10 Things You Know If You’ve Been On A Gap Year
What happens on Gap Yah, stays on Gap Yah.
Gap years have become a right of passage for young Australians. The main offenders are graduates, whether they’re fresh faced 18-year-olds straight out of high school or pro-essay writers straight from university, but, regardless of your age, a gap year is the perfect way to celebrate the end of an era and create some memories that will last you well into the next.
Whether you head to ye old England on a UK working holiday, boss around some brats at a US Summer Camp or volunteer in small communities in South East Asia or South America, you’re guaranteed to have some fun and tick that “life experience” box for any future employers.
When (or if) you return from your travels, you will have learnt a lot about yourself, your country, and life in general. Instead of trawling the internet for corny travel memes to share on your Instagram, reminisce over this list of 10 things that only gappies will understand.
#1 Australians Plague The World
On your gap year, you’re leaving Australia, but Australians won’t be leaving you. Major cities are plagued with expats, so if you’re homesick, don’t be afraid to venture forth and play Where’s Aussie Wally. When you hear that familiar Aussie twang, you will have one of two reactions. You’ll either talk quieter in hopes of blending with the nationalities around you or signal them with your own accent like a native beacon.
On January 26, you will definitely choose the latter. No matter how tiny the foreign rock you’re living under is, crowds of Australians will crawl out with beer and big party plans. If you’re a triple j listener, you will be able to find a registered Hottest 100 party in loads of destinations around the world. Celebrating Australian culture is a whole new experience abroad.
#2 Homesickness For Unexpected Things
It isn’t until you live in another country and experience it as a resident that you realise how truly lucky we are in Australia. In particular, our toilets – after paying to pee or enduring restricted flushing, no paper, no seat, no nothing – you’ll be practically hugging that porcelain throne when you get back.
A couple of culture shocks to prepare for: Americans do not have an Aussie connoisseur’s taste for coffee, nor have they grasped the concept of a human-sized portion of food. Europeans will always expect a tip, whether that is in a restaurant or a public restroom. The British have not yet discovered chicken salt; pack your own! And Havaianas shops don’t exist in South East Asia, so watch your thongs like a hawk.
#3 You May Come Home With A Second Chin
Tourists on holidays gain a couple of kilos; gap students tend to gain a couple of chins. It’s a real thing. You’re in a new country, experimenting with new cuisines and if you’re homesick, you’re perfectly entitled to eat your feelings.
Gap year jobs often involve working in boarding schools, nannying and summer camps meaning you will be paid an allowance as well as board and food – and you will eat your money’s worth.
#4 You Learn The Lingo
Australians are no strangers to slang. While overseas, you will not only be made aware of how strange and abbreviated our language is, but you will inevitably pick up a thing or two from those around you.
Living, working and playing with the locals means you won’t even realise that you’ve gained some new catchphrases until the words are leaving your lips. You may even return home with a souvenir accent.
Be proud of this quirky new vocab and if you accidentally drop it in conversation, share the meanings with your family and friends. It’s a memento from all the friends you’ve made on your travels.
#5 You Will Go On At Least One Pub Crawl
Leave the fancy hotels to the middle-aged and embrace the 12-bed dorms of a youth hostel. It will be a breeding ground of interesting travellers, free breakfasts and the infamous pub crawls.
No matter the country, if there are travellers looking to meet some new people and have a few bevvies, then you can be assured to find some “BEST PUB CRAWL EVER” t-shirts at the end of it. Best part is, they’re either free or cheap.
#6 You Need To Pinch Those Pennies
Living away from home can get expensive without the parental wallet; you’re on your own now and will need to learn how to budget like a pro. You probably look really stingy to other travellers, but you’ll be having too much fun to care.
The exchange rate doesn’t do us any favours abroad and your hard-earned savings will often be halved, unless of course you chose South East Asia, where you will now be a millionaire (literally). So take a little extra hostel breakfast for lunch, hunt down the free Wi-Fi, do your washing in the sink, apologise for not tipping and haggle wherever possible.
#7 Home Doesn’t Feel The Same Anymore
It’s a strange feeling returning to Australia after spending 12 months calling another country home. You finally became familiar with the different food, fashion, currency, transport and weather. The next minute, you’ll find yourself swapping a bottle of Chang for a can of VB, you’re wearing Forever New instead of Primark, and you’re spending a bright red 20 dollar note instead of a Jackson.
It feels surreal to look at your own country through the eyes of a tourist. Did our accent always sound that strong? Have our roads always been so wide? It’s natural to feel like a fish out of water when you return home. Throw some of your gap year pics on the wall as a reminder of the different cultures.
Seriously, how great is Australian weather, though?
#8 You Won’t Just Bring Home Memories
You may return from your gap year with more suitcases than when you left. Australia is expensive. It’s ridiculous. Your eyes will light up when you realise that people abroad are eating, dressing and drinking at a fraction of the price.
After living in London for a year, I packed half of Primark in my bag home. I bought five different coloured pairs of the exact same sneakers because they were ₤1.
Prepare to return home with woven bracelets, beer advertising singlets, country-themed shotglasses, hand drawn caricatures and even, if you visit Prague like me, a wooden carved puppet – for when I decided to take up puppeteering.
#9 Only Other Gappies Will Understand (Or Care) About Your Travels
First up, don’t be like this guy:
While you were escaping abroad and “finding yourself”, a lot of your friends were probably entering the workforce, starting their first year of university or taking a working gap year at home. Their eyes will glaze over in either boredom or envy when they hear about how you fell in love in Paris, ate the best food ever in Vietnam, or wore an animal onesie to Coachella.
Your gap year will have been amazing, life-changing and interesting – to you. Cherish the memories rather than share them at every opportunity. What happens on Gap Yah, stays on Gap Yah.
#10 You Will Have No Ragrets
Beside a cliché travel tattoo, there isn’t much you’ll regret on your gap year. How many people in their 20s, let alone their teens, can say that they have lived overseas for a year?
You’ll never forget the independence you gained, the countries you saw and the people you met. You will be a new and better person ready to face university or the workforce. Or ready to plan your next trip ASAP.