10 awesome gap year trips

Posted on 9 July 2012

Thinking about a gap year usually brings up visions of study breaks and post grad students trekking with their backpacks through foreign towns. But everyone deserves a time-out, regardless of age or profession, and so this list is designed to be as diverse as possible in terms of length and location, in order to fit anyone’s schedule.

1. Get raunchy in Australia

  • Length: 12 months
  • Budget: From R8 800, excluding flights, working holiday visa and travel insurance
  • Where: Coonabarabran, Australia

Now is your chance to become a true Australian cowboy, hat and all. This programme trains you for work on a ranch in the outback and then places you in a job for the entire year, according to your specific personal skills. The programme fee includes training, accommodation and meals, and the job pays minimum AUD 250 a week, so it’s definitely a great deal where you can tour during weekends and off days. Horse enthusiasts even have special placements, so if you have some riding skills, you can even ask to work with the animals specifically. All round, this seems like a great working and holiday experience, but definitely not for the faint hearted.
For more details and information, visit the
Real Gap website.

2. Overland through the Middle-East

  • Length: 8 weeks
  • Budget: From R20 700, excluding flights, visas, travel insurance, drinks and half of meals
  • Where: Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia

Travel right around the Mediterranean Sea to the north of Africa, stopping along some of the most influential sights and cities in the area. The very impressive and flexible itinerary includes floating in the Dead Sea and visiting the Valley of the Kings and the pyramids, and the trip offers an entire list of optional (and affordable) excursions like a camel safari into the Sinai Desert, scuba diving to WW2 shipwrecks and exploring the city of Troy. If you so wish, you can even do the entire trip in reverse. It seems to be a pretty adventurous and cultural experience, so if that’s what you’re looking for in a tour, visit the Oasis Travel Adventure website for more information.

3. Protect pandas in China

  • Length: 4 weeks
  • Budget: From R14 000, includes food and accommodation, excludes flights, visas, insurance, local transport
  • Where: Near X’ian, Shaanxi Province, China

A volunteer programme with a difference: you get to cuddle panda bears. I mean, come on. It’s pandas. Image four weeks spent in tranquility at the foot of Mount Zhongnan, an area surrounded by lakes, waterfalls and silence, while spending your free time helping the giant panda race and learning basic Mandarin. In your free time you can hike around the area and visit the nearby city, which includes sights of Chinese gardens and terracotta warriors. Sounds like the perfect volunteer trip to immerse yourself in Chinese culture, while hugging fluffy things.
Read more about it at the
i-to-i website.

4. Road trip through the USA

  • Length: 3 weeks
  • Budget: R17 000 for the trip, excluding flights, activities (approximately R250 per activity), and food and hotels (approximately R3 500)
  • Where: New York to Los Angeles, includes Las Vegas, New Orleans, Washington DC

This may not be one of the longest USA trips to go on, but it’s definitely one of the coolest. Not only do you get to go for a proper gamble in Los Angeles, but you also get to camp out in the Grand Canyon and visit Roswell to see if you can spot something ‘out there.’ First-timers in America who want to experience all the sights seen in films will adore this trip, but it’s also for anyone who wants to partake in an epic road trip that spans across an entire country.
For more information on the trip and hosts, you can visit the
Xtreme Gap Year website.

5. Bartend on an island

  • Length: Undefined
  • Budget: Undefined
  • Where: Ibiza

The great thing about this working holiday is you can work in a bar on the probably the best-known party island around. The not-so-great thing: you need to put a bit more work in than simply paying a programme fee. It’s a great way to spend your summer or however long you want to do it, so it’s worth the trouble of contacting one of the bars (early in the season) and organising your own way as you go along. It’s a great gig, and you can learn more about what exactly the process entails at gapwork.com.

6. Volunteer in Venezuela

  • Length: 6 weeks
  • Budget: R26 000, includes Spanish lessons, highland expedition, excludes flights, visas, drinks, independent/weekend expenses, travel insurance
  • Where: Eastern Venezuela

This volunteer programme stands out because of its variety – you won’t spend the entire 10 weeks in just one place doing a monotonous job. Instead, you’ll be moving through three different areas in Venezuela, while being enriched by the work you’re doing in four different volunteer programmes. The volunteering includes restoring mountain trails, caves and a famous beach, running an after-school club for kids, and working on a reforestation project. This will all be done while getting weekly Spanish lessons, and two of your 10 weeks will be spent on an expedition in the highlands of La Gran Sabana. If you want, there’s also an option to take the more beneficial 10-week programme, but six isn’t any less valuable for you or the volunteer work.
More info can be found at
The Leap.

7. Go on an Arctic Expedition

  • Length: 2 weeks
  • Budget: R50 000, excluding flights
  • Where: East Greenland

This trip is a bit more expensive than the rest as it’s not easy to get to and from Greenland, but if you do have the money and ability, it’s totally worth it. The focus of this trip is seeing the Northern Lights, but you get to experience the full extent of Arctic life during the two weeks you spend on your voyage along Greenland’s coast. Sail around icebergs and walk around villages to see how the locals brave the elements, take a mountain hike, or even try and spot some whales or dolphin. For full details and an itinerary, visit the Quark Expeditions site.

8. Do the funky chicken in New Zealand

  • Length: 12 months
  • Budget: R7500 for the pass, excluding any other desired travel expenses
  • Where: North and South Island

Taking a hop-on hop-off tour through the whole of New Zealand for however long you wish is the ideal journey for someone who wants to go their own way on a trip. You can plan your whole trip around both islands and use your pass to get anywhere you want, and the pass lasts for an entire year. Even if you don’t end up staying for 12 months, you can sell your ticket along the way to another traveler and get some extra cash to take home. If you’ve always wanted to visit the All Blacks, this is the best way to get around.
More info at
Real Gap.

9. Work at a ski resort

  • Length: Undefined
  • Budget: Undefined
  • Where: UK or Europe

Much like the Australian ranch programme, this is an opportunity to go on a brief training course to become either a ski or snowboard instructor, or learn skills to be placed in the hospitality section of a ski resort. There are multiple programmes that place workers in countries like France or Switzerland, and it’s really up to you to decide what you want out of the programme and where you want to go. Point is: you’ll probably end up somewhere in a brilliant mountain lodge in an exotic foreign country, while meeting loads of new people and skiing in your free time – what’s not to like? A few good placement programmes you can start by looking at are SkiFORCE, Ski Academy Switzerland, Ski Instructor Academy, Altitude Verbier or Non Stop Snow. I recommend you browse to see what interests you personally.

10. Traipse through Europe

  • Length: 4 weeks
  • Budget: From R30 000, includes food, transport and accommodation, excludes flights, visas, travel insurance
  • Where: London, France, Switzerland, Spain, Monaco, Italy, Austria, Venice, Germany, Belgium

This incredible trip spans through 15 countries in Europe, and sees some of the most well known sights on the continent. Called the ‘European Escapade’, this really is the essential, all-encompassing experience that includes all the quintessential stops Europe is famous for. The Alps, the Eiffel Tower, the French Riviera and the Colosseum are just a few of the amazing places you’ll be visiting. If you have a bit of money on you and you just want to move through a few countries for a month of leisure, this would be the tour for you.
Topdeck to read more.

Image courtesy of Jen Spires at i-to-i.

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