looking after panda’s in Beijing, living on a beach in Costa Rica conserving endangered turtle’s natural environments or caring for Elephants in Thailand. All of which seem just a little bit more exciting than the local work experience alternative. Some of the most popular gap year experiences include Camp America followed by driving across the USA, backpacking in South East Asia and getting a taste of the original Full Moon party, working your way down the sunny East coast of Australia and various iconic treks such as the Great Wall of China or the Inca trail trek to Machu Picchu. The abundance of companies now specialising in volunteer projects and gap year tours all across the globe makes finding something to do with yourself even easier. The only stumbling block in doing this is the issue of money. There’s no way around it, travelling or voluntary work abroad is an expensive thing to do. However, if you’re determined enough and put your mind to it, it’s not impossible. Even if this means working, scrimping and saving for a few months before you go, the rewards drastically outweigh the sacrifice. TOP 3 (ALMOST) FREE WAYS TO TRAVEL Work - au pair or on a farm or on a yacht Volunteer - animals or schools etc Teach - TEFL BEST TRAVEL, WORKING & BACKPACKING RESOURCES Here are some of the best resources available to help with figuring out life as an adult, from volunteer abroad projects to work abroad to an entire gap year exploring the world. GAdventures STA Travel World Nomads Camp America Camp Europe Traveldudes Nomadic Matt

Student Travel Diary: Why everyone should take a gap year