School has a way of muddling our brain so bad we’re practically begging for a holiday, deciding to go on a gap year before we even figure out where we want to go. As it stands there are two main destinations for us Aussies, so it’s easy to narrow it down to just Europe or Asia. The problem with picking between the two, though, is that they’re bloody vast continents with loads of countries within them, each with heaps to offer. You’re going to have a freakin’ blast no matter where you go, it just boils down to what brand of fun you wanna cop.
Sometimes the best decision depends on really practical factors, like what time of year you’re going, or how much money you have stowed away for the trip. Other times it comes down to less tangible things, like what kind of vibe you want to be projecting for your inevitable slew of #wanderlust photos.
When people talk about ‘Europe’ in terms of gap years they’re usually talking about Western Europe, as it is the countries in this area that most people head to on their first trip. I don’t blame them, either – it’s easy to be seduced by those big European cities and imagine yourself eating pizza in Naples, finding love in Paris, or sweating away the early hours in a Berlin nightclub.
Remember: these countries have their seasons backwards to us, so our coldest months are their warmest. Escaping our winter to a European summer is generally regarded by all as a fucking mint idea since you’re literally running away from the cold. On the other hand, leaving at the end of the year gives you a shot at a White Christmas, and drinking gluhwein while you stroll through snow-frosted markets can be quaint as fuck.
It’s also going to be pretty bloody expensive, though, especially compared to countries in Asia. This is fine if you’ve had time to save a bunch, or plan on working while you’re over there, but if you’re there purely for leisure, you may not be able to stretch your trip out for as long.
In general, Europe is the ideal destination if you’re interested in city adventures and a certain level of comfort. Of course, there are remote destinations in Europe and ways to slum it out throughout, as there are super sleek cities in Asia, but the highlights of a European gap year usually include the many excesses of modern city living. There are world-class museums, quirky cafes, hipster bars, and hectic nightlife.
Wildcard: consider hitting up Eastern or Southern Europe for a cheaper and less predictable experience.
When people talk about ‘doing Asia’ for their gap year they’re probably talking about the classic backpacker trail through Southeast Asia, so we’re gonna talk about that.
In terms of seasons, the best time to visit this region is usually said to be October-March, as it can get unbearably hot during the middle of the year. Generally, the good times to visit Asia are when it’s freezing in Europe – perfect right? Just don’t let this fact completely dictate where you go!
One of the biggest benefits of taking a gap year in Asia is how bloody cheap it is. Your hard-earned cash is inevitably going to last longer here, and it’s possible to set a daily budget equal to the price of a single dinner in Europe. It’s also possible – and most of the time cheaper – to eat out for every meal in Asia, and things like laundry services are also cheap as chips.
This means that there is generally something in these countries for all budget types. You can be super cheap, living off the essentials and always hunting for the best bargain, or you can indulge in cheap luxury, like paying for a villa in Bali for next to nothing. Either way, trips to Asia are characterised by a more adventurous kind of holiday, with endless beaches and islands to explore, along with hiking trips and diving expeditions that are hard to find anywhere else in the world.
Wildcard: cities like Singapore or Bangkok are right at your doorstep, as are Tokyo and Seoul.