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Proof That a Gap Year Can Change Your Life!

By Jessica Whyte

Last updated: 18th April 2013

With more young people than ever pondering the pros and cons of taking a gap year, how do you know if taking a gap year will really, truly change your life?  Potential gap travellers are often deluged with an influx of helpful but sometimes contradictory advice, and it can be hard to sift through the wild and wacky stories and get to the nitty gritty of what a gap year can really do for you. Read Gap 360’s travelling interns’ inspirational stories and hear proof that taking a gap trip can change the course of your life, land you paid work and kick start the travelling bug so you can work and travel your way around the world…

Soon after the launch of our independent gap travel company Gap 360 in 2011, we sent some lucky interns off travelling around the world sampling some of our most exciting gap travel packages!  They competed with hundreds of other hopefuls for a chance to get sent off on a dream travel internship abroad, and in return they blogged their experiences for us and reported back on their amazing, unforgettable experiences around the world.  We caught up with two of our fortunate travelling interns, Gillian and Jenny, 18 months after they took their gap trips, to see how taking a gap year has changed the course of their lives for the better, broadened their horizons and found them work both at home and abroad.  Their stories are enough to tempt any potential travellers into taking the plunge and signing up for a life-changing gap adventure…

Gillian Scholes in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Gillian Scholes, 23, became our travelling intern in Australia in Autumn 2011.  She soon caught the travel bug trying out our most popular programme, the Absolute Oz paid work trip, which includes one week’s Sydney introduction and 12 months of job support Down Under.  She also did our Paid Ranch Work Programme and earned money in the Aussie outback.  She saved enough money to fund her travels and carried on travelling around New ZealandFijiBali and South East Asia using only the money she earned in Oz!  Gillian also enjoyed some of our exciting activity programmes during her stay in Australia, including Learn to SurfTall Ship Sailing and Learn to Dive at the Great Barrier Reef.  We asked her a few key questions about her gap experience:

How has life been treating you since you went to Australia as Gap 360’s travelling intern?

I’m doing great thank you. After I finished my internship with you in Australia, I got a job in Melbourne where I stayed for 6 months, during which I ventured to New Zealand and Fiji – where I carried on writing my blog for Gap360. In May, I flew to Bali and travelled north to Ubud where I stayed for a month doing Yoga at the YogaBarn. My sister then flew out from London to come travelling with me – we then began a 4 month trip around South East Asia!

What did you gain from your travelling internship with Gap 360? 

Beginning my adventure with Gap 360 gave me the hunger to carry on travelling and also the confidence and experience to take on such a huge trip. Although I had planned to go to Australia, I would never have been able to do everything I did without the start from Gap 360 and I’m sure I would have had a completely different experience.

Where did you travel in Asia after your Gap 360 internship was over?

My sister and I carried on to the Gili Islands, then flew to Kuala Lumpur, travelled up through Malaysia and into Thailand – we spent quite a bit of time on the Islands where I did lots of scuba diving, a skill I learnt on the Learn to Dive Programme in Cairns with Gap 360. We then travelled up to the north of Thailand and into Laos, taking the slow boat to Luang Prabang.

We spent 3 weeks travelling all around Laos; North and South (including the Kong Lo Caves) after which we took a flight from Vientiane to Hanoi. We spent one month in Vietnam exploring as much as we could and using all forms of transport including Easy Rider trips and overnight trains. Then we went from Ho Chi Minh into Phnom Penh, spending three weeks in Cambodia…after which we travelled to Bangkok to catch a flight to Hong Kong for a week before heading back to London!

How do you feel about your gap trip?

It was an incredible trip, especially as I was as far from a western world as I could be, bringing us back to basics; we managed to fit so much in, moving on every few days and making so many friends.  I even met up with friends from Fiji while we were in Cambodia.

How did you fund your ongoing travel?

I only spent the money I earned in Australia as the dollar goes so far in Asia and I even managed to bring a bit home too!

Has taking a gap year helped you find work in the UK or abroad?

Upon returning to London, I spent two months interning at a magazine before deciding to do a ski season teaching in Austria, which I have been doing since Christmas. The snow is disappearing now though and after 3 months on the skis it is time for a rest, so my ski job will soon be coming to an end.  I will soon be returning to London with lots of gap work and travel experience on my CV.

It was great catching up with Gillian – We all know that travelling abroad is tempting, not least for the promise of sunshine, parties and freedom from the daily grind, but, as Gillian’s experience proves, a gap year is so much more than an opportunity to let your hair down (although there’s plenty of time for that too!)  With the job market glutted with promising graduates and school leavers, a gap year still gives you the chance to stand out from the crowd and soup-up your CV.

Jenny McLarney in South Africa with a monkey on her shoulder

That’s exactly what our second travelling intern, Jenny McLarney, 23, found when she returned from her African adventures.  Jenny spent Autumn 2011 travelling around South Africa, taking part in our Cape Town Volunteer ProgrammeShark and Whale Conservation and volunteering at wildlife and monkey sanctuaries on a wildlife experience of a lifetime – ideal for this budding David Attenborough!   Her gap experience has helped her land her dream job in the UK and her travels have provided a unique talking point on her CV…

Travelling certainly spiced up your CV.  Where are you working now?

I have been at a design and marketing company in Tottenham Court Road for about 14 months now as an account executive.  I started off as an intern for three months and then they kept me on. It’s an incredibly intense environment, but there’s never a dull moment!

What difference did taking a gap year make to your CV?

I still keep the gap year in my CV as it’s an interesting opening to say to potential employers: ‘I Won a six month gap year experience in South Africa after interviewing a grasshopper!’ – It’s a talking point!

Jenny won her travelling internship experience at Gap 360 with her original video application, which was a take on a David Attenborough-style interview with a grasshopper in her back garden!

What other advantages were there to your gap experience?

I have got several Dutch friends visiting this weekend that I met over in Africa, so I’m still keeping in contact with my gap year friends, which is great!

So whether you’re looking to broaden your horizons, add to your skill set, make your CV sizzle or just have the adventure of a lifetime, our travelling interns are living proof that a gap year really can change your life!

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