Is there ever a right time to embark on a gap year abroad?

When’s the right time for a gap year?

14 March 2013

Decisions…decisions. Should I stay or should I go? Will I be able to find a job when I get back? Will I be homesick? Can I afford it?

There are often doubts that fill our minds when we are considering a gap year, especially when we’re planning on staying more than a couple of weeks in a strange, new destination abroad.

But for me, it was different. My issue was never getting out there. As a nineteen year old girl with little prospects and a rather boring life, I was desperate to experience something beyond my home town.

Panyu, Guanzhou

Once abroad, my mental debate soon became the issue of returning home - I just didn’t want to leave! Every day felt like an adventure when I was travelling, I met so many friends and got to see a range of sights and sounds that I could never have imagined.  

Yep, as a self-confessed victim of the notorious travel bug, my gap year turned into three years abroad – half of which were spent teaching in China, and half travelling the world. I also spent some time as a volunteer in an orphanage in Tanzania – which was a very special time in my life.

Eventually, I made my way back to cold, wet England. Although I was sad to come home, I was pleased to see my friends and family, and the time away had given me time to create an ambitious plan for the future.

I enrolled in university as a mature student, and from then on things went well. After all, the time away had given me a chance to decide what I wanted from life. I also had a wide range of worldly experience to draw upon. I had grown in confidence, and my time abroad had made me realise the abundant opportunities a country like England has to offer.

It therefore seems fitting that many universities encourage students to undertake gap years, as research suggests that gap year students tend to outperform others.

However, gap years don’t necessarily come before university – and many people jump on board the adventure later on in life. Here at Twin Work & Volunteer we get a range of people of all ages and from all walks of life. It’s also becoming an increasingly popular choice for older travellers with children who have flown the nest. After all, who wants a dull retirement?!

16047_169799443650_5240642_nSo, in short there is no right or wrong time to take a gap year - the benefits of your journey will always outweigh any possible cons. Life is all about taking chances, and sometimes you have to carve out those chances yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, you will need a little preparation and planning – mainly the basics, such as ensuring that you have enough cash and researching your desired project and goals – however, the most important thing is to dive in! If you’re short of money you could always arrange paid work abroad – that way you get the best of both worlds.


My advice to you is to take the plunge. Believe me; it will change your life for the better.


By Hannah Walton