budget-friendly gap year

Budget-Friendly Gap Year Programs

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More than ever, students are considering gap year programs and extensive travel before, during, or after higher education. Gap year fair attendance has risen 294 percent since 2010. As a generation, we millennials are actively pursuing ways to add both meaning and adventure to our lives. These gap year breaks aren’t years “off” but rather intentional years “on.”

As a group of people who have never known or directly experienced a recession or mass unemployment, millennials (and now post-millennials!) tend to be less risk-averse when it comes to approaching adulthood. We leave jobs quicker, and we look for more than just a satisfying salary out of our employers.

In the digital age, we have more opportunities to work remotely, part-time, and contractually. Some say all we want are bean bag chairs, free coffee, and unlimited vacation policies. But, I think our self-confidence and fearlessness when asking for more reflects not our inability to take work seriously, but our innate desire to improve our work-life balance, ultimately enhancing our quality of life.


Benefits of a Gap Year

American Gap Association states that ninety-eight percent of study abroad students say their gap years helped them develop as a person and ninety-seven noted increased maturity. Eighty-four percent of students say it helped them acquire skills for their future careers. Out of those who took a gap year before college, seventy-three percent say the experience increased their college readiness.

I can vouch for some of these numbers. I took a gap year with a program called Winterline in 2015 after I graduated college. We traveled to ten different countries with the intention to learn 100 new skills. By the end of the year, I met my future boss who would later offer me my first full-time position at a Los Angeles fintech startup. The effects and impact of my gap year are still very present to this day.

Gap Year Programs - Sea Turtle Conservancy in Torugero, Costa Rico
Gap year program working with the Sea Turtle Conservancy in Torugero, Costa Rico on the Winterline Global Skills Program 2016-2016


Budget-Friendly Gap Year Ideas

One of the challenges with gap year programs is the cost. They can easily equate to or exceed the price of one year at a university. I was lucky and rode the wave as gap years were becoming more common in the United States. The program I went on was in its inaugural year and very generous with scholarships.

But it wasn’t the program that left the impact, it was the nature of travel and walking into cultures other than my own that made it exceptional. I was left wondering: can we do this on our own at a fraction of the cost?


Low-Cost Gap Year Locations 

Planning your own gap year will save you money. But, there are some options if you’d rather not. A budget-friendly gap year program doesn’t mean less quality, but be sure to consider specific factors as you research. Is the location of the program a low-cost option?

How much support do you receive? Is the program all-inclusive? Volunteering Solutions Gap Year in India and InterExchange Gap Year in Thailand are both examples of programs for less than $5,000 USD. For more resources to plan a budget-friendly gap year, and information on extensive travel programs at various costs, visit GoOverseas.



For the more adventurous, overlanding is a popular trend in adventure travel at the moment. It involves traveling to remote destinations by some off-highway transportation, anything from bikes to trucks, where the primary form of lodging is camping. Find a packing list and other tips from the Overland Journal, and check out these five classic overland journeys to light your fire.


International Volunteering


WWOOF stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms, or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Various WWOOF organizations use a variety of meanings for the original acronym: Working Weekends on Organic Farms. These programs enable people to volunteer on a range of organic properties in over 100 countries. WWOOFers stay and work on the farm for 4-6 hours a day, and the host provides food and accommodation. Food and housing are two of your most significant costs to consider when planning your budget-friendly gap year. In essence, you could spend the entire year moving from WWOOF to WWOOF, city to city.

Affordable Gap Year Programs - WWOOF Spain
International Gap Year Programs – WWOOF at Benali Farm outside of Valencia, Spain


WorkAway is similar to WWOOF in the sense that you can browse volunteer projects based on location. You pair up with a host and, in exchange for about 4-6 hours of work per day, you’re provided with food and accommodation. WorkAway is not restricted to organic farming and has broader options available.


Work Abroad

Teaching a Language
You can even earn money on your budget-friendly gap year if you want to. A great way to do that is to teach English. In Thailand, you’re qualified to teach English if you’re a native speaker, have a degree from a four-year university, and obtain your TEFL certificate.

Most teachers’ salaries start at around 30,000 Baht per month (approximately $1,000 USD) which, in Thailand, is a comfortable salary. In most parts of Thailand, the cost of rent and food is very reasonable. In Thailand specifically, teachers are not required to speak Thai, but be sure to do your research on the requirements in your preferred city or country.


Make an Investment

Taking a budget-friendly gap year is a wonderful way to make a real investment in yourself. Use these tools and more to help eliminate expenses where you can. And most importantly, prepare well for your adventure – learn something about the places you’ll be visiting.  Learning even a little of the language of the country you’ll be visiting will help you to get oriented right away.  You’ll be more open to new experiences and meeting people.  Wherever you’d like to go, Pimsleur probably has a language course to help ease your trip.  Whether you want to learn Thai, Greek, or Chinese, our free lessons are a great first step. There’s so much to be learned outside of the classroom. Open up your front door and walk outside if you are eager to see the world. It’s waiting for you.

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