Following the Young Academic Guide to Your Gap Year, check out Projects-Abroad’s alternative guide focusing on safety…
With many young people in the UK choosing to take a gap year, mainly due to the lack of job opportunities or university places available this year, it is important that they prepare themselves appropriately for the adventure ahead. Worryingly, some reports suggest that gap year insurance claims have risen over the past six months and that some people are still not taking out adequate insurance in the first place.
In most cases this will be the first time that a young person has travelled on their own for a long period of time and although the benefits of travelling and volunteering abroad are endless, many parents may worry about how safe it is in reality. Dr. Peter Slowe, founder of volunteering organisation Projects Abroad advises that by planning ahead gappers can ensure they stay as safe as possible, “Like any other overseas travel, gap year travel will never be 100 per cent safe, but making a plan, taking reasonable precautions and having the right attitude from the offset, can help to lower the risk of negative events occurring.”
Dr. Peter Slowe offers some advice for people who are planning a gap year to ensure they stay as safe as possible;
- Do your research – You may have decided on when you want to travel and where to, but it is important that you do as much research on the area as possible before you travel. Perhaps learn some of the local lingo to help you get by when you first arrive? Most locals will be impressed to hear that you have made the effort.
- Travel together – It may not always be possible to travel in a group at all times but ensure you at least let someone know where you are if you are planning to take an unscheduled trip. If you are on an organised project there should be a leader that you can check in with and also voice any concerns you may have during your stay.
- Be vigilant – Make sure you are aware of your surroundings and know where to go and who to contact in case of emergency. This is particularly important at night and in quiet areas that you may not be familiar with.
- Remember where you are – It is often easy to forget how much cultures differ around the world. It is important that you try to behave in a way that fits in with the local area so that you don’t offend anyone, or even break the law! By not adhering to local customs it could make you stand out and become a target for criminals to take advantage of.
- Pick your insurance carefully – Read through the different travel and gap year specific insurance policies that are available to make sure you choose the correct one for your trip. For example, some policies may not cover extreme sports and most won’t cover accidents involving drink or drugs so this is worth remembering.
- Use your common sense – If something doesn’t look safe, it probably isn’t. By using your intuition in certain situations it can help you avoid accidents in the first place. Walking in quiet areas on your own or falling asleep with your valuables on show should be avoided, but your common sense would tell you that wouldn’t it? Not necessarily, and sometimes even the most obvious dangers are ignored when the excitement of a gap year takes hold.
- Use a reliable organisation – It is important to find a reputable organisation to arrange your travelling or volunteering project through. A good gap year provider will not try to ‘mother’ people, but simply act as a safety net for gappers with 24 hour help and advice whilst volunteering abroad.