Whether you’re already fleshing out your 2019 Gap Year or looking to milk your uni holidays for all they’re worth, taking a trip to celebrate your first year out of school has become a rite of passage.
Last year, the United Nations estimated that 20 percent of all international tourists (nearly 200 million travellers) were young people between 18 and 30, nearly a 30 percent increase since 2007.
While safety and affordability will always be a major concern for first-time travellers, and their parents, Sue Garrett, Flight Centre Product and Marketing GM, says there’s no shortage of travel solutions.
“These days young travellers now have such a variety of safe and affordable options available to them. This is thanks to the substantial growth of students travelling globally. We’ve built relationships with multiple travel brands who can help you fly the nest next year with guaranteed peace of mind.”
Anna Stelzner currently works as an architect at Bronze Age Studio in Cape Town but spent her gap year in Europe building up her architecture portfolio.
As Stelzner was travelling solo, she decided that a guided holiday with Contiki would be most suitable. “After the trip, I met up with my extended family and did a few things on my own,” she says.
“In June 2014, I joined Contiki’s European Adventurer which lasted 42 days and visited 18 countries. I had heard about Contiki from friends, did a little research on my own and contacted a travel expert at Flight Centre who helped me choose a tour that I liked.
“Although I was there for the architecture, I loved the more rural, outdoor areas in Austria. We stayed in villas. I also loved Dubrovnik because it was so different to anywhere I’d been, but the main highlight was meeting friendly people,” she adds.
Africa is one of the destinations that students will love. “Whether it's seeing the pyramids, cruising down the Nile in Egypt, stargazing from the Sahara Desert in Morocco, or feeling the intense spray of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, the continent brims with genuine travel experiences that will stay with you forever,” Garrett adds. Topdeck designs gap trips for 18–30 and offers a few Africa itineraries.
Flight Centre also arrange volunteer holidays in Tanzania in projects across three locations. Choose from a hinterland city at the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro, the bustling capital city of Dar es Salaam, or the idyllic and mysterious island of Zanzibar.
As Garrett explains, young volunteers can help in community centres, at primary or secondary schools. “You'll teach English, art, sport, music or technology, and get involved in helping staff at the orphanages.”
Busabout’s Adam Bowbosky said travellers should visit the Calgary Stampede in Canada.
“Known as the greatest outdoor show on earth, this 11-day festival from July 19-21 celebrates Calgary’s western heritage. It welcomes more than 1.2-million visitors each year, with key highlights including the Stampede rodeo, chuckwagon races, and plenty of live music from popular artists in Canada and the US,” he says.
His tip for students at this festival is to embrace the Stampede spirit, dress up like a cowboy and wear a plaid shirt with pride. “It’s cowboy culture meets maple on pancakes with bacon. There’s always a free breakfast somewhere in the city during this particular festival,” he says.
As always, Asia is home to most of the world's best travel bargains, and when Lonely Planet gives a destination the nod as it did for Sri Lanka, as its country of choice to visit in 2019, you know it’s a sure bet to add to it your list once those matric results are in.
As Garrett explains: “Sri Lanka has plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy near the beach like snorkelling, and diving. Surfers will love the fact that Sri Lankan waves are consistent all year-round.”
She recommends travelling with G Adventures, who offers 14 days tours.
Garrett also recommends Asia as a top destination for recent matriculants looking to give back, while gaining life and career experience. “Be it teaching English, or helping communities thrive, there are plenty of well-designed volunteer opportunities in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam," she adds.