Gap year reflections – a year of discovery

The Gap Year Edit is one year old!

The significance for me is not in the anniversary of a website, but the celebration of a year of change. Time for some gap year reflections on this period of discovery – things I’ve given myself a pat on the back for, stuff I’d do differently, where it’s taken me, and – excitingly – what’s next.

A pat on the back

gap year reflections - Leon cathedral

My most liked instagram photo – the roof of Leon cathedral, Nicaragua

There’s plenty in the past year that’s given me a sense of a “job well done”.

The day I got my first piece of paid travel writing.

Or when I googled myself and my website and realised I was there in the results! And, even better, when a new work colleague told me he’d googled me before I joined the company and found me straight away … and not only via LinkedIn. Turns out that Search Engine Optimisation course was worth the pain 🙂

My writing chilled out a bit. Thank heavens. Corporate speak can only go so far.

My photography skills have gone up a notch, meaning my instagram account now looks mostly pretty – whoop whoop! Admittedly I need to show it some more love on the follower front, but it’s getting there.

And, overall, in having a grown up gap year I learnt more than I ever thought possible (and not just about search engines!)

If I had my time again …

Would I have done anything differently during my gap year? Of course.

I’d have a slightly less corporate-looking web design. My writing’s evolved. My design needs to do the same. It’s on the list, folks; it’s on the list.

I’d have got my backside into gear more on the social media side of things. If I’m honest I’ve not devoted anywhere near as much attention to this as I could, particularly on starting conversations with readers and peers. Work to do on this one.

I’d get less frustrated with myself when I don’t accomplish everything. Being me, I made myself more goals as the year went on. I wanted to write an ebook. But I’ve not managed it yet. Paid work has been the priority since returning from Nicaragua in March. I need to chill out about it – the ebook idea isn’t going anywhere 😉

gap year reflections - Meteora, Greece

I have no regrets about spending time to admire this view instead of starting my e-book 🙂 This is Meteora, Greece.

On a more personal level, I’d tone down my stubborn streak a bit more. Sometimes. I’ve been making a huge effort over the last year to occasionally show my more vulnerable side. It’s been commented on in a positive way, but I feel there’s still room for me to do more.

gap year reflections - stubborn

Definitely not hellish, but most definitely frozen

The fact remains – when I’m hurt by someone’s actions, I’d rather hell freeze over than the have the person who hurt me know how much I felt wounded. My pride (or ego!) kicks in. My inner voice says: “I won’t give you the satisfaction.” Even though in reality that person is unlikely to be feeling smug or happy.

I (appear to) outwardly exhibit my inner strength on the occasions when I feel far from strong.

Yeah. Sometimes I need to not do that.

It made me wonder – are there are people who thought: “maybe Julie didn’t care?” When that was far from the case.

Sometimes, the stubborn brave face needs to get back in its box. That can be my ongoing challenge for this year!

Where my gap year has taken me

I didn’t think for a minute when I handed in my notice last year from my corporate job that I’d now be working contract roles through my own Limited Company. But that’s been my working life since the end of March.

gap year reflections - flexibility - Zagreb

Work flexibility means I can head back to the Balkans soon 🙂 This is St Mark’s Church in Zagreb, Croatia

In reality, I had no idea what I’d end up doing! Moving away from my usual comfort zone opened my mind to all sorts of possibilities.

The big appeal of contract work? Flexibility. The desire to keep flexibility in my life hasn’t changed, but it’s only now that I’ve figured out how to make it happen whilst still paying my mortgage.

I’m currently working a three-month contract for a company who trade mostly through e-commerce. I’m one of their Marketing Managers. This website was a big plus point for me in the company’s eyes. It was further reinforcement to me that my gap year was the right choice.

What about my gap year aims?

Of course, there were also all my “what I want to achieve” ambitions, penned back in July last year. Being the do-er that I am, those were – broadly – done.

OK, my earnings from this site are low, and there are some pictures that remain unframed and shoved behind the chest of drawers in my spare bedroom, but everything else “practical” has been duly despatched to the “done” list.

Well, apart from one …

What, no amazing boyfriend?

Sadly, despite having a whole bullet point devoted to it back in July 2014, the Indiana-Jones-esque-reliable-boyfriend-who-can-put-up-a-shelf-knows-what-a-phone-is-and-is-ideally-at-least-five-eleven hasn’t yet miraculously materialised in my life.

gap year reflections

A guy like Indy would be proud of me 😉

Although I did get propositioned last week. But a slurred suggestion of marriage and babies from Mr-male-friend-so-drunk-he-couldn’t-walk-in-a-straight-line doesn’t count 😉

In a nutshell, I could do better. But at least I’m providing my friends with entertaining stories along the way.

What’s next after my gap year?

This week has also been my birthday. The big 4-O. Or the big four uh-oh as I like to call it. Scary. No more gap years in my 41st year, but plenty of other exciting stuff on the horizon:

  • I’m heading to London for a weekend next month to see the Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition. Inspiration awaits!
  • I’m going back to the Balkans in October for a two-and-a-bit-week trip through Southern Croatia, plus parts of Bosnia and Montenegro. I fell in love with the Balkans last year on my journey from Budapest to Athens.
  • I’m aiming for South America in the new year – for a month if I can. A bit more contract work will be needed between now and then to make it happen; but I’ll be doing my best to make sure it does! Colombia or Argentina are currently my favoured options.
  • And I WILL write the ebook; and sort out my site design (just not for a few months yet!)

And, of course, an amazing Indy-reliable-shelf-phone-tall-man will head my way 😉 All together now, * sings theme tune * der der der der, der, der derrrrr …

The story doesn’t end. It’s just time for the next chapter.

Tips on how to save for travel (or anything else!)

Whether you’ve decided to spend three months in South-East Asia, or head off on a language-learning venture in Latin America for half the year, taking time out to travel is going to cost some cash.

Saving money for travel comes down to two things – spending less, and earning more. Whether you want to focus on one or both is up to you.

how to save for travel - Mekong River

Is sailing down the Mekong River in South-East Asia one of your travel dreams?

Spending less – how to save for travel by cutting out some costs

First up, work out what you’re prepared to compromise on, and for how long, to make your travel dreams a reality. And what’s a step too far.

If you’re prepared to take those compromises to the extreme then savings can rack up pretty quickly – ditching all alcohol, cutting out the daily triple mochas, banishing eating out and takeaways completely, limiting your social life to pretty much zero. This lifestyle might be sustainable for a month, but for months on end? A year or more?

Whilst going completely cold turkey on all disposable income spending might be a too drastic, prioritising spending on only the things you’re passionate about could be a happy compromise.

What do you want, vs what do you need?

Before rushing ahead and buying, take a moment to think about if you need something (eg the laptop you use for your business has blown up), or just want it. If you need it, could you purchase second-hand, or borrow from a friend for the short-term?

If you’re planning six months of travel where you won’t be at work, do you really need three new suits? On how many nights trekking in the Andes are you going to wish you were wearing the killer heels you’ve been lusting after?

how to save for travel - The Andes

In Andean landscapes like these, the only shoes you’ll be wanting is walking shoes

The latest 58 inch HD 3DTV with in-built Mission Impossible controls may give you one-upmanship on Steve, but could your 40 inch version do the trick for now? Is that iPhone upgrade at absolute essential, or could you hang on a few months?

Could you do what you love for less?

how to save for travel

could you cut back on pricey away games?

If you’ve been a season ticket holder at the footie for ten years and never miss an Everton home game, going cold turkey could be tricky. However, resisting the temptation of away games, match programmes and that third post-match pint could be more acceptable compromises.

If you love your music and usually go to a handful of festivals every summer, could you save yourself some pennies by volunteering at one or two of them?

Could you get by without a car, or – for two-car households – with one instead of two? Could you hire a car, join a car club, or borrow one for a friend (buying short-term insurance as you need) for the times when you need wheels? You’ll save money on insurance, tax, fuel, parking; plus you could pocket a wad of cash with what you make from a sale.

Do you make good use of your gym membership? If not, this is one direct debit that could be banished from your bank account. I know I can only follow the free “go for a run outside” option when the weather is gloriously sunny – and I live in England so that’s not too often! I have saved myself £30 a month by joining a cheaper gym though J

Could you cut back on socialising spends by having friends round for dinner instead of eating out, digging out those two-for-one-main-course early bird midweek specials, drinking something cheaper than champagne, having picnics, joining a walking group? All still enable you to have a social life, but with less expenditure.

how to save for travel - picnic

Gotta love a good picnic with friends – and it’s cheaper than a meal out too!

How to save for travel by earning more – some tips

Could you sell your unwanted/unused stuff? Collectables, designer-esque clothes that no longer fit, household items, the contents of your cupboard under the stairs/loft. I’ve used ebay for smaller items and Gumtree for larger ones. Car boot sales are another avenue.

Do you have any cash stashed away that you’ve forgotten about? Were you bought UK Premium Bonds when you were born? How much is in that jar of change on the kitchen shelf that you’ve religiously contributed to for two years?

Could you earn more money through work? A promotion, freelance consultancy, casual work such as in pubs/restaurants, or hosting parties for everything from Tupperware to lovely lingerie are all ways to earn some more travel spends.

Could you use your home to earn you more money? Is there a spare room you could rent out, could you rent your home out whilst you’re away, or could you release the equity in your home by re-mortgaging? The latter is beyond my comfort zone, but if it’s in yours then it could be an option. Before committing, take some independent financial advice.

How to keep your travel savings safe

The best way for me to avoid the temptation of splurging my travel savings on a pair of fab Kurt Geiger shoes (*sigh*) is to keep the money I’ve saved for travel away from my current account.

You can add up how much your estimated savings/extra earnings are likely to come to each week/month.

Simply move this amount (by automatic direct debit if you need to force yourself into disciplinary action to do so!) into a separate savings account for travel every week/month. If you can find out that pays even a smidgen of interest, even better!

Bingo, you can easily keep track of how much you’ve saved and get one step nearer to making your travel dreams a reality.

Do you prefer to spend less, or try to earn more when you want to save money? What compromises are you prepared to make, and which are a step too far? Share your tips on how to save for travel in the comments below.

Why my career break makes me a better employee

Wow, what an incredible nine months it’s been. I’ve travelled, volunteered, got to grips with all things digital, and more. It’s a story that can’t be told purely by a list of bullet points, though I’m going to try …

Back in July, I wrote down what I wanted to achieve on my career break. On paper, I’ve succeeded at most. But the overwhelming feeling of what my career break has given me isn’t on that original eight-bullet-list.

Instead, it’s one of an ability to see things with new eyes.

Why my career break makes me a better employee. New eyes at Meteora, Greece.

Gaining a fresh perspective of the Meteora monasteries in Greece, October 2014

To see new opportunities as well as new places.

To adapt my preferred learning style to get the results I wanted.

To see the value in online communities as well as those existing in the “real world.”

To get over my reluctance of “bigging myself up” and proactively shout about my achievements and things I’m proud of … a reluctance I was only ever previously able to put aside for job interviews.

Having new eyes has made me more resourceful, and has pushed my existing creativity up a notch or three.

Here are some of my career break highlights, and why I believe these experiences make me a better employee.

I built a self-hosted website, despite not being “techy”

Am I a tech guru? No.

After more than a few head-fuzz moments through market research, analysis of other websites I liked/didn’t like, picking out features I wanted, researching how to get those features, asking questions and participating in forums, digesting multiple pieces of information, getting my head around SEO, and cursing my computer, The Gap Year Edit and its assorted social media channels were born!

Why this makes me a better employee

In “core skills on my CV” terms, digital marketing is now on there. On the technical side, I certainly don’t claim to know all the answers, but with a little resourcefulness and a healthy application of my Prince2 Project Management principles, I can certainly make it happen!

I travelled solo in developing countries and where English language skills were rare

Despite people’s fears that I was going to become a drug lord’s moll or kidnapped by the mafia (the likelihood of both being grossly exaggerated media hype) I had a wonderful time in both Nicaragua and Albania.

I survived perfectly well without hot water for four consecutive weeks in Nicaragua (although I did revel in a hot shower when I arrived home), and had more than a few pass-the-phrasebook and pidgin German/Italian/French conversations in Albania.

In both I managed to find places to stay, cool locals to talk to, a wealth of sites to see, and good food to eat.

And all without being mugged, trapped by a death-defying volcano, killed by a chicken bus, pickpocketed, or otherwise accosted.

Why my career break makes me a better employee. Volcan Telica.

I survived this smokin’ volcano!

In Nicaragua, I also improved my Spanish language skills – you can read more about that here.

Why this makes me a better employee

I embrace versatility and adaptability, and don’t view people or places that are “different” as being negative.

As a very wise mantra says: a country’s duty is to make its citizens feel comfortable.

This willingness to adapt, and even keep a smile on my face after six hours on a chicken bus, is one that’s very handy for dealing with any number of workplace situations and personalities.

I’ve found new ways to make money

OK, not exactly enough to retire on (or fund too many pairs of amaaaaazing Kurt Geiger shoes), but still …

I wanted to explore alternative ways to earn part of my income in the future. My blog has earned a (very) small amount over the last couple of months, and I’m set up with a spot of freelance marketing / communications work too. I now have a short- to medium-term plan for future blog developments (e-books and more), and a medium- to long-term plan for property rental.

Why this makes me a better employee

Entrepreneurial skills have got to be a bonus, right? This time away from my “regular work” means my mind’s been opened up to all sorts of creative possibilities, and I’ve worked out ways to achieve them. I mean, who thought I’d ever want to write a book?

I’ve gained experience in new sectors

I’ve helped a National Charity with their press coverage to aid their fundraising, built an on- and off-line network in the travel sector, and done a spot of freelance travel writing.

Why this makes me a better employee

I’ve shown that my marketing and communications skills are transferrable across industries and sectors.

I’ve learnt to say: “look at me!” (sometimes)

Why my career break makes me a better employee

Spotlight on me … at Albania’s Gjirokaster Castle

If you’d asked me to write this post a year ago I’d have run a mile. “Write about myself, in a big-me-up fashion??” I’d have questioned, whilst shiftily scanning the room for the nearest exit and mentally donning my running shoes. Hell, it might’ve been my first ever half-marathon by the time I’d finished running.

It’s been tricky. After 15 years producing marketing and communications materials that reflect companies’ personalities rather than my own, it’s been a slow adjustment to write in my own voice, rather than those of the companies I’ve worked for.

I can tell I’ve cracked it, because my “own voice” musings mean I now get occasional disapproving texts from my mum 😉

Why this makes me a better employee

I’ve not lost my ability to write in a more corporate tone, or in the voice of Exec types; but my habitual writing repertoire now has another notch on the versatility scale.

My next work challenge

If you’re looking for an experienced marketing and communications professional, I’d love to hear from you. You can find out more about me and get in touch via my LinkedIn profile.

I’m looking for Yorkshire-based freelance or fixed-term contract work, although I would consider a permanent role offering a four-day-week.

For opportunities to work with The Gap Year Edit, click here.

For more on career breaks and how to go about planning yours, head on over to the planning pages.

Have you taken a career break? Did it give you a different perspective when you returned to work? How were you perceived by recruiters and recruiting managers? Share your stories in the comments below.

The A to Z of gap year planning. Part 4: U to Z

“I’ve got zillions of gap year ideas – how do I narrow them down?”

Visas, work, and what to do with all those gap year ideas – we’ve got it covered in this, the fourth post on gap year planning. If you missed the earlier posts in the series, you can find them right here – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

U is for Uniqueness and Understanding

You have your own beliefs, values, principles and approaches. You’re unique.

plan my gap year ideas: shoes off in Thailand

Thais take their shoes off at temple sites, and visitors should do the same

On your gap year you’ll meet people who have very different approaches and views on life to you. Whether that’s at a market in Asia, on a course you’re on, whilst volunteering; or closer to home with your family, friends and colleagues.

You may not understand why people in country x don’t think the same as you do, but equally they may not understand why you think the way you do!

In making gap year ideas a reality, remember to celebrate not only your own uniqueness, but the uniqueness of others too.

Understanding before judgment can go a long way. Even if sometimes that requires a few deep breaths!

V is for Visas

If you’re planning international travel as part of your gap year, chances are at some point that you’ll need a visa. The tips and commentary below are based on tourist visas, rather than working visas. Exact requirements will also depend on your nationality.

Which visa do I need?

Advice on any paperwork needed for individual countries changes regularly, so your best bet is to check your own Government’s foreign affairs website. Links to some are listed here:

UK: Foreign Office Travel Advice
Australia: Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade
Canada: Government of Canada Travel Advisories
USA: US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs

Visa on arrival

For some countries, you can buy a visa on arrival. As a UK citizen, I’ve done this in Nepal, Cambodia and Laos.

Visa in advance

In others, you’ll need to organize a visa in advance. I’ve done this for Vietnam, Australia and Cuba (tourist card). The USA now requires advanced registration of visitors too, via ESTA.

Length of stay and visa runs

In some countries, you can stay short-term without a visa, but may need one after a certain length of time, eg 30 or 90 days. Thailand has started, from August 2014, cracking down on those re-entering the country after undertaking numerous “visa runs.”

Tips on visas

  • If you arrange a visa in advance, make it at least a few weeks in advance.
  • Have a spare copy of your passport details somewhere safe, plus the number of the visa/s you’ve been issued for your current trip.
  • Carry a couple of passport photos with you in case of emergency, or more if you’ll be getting visas on arrival.

W is for Work on your Gap Year

If you’ve managed to secure a sabbatical from your workplace, then make sure you keep your end of the bargain on any keeping in touch arrangements.

Working can be a good way to keep your gap year budget low.  Here are a few options:

Volunteer work at home. Sites such as http://www.do-it.org.uk have a database of roles in the UK.

Volunteer work abroad: The following are resources that have been recommended as providing an alternative to costly “voluntouring:

Self-employment – location-independent income. Examples include writing and photography.

Teaching English. Paid positions require a longer-term commitment. A CELTA qualification is more likely to be required for paid positions than for volunteer ones.

X is for eXposure

Being behind a camera or video camera can be a wonderful way to capture moments and memories.

In today’s internet-enabled world, the options for sharing your images with friends and family are endless. Facebook. A blog, Dropbox.

However, experiencing life on the road from behind a lens rather than in front of it can give us literal tunnel vision, and not open our senses fully to the experiences around us.

That’s not to say don’t take photos, or video footage; but sometimes less can be more.

After all, no-one wants to sit through your 3000 photos of Machu Picchu. No matter how much they want to go there.

Photographing people

Ask yourself: “if I was back home, would I be ok with someone taking pictures of me in this situation without asking?”

plan my gap year ideas: traditional dance Nepal

Traditional dancing in Nepal at a tourist venue. Photos = fair game.

In some cultures, people don’t like having their picture taken; check if you’re not sure. In others cases you’ll be expected to tip for the privilege.

The simple act of showing the subject their picture on screen can result in winning smiles that will be the happiest memory of your day.

Y is for You

Your gap year IS about you. It’s ok to be selfish (sometimes).

In moments of doubt (or of other people’s doubts) you may question the validity of taking a gap year.

Remember: There will never be a perfect time. A friend will always be getting married / having a stag night / a christening / birthday. That’s not to say deliberately disregard everyone else’s plans. But remember that you have a right to your plan too.

plan my gap year ideas

Z is for Zillions of gap year ideas!

So many things, so little time.

The letter A was all about having aims for your gap year.

What if you’ve a dozen gap year ideas and aims, and you need to narrow them down?

Here’s a technique that may help you decide.

Write all your aims down. All on separate pieces of paper.

Put all the pieces of paper on the floor together, so you can see what’s written on each one.

Take one away (eek!)

How does it feel? If your feeling is: “nooooo, you can’t take that away, I REALLY want to do/experience that,” then put it back.

If your feeling is: “hmmmm, actually I’m ok about that not being there’, then leave it out.

Repeat.

I’ve found this a great tip to help narrow down which gap year ideas are really important to me on an emotional level. I’d love to hear if it helps you too.

How have you narrowed down your zillions of gap year ideas? Have you any visa tips? Share your comments and experiences below.

The A to Z of gap year planning, Part 3: R to T

“Agh! Planning my gap year is so overwhelming!” “I don’t know where to start!”

Help is at hand. In this third of four posts on gap year planning, I share hints and tips on gap year research, saving up, and perfect timing. For more on gap year planning, check out the rest of the series: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4.

R is for Gap Year Research

Not tonnes and tonnes of research about every town, restaurant, hostel, attraction (thereby removing any opportunity for spontaneity), but enough gap year research to avoid making cultural faux pas and to be aware of the safety / security / health situation in any countries you’re planning to visit.

Your Government’s Foreign Office website is a good source of information, though be aware that some Governments can paint a worst-case (rather than realistic) picture of safety and security.

It’s worth checking out your Government doesn’t specifically advise against travelling to (parts of) a specific country. My long-yearned-for trip to Nepal was scuppered in the mid-2000s by this; I postponed until the situation was calmer.

If you ignore Government “don’t go there” advice, you risk invalidating your insurance if anything happens to you / your stuff.

S is for Saving for a Gap Year

If you’ve got a great big wad of money sat in the bank or in investments, then lucky you. What are you waiting for? Skip right over to T.

For most of us, saving for a gap year will be a necessary reality. Whether you’ve decided you want to spend three months in SE Asia, or four months on a photography course in the US/Europe, it’s going to cost you some cash.

With a budget based on your what you want to do, gear you’ll need, insurance, flights, expenses, costs at home, a contingency, and the like; you’ll need to do your gap year research to work out how long it’s going to take you to save up. And possibly – if the answer is ten years – you’re either going to change your expectations or your lifestyle to achieve it.

In all cases, it comes down to two things. Spending less, and making more. It’s up to you whether you want to focus on one, the other, or both.

Saving for a gap year by spending less – some ideas

First, work out what you’re prepared to compromise on to follow your dreams. And what you won’t.

You can go to the extremes on saving if you’re prepared to compromise heavily – never buying an alcoholic drink / latte again, eating only baked beans, never going out with your friends.

Only you know what compromises you’re prepared to make and how long you’re prepared to make them for. Not going out with friends might be realistic for a month, but for six months? A year? Two?

My personal recommendation would be to prioritise disposable income spending on the things you love.

  • Doing what you love, but cheaper. If you’ve been a season ticket holder at Everton for ten years and never miss a home game, it’s possibly a step too far to go cold turkey on the footie. However, giving away matches a miss, not buying a match programme, having only one pint after the game instead of three – these might be more reasonable / palatable compromises.
  • Volunteer at events. If you’re passionate about music and usually go to three festivals every summer, how about volunteering at one or two of them instead?
  • gap year research: how to save

    Fewer purchases of gorgeous shoes like these. Sob.

    New clothes (fewer of them). If you’re planning six months away from work, do you really need three new suits? How many nights in the Himalaya are those killer heels going to come in handy? (If you’re still lusting after then when you return from your gap year, search for them on ebay!)

  • Car. Could you get by without a car, or – for two-car households – with one instead of two? If once in a while you genuinely need a car, would it be cheaper overall to hire one, borrow one from a friend (buying short-term insurance) or join a car club? You’ll save money on tax, insurance, petrol, parking; plus a chunk of cash from the sale.
  • Gym & other memberships. Do you go? Regularly? If not, ditch the membership. Or learn to love running / cycling. Personally I can only follow this tip in the summer, as I’m a fair weather type when it comes to outdoor exercise.
  • Gadgets. That new 52 inch plasma HD TV with 3D system, internet and the ability to make you a cup of coffee may be better than Dave’s, but could your HD-ready Freeview 40 inch version see you through? Is that iPhone upgrade at absolute must-have, or can it wait?

Evaluate whether you need things (eg the laptop you use for your business has blown up), or just want them. If you must buy, can you purchase second-hand, or borrow from a friend for the short-term?

  • Socialising. Do you have to have a meal out / big night out with your partner / friends every Saturday night? Could you get by with drinking something cheaper than cocktails? Inviting friends round, bring-and-share picnics – all allow for socialising, but with less expenditure.

Saving for a gap year by earning more – some ideas

  • Sell stuff. Clear out your cupboards / wardrobes and get selling your unwanted / unused stuff. Ebay and Gumtree work well; part of your gap year research could include working out how much your old stuff sells for 🙂
  • Rainy day savings you’d forgotten about. Did great Aunt Maude buy you some UK Premium Bonds when you were born? How much is in that jar of 50p pieces/quarters you’ve had on the shelf for the last three years?
plan my gap year research: save those pennies

This terramundi pot had £300 in it! Sadly even that couldn’t make up for my bad hair day.

  • Trade services. If you’re a graphic designer, could you design new business cards for your hairdresser as payment for your pricey cut and colour? If you’re a bookkeeper, could you offer your services for local business such as greengrocers, butchers? Get creative about how you use your skills.
  • Earn more money. Go for that promotion at work, say you’ll be the first aider (it can attract an extra salary payment, plus you’ll get free training), do a bit of freelance consultancy, or pick up some casual work from a pub / restaurant / shop / mystery shopping. It all adds up.
  • Release the equity in your home by re-mortgaging. This one is out of my comfort zone, but if it’s in yours then it’s an option. Take some independent financial advice before committing.
  • Rent out your spare room. Or, rent out your home completely and rent a cheaper room yourself elsewhere.

If there are two of you

Keep some relationship harmony by both contributing to the savings pot. One of you may prefer to save, the other to earn more. Both are valid.

What to do with your new-found gap year savings

Add up your estimated total savings/extra earnings for each month.

Set up an automatic direct debit for that amount into a separate gap year savings account that pays interest (more gap year research needed here: the UK has very low interest rates at the moment).

Voila!

Keeping the money separate means you won’t be tempted by the latest gadget / pair of fab shoes; and you can easily keep track of how much you’ve saved.

T is for Time

If you wait for the mythical “perfect time” to take a gap year, you’ll be waiting forever.

When is it the exact right time to change jobs / move in with your partner / buy a house / have a child? If you have the answers, you’ve got a best-seller on your hands!

There may be better times than others, but if you wait for every single factor to be perfect, you’ll be in for a long wait. If you put off your dreams for the next twenty years and then – for whatever reason – you’re then not able to fulfil them, will you regret it?

plan my gap year research

With that in mind, once you’ve worked out what you need to save, how much a month you can save, and therefore a date of when you’re as ready as you’re ever going to be, SET THAT DATE. Suddenly it’s all very real – exciting!

The final U to Z instalment of this gap year planning series covers working (as a volunteer or paid), and ideas – how do you go about narrowing them down? 

What are your top tips for gap year research? Do you prefer to google, read blogs, or ask friends who’ve done it? Share your ideas below.