The decision to embark on a gap year isn't always easy: there are financial implications, the consequences of dropping off the career ladder for a while, or taking a break from studying and risking possible loss of motivation.
Chris Davies-Anipole of LifeBox is a life coach who offers a coaching programme for those who are interested in travelling - providing a systematic approach to deciding whether travelling or taking a gap year is for them and then consequently realising the steps needed to turn that dream into reality.
This means that Chris is just the man for Essential Travel to grill on taking a gap year and other travel questions!
Essential Travel: Chris, can you tell us about your own experiences and what you do now?
Chris: After graduating from university in 2005, I had various jobs abroad, such as teaching English in China and Web Design in New Zealand. I currently work in London as a life coach, where I inspire and motivate people to live life to the full. They go out and explore the world, meet new people and open their eyes to new cultures and experiences. The people around us make us who we are, they define and shape our perspectives on life, and the more we see of the world, the more we enrich and enhance our own lives.
I have travelled across Southeast Asia, driven in the Australian Outback, scuba dived on the Great Barrier Reef and snowboarded on New Zealand's South Island. I've been plane wrecked and stranded in the South Pacific and travelled around the east and west coast of North America. I have run in front of bulls in Spain, seen the Great Pyramids of Giza and climbed the Great Wall of China, to name but a few experiences.Essential Travel: How do you know when it is a good time to take a gap year?
Chris: A good time to take a gap year is before you're about to embark on a new step in your life. Taking a gap year gives you the head space to really reflect on your current life - what you enjoy, what you don't and most importantly what you want to change.
I think a fantastic time to take a gap year is between finishing further education and going to higher education, or after you have graduated. It makes sense to go and see parts of the world that are very difficult to get to once you are restricted to annual leave per year and are focused on building your career.
It is important not to get confused by the feeling of escapism and the feeling of exploration. Don't use a gap year to run away from troubles or adversity. If you're taking time off to travel the world, you need to be in a good place mentally. It is important to work through all obstacles in your life before you head off on your travels.
Essential Travel: What sort of combination of work/expanding your CV/fun would you advise? Do you think a gap year is all about fun and recuperation or also expanding your horizons?
Chris: I think a gap year is all about expanding horizons, the fun will come with it. It is important to keep an open mind when travelling, having a fixed structure or route is not ideal. You will very quickly find that if you restrict yourself to a fixed route, you will miss out on a lot of things. From the moment you get off the plane and head to your hostel, you will start meeting wild, wacky and interesting people - be sociable and you will have the best gap year experience. Whilst working is not necessary, it is always a great benefit to any CV. Simply showing that you are able to adapt, be flexible and fit in to new environments shows that you have people skills, which others wouldn't necessarily have. If you are able to show that you have done charitable work, voluntary work or similar, that surely has its 'brownie points' too.
Essential Travel: What would you do to prepare mentally for a gap year?
Chris: The best way to prepare for a gap year would be to throw out the concept of rigid plans or processes. You need to keep an open mind and heart. Resolve anything that needs sorting out back at home, as the last thing you want to be worrying about is any ongoing issues. Think of yourself as a free spirit whilst you travel, be open to everything, and embrace cultures and traditions.
Essential Travel: What would you do to prepare financially for a gap year?
Chris: Financial preparation is imperative. Whatever you think you would need for a gap year, double it. The fact is: the more money you have, the more you will be able to see and do. Accommodation is very important. The general rule is that you get what you pay for. Always have a backup fund, which you can leave at home and ask a family member or loved one to transfer to you, should you need it. The last thing you want is to run out of money and have to go home early. If budgeting is not your strong point, seek some advice and get someone to help you. It is very important to keep a handle on your finances. Also, take out travel insurance, which will cover you in the unfortunate event that you lose a valuable item, like a camera.
Essential Travel: What's your advice on choosing travel companions?
Chris: The choice of a travel companion is always a tricky question. You never really know your companion until you travel with them. The relationship that you have with them whilst you are travelling is more intense than any other situation imaginable: you will spend virtually 24 hours a day with them. Be prepared to be flexible and choose companions who are like minded - this will minimise conflict as you will more likely want to do the same things whilst you're abroad.
Essential Travel: Do you have any tips for dealing with...
Chris: Safety in numbers is the key. In most countries that you visit it will be obvious that you're a tourist. Try not to go into areas that you're not sure about and if you must, make sure you are not alone. Most places have tourism advice bureaus, which offer advice on places to go, or to avoid. Try to be aware of your surroundings at all times and trust your instincts. If you plan on spending some time in a country, it's also a good idea to buy a sim card to keep in touch with local friends or loved ones back home. You can also download our travel safety guide.
Chris: It is normal to feel lonely sometimes. However, remember that you are experiencing a once in a lifetime opportunity and you should make the most of it. Your loved ones will be waiting for you when you get back. If it helps, you can set up a Facebook account, or keep in touch via email and Skype.
Younger travellers needing to persuade their parents
Chris: This is always a tricky one, but the fact is that there is danger in the world everywhere you go. Show your parents that you are a mature person, you are able to make sensible decisions and that you have a reasonable level of judgement. Assure your parents that you will keep in touch and ensure that you do, they will feel safe knowing that you're having a good time and are keeping them informed along the way.more blog posts