Having a year or a few months to explore the world can be one of the most exciting experiences before your next big step in life. But with so much possibility, it can be daunting to get started. Ecology Project International is here to provide you with some guiding questions and tips to help you make the most of your gap experience.
What to do
The first step is simply exploring options and figuring out what you might be interested in doing on your Gap Year. Ask yourself:
What are my goals for this experience, and what do I want to accomplish by the end of it?
What am I passionate about and what do I want to explore?
Do I want to pursue any kind of career training or earn college credit?
Start your planning with some self-reflection. List out your goals and what you're excited about. Just putting these down in writing can help you visualize your experience.
Consider how you can use your passions to help make the world a better place.
Many programs and organizations offer ways for you to pair your experience with earning credit or preparing for a career.
A Gap Year in the rainforest? Check out EPI's program in Costa Rica, with an option to earn credit and extend your stay as a Research Intern.
Where to go
The world is a big place. There's so much to see and do, but with a little planning and some self-directed question, you'll know exactly where to push the pin on the map. Ask yourself:
Does one place or another help you accomplish your list of goals? Rural or urban? Civilized or wild?
Do I want to experience another part of the country, or am I more interested in going abroad?
Do I want to go to as many places as I can or opt for fewer places and more depth?
Find a place that is personally exciting and will help broaden your perspective but still aligns with your goals.
Either domestic or abroad, try choosing a place that will challenge you and encourage you to move out of your comfort zone and try new things.
Consider how long you want to spend in a location and how that will help you achieve your goals for the year.
How to do it
Before the rubber meets the road you also need to consider any limitations on your gap year. We want these dreams to become a reality. Ask yourself:
What is my budget?
How much time do I have?
Do I want to travel on my own, enroll in a program, or do both?
Look at how your budget will match with the amount of time you have, and how you can best maximize those funds while still enjoying your experience and meeting your goals.
While solo traveling is unique and rewarding, joining a program can help structure your experience and may introduce you to people and places you might not have the opportunity to otherwise
Gap years can be expensive. Start saving now. Every little bit helps.
Building the Plan
Grab some paper, pencil, and calendar. The last step is putting all the pieces together and mapping out the timeline of your journey. Ask yourself:
How much structure do I need while traveling? A day by day calendar? Week by week?
What kinds of booking or reservations do I need to make in advance?
Are there timing gaps? How long will I need to get from place to place?
Having a schedule will help keep you focused on your goals and excited for the next step of your journey.
Booking early can not only help save you money, but gives you peace of mind knowing that essential components of your trip are taken care of.
A gap experience is a great resume builder and way to help decide what you will do next whether if it’s college, career training, or entering the workforce
Once you make that first booking or reservation, you'll know that you're on your way to making your gap year a reality. But the questions don't end there, not if you want to make the most of your time. Now you can turn to a bigger question: what is my gap experience preparing me for? What comes next, once I return home?