It was only after I changed college majors for the third time that I finally admitted I had no idea what I was doing in life.  I had too many interests without any relatable skill sets and not enough money to afford a four year degree – let alone the six or eight it would probably take me to graduate given my constant changes.  I wanted more from life than just a degree and 9-5 job though.  I wanted experience; I wanted adventure; I wanted a life that didn’t revolve around the selfish views and close-minded acceptances of society.

So when I found out about gap years, year long breaks taken either between university and work or high school and college, I saw my golden opportunity and I took it in the form of a one-way plane ticket to Australia.  In the four years I’ve been on the road, I’ve learned so much about things I never even knew I was ignorant of – with the biggest being that anyone could afford to take a gap year and this is how:

1. Prioritize Your Savings

I’m not rich now and I wasn’t rich before I set off, having been a broke college student that was struggling to eat healthy.  I worked a 39.9 hour/week job (because what business wants to pay overtime?) and somehow managed to squeeze that minimum wage paycheck enough to cover my rent, bills, and three semesters of college.

I didn’t have anything left to save up…or so I thought, but then I started cutting back on all the extras in life like eating out, snacking, taking long showers, and driving just for the heck of it.  I didn’t drink and I didn’t smoke and miraculously I managed to save up around $200-300/month.

Six months later and I could afford a trip to Australia.

2. Get a Working Holiday Visa

These are fantastic opportunities for those aged under 30 and from select countries going to certain countries (for instance, Americans can currently only get WHVs to Australia and New Zealand, but Canadians can get them for over 20 different countries).  Other than these though there are hardly any other requirements, especially if you hold a passport from a western country.

You don’t need a job lined up before you apply or even before you arrive.  You aren’t limited to only working minimum wage jobs either; if you have the required skills you can apply to whatever suits your fancy. Nor do you have to work at all if you don’t want/need to; it simply allows you to have the opportunity to do so at anytime during your stay.

Most of these visas are valid for one year, but some countries, like Australia and New Zealand, will let you extend it for another 12 months if you meet certain conditions.  Plus, their minimum wages are set around $15/hour and their cost to living ratios are two of the best in the world – as in if you work full time and live in a campervan, you could save (not make, but save) over $2000/month just like I did.

saving for a gap year

3. Budget Your Travels

It’s always the expensive tours that are advertised on TV and in the papers, but traveling doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.  There are loads of free attractions and things to do all over the world and my website, Lifelong Vagabonds (lifelongvagabonds.com), is dedicated to listing all of the ones actually worth travelling to.  I’ve petted wild kangaroos, swam with sharks outside of a cage, climbed some of the most beautiful mountains, and imersed myself in foreign cultures all without having to pay a dime to some tour company or entry fee to a ridiculously priced attraction.

Then there are the other ways to keep costs down like using Couchsurfing (a site where locals offer free couches/rooms in exchange for conversation) and Blablacar (it costs, sure, but it’s cheaper than driving or public transport), buying fresh produce at markets in Spain, recycling bottles in Scandinavia, cooking your own meals,  etc.

3 easy ways to afford a gap year

It Will Make Your Resumé Stand Above the Rest

“But there’s more cost to traveling than just finances,” you claim. “Surely, taking a gap year will ruin my career-oriented future?”

Is there an age limit on when you can enter college now?  Are jobs only open to those that went to university right after high school?  No?  So how would taking a gap year negatively effect your future, again?

Besides, gaining worldly experience through a gap year will look amazing on your resumé.  Traveling abroad shows motivation, the ability to handle stressful situations, planning, leadership, and an open mind that will allow you to see solutions to problems others can’t. It’s also a fantastic ice-breaker in an interview and if the boss likes you, well then – welcome to the job.

I’ve been traveling for four years now and can now honestly tell you that society’s idea that you have to work a 9-5 job Monday to Friday is a complete lie.  In all of these years, I’ve worked a mere six months in New Zealand and am only just now needing to find work again.  Taking a gap year (or longer) is available to anyone who really wants it; your lust to go just has to be stronger than the desire to have another beer, cigarette, snack, and long hot shower.

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