Gap year goals: Do you have any?

notebook with "gap year goals" written inside

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For every gap year or extended trip, there are always a few goals people hope to reach along the way. Even those trips that don’t seem to have a goal in mind at first glance, have a goal.

Nobody travels for no reason. Everyone has some kind of target in mind, even if only subconsciously.

For example, during my first gap year back in 2015, my main focus was leaving the cloudy UK for a hotter climate. So I went to Australia.

My second gap year was on the west coast of Canada because I wanted to be near mountains and beaches. Those were my goals, and every trip since then has had a new goal each time.

When you look at planning your own trips and researching where to go, do you start with those goals in mind? Or do you figure out the goals afterwards? What are the different gap year ideas you have that you’d like to explore?

Whatever the case for you, let’s have a look at some common goals people set for themselves when considering going on a gap trip.

Don’t forget to get travel insurance to cover you if something bad happens. One company I have personal experience with is Safety Wing. Not everyone needs the same coverage, so make sure you get a personalised quote that suits you and your trip plans.

If you need to transfer money or exchange currency ready for your trip, check out Wise. I’ve been using them since 2015 and continue to use them today.

Also, to make sure you stay connected at all times during your gap year, consider getting an eSIM as they can be downloaded directly to your phone instead of needing to wait for a physical card delivery.


lit up sign that reads "work word"

Get some work experience

People traditionally went on a gap year because they wanted to get some real-world work experience in between their studies. This includes getting apprenticeships or internships. The best way to do this is to get a working holiday visa in a chosen destination that you’d like to explore.

This typically happens between the ages of 18-21 but is not the only age group to go. When you take some time out to gain work experience you can set yourself some appropriate goals to reach during that time.

These could include working for 1 year in your chosen industry or working in a few different environments during a set time frame instead. These goals will allow you to get experience which will hopefully help you progress in your career.

How can you reach these gap year goals?

  • Update your CV or resume to apply for jobs
  • Meet people to add to your professional network
  • Speak to people about their workplace experiences
  • Work in new places to gain your own first-hand experience

Check out: The advantages and disadvantages of working abroad and Gap Year Jobs To Consider During Your Year Abroad


a small pile of australian dollar bills this is something people want to see with their gap year goals

To reach financial goals

Not every gap trip involves not working at all. Sometimes it’s a gap trip away from your hometown, but you still have a job and a routine. Unsurprisingly, some people use gap trips as a way to earn a lot more money than they might be able to earn at home.

Some examples include working on a cruise ship or as a live-in nanny. Both positions usually include free accommodation and food, and you still receive a regular wage. This is an easy way to save money since you won’t have many outgoings.

Another example is moving to a place with different tax rules or salary values. For example, living in Dubai you wouldn’t be paying taxes and in Australia, they have naturally much higher wages than many other countries.

You could use one of these destinations on a work visa to save up to your financial targets.

How can you reach these gap year goals?

  • Compare the average salary vs living costs in other places
  • Make a financial budget and savings plan
  • Consider giving up some luxuries to save more, quicker

a woman volunteer holding out her hands and a pile of change

Be a volunteer or do good deeds

Some people choose to go on a gap year to do something good. This often includes going on a volunteering trip or doing some charitable work.

If you have experienced any negativity or stressful situations, it can make you feel better when you can at least help somebody else.

On the other hand, if you’ve had a guardian angel look out for you and give you some amazing experiences, it can feel rewarding to pay it forward to those in need.

Just being the kind of person who wants to help those less fortunate during your own gap year, you can have a very fulfilling experience too.

How can you reach these gap year goals?

  • Reach out to charities and NGOs about the work that’s needed
  • See what skills you have that can fill a gap with volunteer projects
  • Sign up for volunteer programs and research ethical companies

Want to read about some volunteering experiences?


a neon sign with the word open hung inside a door frame

Open your mind

If you haven’t had any first-hand experience with things, it can be hard to be open-minded towards them. Everyone is ignorant in some way. However, anyone can open their mind if they want to.

When people have only ever known one way of life they sometimes get curious about what else is out there. Gap years often allow people to explore new cultures and places which can help you understand how other people live.

This is one of the best ways to start opening your thought processes and opening your heart to new cultures.

How can you reach these gap year goals?

  • Meet lots of new people
  • Ask questions and listen to new people you meet
  • Dive into all of your curiosity

a girl drawing the words "learn something" in a notebook with a pen and ruler

Gain new or improved skills

When you set off on your year abroad you will naturally learn new skills on independence – assuming you travel on your own. Many people use their gap trip as a time to gain new skills they may not be able to get at home or to improve the skills they already have.

This new adventure is the prime time to work on yourself and become the best version of yourself. You can aim towards skills that help you progress in your career, education or general lifestyle.

It’s a win-win!

How can you reach these gap year goals?

  • Look at where your skills are struggling or could be improved
  • Take courses or lessons on improving certain skills
  • Be consistent with practising and improvement

a tattoo with a heart and the word "you" crossed out - getting over a break up is one of the more popular gap year goals

Get over a relationship breakdown

If you’ve ever had a relationship breakdown you’ll know it hurts and can take a while to move on. Even if you are completely over them, you might feel lost being without the person who was a major part of your life.

Plus, this is not just relevant for romantic relationships and can be the same for platonic ones too. Many people turn to gap years and create goals of moving on and finding themselves again.

Since travelling allows you to have unique experiences and meet new people, it’s easily one of the best ways to move into your next stage of life without that person anymore.

How can you reach these gap year goals?

  • Make time to meet new people to form new bonds and friendships
  • Focus on yourself and your interests
  • Learn to love yourself again
  • Start making new memories on your own terms

a camera taking a photo of a monument

Explore your hobbies

Most humans have some hobbies that run alongside their interests. Often when you have a busy work schedule, your hobbies get neglected. It can be frustrating if you don’t have enough time to enjoy your hobbies which is why some people take a trip.

This gap year trip could allow you to hit all the milestones and goals you set for yourself for your hobbies. Whether it be perfecting your artistic craft, learning new cooking techniques or trying different dance styles to add to your portfolio. If you’re into photography you could learn how to photograph phenomena like the northern lights, or learn to scuba dive to capture images in the deep.

The possibilities are endless and are possible as long as you’re interested in pursuing them.

How can you reach these gap year goals?

  • Spend time doing the hobbies you already know you love
  • Get to know others also involved in each hobby
  • Try something new to see if you like it

a hot airballoon ride from a distance

To have unique experiences

In many instances, people get to a point in their lives where they want to break away from the crowd. If you’re from a place with a small population or had a very regimented routine growing up you might want to do something different.

So many small communities complete the same expected routine of life of study, work, and then starting a family. They often don’t deviate from this routine and are surprised when people want to break the cycle.

The people who want to go out and break the tradition tend to gravitate towards a gap year so they can do the complete opposite of everything they’re used to.

If you’re from a place with no snow, you might go to a place that receives lots of snow for example.

How can you reach these gap year goals?

  • Step outside of your comfort zone
  • Research fun and exciting things to try

a street sign that shows a deadend and a place to turn around

Change your direction in life

If you’ve been finding your life to be at a standstill, you might be interested in something new. Are you happy with where your life is right now? Are you happy with where you are headed?

If the answer is no to either of those, then it makes sense that you might want to change that. Many people go on a gap year to reach their goals of changing their life’s course.

This includes trying lots of new things, stepping out of your comfort zone, and having completely new experiences to see what resonates with you for the next steps in life.

How can you reach these gap year goals?

  • Be open to trying new things
  • Say “yes” to more experiences
  • Focus on looking for new hobbies
  • Write yourself steps on how to reach your new destination

a korean barbeque

To see things you’ve got an interest in

Some people travel to places because it’s convenient. The majority of travellers visit a destination because they have an interest in what’s there.

Although an often forgotten one, taking gap years to see places and landmarks you’re interested in still counts toward common goals. Maybe you are a huge fan of Korean BBQ cuisine so a trip to Korea is high on your bucket list.

Or you could be a huge animal lover and plan all your trips around places where you can experience wildlife. Consider heading to Northern Scandinavia to see reindeer or southern Japan to see sea turtles. Either way, this is still a goal you are working towards on your trip and there’s nothing to say you can’t combine your interests!

How can you reach these gap year goals?

  • Make a list of the things you’re interested in
  • Plan to incorporate them into your entire trip

some candles, a hot tea and a small pile of books show all the things needed to give yourself TLC to reach your gap year relaxation goals

To relax & give yourself some TLC

Millions of people around the world consider their holidays as a time to relax. This is because most people work hard at their jobs and have busy lives so need a break. Gap trips are no different.

They allow you the time to (possibly) not work 40+ hours a week so you’ve got more “you” time. Too many people are stressed out and flustered at having too much to do. So you might as well utilise your time off for some well-deserved relaxation and TLC.

Setting yourself a goal to actually make time to relax will do you a world of good.

How can you reach these gap year goals?

  • Say no to things if you’re tired
  • Allow yourself time to rest
  • Stick to a healthy sleep and food schedule
  • Treat yourself to things that make you feel refreshed

a large metal sign that reads "hola" which is hello in spanish

Learn new languages

Whether you’re trying to learn new languages for your studies, or interests or to get closer to your heritage, you can do so easily when you move abroad.

When you move yourself to a place where the majority of locals speak the language, it’s a no-brainer that you’ll pick it up much quicker than just reading from a book.

When language learning is one of your main goals to reach by taking a gap year, it can feel so rewarding when you can comfortably hold a conversation in the other language by the end of your trip.

How can you reach these gap year goals?

  • Take language classes in your chosen language
  • Enrol in an immersion language school
  • Use a regular mobile language learning app (Duolingo, Rosetta Stone etc)
  • Make an effort to speak to native speakers of the language as much as possible

a small smiling buddha statue

Explore your spirituality

Maybe you are religious. Maybe you’re looking for life’s answers. Perhaps you don’t know what you’re looking for and that’s why you want to go away.

Spirituality is something that people look for in many places and oftentimes it’s actually found within themselves. Since spirituality is a broad topic, there are thousands of ways people can explore this.

Maybe your gap year goals are to have all the answers to life’s complicated questions, or maybe it’s to understand how to better understand your existing beliefs.

How can you reach these gap year goals?

  • Go on a meditation or yoga retreat
  • Go on a religious pilgrimage
  • Speak to the leaders of religious & spiritual places of worship
  • Read spiritual passages

This list of gap year goals is not exhaustive as people travel with many more goals in mind. If you’re thinking about heading out on a gap year journey, do you know what your goals for the trip are?

Let me know!

Need help planning your trip?

Check out how to plan a trip abroad & see my travel resources for more.

WayAway – Great for booking flights. They even have a cashback feature for those who fly frequently.
Skyscanner – A comprehensive comparison website showing where to purchase flights.
HostelWorld – The biggest selection of hostels & sociable accommodations.
Booking.com – The largest collection of accommodations worldwide.

Safety Wing – A travel insurance brand for long-term travellers and nomads.

Airalo – An eSIM card company that lets you stay connected during your trip.
Wise – Perfect for transferring foreign currencies.
iVisa – For applying for tourist and visitor visas.

Viator – Great for finding tours and activities worldwide.
Get Your Guide – Another company for finding activities.
Klook – Have some of the best activity deals in Asia.

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