Wanderlust seems to be more contagious than ever. Thanks to social media snaps, expanding airline routes and the rise of the hostel, travelling the globe has never been easier. Nor has it been more popular amongst students and graduates. However, deciding whether or not to take time out to see the world before or after your studies, or even later on in life, isn’t something you should do on a whim.
So, is it a good idea to take a gap year?
There are lots of great reasons to take a gap year or time out to travel. If you do, it’s likely that you will:
- Learn about new places, different cultures and history
- Build self-confidence
- Become more independent
- Meet lots of new people
- Develop your skills, including planning and problem-solving
- And, of course… Have a great time!
Some undeniable draws exist for those that the travel bug has bitten. We’re not here to rain on your parade, but excitement over the pros means that not everyone considers the cons before they jet off. To make an informed choice, you need to think about the good and the bad, especially if your career or education will be put on hold in the meantime.
Here are some things worth considering before you start planning your trip of a lifetime.
1. The economy
OK, so we might sound like your parents right now, but the state of the economy is something you need to bear in mind before making any large expenditures. And, let’s face it, travelling isn’t exactly cheap.
It’s not the most exciting topic in the world, but doing your research will ensure that you make the right choice. Find out how the economy is doing and how this will affect your plans. For instance, how’s the exchange rate looking for the currency of the country/countries you’re planning to visit? Are job vacancies looking a little thin on the ground right now? Or has there been a boom in opportunities? Considering these factors will help you to decide if now’s the best time to take off or not.
2. The state of the job market
The graduate market can chop and change. If things looked terrible this time last year, it may surprise you to see it thriving now, or vice versa. Find out the facts first; travelling is a brilliant experience but you don’t want to miss the boat if there are some great career opportunities available. You’re likely to come back eventually and, if you come back to a grad job drought, you’ll kick yourself!
At the end of the day, it boils down to asking yourself: is it better to leave now and establish your career later or will it be better to get your foot in the door first? Remember, you can always take time out later once you’ve started working and you have a bit more cash behind you!
3. The professional benefits of a gap year
The question still stands: is it a good idea to take a gap year? Once you’ve done all of your researching, it’s time to put your thinking cap on. Try to think about your current professional skill set; where do you need to improve? If you were to travel, would your skills and attitude toward work be enriched or are you going to be covering old ground?
Many travellers return home feeling like they have learned lots of different skills and grown in confidence. Great news! However, if you’re planning on going into a specialist field, taking time out of education or work could put you out of practice and therefore at a disadvantage.
4. The alternatives
If you’ve realised that now might not be the best time to go travelling, all is not lost! By no means does bad timing mean that you have to throw your dreams out of the window. Far from it. Globetrotting is still entirely possible, even if it wasn’t in the way you had planned out. There are alternative ways to see the world if you choose work over a gap year.
Taking a year or more to travel doesn’t work for everyone, however breaking things down into smaller chunks can be a convenient workaround. You have the option of taking time out later in your career. Getting stuck into work doesn’t mean that you’re tied to the 9-5 grind forever, especially if you start saving.
If you’re still at uni or are planning on further studies, get a head start on your work then use your extended holiday periods to start exploring! Many workers save up their annual leave for once-in-a-lifetime travel. Unpaid leave or sabbaticals are also other options if this is something your company will allow.
Getting out there and exploring the world is, without question, an amazing experience! One that everyone should experience in their lifetime. However, as you can see, taking a gap year to do so isn’t the only option, nor is it always the best one.
Do your research and explore all of your options before you decide to dash to the airport. Try to think about the long run, and remember that establishing a good career will help you to fund your travels, too!
Is it a good idea to take a gap year? It’s a yes or no question only you can answer. Whichever option you choose– it’s your life! Just be sure to make the right decision for your future and your career.