If you never had the opportunity to experience a gap year between Matric and the first year of tertiary education or before starting your first job, there is still time to realise your dream of seeing the world – and you don’t need a year to do it.
Our panel of experienced female travellers and industry experts offers their advice to make up for lost time and have a gap year experience in just a week or a month.
Ain’t nobody got time? Try a guided trip
A shorter trip isn’t exactly a gap year, but travel isn’t about how long you’re away, says Kele Scheppers, Marketing Manager for Contiki, it’s about what you do with the time you have available.
‘Guided trips range between just over a week and a month are a sure-fire way to get the most of a shorter time frame. You’ll also easily connect and bond with like-minded travellers, which is what gap years really are about. With impeccably well-planned, multi-city itineraries, and all of your transport, accommodation and activities pre-arranged, you’ll milk that holiday for all its worth; I can assure you.’
Be a little ‘extra’ with those flights
‘I highly recommend taking direct international flights if you are short on time,’ says Lauren Melnick, South African travel writer and owner of the Wanderlust Movement blog.
‘Although you’ll pay more, you can get away with it if you plan the rest of your trip’s budget properly – and don’t have a penchant for five-star hotels. Set a budget for each day and make the most of off-season and shoulder travel periods. You’ll skip the crowds and benefit from out of season prices,’ she adds.
‘Generally speaking, the benefits of a week or month-long gap means you can budget a lot less and you won’t spend as much on visas.’
When in doubt, start in Europe
‘Even just a short amount of time spent out of your comfort zone can be life-changing,’ adds Jessica Clarke, Marketing Manager for Busabout.
‘If you’ve got big gap year ideas but a small window of time and a tight budget, a well-connected hop-on-hop-off holiday through Europe can be one of the best and most time-effective ways to go about it. Cities there are so well-connected with easy and established routes.’
‘Go for comfy, air-conditioned coaches, and hop-on-hop-off passes that take you all over the continent. Party on the Greek islands, or eat your weight in pasta in Italy. In Europe, nowhere is off the table for a well-deserved short gap.’
Don’t wait to go it alone
‘Don’t be afraid to do it on your own’, offers Kate McGregor, Business Development Manager at Asia DMC, who says the beauty of the gap year is about discovering your independence.
‘Venturing out as a solo female traveller, I learnt to embrace my own company. To reach that point of being completely comfortable in your own skin, you have to go out there and overcome being by yourself.’
Kate maintains: ‘You will meet a lot of travellers every day. I have travelled South East Asia extensively, and it’s incredibly easy to do as a solo female traveller. Anyone can do it! Start off with some group tours to build up your confidence. You’ll bond quickly with those travelling with you. It also gives you peace of mind if you are worried about safety.’
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