How to embark on a gap year with little or no money

This article will hopefully aid the financially-challenged on the best ways to travel on the cheap, whether it be for 4 weeks or one year. Graduating from university with more than one overdraft is forcing me to be tactical and not really having the time or the will to work in Sainsburys for 6 months, I thought “there’s gotta be a better way…”

Dream of picking olives in the Tuscan sun whilst working on your tan or have a base in Brazil working in agriculture? Wwoof stands for “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms” and allows you to work for a period of time on farm in a country of your choosing. Each country will have their own Wwoof memberships that you will have to sign up to and in exchange they send you a list of farms in each region of the country. A weekly newsletter is also sent out with S.O.S. farms that urgently need help. Wwoof membership covers insurance and as part of this scheme you will be required to work around 5 hours a day in exchange for accommodation and food. Note that membership has to be renewed each year.

Cost: Usually under £25, check your chosen country’s membership fee + flights

Teaching English
Potentially one of the more costly options but getting a teaching qualification could be one of the best ways of working abroad. I completed the Certificate of Teaching English Language to Adults (CELTA) accredited by the University of Cambridge which costs around £1000 but can be gotten free on Job Seekers Allowance at certain institutions. It’s an intensive four-week Monday-Friday course, 9am-5pm where you will be teaching your own class daily. There are cheaper TEFL courses available but some of them won’t have classroom experience included in the price and are not as reputable as the internationally-recognised CELTA so you may have a harder time finding a job. With this qualification you’re likely to make your money back in a month, depending on where you work. 

If you manage to secure a job in the middle east then praise to Allah, you will be rich! These jobs are notoriously difficult to come by with applicants usually needing a Masters degree and years of teaching experience. Japan is also one of the more lucrative countries and for those that want to do an extended stint here, the JET Scheme  is available to those with a Bachelors degree and lasts for one year. In South Korea it is normal to get a good salary, paid for flights and free accommodation, although you will only be reimbursed at the end of your contract. Its always recommended to bring savings with you for these schemes. 

Cost: £0-£1000 qualification + flights + accommodation (if not provided.) 
Like Wwoofing, workaway can be done anywhere in the world. You volunteer with your host for a few hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation. The work on offer is varied (I’ve seen gardening, looking after kids, cooking) and you have to pay for flights. To keep costs as low as possible choose a neighbouring country.

Cost: approx. €20 membership + flights (€15 for membership if you sign up with a friend)

American Summer Camp

I did this last year and it was the best experience (see background picture), plus in the end I broke even financially. I’d recommend Camp Leaders  who offer you more money than Camp America and are a lot more personal. Initially, you pay the agency £500 and then the money for flights and other things are taken from your future salary, which, you will see VERY LITTLE of. But the whole point you’re doing this is for the experience, not the dollar bills. Counsellor’s usually make £500 ($800) per summer, more if they return the following year. After camp, I went travelling to Washington, New York and Boston, managing to keep it cheap by staying at the houses of friends I made at Camp.

Cost: £500 which you make back…eventually. Hidden costs include visa/American embassy fees ($160 as of January 2013) and medicals (mine was £60)

International Citizen Service
Fantastic government-funded trips abroad for up to three months in developing countries. You will be required to fundraise a small amount of the total cost of the trip (£800) but the charity will take care of flights, vaccinations, food, accommodation and spending money. With this scheme you will actually be making a difference (hence no exorbitant “administration” fees!) and can work in central America, east Africa and south east Asia just to name a few. From January 2013, I will be volunteering for ten weeks in El Salvador and will write more about my experiences here. I was lucky enough to be awarded £280 from the Jack Petchey Individual Grant for Volunteering; to be eligible you have to live in London or Essex, be under 25 and apply at least three months in advance. Its also better if your trip doesn’t have any additional activities, i.e. a safari, which would detract from the volunteering element.

Cost: Fundraising £800

European Voluntary Service

EVS aims to promote transnational mobility and funds lots of different types of projects all across Europe. All expenses are paid. Its aimed at 18-30 year olds who want the opportunity to volunteer abroad full-time with a specialist organisation, read this account of Tom Payne who spent one year working with a humanitarian aid organisation in Sweden. This is a fantastic opportunity for job-seekers to build their skills and travel at the same time.

Cost: FREE (Flights + shared accommodation with other volunteers covered + medicals and yo’re given a monthly allowance)

British Council Language Assistantships

Can take you to Europe or as far-flung as South America. The general scheme lasts for a full academic year with 12-16 hours of teaching and a small grant which goes towards living costs. The Comenius Assisantship can last between 13-45 weeks and the same rules as the general scheme apply, but the grant is slightly higher and every single country in the EU is included, even overseas territories. The general scheme requires you to have studied languages at A-Level and are geared towards Language undergraduates, but Comenius is open to anyone who is thinking of pursuing a teaching career. Note that from July 2013, the Comenius scheme is being revised and may not run for the following academic year. 

Costs: NONE. Grant may not be enough to cover living costs so a second job may be necessary, but even living in Rome with this scheme, I’m able to get by on the money. 16 hours of work a week is hardly anything and I will be tutoring and taking another job in my spare time. 


3 thoughts on “How to embark on a gap year with little or no money

  1. Hey there, You’ve done an excellent job. I will definitely digg it and for my part recommend to my friends. I am confident they’ll be benefited from this website.

  2. […] navigation ← How to embark on a gap year with little or no money Jul 6 […]

  3. Really good article! I would say though that Croatia isn’t really cheap – I spent two weeks travelling the coast and was surprised how expensive it was. Romania, Bulgaria and Poland (outside the main tourist centres) are the places to go!

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