How To Find Your Ultimate Gap Year Destinations
When planning your adult gap year, one of the most crucial elements to consider is where you want to spend your time. Do you want to bounce around from city to city, or spend a lot of time in one area, getting to know the people and the culture there. During my adult gap year, I did a mix of both, and they both worked for their own reasons.
One thing I might have changed for my year would be to research gap year destinations more before going there and then use that information to pick a couple of regional bases from which to explore different close by cities and countries. I gotta tell you, packing and moving every 7-10 days for a year is exhausting, and I want to save you that pain if I can. Learn from my mistakes.
Ten things you should consider before picking your adult gap year destinations.
1. Time zones
If you are planning on working during your adult gap year, consider any potential time zone challenges that might arise. Will you need to be available during certain hours? I know someone from New York who has to be available the same NY hours, even though she is in Thailand. With Thailand being 11 hours ahead, this makes life very difficult for her (but for her, the difference in the cost of living makes this inconvenience worth it.)
2. Cost of living
We just got talked about this, right? My cost of living in Chiang Mai is about 1/5 of my cost of living in the Bay Area. If you’re worried about your money dwindling during your adult gap year, Chiang Mai and most places in Thailand have a great potential for adult gap years. I’d say the same thing for South Africa, many parts of South America - basically any place where your dollar will go further than in the US.
If you are going to need to work while abroad (or stream movies/music/check email/instagram/video chat with your fam and friends) you’re going to want a good internet connection. During my year abroad, I’ve stayed in many places that had excellent internet, and others that did not, and for some it was kind of a mix. For example, in Ubud, Bali, almost every public place I went had WiFi, but the WifI where I was staying was so slow it was unusable. For your gap year destinations, try to pick cities with good Wifi throughout the city.
One of the most important factors is figuring out what kind of housing you are going to live in. If you’re slow traveling, your best bet is to find an apartment that you can rent for a few months at a time. This will cut down your expenses verses option B. Option B is to travel like you are on a vacation - speeding through cities and countries, spending a week or two here and there. This will definitely be the more expensive choice, and your best housing options here are AirBnBs, hostels, couch-surfing, or hotels.
5. Available Work Spaces
Consider how you work. Do you work best surrounded by other people? Can you work on the comfort of your couch and still be productive. If you need to leave your own space to do your best work, try to find a gap year destination with a number of cafes and co-working spaces that will fit your needs.
6. Digital nomad/expat community
If you’re slow traveling , consider the type of community you can build while abroad. Without a doubt, I built the strongest community in Chiang Mai, and it’s the reason, I’ve been here the longest. Look for expat groups on like to see if the community you are looking for is the cities you are considering. Facebook is a good place to search for these groups.
7. Tourist Activities
What are your favorite things to do? Jazz Clubs, non-stop night life, pilates? Don’t stay for long in a city that won’t feed your soul. You’re gonna regret it. You really will.
8. Proximity to other destinations
When you’re living abroad, you’re going to want to visit another country or city. Trust me. You don’t want to be in a city that makes traveling hard. Find a gap year destination that has good transportation options (lots of flights, trains, etc) and life will be much better.
9. Visa requirements
How long can you be in the country on a tourist visa? What are the requirements for other types of visas. Thailand’s great, but their standard tourist visa is only for 30 days, while Mexico’s is for 180 days.
During my adult gap year, I’ve been in some cities where the average temperature loomed around 100. And I mistakenly went to one city where the temperature was in the 30s. This is a “know thyself” moment - know what kind of weather you want to live in, because no matter what city you are in, you can’t avoid the weather. Pick something you are going to like, and stick with it as much as possible. Adult gap year journeys usually mean packing light and/or leaving things behind wherever you go, so you’re better off only packing for one season and chasing that season around the world.
Adult gap years are amazing adventures that I would recommend to anyone looking to hit pause on their day to day life. But these gap years require planning that you should not skip. Picking your locations is a crucial part of the process, and one you should think deeply about. I hope these ten things help bring some clarity to you as you consider all your options.