If there is one piece of advice that I could offer to anyone, it would be to travel. Travel as much as you can. As far as you can. As long as you can. Because life is not meant to be lived in one place and the more of the world you see, the more you will learn. Not only about others and their cultures, but yourself as well. It may be a cliche, but it’s so true.
But I’m not the first person to offer such advice. In fact, lots of people are pro-travel and that’s why there are so many travel-related options out there. For those who don’t know, a gap year is a rite of passage for a lot of people these days, especially 20-something year olds. It’s an opportunity to clear your mind (after high school, for example), find what it is that you want out of life and explore what the world has to offer before settling into a career and having a family.
Gap years can range from a few weeks to a few years. However, it can get expensive and that’s why it’s important to plan ahead and save as much as possible beforehand. Easier said than done, of course, but I’m here to give you some pointers to hopefully help you out and put that passport to good use!
1. Set goals
Why are you going on a gap year? It’s a big deal since you’re investing so much time, money and energy into it. Set goals as to what you’d like the outcomes to be, for how long it will be for and where you’d like to go. This will help you with planning out your savings and convincing your parents as well.
2. Get a job
I mean, this is obvious, isn’t it? This will allow you to save enough to take that year off to travel. If you can, ask your boss at work for more hours, even on weekends. If that’s not an option, consider a second job. Do side jobs. Freelance. Babysit. Shovel snow. Walk your neighborhood dogs. The more you work, the more money you will make, and the less time you’ll have to actually spend it (before your gap year, of course!). So when everyone is out enjoying their Friday night and you’re working, just remember that they won’t be spending a week on a beach hut in Thailand or facing a great white shark in a cage off the coast of Cape Town come winter!
3. Live at home
This is pretty brutal if you’ve already moved out because your sense of independency will diminish and you can no longer follow your own rules. However, you will have three meals a day, cooked by your mom, which, let’s be honest, is usually amazing. Less (hopefully) cleaning to do and a free in-house nurse when you get sick. So, it’s not all that bad. And, even if your parents ask for rent money, I guarantee it’s still cheaper than having your own place and you won’t have to worry about renting it out or moving out when you finally embark on your gap year.
4. Become a social recluse
Don’t go and live under a rock, but be reasonable about going out and spending money on partying. Drinks, movie tickets, concerts, eating-out; they all add up. Instead, have a movie night at home. Do some in-house cooking sessions with your friends or go out and enjoy nature. You’ll get fresh air and, guess what? It’s free!
If you have a lot of stuff hanging around that you no longer use, sell it! Remember, someone’s trash is another person’s treasure.
6. Write down your expenses
Check how much do you spend on gas, food, rent and entertainment every week. Then, see where you can lower the costs or cut it out all together. Goodbye cigarettes, hello snorkeling in Costa Rica.
Or bike, walk or take public transportation to work and anywhere else you can. It’s good for your wallet, your health and the environment.
8. Open a savings account
Open a savings account where you can put money in weekly and make sure to never touch it. If temptation is too great, have your parents open it so you can rest assured that you won’t touch the money.
9. Go vegetarian
This hurts my heart to write, but meat is really expensive. Going vegetarian or limiting your meat consumption to once a week, for example, will really save you money. Sorry, bacon.
10. Ask for money
It’s simple! Ask for money on special occasions, holidays and your birthday. Be upfront with everyone about why you want the money and they might be a bit more generous. Traveling never did anyone any harm.
At the end of the day, remember that moderation is key. Stay focused and in control of your finances, and you’ll be ready to take that unforgettable journey of ever-lasting memories and new friendships, all while finding yourself!