With university fees rising on a seemingly never-ending basis and newspaper headlines dominated by recession, debt and increased cost of living, more and more people are reluctantly giving up their opportunity to take a gap year.
This is a great shame, as a gap year is not only great for developing your confidence, self-reliance and independence, but can also improve your CV or personal statement. Prospective tutors and employers will usually see a year out as a positive accomplishment, whether it involved relevant work or voluntary experience, or simply helped you to develop as a person.
But how should you finance you trip? Gap years can be expensive, and depending on where you plan to travel to, you may find you need anything from £2,000 to £6,000, which can seem quite daunting when you’re in the planning stage. But fear not, there are a number of ways to finance your travels and the following options should help you fund the trip of a lifetime.
1. Work before you go
The best way to build up a significant amount of funding for your trip is to knuckle down, get a job and save like a demon before you go. There are a few things you can do to optimise how much you save, starting with your living arrangements. If possible, see if you can live with your parents for 6 months or a year paying reduced rent, or if you’re lucky, no rent at all. The
savings will start to mount up very quickly.
You’ll also need to start making a few lifestyle sacrifices. Maybe you could ditch evenings at the pub for a night in having drinks at a friend’s house, or you could take it in turns to cook for each other rather than going out to expensive restaurants. You may want to make a chart of how much you want to save, and then tick off landmarks along the way to spur you on towards your goal, and don’t forget to give yourself the occasional reward for all your scrimping. Just make sure it’s something in the sales!
2. Work while you’re out there
You’ll definitely need to save some money before you head off, but working as you go is a great way of earning valuable extra cash while you’re on your trip. The best way to find work abroad is usually through word of mouth. Ask in bars, hostels or anywhere else that sees a lot of backpackers, and they will usually be able to point you in the direction of someone that needs an extra pair of hands for a few hours.
Working abroad can also help you gain a more detailed understanding of the country you‘re in, and help you meet and get to know the local population better. Even if you can find somewhere to stay that will offer free accommodation in exchange for a couple of hours spent changing sheets or cleaning rooms, you’ll save enough to treat yourself to a meal at a quality restaurant or a nicer hotel room when you really need it.
3. Get sponsorship
Believe it or not, there are companies that will provide financial help to aid your gap year. Sure, you’re unlikely to have your whole trip paid for, but even an extra £50 can make a big difference once you are away, particularly in countries like Thailand and India. Contact small organisations like the local Lions or Rotary Club and your school or college and ask if they offer bursaries for those looking to travel for a year. The level of funding you receive may be dependent on what you want to do while you’re out there, and you’ll be hard-pushed to find someone to sponsor you for a year of lying on the beach drinking cocktails. But if you’re looking to do some volunteer work, or something vocational while you’re away, you may find yourself able to get some financial help.
You may also want to do some fundraising yourself to elicit some support from friends, family and the local community. Doing a sponsored walk, bike ride, silence or similar feat might get you some extra funds, and if you opt for something that helps the local community (a sponsored clean-up of a local park for example) you might be able to get donations from
4. Have rich parents
Okay, so this one isn’t really going to work for everyone, but having a bit of financial support from the folks is a huge help when saving up for a trip. Maybe you could consider doing some of the housework or re-formatting their computer for a fee, or maybe their gift to you is the chance to live at home rent-free while you save up. Either way, parents can be an absolute
godsend at times like these.
Similarly, it might be worth writing that letter you’d been meaning to send to your various relations letting them know how you’re getting on, and possibly dropping in the fact that you’re headed off on a life-changing trip abroad. Remember, if you can point out the potential benefits of your travels (enhanced job prospects, growing as a person, spiritual enlightenment etc ) to friends and family rather than crowing about the tan you’re going to get and all the partying you’ll do, you’re probably more likely to generate a positive response.
5. Enter a competition
It’s probably best not to rely on this one for your gap year funding, but it’s always worth looking out for competitions that will help with your air-fares, accommodation or even give you a full free gap year. The internet is one of the best places to check what’s on offer competition wise, and following the gap year travel companies on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter is the best way to keep ahead of the game.
So there you have it, gap years can be expensive, but taking on board one or possibly all of these suggestions should help you finance the trip of a lifetime. Just remember to say thanks to all those who’ve helped you out, and take lots of photos to show them just how much fun you’ve had!