37 Best Gap Year Ideas

November 21, 2021 | Teaching




Sometimes we need a reminder to live in the moment and to embrace all that life throws at us. Life is fragile, life is short. If you feel as if you’re lost in the realm of existence and want to start living and embracing life, then a gap year is probably a good place to start.

Once thought to be the preserve of 18 year olds fresh out of school, or young twenty somethings fresh out of college; it’s now just as common to take a career break to spend some time pursuing your passions or to reach retirement age and take a new direction in life.

Malia Obama made news headlines when she decided to take a year out pre-Harvard to intern at a movie company, and while your gap year might not quite make national news… it will certainly be an experience you never forget!

If you need a little inspiration, read on…


Take the Trans Siberian Railway

A trip that will take you to Russia, Mongolia and China. It’s recognised as one of the greatest train journeys of all time. There are some variations in the routes you can take, though generally you begin in Moscow and end in Beijing or Vladivostock. If you’re feeling adventurous you could even opt to start your train journey in London and make your way across Europe into Asia. Options for luxury and budget travel are all available so this is suitable for everyone.

Study yoga in India

Studying yoga in India will enrich your life. Whether you decide to do a retreat or commit to a teacher training, you will come away with a stronger body and mind. If you want to combine yoga and volunteering you can join our awesome programme in Kerala.

Pick an island, country or continent… then cycle it!

Lots of people spend their gap year exploring entire countries or continents. You could cycle the length of Africa or do a loop of Ireland. Better yet, close your eyes, pick a random destination on the map and then start planning.

Safari in Africa

It’s on everyone’s bucket list for a reason. Experience African lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffalo, among other species. If a short tour isn’t enough for you why not get involved in animal conservation or a volunteering programme. Volunteering Journeys offer a conservation programme that is designed to provide ongoing support for the vital tracking and monitoring required to keep these wild animals safe.

Backpack in Asia

There’s a well worn backpacker trail through South East Asia in particular. This means there are plenty of well known, well run hostels where you’re guaranteed to meet lots of others on the same kind of adventure as you.

Walk the Appalachian trail

The Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, ranging from Maine to Georgia. It usually takes 5 to 7 months to complete. You could travel solo, in a group or as part of a tour.

Sail around the world

You could take a sail training course on a tall ship, volunteer as crew, or work on a super yacht. Training will cost you, volunteering may be free and working on a super yacht can be very well paid, if harder to attain.

Learn to free dive in Bali

Free diving allows you to experience the underwater world without the burden of heavy dive tanks. Learn breathing techniques that allow you to stay under water for longer and experience the ocean in a whole new way.

Inter-rail in Europe

If you haven’t heard of inter-railing you must be living under a rock. Considered a right of passage by many young Europeans, who spend a few weeks to months travelling Europe by train. All you need is a single ticket and budget travel around Europe is yours.

Dive Sipadan

Known as one of the best dive sites in the world. A great place to learn to dive; if you’re already an experienced diver, why not get your teaching certificate?

Motorbike Vietnam

What better way to see a country than to explore it by motorbike? You can go north to south or vice versa, either way its guaranteed to be an epic adventure. It’s argued to be the best way to experience Vietnam.

Take a camper van trip

Whether you rent a camper and travel for a week or buy a camper and spend a few months exploring, it’s guaranteed to be a trip you’ll never forget.

Go back to nature

What’s your idea of a good time in the wild? Maybe you’ve always wanted to visit Borneo or perhaps the Scottish Highlands are your idea of a good time? Whatever it is, embrace it. It’s time to finally visit that one place you’ve been dreaming of.

Take a hike

Quite literally… find a mountain you want to conquer… and do it.


Teach English in South Korea

If you’re looking for a full time teaching contract, you could do worse things than apply to South Korea. Jobs are well paid, standard of living is high, flights are often reimbursed and accommodation is usually included. Other great options for teaching include Vietnam, Japan and the UAE.

Consider a job as an air hostess

Luxury airlines are well paid and offer great perks to their employees. It might be hard work but imagine all the amazing places you could visit as part of your job.

Au pair in France

Have you always wanted to learn a new language? Au-pairing is a great way to do it as you live with a family and are exposed to the language and culture all day long.


Work on an organic farm. It may not be for everyone, but it’s certainly a great budget option and a chance to experience a different way of life.

Spend a year in Australia

One year visas to live and work in Australia are relatively easy to obtain and nowhere near as expensive as US visas. Spend a year working and travelling in Aus, then when you don’t want to go home spend a few months working somewhere rural and you can extend your visa for another year.

Take a one year visa to the US or Canada

While more difficult to obtain than Australia, spending a year in the US or Canada will surely be an experience you never forget.

Work a ski season

Work as a chalet host, ski instructor, chef, driver, resort manager… There are lots of jobs available during ski season and time on the slopes is guaranteed.

Work and surf all over the world

Gain your ISA level 1 and you can teach surfing while you travel.

Travel as a yoga teacher

Become a travelling yoga teacher. It might not be the best paid job in the world but it is pretty much guaranteed to make you one of the happiest people in the world.

Have you thought about super yachts?

Get a job as a deck hand or hostess on a luxury yacht and you’ll have opportunities to sail around the world and visit beautiful locations. Obviously this will vary from boat to boat but the money is great, the hours are very long… but the experience… it has to be worth it.

How about a cruise ship?

Experience working in tourism? Are you a fitness instructor, beautician or chef? There are so many different options available as cruise ships require helluva lot of staff. It allows you to travel all over the world while being paid.

New Skills

Learn to code

Want to be able to travel for as long as possible? If you can work while you’re on the road, there’s technically no need to ever go home. Learn to code, or pick up some digital marketing skills and you’re on your way to endless travel adventures.

Gain practical experience for your future

Studying medicine, nursing, physiotherapy, dentistry? Volunteer abroad. Not only will you have an incredible experience and learn about a new culture but you’ll also build up some valuable experience for when you go home. Studying business or law? Perhaps volunteering with an NGO in Cambodia would be beneficial?

Learn to cook:

Cooking is a valuable skill. Whether you decide to join a cooking school or simply get experience in a professional kitchen, it certainly won’t be time wasted.

Learn a new language

The best way to learn a language is through complete immersion. You can au-pair, take a job in a bar or hotel and spend a few months or even a few years improving your language skills.

Always wanted to have your own business, write a book or become a YouTube sensation?

Your gap year is the perfect opportunity to take some time to work on your passions and finally do that one thing you’ve been dreaming of. The best part is, this will likely be location independent! You could work from home or from a tropical island… the choice is yours. I wish you luck!

Volunteer Abroad with Volunteering Journeys

Volunteering Journeys is a socially responsible organisation, providing unique volunteering and travel opportunities for likeminded individuals. It’s our mission to touch lives, connect friends and give back to local communities.

Learn about international development and human rights while volunteering in Cambodia

Do you dream of making a difference in people’s lives? As an intern in Cambodia you will learn the ins and outs of international development and human rights work, particularly for women and children who have been mistreated, abused and physically violated. You will work closely with NGOs, and you will be helping organisations provide much needed support, education and rehabilitation.

Gain hands on medical experience

Not only are our medical placements designed to give you structured and supervised medical work experience to give you the edge in your particular field, but they are also designed to help you find a deeper meaning in your career and allow you to absorb a new culture and a new way of life. We offer medical electives abroad to pre-med and medical students of any medical discipline, so that you can put your skills into practise, learn some new ones and experience a new culture.

Volunteer with elephants in Thailand

Sadly elephants are often mistreated. Volunteer in an elephant sanctuary where you get to care for these majestic creatures.

Marine conservation in Mozambique

Searching for something different? Get off the beaten track in Mozambique. Our marine conservation programs allow you to make a contribution to science and research, while living in beautiful Tofo Bay. Work with amazing marine animals such as sharks and manta rays, have the opportunity to earn your PADI dive certificate AND wake up to sunrise on the beach every day…

Build homes and schools in Nepal

Make a real impact on a community by volunteering to build homes and schools. As a nation with so many underprivileged communities and with millions left homeless after the 2015 earthquake, rebuilding and rehousing is critical for survival for the families of Nepal.

Volunteer with sea turtles

Are you looking for some super fun volunteer work? Well, this is your chance. Work with sea turtles, helping to conserve the turtle population in Sri Lanka. You’ll live right on the beach and help a local hatchery look after sick and disabled turtles. No prior experience is needed.


Join a remote year programme

So technically it’s not a gap year programme, but once you’ve caught the travel bug, you won’t want to go home. Remote Year is for people who already have a location independent job and are interested in travelling in a group. It connects you with like minded people and allows you to spend one month in each location world wide. If a full year isn’t your thing, there are plenty of companies that provide shorter programmes.

I’m just thinking of your future. You’re welcome!

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