Meeting Locals on a Gap Year Around the World

How I Plan My Gap Year Around the World – 50 Gap Year Planning Tasks

July 21, 2018|Lena

The wait is almost over. I am going to start my gap year around the world in only a couple of weeks. In a little more than a year, I went from an idea all the way to the actual start of my trip around the world. In between, there was much to consider, decide, plan and prepare. In this blog post, I would like to share with you everything I did to plan my gap year around the world, including more than 50 gap year planning tasks that will help you stay organized while planning your gap year.

This post comes with a free checklist with about 50 planning tasks. You can download it after you have signed up to my email list. By the way, the checklist is not the only thing you get instant access to when you sign up. There are many more printables in the Social Travel Experiment Library that will come in handy during your gap year planning.

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Post Contents

How I started to plan my gap year around the world

Everything starts somewhere and the planning for my gap year is no exception. It began with an idea. It was actually not a serious idea when I asked my partner Taka if he wanted to travel the world with me for one year. But surprisingly he said yes.

After some serious thought and considerations we made a decision and started working on an actual plan to make our gap year happen.

This post is our planning process in order. I tried to group the different tasks together not by activity but more along a timeline. Starting with the first idea, which in our case was more than one year away from the start.

If you are at this stage where you just decided to do a gap year or are playing with the idea head over to my other blog post called 10 questions you need to ask yourself if you are thinking about a gap year around the world. It will help you get started and make some first decisions.

Gap Year Planning Tasks One Year Before the Gap Year

1. Decide to do a gap year

Like I explained above, the very first thing you need to do is make the decision to do a gap year. Everything else follows.

2. Decide for how long you want to travel and when to do your gap year

We are going from July 2018 for one year. The reasons for this decision where multiple. First, we needed time to save the necessary money. Second, we wanted to wait for our rental contract of 2 years to run out. Third, we wanted to work for at least 3 years before quitting our jobs for the first time. And so July 2018 was the perfect time to start.

The decision to travel for one year is a financial one. We weren’t able to save more than one year worth of money.

3. Find a travel partner or travel alone

Many people do their gap year alone, but you don’t have to. I don’t like traveling alone, and I am fortunate to have my partner Taka to go with me. If you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend maybe one of your friends wants to go with you. And an even more exciting option is to find a person you don’t know to travel with. You can find people in Facebook groups for example.

4. Decide what to do during your gap year

We want to go and see as much of the world as possible in one year. There is so much you can do during a gap year. Do you want to learn a new skill, volunteer by building a school or teaching somewhere, do you want to work on a farm or do you plain and pure desire to see the world?
We are so curious about many countries and therefore decided we wanted to travel around the world, visiting as many countries as possible.

5. Choose destinations

the social travel experiment where do you want to go

We are traveling to over 20 countries all in all. Our process was as follows: We both made a list of countries we wanted to visit, and from that, we compiled a joined list. We even thought about a possible route depending on the seasons and convenience of travel. Over time this list changed a little bit, but overall it still resembles the original idea.

6. Research new destinations

My favorite resources are googling like crazy and thereby finding other peoples travel blogs, and finding information on Pinterest (check out my Pinterest for amazing travel inspiration).

But of course, I also love to get inspired by watching TV and series set in different places as well as Youtube videos (I am also creating videos to inspire people to visit destinations all over the world, check out my channel). Lastly, the best thing you can do is asking friends and family about their best experiences.

By doing all the research, I got new ideas and inspiration where I wanted to go. What activities I wanted to do and I gained new confidence by reading about stories from other travelers.

7. Research climate

For each country, it makes sense to have a look at the climate. If you don’t want to visit during the rainy season, it makes sense to know when the rainy season is. If you don’t want it to be too hot or too cold than that also needs to be a consideration. Especially when it comes to packing. It is much easier to pack if you have more or less the same kind of climate everywhere you go. A trip to the desert and, on the other hand, is tough to pack for.
We decided to only travel to hot climates or at least places that will be moderately warm during our visit.

8. Make a (more or less) final decision on destinations

Even with all the research, there are always more ideas that will influence your trip planning and only once you start booking things will you really get into detail, which is much further down the timeline on your gap year planning tasks.

9. Research visa requirements

For each country, you are interested in going to research the visa requirements. There are countries you can get into without having to prepare a visa in advance. Other require for you to fill out an e-visa and again other countries need you to visit an embassy and get a proper visa. There are often costs in connection with visa issuing, so if you are on a very tight budget, it really helps to know how much you should expect to pay for each visa.

10. Research necessary vaccinations

Okay, here is a step you can’t do early enough! It is also one of the most critical gap year planning tasks. Now that you know where you are going, research what kind of immunization recommendations there are. Make a list and talk to a doctor about risks. We got a lot of vaccinations: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhus, Tetanus, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies and Yellow Fever.

11. Get first vaccination shots

For many vaccinations, you will need multiple shots, so getting started as early as possible is the way to go here. We got our first shots 7 months before our gap year, and that was already kind of cutting it close. Depending on what kind of vaccinations you decided on in the previous step you might need more time to be fully covered.

12. Create a budget

how much money do you want to spend on a gap year round the world

In my other blog post 10 Questions you need to ask yourself if you are thinking about a gap year around the world one of the questions is “How much will it cost?” and the answer is really tough to answer because everyone has different expectations, different travel styles and also different limitations when it comes to a budget. For our 1 year around the world, we are calculating with 30.000 USD per person. Some people say that is a lot, others say it isn’t enough. We will just have to see how it goes.

You can either create a daily budget or a full budget or alternatively, you can try to plan your gap year in as much detail as possible and try to figure out how much it might cost (this is a very complicated thing to do though).

Another option is looking at other people and kind of average their spending, so you know how much people spend on average. But then again it really all depends on how you want to travel.

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And start planning your unforgettable gap year around the world
using the Gap Year Prep Check List and other resources for your travel planning

13. Get second vaccination shots

For some of the vaccinations, the second round of shots is one month after the first round. So if you do it like us and had your first shots 7 months before your gap year the second round will be 6 months before your round the world trip. But like I said earlier is better, because the third round is half a year after your second shots and that’s kind of cutting it close!

Gap Year Planning Tasks 6 Months Before the Gap Year

14. Research backpacks and suitcases

buy a backpack or suitcase

For us, the question backpack or suitcase was a tough one. I decided on a backpack, Taka on a suitcase. We are both convinced we are right, and the other person is stupid. I guess we will see how it goes once we are on the road.

I bought an Osprey Sirrus 50 Liter backpack, Taka already used his The North Face Longhaul 30 during his 6 week trip through Europe.

15. Decide between suitcase or backpack

To make your decision more manageable, I am working on a blog post about the pros and cons of using a suitcase vs. a backpack. For the time being some research of your own might be a good idea.

16. Research accommodation alternatives

Now we are getting to one of my favorite topics. I am not a huge fan of staying in hotels. And while many backpackers and world travelers love hostels, I am not really fan of them either, because I am not very good at approaching strangers. 

So, what I really like to do is stay with locals. This has many many advantages, the greatest of them being your first-hand knowledge of what kind of things to do, see, and eat at your destination. Staying with locals is also a super easy way to make new friends.
So how do you find local hosts? There are many options, so many that I wrote a blog post on how to stay with locals all over the world.

17. Sign up for hospitality exchange networks

I hope one or multiple of the hospitality networks from my post have intrigued you. So it is time to sign up and get to know them. If you need help signing up to Couchsurfing check out my post about it.

18. Experience hospitality networks as a host

Make some first experiences hosting. Like I did using Couchsurfing. If you want to read how it went check out this post: What is Couchsurfing like as a host?

19. Experience hospitality networks as a guest

Stay with Couchsurfing in Taipei

Next step would be checking out hospitality networks as a guest. Before you become a guest make sure to have a look at my etiquette guide and maybe get some ideas about what kinds of gifts to bring or how to show that you are grateful to your host.

We did the same. For our 3 day trip to Taipei, we stayed with a wonderful Couchsurfing host. I write about my experience in another blog post: What is Couchsurfing like as a guest?

Once you have signed up, hosted, stayed with someone and still think it is awesome then I think it might be a viable option for your gap year as well.

And if you have found it isn’t the option you are looking for feel free to book your hotels or hostels using booking.

Booking.com

20. Research what to do with your place

We decided on giving up our home, packing up everything and storing the things we didn’t want to give away or throw away. This frees us up from unnecessary costs and responsibilities while traveling, but it is going to be a pain to look for a new place in a year and buying new furniture.

There are other options open for you if you don’t want to give your place up (or if you own a house). You can of course just leave it as it is while you are traveling. But I feel in most cases this will only be a colossal waste of money.

Other options you have are subleasing your place for the whole time to someone, or you can alternatively find a house sitter, someone who will take care of your house, plants, pets while living there (usually for free).

Another option is listing your place in Airbnb (if the law in your country allows it). We were briefly thinking about this option, because of the potential to earn some good money from it, but as the responsible party, I feel this is a lot of stress while on the other side of the world, even if you have a company taking care of the cleaning and even management on the website.

21. Research how to book cheaper flights

I have been booking flights for myself for many years, and I actually really enjoy the research. But I feel like the flights I am looking for are often costly. So I started doing some research on how to find cheaper flights.

22. Book first flights

I am actually a person who needs a lot of planning and security. And since I always fear prices (especially flight prices) will only get more expensive over time I started booking more than half a year in advance. About 3 weeks before the start I have the first 5 months of our trip roughly planned and all necessary flights booked.

By the way I book my flights via Skyscanner. It is a website that compares prices on many booking portals. But be aware that in many cases the displayed price is not the final price because of additional charges for checked luggage or even payment option fees.

Gap Year Planning Tasks 3 Months Before the Gap Year

23. Get a second credit card

Credit Cards for short trips using Couchsurfing

Another tip I have is making sure you have at least two credit cards from different card companies that are widely accepted worldwide. Like for example Visa and Master Card or American Express. That way if you lose one you still have a way to pay until your replacement card arrives. Make sure also to have your credit card institute’s phone number noted down somewhere so you can contact them right away if your card is gone.

24. Raise credit card limit

Your trip is going to cost you a lot of money, and especially if you quit your job to do a gap year to travel the world, you will have difficulty raising your credit card limit or applying for new credit cards if you don’t have a job. So, do these two things early enough.

25. Research health insurance

In general, I recommend you get health insurance for your gap year. I can’t speak for the rules in each country, I currently only have experience with Japanese travel health insurance, German travel health insurance, and international health insurance.

Try to find out what kind of long-term travel insurance is available in your country. If you are like me and you can’t get into any because you won’t be registered in any country during your trip around the world, your last option will be to get international health insurance. I chose Cigna, and so far I am happy with it, but I haven’t had to use it yet so I can’t really tell you how good it is.

I paid 2000 Euro (2600 USD) for one year. There are slightly cheaper plans and also much more expensive ones. This price is just to give you an idea of how much it might cost. Taka paid about 200.000 Yen (2000 USD) for his Japanese travel health insurance.

26. Get third vaccination shots

Hepatitis A and B, as well as some other vaccinations, require 3 separate shots to fully cover you for at least 3 years.

27. Quit your job or apply for sabbatical

In many countries, it is customary to quit your job 3 months in advance (like for example in Germany). In Japan, or at least at my company it was 2 months, but I wanted to make sure everything went through. So, I recommend you tell your company about your plan to quit or to do a sabbatical as soon as you feel comfortable with. There is usually some paperwork and bureaucracy involved, so plan some extra time.

28. Cancel rental contract

Another thing you shouldn’t forget when planning for your gap year is to cancel your rental agreement if you are planning on moving out. In Japan, we did this 3 months in advance. In other countries, there are specific rules how far in advance you have to inform about your plan to move out.

Gap Year Planning Tasks 2 Months Before the Gap Year

29. Do health checks

Before you leave for a whole year, it is a good idea to get checked thoroughly. This means making appointments at all the doctors you usually go to for checkups during the year.

In Japan, there is a necessary health check for all employees of any company in Japan. So I have been doing regular health checks including x-rays and blood checks. A visit to your dentist to get rid of eventual cavities is also a good idea.

30. Create a packing list and things to buy

I am a planning freak, and I probably had a preliminary packing list half a year in advance. But you seriously should start thinking about what you need to pack and what you still need to buy about 2 months before you start your gap year. I created a useful Excel packing list and am currently working on a blog post. If you want to get access to my Excel packing list sign up to my email list and you can download it for your own gap year planning.

31. Buy a backpack or suitcase

By now you should have made a final decision on whether you want to travel with a backpack or suitcase. I can really recommend the Osprey backpacks and Osprey Sirrus 50l most of all. If you still haven’t decided, you can check it out here on Amazon.

Gain access to the exclusive
Social Travel Experiment Library

And start planning your unforgettable gap year around the world
using the Gap Year Prep Check List and other amazing free resources

32. Get comfortable waterproof shoes

You will be walking a lot during your gap year. Rain and shine. On rainy days there is nothing worse than walking around in wet shoes, and that is why I highly recommend you invest in some good, comfortable waterproof shoes. I bought the Salomon Women’s X Ultra 2 GTX W Hiking Shoe and so far I am very pleased. The shoe will function as a hiking shoe and it is sturdy but still very light. You can check out the Salomon Women’s X Ultra 2 GTX W Hiking Shoe here on Amazon.

33. Buy travel clothing

Of course, you can travel with the clothing you have right now. Noone is stopping you from going in your jeans and t-shirt or even in a cute dress if that is what you want to do. But if you’re going to travel as stress-free as possible, it might make sense to buy some hiking socks, travel panties and maybe even sports (or travel t-shirts).

I love shopping at Icebreaker, this brand creates travel clothing made from Merino Wool. The material is not only super comfortable but also smell resistant. You can wear Merino Wool multiple days without starting to smell. It is a fantastic material.

34. Become a Priority Pass member

If you are going to fly a lot, you might want to look into becoming a Priority Pass member as one of your gap year planning tasks. As a Priority Pass member, you can use airport lounges in many airports worldwide. If you become a member directly, it is quite expensive, but through credit card companies it is possible to become a member very cheaply. Our memberships are included in the Rakuten Premium Card which costs about 100 USD per year. How about googling which credit card institute in your country offers Priority Pass membership.

35. Book tours

Now that the start of your trip around the world is getting closer it might be time to consider the tours and activities you want to do in each country. I use either klook.com for Asian nations or Get Your Guide. There are of course also other companies that offer tours and activities.

How about a free walking tour? Or a food tour? In many cases reading travel blogs will not only give you great ideas but also reviews of the activities and all the information for you to book your own tour comfortably.

36. Find accommodations

From about 2 months in advance it is time to look for accommodations. As I mentioned above we want to stay with locals as much as possible. And around 1 to 2 months in advance is the best time to find potential hosts. It is not so much in advance that people know roughly about their plans and availability but it is not so short notice that they already have other plans.

I have been very successful in finding excellent hosts using Couchsurfing as well as Servas, and I am really looking forward to meeting them all.

When writing a request, make sure you have as much information about your potential host as possible, and to write personal requests to each and every person telling them about yourself but also what they will get out of meeting you.

37. Hire company for move out of the apartment

If you have decided to move out of your residence, then it is time to find a moving company (in case you can’t move all your stuff yourself). In our case, we did give away all our furniture to family, friends and even strangers using Facebook sales groups. Everything we wanted to keep like clothing and other personal belongings we packed into boxes and moved to Taka’s parent’s place south of Nagoya. We will store all our boxes there for the time we are away.

Have you ever wondered what it is like to move in Japan? It is actually really amazing how efficient the Japanese moving companies are. Check out our Moving in Japan vlog for a fun little video about our move.

Gap Year Planning Tasks 1 Month Before the Gap Year

38. Research safety tips

Only one more month until your trip around the world, which means you should be through with most of the more significant gap year planning tasks. But there are still things left to do. For example to research safety tips. Since I come from a reasonably safe country and Japan is probably the safest country in the world I never really concerned myself with safety before. But a trip around the globe with more extended stays in Africa, Asia, and South America makes some research into safety necessary.

39. Get visa where necessary

If you need to apply for a permit for the first couple of countries, you want to visit, do it now. As a German and Japanese passport holder we don’t really need to apply for a visa in most countries, and since our first stops will be Hong Kong, Great Britain, Germany and Portugal we won’t be needing visa yet. Make sure to check far enough in advance for which countries you will need a visa and how to get it.

40. Cancel phone contract

Usually, cancelation of phone contracts takes one month, so canceling your phone roughly one month before your flight date is the right time to do it.

Gain access to the exclusive
Social Travel Experiment Library

And start planning your unforgettable gap year around the world
using the Gap Year Prep Check List

41. Cancel internet contract

We also had to cancel our internet. For the past two years, we have been using a pocket WIFI device only, and cancelation isn’t complicated, but unfortunately a bit expensive because we canceled within the contract period of 3 years.

42. Sign up for health insurance

I hope by now you have done all your research into what kind of health insurance you want to get for your gap year around the world. About one month in advance it is time to signup for your insurance. Most insurances let you do this directly online.

43. Research internet options while traveling (WIFI or Sim Card)

I need internet access while traveling. As a travel blogger I like to update my Twitter and Instagram on the go, but also the use of Google Maps is a luxury I don’t want to live without. For this reason, I did some extensive research into how to stay best connected while traveling. I have come to the conclusion that buying a sim card in every country is the way to go because it is quite cheap.

But because there is always a short time between arrival and purchasing a SIM card, I will also get an international data SIM card that I can use whenever I don’t have a local SIM (this is quite expensive at about 30 USD per 1GB but worth it for me).

Another even more expensive option is a pocket WIFI. Depending on how long you travel and what kind of data plan you are looking for this will cost you between 7 and 10 USD per day (at least).

44. Do a packing test run

The last thing you want to do about one month in advance is a packing test run. This way you will know whether you have forgotten to buy anything and also if everything fits into your backpack or suitcase. I did my trial run using my Excel Packing List (which you can get for free if you sign up to my mailing list), I realized I still needed to buy some little items but overall everything fits, and I am confident I have everything I will need for the year.

Gap Year Planning Tasks 2 Weeks Before the Gap Year

45. Get WIFI or Sim Card

Only 2 more weeks until your gap year around the world. This means now it is time to order your pocket WIFI or SIM Card if you chose to get one. They are usually delivered to your address within one week, and you will be good to use them from day one. Perfect.

46. Throw away stuff

As I said, we packed up everything into boxes, but you can’t imagine how much junk we had collected in just 2 years of living in Tokyo. If you have lived in your place for longer than that and you now need to move out (or just want to make space for short-term renters or house sitters), this might be a more significant task than you think. It took us about 3 days to pack up our small apartment.

47. Get an international driver’s license

If you are planning on driving during your gap year, you need an international driver’s license. You can get this only in your own country before you leave and usually, this will be valid for 1 year.

Gap Year Planning Tasks 1 Week Before the Gap Year

48. Throw a farewell party

One more week to go. It is getting exciting! And it is also time to say goodbye to friends and family and colleagues. I had 3 farewell parties, all with colleagues from work. I am super happy that they all wished me well for my trip around the world. So, take the time and say goodbye (for now) to your friends and family.

49. Deregister

If you give up your place, then the best thing you can do is deregister from your home country. If you do not, you might still need to pay taxes and/or health insurance even though you won’t be home. I won’t be registered anywhere while I am traveling and this will save me a lot of money.

50. Tell bank about travel period

If you extensively start to use your credit card in different countries your bank and credit card institute might start thinking something is fishy and lock your card. To prevent that from happening let them know that you will be traveling.

51. Pack for the trip

A couple of days before your trip it is finally time to pack your things. This will be super easy if you have your personalized Excel Packing List (based on the packing list you can get for free when you sign up to my mailing list) and if you have done the packing test run in advance as I suggest.

52. Download movies and e-books to your phone/ tablet/ laptop

Last step. On the day before you leave download movies, e-books and music to your phone, tablet or laptop so you will have something to do during long flights, bus drives or waits at the airport.

In Conclusion

Once you have done these 50+ gap year planning tasks, you will finally be good to go on your adventure. If you want a checklist to check off each task once it is done, you can get it once you signed up to my mailing list.
There are other free resources you will also get access to. Check them out!

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Lena

Authors Note:
None of the experiences in this post are in any way sponsored and have all been payed for by myself. The opinions stated are all my own and have not been influenced in any way.
This posts contains affiliate links. I receive a commission if a product is purchased through one of these links, at no extra cost to you. Please support me by purchasing products through my links!

Gain access to the exclusive
Social Travel Experiment Library

And start planning your unforgettable gap year around the world
using the Gap Year Prep Check List

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About Lena

Hi, I'm Lena the founder of The Social Travel Experiment. My mission is to teach about Social Travel, the art of exploring destinations from the viewpoint of locals while learning about Culture, History, Food, and Traditions.

Find out more About Me and The Social Travel Experiment

If you are a business we might be able to work together so check out the Work With Me page for more details

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About Lena

Hi, I'm Lena the founder of The Social Travel Experiment. My mission is to teach about Social Travel, the art of exploring destinations from the viewpoint of locals while learning about Culture, History, Food, and Traditions.

Find out more About Me and The Social Travel Experiment

If you are a business we might be able to work together so check out the Work With Me page for more details

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