Joe's story

Joe decided to take a gap year after his A levels. Here, he describes his 10-month adventure and how he managed to see the world on a budget.

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Joe's story

What qualifications did you take at school?

I took A levels in Maths, History, Economics, and Government and Politics.

 

Why did you decide to go on a gap year?

Once you start a career, you won’t get the chance to take a prolonged period of time off. Plus, I figured out that if you work along the way and are careful with your money, you can do it on a small budget and very few savings.

How did you decide where to go?

I picked places that I’d never been to before. I knew that I wanted to spend Christmas in New Zealand with my relatives and the first half of the new year in Australia settling down into some kind of routine and working to pay for the rest of my travelling. So in terms of deciding where I wanted to go, I picked Asian countries that I could stop off at on the way to and from New Zealand and Australia, such as India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Laos.

How did you pay for it?

I worked solidly for three months over the summer as a tennis coach. This paid for my first three months in Asia. Then I worked at many jobs in Australia (such as office admin, bar work, tennis coaching again, sales and festival work) to pay for my time out there and travelling back through Asia on my way home. I also managed to get bargain flights through Air Asia and Jetstar, which helped a lot. 

Did you do any volunteering? 

A friend and I volunteered in India. There’s a lot of volunteer companies that are profit-seeking and most of the money you pay them goes on ‘administration’. When we were looking to volunteer in India, we searched past volunteer forums online and found out exactly where we were needed and made sure our money would go directly to the charity. I definitely enjoyed it as we worked with street children and they really appreciated us being there. I found teaching and working with children a lot more rewarding than building or conservation as you don’t need to be an expert to volunteer your time, it’s more about the effort and enthusiasm you put in. 

How long did you go for?

Ten months. I travelled for two and a half months and volunteered for a month before heading down to New Zealand for Christmas. Then I worked in Australia for five months before taking two months to travel back through Asia to the UK.

What were your favourite moments?

There were lots. Listening to the Dalai Lama in Auckland; shaking Prince William’s hand in Melbourne; going to the Australian Grand Prix; climbing the Himalayas in Nepal; trekking in Indonesia; surfing in Sri Lanka; Halong Bay in Vietnam; relaxing in Thailand; performing at a night safari in Singapore; hanging out with orangutans in Borneo; visiting world-famous sites such as Ayers Rock, the Taj Mahal and Buddha’s birthplace; and generally enjoying travelling with friends from home, relatives and friends I met along the way.

What would you do differently?

Nothing, really. I recommend you make sure you have enough time in each place to see all you want to see; otherwise you may leave feeling disappointed and want to return in the near future.

What was the strangest thing that happened to you while you were away?

I was on a four-hour bus ride in Vietnam and stopped off for a toilet break. I got a tap on the shoulder and turned around to see two of my friends from school whom I hadn’t seen in four years - in the middle of nowhere! Another one would be crashing our campervan against the roof of a car park and causing a three-foot-long scrape against the side of it. Using polyfilla and white shoe polish, we managed to hide the scrape and didn’t have to pay a fine!