9 SKILLS YOU NEVER THOUGHT TAKING A GAP YEAR COULD GIVE YOU
Whether it's the know-how for going underwater in the company of rare sea turtles or the ability to carve through the pistes of the Alps on snow pillows, a gap year is the perfect opportunity to gain new skills. Check them out…
A new lingo
Perhaps the most obvious skill that any traveler could learn is a new language. And just as you say there's no way you could ever gain any level of useful fluency in just one gap year on the road, we will beg to differ! Oodles of backpackers and language bloggers have shown that it's actually totally possible to learn a new lingo in between six and 10 months. And while you might not come home speaking Spanish like you were born in the pueblo blancos of Andalusia, you should be able to get by comfortably! Add that to your CV…
Don't just lick your lips at that coconut-packed masaman curry on the Andaman coast – do a Thai cookery lesson so you learn how to smash up those red chilies, garlic cloves and spices to make your own. Don't just devour those platters of gado gado in Indonesia's rustic warung taverns – learn how to make them yourself with a session in the kitchens of Bali. Don't just enjoy the bhajis and thali plates of India – get a Keralan chef to show you how they are done. You get the drift: gap years are the perfect time to expand your skills in the kitchen.
From the shimmering coral gardens that ring Koh Tao to the crystal-clear waters of the Pacific Ocean and the world-class underwater wrecks of the Gili Islands in Indo, there are countless SCUBA diving meccas on the menu for travelLers heading off on the gap year. You could opt to start with a bout of snorkeling in the shallows, before signing up for a full-blown PADI course, which allows you free reign to dive in open water to certain depths. Be ready to spot sea turtles, manta rays, sponges, sharks and more…
Whether it's on the Caribbean-kissed shores of eastern Costa Rica or below the sheer-cut cliffs of Bali, in the salt-sprayed coastline of Panama or the windsurfing hotspots of central Vietnam, there are plenty of destinations on LBW's line-up of places to travel during that gap year that will get you atop the board and riding the waves. We even offer surfing lessons as part of most of our trips, which means it doesn't even matter if you've never hit the swells before. You will certainly be doing it by the end of your time abroad.
It won't take many days of living and lazing and drinking and partying and sizzling off the hangovers up on the sun-kissed deck of our LBW boat during the YachtLife for you to pick up the basics of sailing. While you won't be required to pull any ropes or hoist any sails – all that's done by the professionals – you're free to ask as many questions as you like about the working of the ship and the ins and outs of sailing. What's more, if there's anywhere on the globe that’s perfect for getting to grips with the life at sea, it's surely between the beautiful islands of the Greek Aegean and the Turkish Riviera.
Whoever said a gap year has to been spent in the sun, hopping between the beaches of Thailand and the salt-washed shores of Central America? While both of those options are unquestionably going to be super fun, there are other ways to enjoy your 12 months out from the Rat Race. If you're more inclined to go in search of white powder, glaciers and ski pistes than you are tropical beaches, then perhaps a stint as an instructor or chalet host is the choice for you. Doing that will mean making some dosh as you travel, and is sure to turn you from novice rider to pro before the last snows fall!
We're not talking about desert island maroon situations a la Lost when we say it's possible to spend that gap year visiting some of the more untrodden and wild places in the world. Just take our very own LBW Island Life, which transports backpackers to the tropical wash of the Pacific Ocean for a week of living in makeshift tents and bamboo huts. Robinson Crusoe himself would be proud of just how much we shun the material world – at least he would until we crack open the beers and party until sunup. That said, you're bound to pick up the odd castaway skill or two while kicking it on the sands, even if it's just fire maintenance or better barbequing.
Teaching English abroad is one of the top choices on the menu for folk who want to make the road their life. There's no better time to dip your toe in the vast sea of opportunities that is TEFL teaching than on that gap year. Start by getting your basic qualification done while you're back at home and then look for a position in a school – there are loads of placements going in destinations like Thailand, China, Argentina and Colombia. There's really nothing that can prep you for that first lesson, and soon you'll be mastering your discipline and classroom management skills like it's nobody's business.
Most people think a gap year is a time to blow all that hard-earned cash on bucket cocktails and Full Moon Parties, but the truth is actually quite different. With a whole 12 months to travel, it's really important to learn how to budget properly with the money you've got. That could mean creating elaborate spreadsheets to see how much you can spend on pad Thais and mojitos, or it could just mean downloading a helpful app to track your outgoings. Either way, you're bound to get better at simple day-to-day financial planning along the way.
Are you a veteran gap year traveler who learned their own sets of skills while on the road? Can you think of any more useful stuff you might not have thought it was possible to practice on that 365 days out of the Rat Race? We'd love to hear about it all in the comments below. Or, if you think it’s time you started traveling and learning new things of your own, be sure to check out LBW's range of travel tours.