Gap years. They’re great aren’t they? They look fab on your CV, expand your brainbox, and conveniently delay reality for a while longer. However sometimes escaping for an entire year isn’t always possible. If you’re cash-strapped, or just fancy getting a hit of gap year goodness in a smaller amount of time – there’s lots you can do instead.
Summer mini gaps
Think of these as a big hit of life-expansion in a small potent bundle. Gapyear.com, and PoD both offer summer mini gaps where you expand your horizons and do your bit for charity in a foreign country – but the placements only last between a week and two months. Projects on offer include helping at a Cambodian orphanage, teaching English in Thailand, looking after elephants in South Africa, and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
But be warned. These trips are not for the thrifty. Some of the longer placements come with an eye-watering £1,000 price tag. So, unless you’re an expert bank robber or have generous parental units, look into the weekly or fortnightly options. These are a tad more affordable, but just as rewarding.
No, this doesn’t involve flouncing round the States in drag whilst singing Barbara Streisand. Instead you’ll spend the summer shaping the young minds of American kiddies. This involves spending nine weeks on a beautifully rural camp premises working as a ‘counsellor’. You’ll play games with the children, do watersports, sing around campfires and often have to share a cabin with them at night-time. This will earn you around $800 so you can travel around America with your newly earned dough afterwards. But you must be available from at least June 20th, so check your exam timetable before you sign up.
Your very own country is pretty damn interesting. And if you’re short on cash and time, a roadtrip around this fair Isle could be much less naff than it sounds. You may not feel staying in Blighty is ‘different enough’ compared to places like India or South America, but get away from what you’re used to and you could discover a whole hidden side to the UK. If you’re usually a city dweller, the jawdropping scenery of the Lake District or quaint seaside towns might invigorate you. Or if you’re more of a country bumpkin, exploring vibrant British cities like Bristol, Dublin, or Edinburgh can broaden your horizons. Tearing up the tarmac can be a picturesque experience if you deviate from the motorway, and there’s a wealth of weird, wacky, and quintessentially British events happening all over the year. South America may have the Rio carnival – but we have mentalists rolling down the hill chasing a massive piece of cheese.
InterRailing + Couchsurfing = cheap summer trip
For a gap year, you will usually spend half of it selling your soul to a temp agency to earn enough cash to jet around on. But if you don’t have the luxury of spending six months wanting to staple your eyes together whilst ‘Joe from accounts’ excitedly tells you about his bowel movements- there is another way. InterRail offer a 22 day train pass for only £345, valid in 30 countries. Can’t afford to stay in hostels? Try Couchsurfing. It’s an international organisation you can use to kip for free on a stranger’s sofa. Your host can become your amazing new tour guide or friend for life. The website gives you the opportunity to get to know your hosts before you arrive so you can vet any potential weirdos – and it’s always safer to Couchsurf with another person.
For those of you with a penchant for wellington boots, dirty hands and fresh-air-induced euphoria, a placement on an organic farm might be the mini gap year for you. WWOOF UK sets you up with a farm placement where you’ll work and learn about living on the land in exchange for room and board. There’s only a £20 joining fee, and that’s pretty much your expenses sorted. Plus, you can join WWOOF networks all over the world and embrace your inner farmer abroad. You’re not expected to know anything about farming before you arrive, you just need to be willing to learn and muck in.
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By Holly Bourne
Updated on 07-Aug-2014