Gap years were once exclusive to the rich and spoilt. However, the value of taking a year off between study has become increasingly clear to students and employers alike, and as such gap years are becoming more popular. These days there can still be huge initial costs to embark on such an adventure, but there are several ways to actually be able to afford a gap year.
Whilst the common image for students on gap years is weathered backpacks and beers on a beach, travel isn’t the only thing you can occupy yourself with during this time. A common approach for young people starting gap years is to set aside part of the year working a job at home. For many this is the first opportunity to gain some independence by earning their own money, so apart from learning some skills like budgeting and shit, it’s also a time where you can spend your hard-earned cash with (relatively) no guilt.
Plus, this period is a sweet sweet time to save money, since your expenses as an 18-year-old are going to be pretty low. Work hard for a few months and you’ll find yourself with enough funds to launch yourself overseas snapping pretty ‘grams and sipping drinks with umbrellas in them.
Work, but overseas
If you’re cool with working for your gap year but want to leave sooner, or you just can’t bear the thought of working a job in your hometown, then your best option is to go on a working holiday. Australia has arrangements with heaps of countries for lengthy visas that allow people to work and study during that time.
This way you could still be pulling pints, but in French, or in a random sales job using your Aussie accent to talk helpless Americans out of their money – trust me, they froth over it there. There are even companies that put in the hard work for you, guaranteeing you a place to stay and regular shifts before you set foot on a plane.
Another way that gap years have become more accessible is the rise of volunteer programs catered to students and other young people. They’re great if you can’t afford to travel to far-away places without some extra cash or help, but have decided to go on a gap year specifically because you don’t want to look for a job.
Organisations such as WWOOF and WorkAway connect people to cool projects like sustainable farms and overseas hostels where you trade some of your time for free accommodation and other allowances. While this may sound suspiciously like a job, these arrangements are usually fewer hours than a full-time gig and can land you in bloody interesting places with bloody interesting people.
Couchsurfing is becoming less of a gamble over the safety of your organs, and more an international community connecting completely lovely people. The hosts you meet through this are generally eager to provide as much or little help to you as you need, so apart from saving money on accommodation in expensive cities, they can also give useful money-pinching tips that only a local would know. Couchsurfing doesn’t even have to through the website – you can also hit up family members or international friends (of friends) for any spare couch space, offering a spot if they ever make their way to Australia.
Deciding on a gap year can be intimidating enough when you consider the pressure you get from others for choosing something that isn’t the norm; when you factor in the financial side of it, it gets even scarier. However, the barriers to enjoying this opportunity are getting lower by the year. Don’t let these worries get in the way of your gap year, because by following some of these tips you’ll find that they can be enjoyed by more than just the privileged few.