Millenials have an obsession with travelling. Don’t deny it. You’re 18-30, the economy is screwed, relationships aren’t a real thing anymore, and any career worth it’s salt requires five years of relevant experience, a pHd in how to work yourself to insanity and a sacrifice to the Gods. So what do we do? We ignore it all and hop on a plane, using money that we saved from our minimum wage jobs.
So where do you start? I’m going to be looking at the gap year enablers, through my experience, and others’.
FULL DISCLOSURE: My big, independent trips have always been through Gap Year companies, and here’s my two cents on why (don’t worry, I don’t work for Gap360, or G Adventures, you’ll hear from other people too.)
There’s a whole host of gap year sites out there, who’s main aim is to get you out there into the world and experiencing different cultures. Many of these trips do include your accommodation, activities and some/all of your staple meals. This is a good thing. Especially for your first trip. I may be being presumptuous here, but I’m assuming you’ve never had to board a flight on your own? Find a safe hotel for lone travellers? And organising your own trips while in an unfamiliar place is an absolute lottery. Sure TripAdvisor’s one review on the place might give it a big thumbs up, but you can’t speak to real people about it.
That’s where these sorts of companies have the upper-hand. They’re well practised in finding the best of the best, they’ll give you a tour guide, and everything will be fine and dandy (hopefully). The tour guides are often the most informed person you’ll get to with the company, they live in the places you’re going and they’re going to help you.
I’ve always travelled through Gap360.com. It’s a great site with lots of destinations all over the world. From what I can gather, they round up trips from other gap companies, as well as creating their own. I was very confused to book onto a West Coast USA road trip and get all my documents from G Adventures (more on them on my USA post). From all the research I did, Gap360 offered great prices, deals, options and support. I literally cannot recommend them enough, they are always a breeze. From booking, to the build up,to going, to aftercare, they are there. They reply quickly and make sure you’ve got everything set before you go (if you can bear with three emails a week going MISSING TRIP INFORMATION, no, really, it’s not that bad).
The main perk to travelling solo and meeting up with an organised group is undoubtedly the people you meet out there. Sure, the experiences are incredible, the cultures interesting, but there’s nothing quite like a bunch of millenials thrown in at the deep end, all in the same boat (woah conflicting analogies, calm down). You’ll laugh, cry, drink together, swap photos and stories, add each other on Facebook, and maybe not see each other again (although I do keep bumping into someone from Ghana EVERYWHERE in Liverpool, AND I know a pair of girls from Ghana who fly between the UK and Australia to keep their friendship alive.) But, they will be the backbone of your experience (even the assholes in the group).
I think I’ve had a really good experience with gap sites, everything was just what I was expecting (on the whole, I did have a wee issue in Ghana, but I’m pretty sure that was more of a personal thing than anything to do with the company). But sometimes, people can have high expectations that aren’t exactly met. I met Kate in Ghana while doing my journalism internship at Daily Express, we were staying in a sort of airbnb/hostel/internment camp that housed around 60 people, it was full on and very immersive. Everyone was completing different internships; from physiotherapy, medical, teaching to journalism. Kate was placed in a local junior school.
“I travelled with Real gap and although I found them to be very quick at responding and very helpful at times when I actually arrived in Ghana I discovered that a lot of the information they gave me was a little back dated. It was just little things like clothing I.e, I was told that I had to have my shoulders covered at all times and I had to have my legs covered at all times, and when I arrived I quickly found out this wasn’t so. Now this may not seem like a massive issue but as you well know, it was Ghana – in summer.
If you are travelling for the first time gap year sites are very good as they offer structure, a lot of information, and online support. When I plan my next trip I might investigate things on my own a little more and go straight to the charities themselves instead of running through companies; This way I would definitely receive the correct information, I can build a relationship with the people I will volunteering with before I go and i may even find it to be slightly less expensive.”
Here’s a rundown of my favourites, ones I’ve used, ones people recommended to me. The most important thing to do is SHOP AROUND. It may seem really daunting at first, there are so many to choose from, but take your time, this trip could change your life.
And for all my millenials out there: keep on trucking, I’m not saying sod off your job/potential career to go feed elephants in Thailand, but which one sounds better to you?
Have you travelled with a company before? Got any more suggestions for great gap year companies? Leave a comment below and let’s get this debate started!