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The 5 Essential Considerations for Your Gap Year

What’s my why?

This can be a challenging question to answer and it’s okay if you don’t know yet. Or if it changes over time. A good place to start are with the simple answers and then go from there. 

The Life Experience

Now this is a bit broad but let’s look deeper into what it means. Generally, it’s about learning more about what’s out there in the world by travelling to new places, making new friends, experiencing different cultures and just growing as a person. Most of us have done a little travelling or have a friend or family member who’s come back from time away just raving about all the experiences they had. Many times, personal growth can be subtle. You ask your friend about how it was and they just respond with “amazing!” But then when you look into it, they enhanced their planning skills by setting up their visas, flights and general logistics. Their communication skills improved dramatically from conversing with all types of different people and finding new ways to interact when language was a barrier. Self-reliance grew because if they didn’t do something themselves it didn’t happen. Personal resilience was developed as things don’t always go to plan and they were forced to problem-solve. It’s funny how much more we can learn under pressure and how much this will help us in life. 

"Conscious Doing: Bringing an elevated sense of awareness to life's daily interactions"

Finding my work/career path

Simply put, what do I want to be or do when I grow up? We can definitely laugh about this, but the reality isn’t so simple. Do you chase a rigid career path, find something you love doing or a direction where you can give back? Or can you find a balance between them all? What’s great is that you have control over your future and just by getting out there, you will find opportunities that you would have never found. Researching is important but it’s not as powerful as doing. Taking it to the next level would be “conscious doing”. And all that means is that you have a little bit of a plan wherever you are with whatever you are doing. This could be networking with co-workers, managers, volunteer coordinators, tour leaders, and fellow travellers and asking them how and why they got to where they are. It’s amazing what you can learn over coffee. Simple questions like, “What motivated you to first travel?”, “How did you find this role/job?”, “How would you recommend getting into this industry?”,  and “What would you have done differently?” are great places to start. 

It’s time for a mental reset

Exams and finishing up with school is stressful. So is being unhappy in a job you don’t like. Just like when we hit a wall with a problem, stepping away can create the mental space for the solution to appear. Studies have shown one of the best ways is getting outside and connecting with nature. Whether you're hiking in the mountains, swimming in the ocean, or just lounging in a park, being outside, does wonders for your mind and body. You can combine travel with nature by hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, getting out for a ski season in Japan or learning to surf in Morocco. This not only gives your mind a chance to breathe and reset, it also leads to new friends, personal growth and opportunities you wouldn’t have had otherwise. 

Where can it take me?

There are a host of benefits of taking time out and travelling from personal growth, professional opportunities, hands-on learning, global awareness and the development of independence and responsibility. Here we will focus on the areas that you can leverage for your future endeavours.

Ability to interact with different types of people

This is something that everyone has on their CV listed under communication skills. This can be really subjective and we will come back to the “conscious doing” mentioned earlier. Being able to effectively communicate with different types of personalities can be studied and practiced. There are a number of systems out there that identify and label, usually into four categories, the main types of people you will run into. By taking even just a little time to understand how people communicate and respond is critical to anything you do in life. The beauty of taking time out and travelling is that you are forced out of your comfort zone. By default you’ll be figuring things out, talking and meeting with all kinds of people and seeing the world through a different lens. By combining a gap year or career break with a better understanding of people’s traits you will be able to really develop your communication skills that you can take into any future role, friendship or relationship.

Self-sufficiency and problem-solving

Recent reports continue to show that problem-solving and analytical thinking are among the top in-demand skills for employers. Travelling inherently puts you in situations where you need to be adaptable, resourceful, and decisive. Flights get cancelled, you book the wrong train, you make a wrong turn, and your data plan just ran out. All these situations can be rectified simply, but they put you in problem-solving mode. You may have to research multiple alternatives and evaluate each option to decide which is best. This skill directly translates to future roles or projects. The ability to see any problem as an opportunity will put you far ahead of your colleagues. The best part is that by seeing the world, you develop your core skill sets, regardless of the industry you pursue. Being aware of what's happening, no matter how stressful, allows you to step back and start putting a plan together to find a solution. Practising this builds resilience, which is defined as "the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioural flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands." Resilience is foundational to achieving whatever you want in life.

A broader understanding of the world

It’s amazing at how much you take in and grow when abroad. Gaining a better understanding of different cultures can help you build relationships and collaborate more effectively. This leads to a more informed worldview which can help you approach problem-solving in a more nuanced way. For example, almost every future role will require working within a team and with a stronger understanding of how people communicate and react you will be able to recognise and bridge gaps driving your leadership ability. Experiencing different cultures, and seeing with your own eyes the gaps that exist between different levels of society will build empathy. The time we spent in India was some of the most challenging travelling yet most rewarding. If you have the opportunity to go, do it! As the world becomes more globalised, employees with strong intercultural skills, empathy, and resilience are highly sought after. And all of these soft skills will help dramatically with any direction you end up taking in life. 

How do I start? The planning phase

As we’ve discussed there are so many ways you can grow through taking time and traveling abroad. Now let’s get into how to start planning. 

When to go

If this is a gap year before or after university there are some considerations of when may be best. Some advantages of going before university are that you can mentally reset and gain a fresh perspective while growing your resilience, empathy, communication and problem-solving skills. Reasons to wait until afterwards are continuing your academic momentum and having a better sense of career paths to choose relevant experiences. It’s effective to write out and discuss the pros and cons to help choose the right timing. 

For a career break, the main consideration is minimising responsibilities. Generally, we start working, get a lease, car and a routine. It can be difficult to find a window and easy to let life get in the way. This is where putting together a well-thought-out plan can help you determine the best timing, establish a goal to work towards and create a situation where as free as possible. 

The Southern Hemisphere is Upside Down

If you are looking to chase summer or winter, remember the seasons are reversed down under. Australia and New Zealand’s winter runs from June through August and the summer from  January through March. 

Where can I work abroad?

If you are looking to work abroad you will need to plan to set up your visas. The simplest option is the working holiday visa. This visa allows 12 to 23 months of work and travel. There are a number of considerations to consider and the steps for applying are different for each country. 

  • Age: Most working holiday visas are available from age 18 to 31. There are a few citizenships that qualify until age 35 for visas to Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 
  • Does my citizenship qualify: You will need to research this well in advance as many countries limit the number of visas. 
  • Where can I apply: Some visas allow you to apply completely online where others will require you to apply from your home country. This can cause issues if you are abroad looking to get your next visa. 

I’m past the working holiday visa age

If you don’t qualify for a working holiday visa there are still options for working abroad. The work visa process can be a bit more complicated and you may need to put together a longer term plan. The first step is to see if your current skill sets, education or certifications qualify you for a work visa. Many countries have shortages in certain industries where they have fast tracked the visa process. You can also work towards a certification in your home country to help you qualify. An example is Japan where if you have marketing skills or a level 1 ski instructor certification, you can get sponsored byan employer. Another option is to look at family citizenships to see if a parent or grandparent qualifies you for another passport. 

I want to move permanently

If you have always wanted to live abroad permanently then the next step would be to look at permanent residency. This takes some additional planning as it will take time living and working in that country to qualify. Many will utilise a working holiday visa to first enter and then get sponsored by a company. If this is a priority you’ll want to research the requirements as working holiday visas are only issued one time. 

What’s the fine print?

Budgeting: Be prepared

One of the biggest pitfalls to avoid is assuming you’ll have enough and will just figure it out. You don’t need to plan out each and every minute of what you’ll spend where but an overall plan will help you minimise any financial stress. You’ll need to account for transport, insurance, visas, food, accommodation, attraction admissions and the unexpected. Start with  putting together as detailed an itinerary as possible and then start researching the current costs. If you plan on working along the way, find out what the current pay for likely jobs and what you’ll net after tax. Usually you can get income tax refunded at the end of the year but it will be deducted from your pay initially. If you are considering an outdoor instructor certification program you’ll also need to factor in gear, work levels and pay versus living costs and increased travel insurance. 


It can be quite overwhelming searching for most everything now online as it seems there are thousands of options. The key consideration for flights are their change terms. Travel agents have once again become a fantastic tool and can suggest options that are very difficult to find online. There are around the world tickets and unlimited train passes available that can help manage the cost.

Travel Insurance

This can be often overlooked and can cause immense grief and financial loss. It is absolutely critical to have adequate medical coverage wherever you are traveling abroad. Some credit cards offer a level of coverage but you need to read the fine print correctly to ensure you are covered. Traveling to the United States, where medical costs are astronomical, could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars if you were in an accident. Also, if you are looking to do a ski season you need to ensure that you have snowsports coverage. The good news is that there are a number of fantastic providers available.

Packing: Less is more

Pretty sure we are all guilty of overpacking anytime we travel. If you are planning on staying for a longer amount of time like an exchange program feel free to bring more. If you are going to be backpacking try to pack only the essentials. You can generally pick up extra clothing as needed wherever you are but if you are tall it could be more challenging especially for shoes. Anything wool based is great as it can last longer between washes, moderates the different climates well and is warm when wet. Other key pieces of gear are a waterproof poncho that covers your backpack and using a drybag for everything inside your backpack. Modern tech gear is light and extremely warm. It really comes down to how you are going to travel and how much you have to carry your gear around.


The main consideration is if you are looking to tackle an experience that is substantially more demanding than anything you’ve done in the past. Examples would be long multi-day hikes or a ski season. There are plenty of resources available to help you train and be ready. Most importantly, listen to your body and don’t try to push through pain. I’ve seen plenty of hiking trips cut short due to an immense blister or tendonitis that if treated early would have caused minimal issues. If you are tired, take some time and rest. These experiences are about the journey and not a race. You can read, journal, meditate or just sleep and be refreshed for the next day. Same goes for a ski season. Ease into in as you’ll have plenty of time to chase the powder. Working some strength training in before heading out can help minimise injury. 

Should I even go? Risk management

As we’ve discussed, taking time out and traveling on a gap year can build soft skills, boost confidence and prepare you for future education and employment. It’s key to be able to communicate what you gained from your time away. This brings us back to conscious doing. With an understanding of how you can grow from any experience you’ll continue to learn how to leverage all of your new and enhanced skill sets. In practice you will now be able to walk a hiring manager through your gap year, what you learned and how it can apply to the job responsibilities. In the past (in some countries), there existed some reluctance in recognising the benefits of travel. This is rare now but it is important to effectively explain how you’ve grown and how it can be applied.

As part of your planning you should incorporate researching safety considerations of the countries you are visiting. Your home country will have resources and recommendations available on their government websites along with immunization requirements. We unfortunately face all types of scams everywhere we go. There are a host of travel blogs and Youtube videos reviewing what to look out for.

After reading all of this the reality of getting out for a gap year may seem a bit daunting. Rest assured that as you go through the planning process and once you are actually traveling you will learn quickly and adapt. Mistakes are part of the process and more often than not will open unexpected doors and unplanned adventures. Don’t let this scare you as everyone at some point had some hesitation of doing something different and big. Remember, if you’re feeling a little nervous, most everyone else is probably feeling it too.

Thank you

We appreciate your time reading through this and hope that it helps your planning and time away. As you’ve probably seen, we run ski instructor training programs in Japan for everyone regardless of experience level. More importantly we believe in getting out there and personally know how much it takes for the first step. If you have any detailed questions about your specific situation please contact us as we’re here to help. Reach us here.


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