So you finally decided to take a gap year to travel? How do you feel? Nervous? Worried about losing time? Taking a gap year to travel doesn’t mean you need to have a résumé gap or that it’s wasted time.

I truly believe that you need no reason to travel more, it’s something we should all do for its own sake. However, if you want me to give you permission or justification to take time away from work or school, here’s some ideas to make the most out of that gap year:

Learn a different language

If you really want to beef up your resumé, add a second language or two. We live in such an interconnected world that learning to speak other languages isn’t just something that’ll give you a competitive edge in whatever path of life you choose, it’s a necessity.

So pick up Spanish if you’re traveling through Central and South America. Stay a couple of months in France or Germany and pick up a language there. It’s not only a fun challenge, it’ll make your travels much more immersive.

Volunteer part-time

If you’re already making time in your life to take a gap year, you might as well make yourself useful by volunteering for a cause that’s dear to your heart. Maybe volunteer teaching English in a rural school in Guatemala, take care of stray dogs and cats on Holbox Island in Mexico, or just meet someone and help them out.

There’s plenty of organizations that need proactive people like you to help out all over the world. The Red Cross, the Salvation Army, among many others depend on skilled volunteers to help make the world a better place.

Not only will this make your resume look even better, but we get so much out of this world that we have a moral obligation to give back. I promise it’ll work wonders for your soul.

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Volunteering a little bit of our time to help others is a great way to give back!

Get a job abroad

Getting a job abroad might not only help you sustain yourself in a foreign land, but might even count as work experience towards your resume. Depending on where you’re from, some countries might allow you to apply for a working holiday visa.

Getting a job abroad has the potential to teach you about that culture’s work ethic, their language, as well as many other useful skills and perspectives that you might not have had access to otherwise. You could even travel on holidays or weekends to nearby places and use a certain city as a base from which to travel.

Learn a trade or a craft

If you’re traveling extensively and will have time to learn, try getting a job apprenticing for a craftsman. Contemporary culture tends to look down on the trades, but they’re making a comeback for the obvious reason that they’re damned useful skills to have!

Working with your hands teaches you a different perspective and is very rewarding work, especially if you’re young and starting to build your own work ethic. With college as expensive as it is nowadays, the attractiveness of crafts has increased in recent years.

These skills will stick with you throughout your life, maybe changing it for the better. Perhaps if you volunteer build schools in Africa, you could use those skills to take care of your own home one day, or be useful experience that might help you start your own construction firm later on. Maybe carpentry will become a lifelong hobby of yours that you eventually turn into a business.

In all cases, the discipline of learning a new skill from a master will be its own reward, something that will influence you in a positive way no matter what course your life takes.

Take up a new hobby

Taking a gap year is a perfect way to pursue that hobby you’ve always dreamed of. Maybe it’s painting beaches with watercolors as you tour the coast of California, perhaps it’s nature or landscape photography or, like me, maybe even try your hand at travel writing. 

Who knows? Some of these hobbies might even come in handy for your future life. Photography might be a good skill to have if you’re planning on becoming a journalist. If you plan on being a musician, maybe learn some local styles of playing the drums or the guitar. Drawing and sightseeing may help out a blossoming career in architecture.

Caye Caulker Belize Kayak Sports Mike People

Making new friends is a great way to invest in your future!

Whatever comes from it, whatever you produce will serve as fond reminders of this special time in your life when you went nomad for a while. If you’re creative, you’ll find a use for your creativity.

Network with interesting people (also called making friends)

A great part of the wealth we acquire by going to school and starting to work isn’t all material or intellectual, rather in friendships and relationships. 

Travel has a way of making people bond very quickly and very intensely. It’s just human nature. Make the best of this to make good, lifelong friends wherever you travel through. You never know when you’ll meet a business partner, a mentor, or a lifelong friend while traveling. 

Having contacts and friends in different places can be extremely useful, you never know what opportunities could sail your way!

Develop new skills

They say traveling is the master of all teachers for good reason. While you’re on the road, you pick up so many life skills it’s crazy. A good traveler knows how to plan (and when to act spontaneously). Unless you’re planning on drawing on your trust fund money, budgeting is a vital skill for any extended travels. Talking to so many people from different walks of life and different cultures will hone your social skills well beyond anything the best college has to offer. Walking through distant lands will teach you geography and culture. 

Travel influences so many different areas of your life I can’t even begin to list them all. These are skills that will stick with you throughout your life, thereby enriching you for the better. After all, who better to teach you the skills of life than life itself?

Find what you really want out of life

It’s a cliché that people go out on the road to “find themselves.” People in our society mock people who are unsure of what they want out of life. Everyone has to have a goal, a lofty plan, otherwise you’re just a chum.

Taking a gap year to really do some soul searching, however, can be one of the best gifts you’ll ever give yourself. Travel makes us braver, gives us courage and confidence, which are just what we’ll need to make assertive life decisions.

The road teaches us so much about ourselves, it’s a constant state of learning and discovery. It’s in this process of exploration that we can hone in on what really is important to us and what we want out of life so that we can pursue it, refreshed, when our travels end— if ever.

As you can see, taking a gap year doesn’t mean you’ll just throw your time away! Have any words of advice for people who are going through a gap year? Think of any other ways to make the most of your travels? Be sure to post them in the comments below!