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Eco-chic 'serviced apartments' in Accra, Ghana: for cool vibes and laid-back business trips!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


Hands up if ‘gap year’ just sounds like a year ‘off’ to you?! Travel Time for the lucky ones who can afford it. An unnecessary and obscenely extended tropical holiday? Indeed. The traditional view of the gap year is that it represents just that: a ‘gap’, a gaping hole in your c.v, the unexplained time out for idle travel, jaunting off to spend your liberal parents’ hard-earned money somewhere exotic, meeting other lucky strangers, drinking to excess, and … basically idling.

Naturally, that would be just a sinful waste of your time and talent. Instead, the first way to make that most pivotal of times in your life count for something is:
  1. To see the gap year as filling a gap in your life, not making one. Use the time wisely to fill the gaps in your personal and professional profile, learning new skills, challenging your own stereotypes. Get that work experience you could not find locally, overcome that phobia of creepy crawlies…
  2. Be honest about your motives. Do not deny yourself. If you want to use the year to gain some practical experience of working as a journalist abroad, do not go and volunteer in an orphanage. It will not mean that you are less worthy. You do not have to feel guilty for not making the trip entirely altruistic.
  3. Learn about the culture and history of the host community before you travel. This will help you to integrate and understand faster, and reduce the time spent adjusting to the ‘newness’ of the situation. This will allow you to become a participant for more of your time, instead of just an awkward on-looker. The idea is to get involved, not to analyze.
  4. Keep a record of your contacts and not just your experiences. So often the people we meet play an almost secondary role in our recollections of all our exciting adventures. That is not the purpose of interaction- we are not explorers discovering, or script writers arranging our set- we are guests, visitors, intruders for a time in real people’s lives. Make them centre stage, listen to them, hear them, connect genuinely with them, and then do not just discard them.
  5. Remember that this is not your one and only chance to expand your horizons! THE GAP YEAR! What a burden on it, and on you! Plan to fit in more time to travel and explore, researching the world beyond your ‘social village’. Enrich your life and that of others by continuing to travel, learn and share.

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