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Gap year projects: how to get ready to volunteer and work abroad

Gap year projects: how to get ready to volunteer and work abroad
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gap year projects

Whether you’re a student, a boss or an employee, there is no age limit to travel and this kind of trips are getting more and more popular. This phenomenon is called differently: gap year project, sabbatical year, career break…  Have you heard of it?
Do you want to change life or just do something different? Here are 4 questions to get you started on your gap year projects and make the most of it.


1. Why do I need a gap year project?

Why do I need a gap year projectSource: Evan Clark

Lots and lots of blogs are listing all the false excuses we make up to postpone it. They are quite a few: age, fear of getting sick, the pressure of your loved ones, a blank in the CV, the multiple and hard admistrative procedures, costs…

Lets’ think positive and be constructive: before thinking about constrains, what about spending some time to imagine all you can carry out in one year

  • Take the time to take the time.
  • Be useful to the society and the planet.
  • Learn and discover something you’ve always wanted to (a language, a different culture…).
  • Live your passion without compromises.
  • Discover all the countries you’ve always dreamt of.

I am not pretending to give you an exhaustive list: we are all different and each of us have his very own dream… Marie-France from Save The Green says something that I found really true and useful. She says: a gap year project “must do you good and bring positive changes to your life”.


My piece of advice: To start your project, speak about it. Recently, I’ve been asked for help: a young mother was asking for advices to choose a destination to travel on her own. I didn’t know her: it’s one of our common friend who connected us and I believe it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

If there were only one question you need to ask yourself, I think it would be: “why”? Start by questioning the reasons and the objective of each step you take. Nobody can answer it; it has to come from you… But people may help you by sharing their own experiences.


Your network enables you to meet new people and speak with people who went through what you’re experiencing right now. I strongly advise you to join one of the many travel groups on Facebook: members are usually very reactive and give keen advices. For English-speaking girls, my favorite group is GoWonder – Girls Travel.


2. Should I plan everything?

looking for information for a gap yearSource: Hope House Press

Actually, there are two very different ways of answering this question:

1 — YES: it’s absolutely necessary to plan every details ahead of time because you need to anticipate lots of things such as procedures, finance, thinking about your return… It would be sad to waste time while you’re abroad to deal with things you could have done before…

2 — NO: it’s absolutely not necessary to plan everything ahead of time. For Camille, author of the blog L’Oiseau Rose, “when you’re ready to go, you feel it” and “when you’re on the road, you’ll get all the answers you were looking for”. In her opinion, “the most difficult is to decide to go”.


How about you? How do you feel about planning?

My piece of advice: I believe the most important is to have the overall picture. You can decide on the objectives but be flexible between every step. Amandine from the blog

Un Sac sur le Dos says “nothing went like we planned… But that was planned”. Speaking with nice locals or other travelers may change your mind about an activity or a place you really wanted to. It would be sad to miss it don’t you think?


At the same time, looking for information ahead of time allow you to make better informed decisions and be more responsible. For instance, what are the best period to go, is this company doing sustainable tourism?  Esther’s advices to reduce your carbon footprint or our guidelines to be a socially responsible traveler can help you on the matter…


3. How can I be prepare financially speaking?

ways of saving moneySource: Fabian Blank

Take a year certainly have a cost and, for a lot of people, money is a decisive factor to go or not to go. According to Gilles Etienne, direct of the division finance at Cyrus Conseil, “the more free time you have, the more you’re going to spend”.

Some bloggers recommend to “save 20% of your earning during 4 years” in order to afford taking abroad. You can find many advices on various blog to save and afford a year of travelling. I particularly like the creative tips given by Gooverseas.

Actually, traveling is not a chance, it’s a choice and the budget is really up to you: “there are as many quotes as there are travelers”. You don’t have to win the lottery to travel the world!


My piece of advice: It’s true, traveling is not free, but there are many ways of saving money especially on transportation and accommodation which are often the most expensive. Indeed, sharing economy is rising and brings lots of worldwide collaborative solutions.  


4. I have very few savings, what can I do?

find a job abroadSource: Patrick Tomasso

If you didn’t save ahead, you can still go abroad and work there. It’s more and more common to volunteer and be hosted and fed in exchange of your services.

It’s possible to do it in an ecological farm through woofing. It’s also possible to choose a place and volunteer to learn new skills in order to change job or to support a cause that you really care about. Volunteering is becoming very popular but you have to be very careful because some projects are far from being ethical. There are a certain number of elements that you should know before enrolling yourself.

According to Sophie from the blog Myonotes, « this kind of volunteering allowed me to have a bed and food in exchange of some hours of work but is actually only postponing the moment to spend money. It just allowed me to stay longer”. You can also find a job abroad. Restaurants and hotels hire lots of foreign people and you’ll easily find a job as a waiter, receptionist or bartender. Some sites such as Expat-Jobs or Expat-careers may come in very handy. There are also other websites depending on the country you’re actually living in.


My piece of advice: find a job or volunteering is also an excellent way to meet locals. With locals it’s always best to discover the country outside of the beaten path. I really recommend you to check out the website Workaway to find a job while you’re abroad!


For some of us, a gap year project ends up traveling for life but for some other it’s really about taking some time to take a fresh start, professionally and/or personally speaking. If you’re ready to jump in and start traveling the world, find out about the activities offered by our local insiders!

Source picture: Dino Reichmuth.


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