Pros and cons of a travelling gap year

Posted on: 09/03/2010

By Kirstie Dyke

Nowadays, a common choice for students leaving college is to take a year out before moving onto the next stage of their lives, whether that is university, full time employment or one of the other many options that every student has. Once you’ve decided to take a gap year, suddenly you’re faced with a whole plethora of new options – how to fill the 12 months ahead. Here we talk through the positive and negative aspects of travelling or making trips within your gap year.


You may have taken the gap year because you simply didn’t have a clue what you wanted to do next. You won’t make a rushed decision and you may meet people or see things along the way that persuade you to explore avenues you had never thought about before.

If you’ve travelled around the world, got yourself from point A to point B, met new people and earned the money you need, chances are you are going to return a more mature person with extra skills compared with someone who has spent the summer down the pub.

In addition, some of those skills are going to look useful on a CV. An employer will be impressed by your organisation skills and new found responsibility, universities will appreciate your increased maturity and confidence in making new friends and how better to convince a new landlord that you will be a good tenant than explaining that not only have you lived away from home before but that you have lived in another country. Those are only general skills, you could volunteer or take part in a course on your gap year and gain many more specialised ones.

You’re at a unique point in your life when most people don’t have any bills, mortgages or loans that need paying every month. This means saving the money you need to travel is easier and quicker, and you don’t have any worries about whether the gas bill was paid on time when you are halfway around the world.

Travelling, wherever you decide to go, means that you will make new friends, see some amazing sights and take part in extraordinary cultures. While on the road you could volunteer, work your way around your chosen path or just lie back and enjoy the view. The possibilities are endless.


You could just end up wasting a year. For a gap year to be successful, especially when travelling, it has to be planned well. If you don’t save enough money, miss your booking deadlines or blow your budget on your first week from home, you may find yourself wishing you hadn’t taken the year out in the first place.

Many of your friends will have moved on to work or university, often leaving the area where you grew up together. Hearing about their wild fresher’s week isn’t going to be much fun when you’ve been working three jobs just to save enough money for a flight.

Some employers or universities will want you to prove that your gap year was worthwhile. Although spending all your time lying on a white beach in Thailand seems like a lovely idea, your gorgeous tan won’t impress the bosses.

Money. Travelling gap years cost a lot. Even though you’ve worked three jobs every day for the whole summer you still may only have enough to stay in a flea-ridden hostel without any locks on the doors. There are lots of hidden costs – insurance, visas and immunisations to name but a few.

You might find it hard to get motivated again back in the ‘real world’. Working 9-5 or slogging it out at university may not seem as attractive as it once did after you’ve finished your round the world adventure. If you know that you definitely want to go to university before you set off, it might be worth applying for deferred entry the year before, just to make sure that you do actually go.

What do you think about a gap year? Are they a good idea? What are your plans? Add your comment below.


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