So you’re thinking of taking a year off of grown-up life and going traveling. Let me be the first to say: Great idea.
Based on my experience, this post offers my recommendation for a the modern young man who has a few bucks burning a hole in his bank account, kayak.com bookmarked in his browser, and a creeping malaise in his heart, getting harder to ignore with each passing day.
Obvious caveat: You are you, I am me. People are capricious regarding what countries/regions they’re interested in. For no good reason that I can think of, I have zero interest in visiting Australia or Brazil, but I desperately want to spend at least a few months each in Chile and New Zealand. This guide is a template that you should feel free to tinker with ad libitum.
So without further ado: The Ultimate Quarter-Life Crisis Gap Year Guide
Phase One: Southeast Asia
We’re going to start our gap year trip in November, because winter is no fun in North America unless you’re a crazy maple-syrup-fed semi-pro outdoor hockey player such as myself. Also, I’m hoping this post will inspire some of you to kick off the shackles and buy a plane ticket right now.
Months one, two and three will be spent in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Sign up for unlimited training at Team Quest Thailand and grab a room in a nice hotel for no more than $400/month. Limit your partying to two nights a week, get insanely healthy, ripped and deadly, and start some sort of side project – teach yourself how to build niche websites, start a blog, build a mailing list – there is money to be made online, get your hustle on and get some of it.
Phase Two: India
Months four, five and six will be spent at an Ashram in either Rishikesh or Pune. Three months of zero technology, zero sex, zero alcohol, tobacco, drugs or caffeine. Make sure you find an Ashram that emphasizes silent meditation, none of this annoying guided bullshit.
Phase Three: Wildcard, Bitches
Months seven, eight and nine will be spent at a location of your choice. Russia? Eastern Europe? The Middle East? Israel? Africa? You could also take these three months to do Japan or China before India. Pick somewhere that speaks to you. Me, I’d go to Iran or Turkey.
Phase Four: Europe
Months ten, eleven and twelve will be spent in Italy, France and Spain.
Italy is the tourist capital of the world, so go there and be a tourist. Don’t skimp on museums, art galleries, operas, and food. If you can’t afford to do that, don’t bother with Italy and spend an extra month in Southeast Asia.
France, either hit up Hossegor and get your surf on, or get an apartment in a second tier city like Lyon or Bordeaux (Paris blows) or a third-tier city with a huge student population like Limoges. You could also skip France entirely and substitute this month with one in San Sebastien (if you surf) Barcelona (if you’ve got a few extra bucks) or Sevilla, Cordoba, or Salamanca (I have heard unconfirmed reports that Salamanca is an untapped poosy paradise).
Wrap it all up with the Camino De Santiago, a one-month hike across northern Spain. Bring blister cream.
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Here are some things you can tell about me and my preferences, based on this itinerary:
1) I prefer longer stays in fewer places than traditional ‘backpacking’ trips.
2) I prefer to seek out educational, enriching experiences over raw partying.
3) I have no desire to spend time in places that are difficult to travel in. Some would call this ‘being a pussy.’ I call it sanity, not having anything to prove, and no confusing exposing myself to discomfort with personal growth.
If you share these values, you’ll probably benefit from this advice. It’s what I would have given to myself one year ago.
But I also know that I am a globetrotting rookie compared to some of my commenters, many of whom will surely weigh in with their own opinions…