Round the World Travel and Gap Years

Round the world travel (RTW) is probably one of the best ways to spend a gap year.  I spent 8 months doing some traveling after graduating from University in 2005, and thought I would share a bit of an insight into the whats, hows, whys and whens to help you along your way bit.

RTW Tickets: Deciding Where to Go

Before going traveling, I spent a year dreaming and planning about where I should go.  I was going with my girlfriend so some compromises (or persuasion) had to take place but generally our ignorance led us to go to some of the most exciting and diverse places we could.

One of the best things I did when planning this round the world trip was to work out priorities.  I wanted to do some voluntary work using my skills in marketing and also wanted to see as many unusual (to me at least) as I could.  So the most important first task was getting a voluntary job.

Volunteering Abroad

Now, you would think that becoming a volunteer would be easy…the scenario you would think is: a charity or organisation wants someone to work without pay, and you are willing – job done.  Well no, I have since learnt that volunteering for a job often still requires a level of interviewing, understanding of what you are getting into (in order to maintain your commitment and not bale out at the first hurdle), skills in that area and of course hardwork.

I found a voluntary job working in marketing for a street kid project in Saigon, Vietnam.  Excellent. The next job was to work out where I was going to go next.

RTW Reading, Research and Remembering

It’s funny, during this process of research and planning for traveling adventures you are overwhelmed with resources, insights and lists and suggestions.  Start organising these plans.

  • Ask yourself what climate you want?
  • Teach yourself about different cultures, countries, politics; what are you most interested in?
  • Off the beaten track or firmly planted on the beaten track?
  • Why are you going?  What do you hope to experience?

The general gist of it is that all your research for your RTW trip will inundate with potential ideas, the better you organise these thoughts the easier it is to pin-down where in the world your gap year to take you.

Round the World Flights

One of the cheapest and most flexible ways of traveling around the world is by buying multi-stopover round the world flights.  These are incredibly helpful as they provide a great deal of flexibility.

The flight that I chose was an Escapades flight, which currently buys you 29,000 miles for about £1,000 or so. You can then buy additional miles as you need, typically 1,5000 miles from about £130 (currently).

Anti-clockwise or clockwise round the world travel?

An interesting decision you have to make is do I want to go left or right, east or west, clockwise or anti-clockwise?  Starting from the UK I decided to go East, in order to start work as soon as I was away – this gave me the chance to make loads of friends before I continued traveling some more.  her’s how I did it…

My route:

  • Fly: Manchester – Vietnam
  • Overland: Vietnam, circular around Cambodia, North through to Laos and then a circular through the Yunnan and Szechuan Province in China, before heading South again through Thailand, where we did another circular route before finishing at Bangkok.
  • Fly: Thailand, Bangkok – Australia, Sydney.
  • Overland: Sydney to Melbourne
  • Fly: Melbourne – Cairns
  • Overland: circular around North East Australia
  • Fly: Cairns – New Zealand, North Island
  • Overland: Circular around North Island
  • Fly: New Zealand, North Island – New Zealand, South Island
  • Overland: Circular around South Island
  • Fly: New Zealand – Fiji (money’s running out at this stage!)
  • Fly: Fiji – USA, LA
  • Fly: USA – UK, boo!

Four years ago these flights cost about £1,100 to book – ultra cheap when you think of how many miles I had traveled!  But it doesn’t look like they have risen much at all since then.

Other flights are available to meet the different sorts of destination needs as certain RTW tickets only use particular airlines.  Tickets to enquire with your travel agent are: The Global Explorer, Star Alliance, The One World, The World Journey and World Discovery Ticket.

Green Round the World Travel?

To be honest, when I booked the flight I was ignorant to the opportunities of off-setting carbon emissions from flying, but now that I know of this I try to factor this in to the cost of my flight.  Some companies actually build this carbon off-setting into their check-out process on a not-for-profit basis.  My guilt has driven me to write this last sentence as there is obviously a big fat carbon footprint from my adventures.  Next time though, I’m going overland – public transport all the way!  Maybe this is worth looking into…the Trans-Siberian Express links up with a train route that comes down the East coast of China and Vietnam.  There are plenty of overland / over water methods going through the Mekong into Cambodia.  Backpacking is more accessible than ever now, so don’t forget, it’s less scary than you probably think it is!

Things that I’ve Learnt

These are some things that I wish somebody would have told me before I left…

  • You do not need to take all the clothing you need for the next 12 months in a backpack – take the clothing you need for your next climate and one set of clothes for the following climate.  Give and buy clothes from shops and charities as you go.
  • Back-up all your photos online, upload them to a photo-share facility and tell your friends that they can take a look at what you’re upto.
  • Also post your photos back home on a CD.
  • Take a spare battery or two for each of your gadgets (one can be charging whilst the other is in use).
  • Eye-mask and ear plugs are priceless on long noisey journeys!
  • Post souvenirs back home whenever you get to a city.
  • Make as many friends as possible, stay in touch as you travel and meet up again!  Even take an adress book and update their details on your email account.
  • Keep a journal, tickets, souvenirs, etc – your gap year might be the best time of your life so capture every memory!

Would I recommend it?

Traveling around the world like this was the best thing I have ever done, of which a massive contribution was made by working for the Vietnamese charity.  I would highly recommend this for anyone looking for adventure, who value meeting new and interesting people, and for those who enjoy trekking, mountain biking or anything similar to provide a new testing terrain and climate.

Any traveling or gap year experiences you would like to share? Make a comment below…


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