5 Simple Ways to Fund Your Adult Gap Year
- Save save save!
- Sublet your residence while you are gone
- Find a friend or friends to travel with during various points of your itinerary
- Expand your comfort zone by staying in hostels and shared Airbnb homes
- Use programs like Workaway or WWOOFing to give labor in exchange for room and board
It can be done!
Upon hearing about my year ‘o world travel during my adult gap year, I’ve had a lot of friends lament to me, “Ah, I wish I could take a gap year too, but don’t have enough money…”
To that, I say bollocks!
The fact is, anyone – even us responsible ‘adults’ – can take time out to travel without eating up all our savings and having to re-mortgage our property. I won’t lie though – it does take some planning. Here are some tips based on what I learned as I planned my own adult gap year…
Save save save!
I know, this is a no-brainer, but actually making yourself do it is another matter. The first step is to create a ‘gap year’ fund – an extra bank account – so that you can watch the money visibly accumulate. It helps gamify the situation, and you’ll enjoy watching the money pile up as you plan all the ways you can spend it. The best thing to do is to divert a fixed amount of your salary to it per month as you plan your trip. There are also a number of apps that can help you save. You can also do little things – for example, consider giving up something like your daily Starbucks and placing that money instead in an account. It will add up quickly – and possibly make you reconsider your coffee habit!
TOP TIP: In the year before I left, I started looking for many ways to reduce my overhead. I discovered that I could lower my energy bill by changing companies and I cut my water bill in half by installing a meter. Look for ways to cut recurring costs that will continue while you are gone in your own life.
Sublet your residence
Either find someone to take over your rent while you are gone, or consider Airbnb’ing or doing some other sort of short-term let if you own your own property. Short term lets can be more profitable, but you will need to find a company to manage the churn for you.
TOP TIP: Many major cities now have companies dedicated to managing Airbnb properties, so look into their reputations and shop around. I was able to rent my property on Airbnb in London using the company Hostmaker to manage it, and I averaged around £2000 in income per month I was gone.
Find a friend – or friends – to travel with
People asked me if I was traveling alone. The answer was, yes and no. I didn’t have any one friend who was ready and able to join me for a full year of travel, but I did meet up with various friends during different bits of my itinerary. In that way, not only did I get to spend valuable time with friends, but the costs were also halved during those bits of my itinerary.
TOP TIP: I put my itinerary outline on Facebook and told friends to let me know what parts they would like to join me for. This way, I found different people to travel in South America, Australia, and Bhutan with me. I also had friends in Japan and Thailand offer me accommodation during my time there.
Expand your comfort zone
As a full-fledged adult with a job and likely a business travel budget, you are probably used to traveling in style. That’s absolutely as it should be! However, I invite you to consider allowing yourself to have an adventure and rediscover some of your youth by staying in youth hostels and rooms in people’s houses through Airbnb. Not only can you find some very decent places this way, but it also helps make you a more flexible person by expanding your comfort zone.
I learned that I (introvert that I am) was absolutely fine staying in female dorm rooms and other people’s houses. In a strange way, it made me feel freer than I have in years because I realized that I had options – sure, I might be able to afford the nice hotel, but because I was also comfortable in the boutique hostel, I could save enough money to fund half a month’s worth of housing. I also met some very interesting people of all age ranges and backgrounds this way, which is another benefit when you’re traveling solo.
TOP TIP: Some apps that were very helpful in finding cheap accommodation were booking.com, Airbnb, Hostelworld, and Couchsurfing (which is free). All of these websites also have apps, which is perfect for while you’re traveling. I found that some of these apps were better in some places, others in others, so always compare across platforms rather than relying on one.
Work your way around
Unfortunately, visas often stand in the way of us making money on the road, as most countries don’t want you working on a tourist visa. However, you are in luck – in many countries there are programs that allow you to work off the economy in exchange for room and board. This way, money doesn’t change hands and visas do not enter the equation. This can be especially useful way to spend quality time in countries like Australia and New Zealand, where the programs have a long history and prices are quite expensive.
I used Workaway in Australia to live and work on an organic orchard outside of Bunbury. I got great exercise for about 5 hours a day and learned about how farms operate as I helped with the chores in exchange for three farm-fresh meals a day and my own room in the house. The family was very nice, and we’re still in touch. I was free for the rest of the day to do as I pleased. I took trips to Bunbury to swim with dolphins and hikes along the Bibbulmun Trail. It was one of the highlights of my trip. Programs like Workaway are a great way to get to spend an extended time exploring an area, as often the families prefer to have someone there for around 2 weeks minimum.
TOP TIP: check out the Workaway and WWOOF programs for countries and hosts. It’s always nice to write a personalized note to each host you are considering that tells a little about who you are and your trip, as well as why you would like to stay with them. Finding the right host can be a little bit of work, but it’s important to do your homework to find a good fit. Not all hosts are equal, and personalities don’t always mesh.