Gap-year destination advice
March 28, 2006 7:08 AM   Subscribe

I am going to take a gap year at the end of my time as a sixth former at school, and I need advice on making itinerary decisions.

It will begin in August 2007, and I am planning to spend it travelling across Asia, learning more about other cultures. I've consulted many guidebooks and travel guides, but I'm planning my itinerary. Does anyone have any places (India/Japan/China mostly) that are a must-see?
posted by malusmoriendumest to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total)
Maybe you should check out the Lonely Planet website, which is about... travel! Ask your question on the Thorn Tree forum, where you can find sections on Gap Years, China, and India.
posted by xanthippe at 8:28 AM on March 28, 2006

A friend of mine did a round-the-world thing in her gap year, and spent quite a lot of time in Asia. Her diaries of her adventures are here - scroll down to "A Traveler's Tales. Ch.1, part 1.", which is where it starts.

(Sort of self-link - it's a group blog and I am one of the authors, although not that one).
posted by Lotto at 8:38 AM on March 28, 2006

I did a year+ traveling in my mid to late twenties. I found India to be very challenging as a solo traveler, but am glad I went. Nepal was amazing and highly recommended, although the civil war has gotten worse since I was there.

Given the dramatic changes China is undergoing, now is probably a great time to go while you can witness it's transformation.

If you have limited funds, your pounds will go farthest in Nepal, India, China, roughly in that order. Japan will eat them up quick.
posted by justkevin at 9:13 AM on March 28, 2006

I've done a bit of travelling, my advise is to play it by ear as much as possible. I over-planned the first time I ventured into the wide world, and quickly ended up shuffling and abandoning bits of my plan. Especially if you have never travelled before it is hard to tell what you will like and how you will react to different places just from a book or website. Better to get a general feel for areas that interest you, and get started and work it out as you go. You are quite likely to meet interesting people who can give you tips on where to go and when, as you are travelling.

You haven't said how long you have, but for any trip over one month, you would probably be fine simply deciding on a place to start and a place to end, and working out the in-between part as you go.

If the uncertainty freaks you out, simply thoroughly research your areas of interest and make your plan as flexible as possible. The bottom-line is to be prepared and be adaptable; expect to be side-tracked, to fall in love with places and want to stay longer (or conversely to dislike places you thought would be great), and to run into random difficulties that cannot be foreseen.

I also recommend the Lonely Planet Thorntree as a great starting point for your research.
posted by MetaMonkey at 1:19 PM on March 28, 2006

Best answer: Good for you! I teach English in Indonesia and life here is challenging and fun. You're gonna have a great time. Perhaps this is the lead-in to an Asian Studies degree when you get back?

I'd recommend first thinking about how much money you're going to have and assuming that at the time of your departure, you'll probably have less than you might want right now. Just keep your head on (no tropical resorts with $100-a-night beachfront villas) and you'll be fine.

Lots of options on how to get there. Perhaps you can overland it over there on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, or you can cobble together low-cost flights planned months in advance or just buy flights and train tickets as the wind carries you. Cambodia next week? Sure. Kerala? Done.

It might also be worth looking into living in some of the places you mentioned or are interested in for a long time, maybe a month or two to give you some grounding and a chance to practice your language skills and get to know the locals more.

You've got lots of time to start learning some languages (Mandarin, Japanese and Hindi spring to mind immediately as useful for the places you mentioned) - do you have access to weekend or night classes at a local community college or language school?

Keep in mind that you're going to "learn more about other cultures" wherever you go, so while you should see the Forbidden City and Angkor Wat and all that, you're going to learn just as much walking through a market or talking to a train conductor or waiting in traffic for hours with the locals so some local bigwig can get traffic-free access to a highway. Don't feel pressured to have Very Structured Cultural Experiences Where You Learn Important Things; they'll happen on their own.

Finally, a book recommendation: Dave Eggers' You Shall Know Our Velocity.
posted by mdonley at 7:50 AM on March 30, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks a lot, people. I'll be sure to follow your advice.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 1:46 AM on April 10, 2006

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