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Gap Years Evolving into Life Changing Experiences

Monday 11th July 2011

Exciting adventures abroad are more popular than ever

Exciting adventures abroad are more popular than ever

There are many reports in the media this week about what effect the changes to university fees, students and graduates are having on gap years. The main consensus is that the format and content of a gap year is changing and evolving into a completely different experience than 10 years ago. Embarking on a gap year used to be simply about taking a year off from studying, and setting off with a backpack around Europe or the world, or getting a job in Australia and experiencing life on the flipside. The aim of a gap year years ago was to explore and broaden your knowledge of life in different cultures, see some of the wonders of the world, but to ultimately have lots of fun abroad. These days all of the above is still true but now gap year travellers are wanting even more.

Instead of just relying on a wetted finger held aloft as you leave Blighty, gap year travellers are spending a great deal of time planning their gap year in great detail before they leave. With the help of specialist gap year travel companies such as Oasis Overland or Contiki, graduates or school leavers can book some fantastic experiences abroad and with the knowledge that these life-changing adventures can add much looked for spice and individuality to their CVs to impress prospective employers back home.

The latest figures released by the specialist travel company STA show that many students want shorter gap trips to fit in with work and college term time breaks. They also show that ’voluntouring’ projects are becoming ever more popular such as working with elephants at a rescue centre in Thailand, or orangutan conservation work in Borneo. The STA booking figures also show a doubling in the number of bookings of flights to Bejing, Singapore, Delhi and Hong Kong used as destinations in order to explore China, Vietnam, Cambodia, India and Thailand. Will Hayley, the founder of Ticket-to-Ride, noted that many travellers are taking their gap year after they’ve already completed their degrees and that ’voluntouring’ and adventure travel is increasingly important. Packing as many exciting activities and new experiences into their gap year as possible is the new goal for students. Many now want a taste of everything and combine training courses in skiing or surfing with volunteering and conservation work abroad.

STA Travel director John Constable pointed out that: “Today’s gappers no longer waft from continent to continent seeing beautiful beaches, sampling local beers and chilling out – they want more. Will Hayley added: “When I backpacked around the world in 2002, gap years were harmless fun. Now they must be a life changing experiences to give you an edge in interviews, which demonstrate energy and enthusiasm besides the top grades everybody else has got too.”