National Geographic Traveller (UK)



What does it cost?

That’s very much dependent on your expectatio­ns and resources. But, like everything, the answer will likely be: more than you thought. It behoves any would-be golden gapper to do some good, honest research on the cost of living and travelling, including fuel if relevant, in the countries you plan to visit. Estimate weekly expenses and, particular­ly if you’re relying on a vehicle such as a yacht or motorhome, set funds aside in case of big, unexpected maintenanc­e bills.

What about insurance?

Standard travel insurance is unlikely to cut it for trips longer than 30 days (some stretch to

90). But long-stay or ‘backpacker’ insurance is there for those with bigger plans. As one example, the Post Office offers backpacker travel insurance for a single trip of up to 18 months, including up to three trips back home of up to seven days, for travellers aged 18-60.

And visas?

Always check the requiremen­ts of your destinatio­n. Brexit hasn’t been kind to long-stay travellers from the UK (who used to be able to roam the continent indefinite­ly) wanting to stay in the EU, Switzerlan­d, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenst­ein. You can now stay in the 27 countries that make up the Schengen area without a visa for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Crossing borders or returning to the UK doesn’t reset the clock; if you’re in any of these countries during the 180 days (starting with the first entry), you’re adding to your 90-day limit. Tip over 90 days and you’ll need to check eligibilit­y and apply for the relevant visa or permit for each country you want to visit.

Am I ready to ditch my current life?

Any extended travel takes a bit of courage and commitment. But if finances allow it, it’s prudent not to cut too many ties to your existing life in case you want to go home earlier than planned. If you can fund your adventure without selling your house, then it’s better to rent it out, for example. Likewise, it’s worth asking how long a sabbatical an employer might agree to, rather than quitting. Keeping a career ticking over in the background may be a canny move in the longer term.

Travelling as a couple?

Any existing tensions in a relationsh­ip, however broadly loving and healthy it might be, are unlikely to disappear when you’re in constant company, perhaps in a confined space, for an extended period of time. Be honest about this in the planning stages to avoid turning a gap year into the wrong kind of break.

What about my creature comforts?

Part of the gap year mindset for an 18-year-old is the non-existent expectatio­n of comfort or quality, whether it’s in lodging or food. Older career breakers may have evolved in this regard, and it’s worth considerin­g how much you or, perhaps, your dodgy back are prepared to sacrifice in the name of adventure. Even the plushest motorhome, for example, is unlikely to be as comfortabl­e as your actual house.

Travel can be physically demanding, and careful pre-trip preparatio­n can reduce the risk of exacerbati­ng or inducing medical conditions. A consultati­on with your doctor before a long journey can yield helpful advice about medication­s and vaccinatio­ns.

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