How do you know when is the right time for you to take a gap year and travel? Is the economy going to make it difficult? Can you afford it? Maybe you are career focused or think you are the wrong age? The truth is there is no wrong or right time to travel, but there may be a wrong or right time specifically for you.
A gap year is an amazing thing and is honestly one of the best things you can ever do for yourself. It is an indefinite period of time to travel and explore the world (it doesn’t even have to be a year), it is a space where you can grow into yourself, learn a ton of new skills, become the person you want to be or revaluate your life. The benefits really are immeasurable. And one of the best things is that a gap year can be taken at any time, at any point in life. The real question is, is a gap year right for you right now?
The general consensus is that now is always the best time to travel, that you shouldn’t wait to follow your dreams because one day it will be too late, and that is absolutely true. But it is also true that everyone’s personal circumstances are different and for some people right now may not be the best time for them on an individual level. That doesn’t mean of course that there won’t be a better time for you in the future, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take steps right now to start preparing for that future, but it does mean that right now you may have other priorities, and that is absolutely fine.
Life is particularly hard for many people right now. The pandemic shut down a lot of businesses and livelihoods, the cost of living increases are crippling for many and a lot of people simply can’t afford a big trip at the moment. That is perfectly normal and understandable, but if travelling is your dream there may be some ways you can save up for a time when things are better, or at least make a rough plan to start doing so once specific criteria are met. For those of you who do have savings and have prepared for this trip for a long time, then why put it off? I get the financial situation and uncertainty of the cost of living at the moment is scary, but maybe travelling and living somewhere where the cost of living is a fraction of what it is in the UK, Europe or the US can save you an absolute fortune in the long run! I have had many gap and snap years where my cost of living per month was a third of what it would have been back home paying rent and bills and daily expenses!
Maybe you have recently started a family and want to settle down? Well congratulations! That’s awesome but many people travel with young families and children, so don’t write off that gap year just yet. Maybe you are just starting a new job or a career, or want to finish your studies first? There is nothing stopping you doing both. Maybe you are waiting for someone to go with you? Well that one I can tell you you can safely ignore because solo travel is awesome!
There is nothing that is too much of an obstacle if you really want something.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are traditional times for taking a gap year for a reason, before or just after university can give you that time to evaluate what you really want to do and add some experience to your CV, having a grown up gap year can help you stop burnout from your career and a retiree gap year can help you stop the government from nicking all your savings when they shove you into a nursing home, but that doesn’t mean breaking the mould and going off on an adventure outside of these big life milestones is a bad idea either.
So how do you know when is the best time to go? You don’t really. You never can. It is easy to talk in very general terms that now is always the best time to go (and for many it will be), but only you know your own individual circumstances.
The trick is to know what is practicality and what is an excuse.
The best advice I can give you is that if you are in a position to go and it is your dream to do so, then go! Don’t put it off! But if you aren’t in a position to go and it is your dream to travel, then start preparing for a time that you can. Maybe right now isn’t right, but some other time will be.
There is never really a ‘best’ time to travel, but there is definitely a best time for you personally. You just have to figure out what that time is. The only bad choice is never taking one at all.
What did you think of the article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.