Off the Grid: Gap Year Destinations with a Difference

Discover the top 5 gap year destinations for those who are looking for a trip that stands out from the rest

Going on a gap year trip is a valuable experience that often helps travellers grow and develop at personal and professional level. The popularity of gap year trips has grown so much that these journeys are no longer the domain of teenagers or university students. According to The Independent, every year approximately 23,000 people of all ages and backgrounds choose to go on the trip of a lifetime whether it be to have fun, discover the world or find volunteer opportunities. But how (and where) can you make your gap year trip really count?

Bhutan

Bhutan’s landlocked location in the Himalayas has made the country pretty much inaccessible to foreign visitors. Despite the recent advances in communications and transport links, Bhutan remains one of the least visited countries on Earth, so taking a gap year in this off-the-beaten-path nation is certainly a unique experience. Gap year opportunities exist in areas like teaching English at Buddhist monastery schools and youth development programmes.

Thailand

For decades, this South East Asian country has ranked high in the list of most popular gap year destinations. Despite its popularity, Thailand still offers a number of unique and valuable gap year projects so don’t rule it out as nothing more than a student party destination. The remote and isolated northwest of the country (particularly near the border with Burma) is home to many Burmese refugees who can benefit from English instruction or help building houses. You can then complement your cultural exchange with treks into the Thai jungle and visits to hill tribes, or by exploring the fascinating markets and sights that the northern city of Chiang Mai has to offer.

Zambia

This relatively small African country is an up-and-coming destination for gap year travellers. Zambia’s stunning natural beauty is only surpassed by its rich biodiversity, so this destination is ideal for anyone interested in wildlife and conservation projects. Chimpanzee sanctuaries, lion conservation projects, and taking part in wildlife research and monitoring are some interesting options. During your time off, you will have the opportunity to visit impressive UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Victoria Falls, or explore the African wilderness at Lower Zambezi National Park.

Dominican Republic

Mostly known as a honeymoon destination, the gap year potential of the Dominican Republic has been largely (and undeservedly) overlooked. While many travellers choose to spend their year in South America, the Dominican Republic offers a unique cultural experience without the ‘crowd factor’. Some of the activities on offer include taking Spanish lessons, volunteering at orphanages or care homes in the capital city Santo Domingo, or taking part in community in sports community projects (Dominicans love baseball!). One of the main advantages of spending your gap year here is that the country is small, maing it easy to visit both the Caribbean coast and the mountains.

Nepal

Nepal acts like a magnet for adventurous travellers. Its stunning mountain landscapes, exotic cultural mix, and multiple opportunities to practise adventure sports are Nepal’s main attractions. Moreover, there is a wealth of health care projects available, as many areas of the country suffer from a chronic shortage of medical resources and staff. If you have (or would like to gain) skills in this field, taking part in one of these projects can help you improve your professional profile and open many doors once you return home.

No matter which destination you choose, you can be certain that a gap year trip will be an unforgettable life experience. Research your destination carefully and make sure it matches your interests and skills, and get ready to benefit from what will surely be one of the most remarkable travel experiences you will ever have.

Sources:

http://www.gapyear.com/news/166504/record-numbers-visit-bhutan

http://www.independent.co.uk/student/gap-year

http://www.gapyear.com/articles/121020/volunteering-in-an-orphanage-dominican-republic

http://www.himalayan-healthcare.org/nepal

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