More people than ever before are making the decision to travel round the globe. Some want to do it on their gap year between school and university, They save for airfare part of the year, travel the other. And some take a sabbatical from work to do it or do it between jobs.
There are various different routes you can take and ‘round the world’ doesn’t tend to mean actually covering that much ground. A lot of gap year travellers, in particular, stick to a fairly well beaten track that often includes an English-speaking country.
The route will be something like South America, Australia, Asia then home. Gap year students tend to hark mostly from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and, to an extent, Israel.
Those who include tours or projects in their itinerary may be more likely to travel to more exotic destinations with less other tourists there. But even in those cases there are running themes – monkeys in Burma, turtles in Costa Rica… you get the picture.
You hear stories of students choosing to be brave and going to environments that are too alien to them at first, such as Japan and India, and if they’re alone probably having a good cry to themselves for the first couple of weeks. But bizarrely, it seems to be those same students who decide to return to the countries they found so difficult to get on with at first just a few years later. Really submerging yourself in another culture can create a bond between you and a place for a lifetime.
So a word of advice – take the plunge. This isn’t to say that the Inca Trail isn’t worth it, or Byron Bay isn’t fun (if you enjoy dancing on tables with drunk, young people). Lot’s of the places on the well-beaten list are on there because they are really special destinations. But if you really want to discover other places, choose Argentina and Chile in South America and stay a while; skip Australia and go there on a holiday when you’re rich… go to North Korea! Okay, you don’t have to choose North Korea. But some of the most exciting tales and adventures are those that feature the people who live where you’re going, rather than the millions of Brits you made friends with on a project where you did a spot of gardening.
Before you decide where you want to go, stop and have a think about whether you know anyone at all who lives somewhere exciting. Kudos if you know someone in Thailand or Japan or… well anywhere they don’t speak your language and you don’t speak theirs. If you can meet up with them even if just for a couple of days, a whole world can be opened up to you. They can take you to all the local places and maybe order food on your behalf. Those experiences are golden.
So see if you can arrange an itinerary with a difference. One which really enlightens you.
John Hutchinson has enjoyed travelling since he was a young boy when his parents first took him to visit family overseas. Since leaving home, John has tracked down family all over the world and regularly jets off to faraway lands to see distant relatives.