From adventurous sports to classic language learning, there are myriad new skills to learn on that gap year. Check out this list of our top ten, to see how you can convert that 365 days of globetrotting into a character-building experience…
A new language
The obvious one for gap year travellers is to spend all that free time getting to grips with a new lingo. We're not talking heads in books and repeating mantras on a smartphone app type language learning through. We're talking immersion learning. You know, the type where you surround yourself by Madrid's tapas bars ordering in the native tongue. The type where you become a Bangkok local to perfect those sa-wat-dees. The type where you lose yourself between the pizza joints of Italy for no other reason than nailing the vernacular. It's something you can do passively as you go, and no one ever regrets it!
How to teach English
Another long-time classic of all budding travellers, taking a TEFL (or TESOL; call it what you will) course is a sure-fire way to open up oodles more opportunities. The only real qualification you'll need to get underway as an English teacher abroad is, well, being able to speak English. After that, it's just a matter of picking the right certificate and choosing where it is you want to teach. Will it be the tropical islands of Thailand, or the buzzing metropolises of China? Hmm…
Okay, so this one's certainly not for the faint-hearted, especially considering it's been hailed as one of the hardest mixed martial arts on the planet. But hey, you did say you wanted to learn something totally new, right? Well, if the medley of chest kicks and two-inch punches that's involved in Thailand's national sport ain't new enough for you, we really don't know what is. Originating in the 19th century, Muay Thai fuses a whole range of different fighting styles, from boxing to taekwondo. There are oodles of training courses on offer in the Land of Smiles, each guaranteeing to up your fitness levels and get your punching like a pro.
It might seem strange, but as learning to code websites and computer programming language becomes a mainstream aspect of school learning, that gap year might just be the perfect time to stay up-to-date with the youth and hone your own skills in the department. You could easily work self-study into your year of traveling. Just set aside half an hour with a chai tea after your breakfasts in India, or leave a little time each morning before you head off to SCUBA in the Indonesian seas. You can also even get purpose-built applications to help you learn computer lingo on the go now.
How to run your own business
Whoever said a gap year had to be void of all work? In fact, oodles of people are now taking career breaks or years away from college to test their own business skills and see if they can get something of their own on the go. We do live in the age of the budding internet entrepreneur, after all! So, if you've ever nurtured a bright idea that you think will make you millions and want some time to give it a whirl, why not consider working it into your day-to-day travel routine? There are plenty of business owners out there who do just that, and you won't ever have to return to the nine-to-five if it does go well. Ever.
How to dog/house/cat sit
Contrary to what you might think, being a house sitter, or a dog sitter, or a cat sitter isn't just about being somewhere while the owners are away. It's actually a skill, and with big websites now offering to connect sitters with potential jobs all over the planet, it's become a much more competitive sector than ever before. So, sign up to the top services, make a good profile and get out there on your gap year to become the best house sitter you can. Once you can prove you're better than the rest, you could find yourself hopping between gratis accommodation in otherwise-expensive travel destinations, like the US, Australia and NZ!
Some handy DIY
Instead of spending your whole 365 days off simply lazing and partying (although we're not saying that wouldn't be great!), perhaps you'd like to try and finally get to grips with those DIY and handyman skills that have eluded you in younger life. There are countless ways to do this. You could enquire about working on volunteering projects like LBW's home building drive in Nicaragua, or NGO school building in Africa. Or, you could reach out to people on sites like HelpX – there's always a farmer's shed or ski chalet needing construction in the summertime!
How to cook
Whether it's the odd cooking lesson in the Land of Smiles, to get to grips with the peanut-infused noodles of a pad Thai, or a dedicated culinary odyssey through he spice-scented towns of India, where bubbling masalas mix with chili-topped pakora fries, there are oodles of different opportunities to hone those kitchen skills on a gap year. Start by doing some research into the destinations that will work best for you. We can recommend Thailand and Vietnam, both of which have some seriously mouthwatering cuisine to keep you busy.
We at LBW have been touring around the rugged karst cliffs of Thailand's beautiful Andaman coast for too long not to mention this one. That's because rock climbers of all shapes and sizes, beginners and experts alike, continue to flock to the region to strap on the harness and hit the rocks. Some of the most iconic destinations for getting to grips (no pun intended) with the cliffs are Railay and Tonsai, which sit just a short boat ride from Krabi town and LBW's own Krabi Life Homestay.
Yep, we've also been taking tour groups through the beautiful coral gardens of the Indonesian Gili Islands and the legendary clear waters of Koh Tao for too long to ignore the possibility of learning to dive when you're on that gap year. We've seen countless travelers, both on and off LBW tours, emerge from their travels with a bona fide PADI qualification, or perhaps just a new penchant for freediving. Even if things don't work out, or you never use the skill again, you're sure in for a treat as you weave between the shipwrecks and sea sponges of Southeast Asia!
Can you think of any more top things to learn while you're taking that gap year? We'd love to hear all about them in the comments below. Or, if you think it's time you got on the road and honing your skillset as you travel, be sure to check out LBW's offering of tours.
We believe that travel is not a reward for working, but the most valuable and impactful form of education for life. We aren’t just a travel company; we were built to introduce you to the rest of the world. LBW Travel is about more than taking vacation time. We connect you with people and offer experiences that will change the way you look at your world. Travel reminds us what is truly important: family, friendship, love, exploration and adventure.
Sign up for newsletter & get travel guides