Since the day I entered the workforce (exactly 3 years ago and I’m exhausted), I have been thinking about doing a gap year. Now you might think it is too early to do a gap year because I have only worked three. But if you put it in perspective, it’s 1/10 of my life already and I refuse to wait until work accounts for 1/2 of my lifetime.
When I decided that I wanted to take a timeout in December 2016, I was planning to travel for three months in between jobs. However, the more I entertained the thought, the more I came to the conclusion that I needed more time. I fasted and prayed about it until I was sure what to do. Now I’m officially hitting the road indefinitely.
Preparing for a gap year, however, required a strategy and a lot of time. Rather than winging it, I came up with a few steps that would help me sort out my project with a plan and a purpose.
Find The Reason
The first thing I needed to be very clear about before planning my trip was the reason behind it. Did I want to learn a new language and explore a new culture? Did I want to relax or meditate at a beach all day? Or, did I want to figure out my career path and reflect on life?
The latter is exactly what I want to do. I wanted to use the time off to follow my purpose, connect to God and evaluate my life. Figuring out the reason for my trip laid the foundation for the rest of my trip decisions. I’m not tied to a destination, therefore I don’t need a detailed plan or itinerary. Knowing the reason behind the trip gives me the freedom to accept an opportunity when it is presented and leaves room for self-development.
Related post: Combining my Love for God and Passion for Travel!
Decide on The Time Frame
The next thing I had to consider when planning my gap year was the amount of time I wanted to spend abroad. I thought about the minimum as well as the maximum stay I felt comfortable with and took into account all the variables that could affect a long-term absence, such as rent, family events, and my budget.
Even now, the hardest question to answer is ‘How long will you be traveling?’. Honestly, I don’t know. According to my bank account, I can afford to travel for 7-8 months if I stick to a budget of $25/day. However, because I am #travelingbyfaith and allowing God to lead me as I go, my trip could be cut short or extended at any time.
While I never had a problem saving up 200$/€ – 300$/€ for a city trip, economizing thousands of dollars for a gap year was quite hard. I had to reassess my lifestyle and find ways to cut down spending.
Over a period of 5 months, I avoided going out and started eating more meals at home or work. Furthermore, I decreased my data plan to a bare minimum and canceled all unnecessary entertainment plans such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, etc. Lastly, I got rid of my overdraft credit at the bank, which allowed me to have more control over my expenses.
Even if these changes seem very small, they had a big impact on my travel budget. After a while, I got used to a frugal lifestyle and adopted a different mindset. It even prepared me subconsciously for the months abroad.
Determine The Destination
Researching the right destination for my trip took the biggest chunk of my time. For several months, I googled different countries and regions around the world. It was important to find out the cost of living, understand local regulations and adhere to visa restrictions.
Once I decided on a country, I researched the different cities and regions that interested me the most and found out what the local costs for food, housing and transportation are. In the beginning, I really wanted to go to Asia, because it’s cheap and known for backpacking. But after a while, the Americas & Caribbean became more attractive to me, and I changed my mind.
Take Care of Paperwork
The last and least exciting to do on my list was bureaucracy. In order to ensure a well-organized and peaceful trip, I had to take care of the little travel details. This included finding out what visas were needed, what vaccinations to get. and what insurance to use. In addition, I had to quit my job, rent out my apartment. and cancel all German insurances and bills. Sorting out all these essentials took a lot of time and nerves, but doing this was important.
In retrospect, I believe that planning a gap year was not overly complicated. I only needed a lot of attention for detail and patience. I probably could have started it earlier to avoid a lot of stress and frustration, but it’s all good now that I’m on my way.