For me, doing a gap year was something I had always wanted to do since I realised that they were a ‘thing’, but I know that it can be a tricky decision for those of you sitting on the fence.
There are many different ways you can spend your gap year – volunteer work, ski season, travel… to say a few. I am doing a mix of volunteer work and travel and so have compiled several pros and cons of doing a gap year from my perspective.
For those of you who have always wanted to travel the world this is your perfect opportunity. A gap year gives you the time to earn your money and explore. I think that one of the best things about travelling for me is the person I become when I am travelling. I find that I am so much more open to push my boundaries and step outside my comfort zone. I am more willing to chat to local people and learn about their lives and opinions.
A year to do whatever you want… what could give you more freedom? Freedom is not for everyone, some people thrive on a strict schedule and some thrive on a more relaxed way of living. I have found that this year has given me the time to do exactly what I want and try the things I have always wanted, but haven’t had to chance, to do. I have started a youtube channel, a blog, have had time to read more books, teach myself embroidery, and even learn a few songs on the guitar!
↬Earning Money / Fundraising
I honestly cannot stress how valuable the ability to earn money for yourself and fundraise is. To get to where I am I had to fundraise £6200 for my project and earn over £1500 for travel. I found that no matter what I was doing, it was when I put effort in that I saw the results. Working to raise this amount of money has given me so much more confidence in taking to people, achieve seemingly impossible goals and has also allowed me to see the generosity in my own friends, family and even strangers.
Put yourself in this situation:
You are standing in a classroom of thirty five-year-olds running around, piling themselves on top of you, shouting things at you in a different language, stroking (well pulling) your hair and just being overall mental. Then you realise that actually you are their teacher, and they are expecting you to start handing them out sheets of paper and crayons, but you don’t know how to say either paper… or crayon… in their language. The noise is getting louder and the kids crazier. You are just waiting for the moment to wake up from this humiliating and crazy dream.
That is how I felt the first time I was put in front of a classroom to teach art here.
Now, I cannot say how far I have come. I have been through so many situations this year which every time seem less and less difficult. What was once deemed as impossible, or crazy, is now part of my routine.
I cook for myself, I clean my house, I am the one to keep an eye on the amount of loo roll left, I am the one who has ensure that I have clean underwear… This was all brand new to me 9 months ago and now it is second nature.
I think that I have learnt above all that nothing happens unless you make it happen, everything is in your hands.
↬Away from Study ✎
Now I have decided to put this as a con, but really is can be a pro too. A year out does mean that your ability to write 10 page essays in 2 hours shrivels up and your mental maths evaporates… but you also have the time to learn so much more about real life. I have had a year to learn Spanish from scratch without a single classroom involved. I have also had time to prepare myself for my specific university course and read several related books.
↬Loss of Contact w/ Friends and Family
To me this is the most con con of all the cons… yes my English teacher would not be proud with that grammar.
Keeping in touch with loved ones when your wifi is super dodgy and both you and them are busy busy busy is tough. Trust me. In order to keep my friendships strong I have really had to put an effort in, which is right, but it means that my friendship circle has decreased to only those I really care about. I guess this is the harsh truth, but it can hurt when you realise that people are slipping away.
All I have to say is that if you put the effort in, and live through the blurry skype calls, then you will keep your bestest friends close.
Ew, everyone hates money chat, so lets keep this brief. Yes travelling costs, yes gap years can be expensive… its up to you if you if working your ass off with late night shifts during exams is worth the white sandy beaches, insane instas, and bikini tan lines (its clear what my opinion is).
This is something a little more specific to my project here in the Dominican Republic. My partner in crime (Izzy) and I have found that sometimes it can be tough living and working for such a long period in a community so different from home. Views on dancing, alcohol, music, clothing, piercings, etc are all so different. We have found that in order to be accepted by the community we have to hide certain sides of ourselves. For example, dancing in our village is seen as a very non-Christian act, therefore in order to be respected in the community we are not allowed to dance. This can be restricting at times and we have to be careful about our image while being here.
I have also made a Youtube video about this on my channel if you are interested.
I do hope that this helps, and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask! I am going to be making a series of gap year related posts so if you have any questions you want answered please ask away and I will cover them.
Hello hello lovely people reading this.
In two weeks time I am going to be jetting off to Cuba for Easter week with my adopted family; the Goddard clan! In the meantime, our second term here is coming to a close meaning I only have 2 months left of teaching in this beautiful country.
I honestly cannot put into words how much the time has flown by here, in the back of my mind we are going home in just over 4 months (so soon!) but I would never want to wish away the days here.
For those of you who don’t know, I am teaching Art here for kids in 1st-4th grade, so ages 5-12 (roughly). In 1st and 2nd grade we have been travelling the world in Art!
We started off with the Dominican Republic with the sugar cane fields that surround us here in the south, then up into the mountains where they grow strawberries in Constanza, then to the North coast to find white sand beaches and whales! From there we flew all the way down to the Amazon and found all sorts of colourful birds and animals living in the rainforest. Then we sailed across to Africa and hiked through the desert, spotting giraffes and elephants when we were lucky. After that we swam all the way down to Australia following dolphins, turtles and schools of fish. Our final stop was Japan just in time to see the cherry blossom before heading back home to the DR.
3rd and 4th grade were focusing on different types of art from all around the World. The four types we focused on were Taino (native to the Carribean), Aboriginal (work by indigenous Australian people), the Ndebele Tribe (South Africa) and Mosaic designs from Italy.
A major event this term was the Carnival on the 27th February which marks Independence Day! Izzy and I spent the weekend in Santiago with the other Project Trust volunteers and joined the carnival parade in La Vega! The costumes were absolutely incredible. The photos below show the Diablo Cojuelo (Limping Devil) who carries a whip or “Vejiga” (an animal bladder filled with air) which is used to hit people down the street, and trust me it hurts! The mask is supposed to represent the Spaniards who came and enslaved and whipped the natives on the island.
We also had our own celebrations in the school and made masks in art and dressed up in our own carnival outfits! The kids below are dressed as Tainos (the native Dominicans).
The last two weeks have been tougher as all of the schools have been on ‘huelga’ – strike. Luckily our school was only on half day strike, but it has been much harder to teach the kids as we have only been having half the number of usual classes. The reason for the strike was that the government were refusing to pay for the food (lunch, and bread and milk for breakfast), and without the food we were not able to have afternoon classes. This is especially difficult in a community as poor as ours as the families rely on this food as the main meal of the day for their children, and the poorest families cannot afford to feed their children so this is the only food they receive. Thankfully we are back to normal now though.
It is now getting dark and I can hear mosquitoes incredibly keen for a taste of me, so I will sign off here!
I hope you enjoyed the update and have also seen my most recent Vlog.
High Intensity Interval Training
60 seconds per exercise, 10 seconds rest between
🌸 HIP CIRCLES
Do 30 seconds rotating hips clockwise, then 30 seconds anti-clockwise
🌸 BICYCLES (legs and arms)
🌸 SQUATS WITH CALF RAISE
Squat normally but raise alternate heels each time you go down
🌸 HIGH KNEES
🌸 LEG RAISES
Lie on your back with your legs straight and raise them together as high as you can keeping them straight.Don’t touch the ground between each rep! Do in sets of 10
🌸 JUMPING JACKS
🌸 HIP RAISES
Lie on your back with your knees bent then raise your hips up, keep your butt off the floor between reps
🌸 VERTICAL LEG CRUNCHES
Normal crunches but raise your legs in the air, ankles crossed. Do in sets of 15
🌸 MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS
🌸 20 BALLET SQUATS
A regular squat but with your feet pointed out
🌸 BUTT KICKS
Remember to always stretch before and after exercising!
Good luck! xx
Las Galeras is in the North East of the Dominican Republic in the Samana Province. It is a peaceful town with a beautiful landscape right on the end of the peninsula.
I spent five days there with my family over the Christmas period and have some recommendations for anyone interested in travelling there.
When to go?
January, February, March. At the start of every year thousands of humpback whales migrate to the Dominican Waters to mate and give birth.
The whale season runs from around January 14th to March 15th.
Where to stay?
There are endless choices of accommodation in Las Galeras, some in the village and some scattered a little further out. I would suggest staying closer to the village as renting a car for the further away places can be tricky. We are still travelling in a developing country and not everything always goes to plan.
This honeymoon villa looks out onto beach and clear blue waters. It is a 5 minute walk from the town centre. The rooms are elegant and spacious with a very peaceful environment. The restaurant serves Caribbean cuisine centred around local seafood and is open to all, I would recommend calling beforehand.
£100 per night
This is where I stayed with my family. We were given an upstairs and downstairs apartment which accommodated five of us. There was of plenty space and Hans, the host, was incredibly helpful with sorting out the sleeping arrangements. Each apartment came with a kitchen-sitting area combined, bedroom, bathroom and balcony. We were also offered free wifi.
The apartments are located a 5/10 minute walk from the town centre and a 5 minute walk through the woods to the beach.
from £80 per night
809 705 2894
The accommodation is designed for backpacks so is basic and cheap. The rooms are clean and have hot water and a fan. The restaurant onsite also serves tasty Dominican food, open daily from 8am-10pm except Sundays.
RD$1500 per night
AirBnb also offers a large range of accommodations for varying prices.
Guaguas run every 20 minutes from Samana and takes about 45 minutes. As long as you are standing on the main street they will pick you up. The locals are also very helpful if you ask them for directions. Guaguas generally run when it is light outside, so after around 5/6pm they are less frequent.
There are taxi services from Samana but these will be more costly, you can negotiate the prices if you speak a little Spanish though.
You are able to rent a car, the roads are in good conditions, but I personally would not recommend it as the companies can be unreliable and the rules of the road a little… loco! Car rental will cost from £40 a day.
Where to eat?
The main street in Las Galeras has a mix of restaurants and comedores. My personal favourite was La Bodeguita, an affordable tapas restaurant close to the beach. It was always full of life and the cumin carrots were delicious!
If you are a pizza fan then II Pirata is for you. They serve thin-crust pizzas every evening except Tuesdays, they also serve lunches and a selection of Dominican foods.
For breakfast or a coffee break La Marseillaise French Patisserie serves a selection of bakery and stickies.
What to do?
Las Galeras is situated within the Los Haities National Park so there are heaps of tours offered, including whale watching, all departing from Samana. I have written a separate post about this, so click here for more information regarding tours.
There are a couple of beaches in Las Galeras with clear waters and palms. Playa Fronton is the most secluded beach and is only accessible by foot or boat. Playa Rincon is a slightly busier 4km stretch of white sand and swaying palms with several beach restaurants and sun loungers.
The town is littered with small trinket shops filled with seashells, colourful shirts, and hammocks. I would recommend visiting the Tribal Art Gallery on the main stretch to see some Taino style sculptures and gifts.
Some handy tips and necessary information for travelling in the Dominican Republic.
Language ~ Spanish
Currency ~ RD$ (pesos)
Electricity ~ The standard two pin (US) plug is used
Always hide your money, the local women carry money in their bras and only take what they need. That said, ATMs are hugely unreliable so it is best to bring what you need with you. The locals deal 90% of the time in cash so it is highly unlikely they will accept a card.
US Dollars are accepted in touristy places but the prices will be much lower if you pay in pesos. I was once asked for US$50 for a shirt, but I asked to pay in pesos and was charged 500 pesos (less than US$10).
If you can, SPEAK SPANISH! This will open doors for you and reduce prices significantly.
In the touristy areas you can wear shorts and strap tops, but if you are travelling further off the beaten track it is respectful to cover up more.
Malaria is not commonly found and not recommended to people travelling to touristy areas. If you are travelling to a mosquito area (the South West) malarials are not essential but to be on the safe side chloroquine is the tablet to take.
guineo ~ banana
comedor ~ small Dominican Restaurant with local food
guagua ~ the public minibuses
chin ~ a very little bit
cuba libre ~ coke and rum
tostones ~ fried plantains (similar to chips)
concho ~ some form of makeshift public transport
colmado ~ small food hut which sells the very basics
tigre ~ basically a street gangster
mani ~ peanut (this is rarely used in cooking)
I hope this helps!
Two years ago I was selected to become a Project Trust volunteer. Meaning two things: 1 ~ I was about to have the best year of my life, and 2 ~ I had a whopping £6200 to fundraise in 8 months.
Before we start I would like to just say how worth all that effort was, and that’s how you’re going to raise that amount of money. Effort.
So that’s why you’re reading this… you want to know HOW. I think one of the most important things was having an achievable goal in mind. I am going to do a step by step guide to show you exactly what I did.
Step 1: Have a plan
I started my fundraising in November after my selection course and I had until June to complete it. Once you have a timescale you can split the sum into months. So in my case I had roughly £800 a month to raise. This still a little terrifying but easier to cope with. Chunk by chunk, that’s how we are going to succeed.
Then you need to look at a calendar and find the major events in the year:
Halloween, Christmas, New Year, Valentines Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day.
These are in everyone’s calendars but there will be more specific to you. Does your country have a national day? Does your school have specific celebrations? Do you celebrate Chinese New Year?
These dates will be key when it comes to organising events.
Step 2: Who is going to give?
I’ll start you off…
Immediate family, distant family, neighbours, your local church, friends, your school, charitable trusts, businesses, people you don’t even know.
Step 3: HOW and WHY
So now you have thought of a date, you know who will be available. Now you need to know exactly HOW you are going to make money and WHY these people are going to part with their money.
You must persuade them that they want to give to you. Most people will give to you simply because they know you, but in order to get the most you can from each person you must spend time explaining where the money is going and how it is going to benefit you.
Endless times when I was fundraising people would ‘pop a little extra in the pot’ because ‘what you are doing is incredible’ or ‘I know how much you are putting into this’.
THIS IS SO WORTH IT. Please please listen to me when I tell you how much easier this makes your life. A few days of research and letter writing saved me months of time and effort.
I was given over £2500 from Charitable Trust. Yes I know. Wow.
I am afraid I can’t tell you what Charitable Trusts gave to me, and it may not help anyway as each one has a set criteria you must fit into. But I will tell you where to find them:
- The Directory of Grant Making Trusts – a HUGE book you can find in public libraries or for quite cheaply on eBay.
- If you are Scottish: scottishgrantmakers.org
- If you are from the UK: http://trustfunding.org.uk/search.aspx
- Your local Rotary Clubs, Round Tables, Church and even School
- Ask around – other people fundraising, people you know who are involved with charity work. You’d be surprised who people know.
This website may also help you to find trusts and write letters.
I wrote over 50 letters and received only 20 responses. But each and every trust was incredibly generous to me. I would recommend calling up/emailing trusts which you don’t hear from within 4/5 months to ask if they received the letter – I got £100 simply by doing this.
Now this is very important: write proper letters; formal; informative and to the point;the right length (I’d recommend 1 side of A4); addressed correctly; and with correct grammar. If you are so lucky as to receive a donation then you must write a thank you letter.
Specifically, how did I do it?
End of training
- Made a year plan
- Set up Facebook fundraising page
- Researched trusts and wrote to around 50
- Set up Virgin Giving page
Positives: 1/3 money raised, haven’t asked any friends/family for money
Negatives: very time consuming
Money raised in stage 1: £2660 (throughout the year, but this is the total from trusts)
- Mince Pies and Christmas Cakes!
For the mince pies I made leaflets at the start of December and dropped them around the neighbourhood.
Positives: raised awareness in the community, fun
Negatives: money required to buy ingredients
Christmas Eve turned out to be an incredible time to busk! My incredibly generous brother played the pipes for an hour to raise money for me – best brother ever.
Money raised in stage 2: £261 + £85
Total so far: £3006
- 2nd-hand Clothes Sale at school
This was a good way to target my friends and schoolmates. I asked all of my friends to bring in any old clothes they had and sent emails around the school. I received heaps of clothing items. I then price tagged each item and set up on a free afternoon in school.
Positives: zero costs, involved my friends, new target group, fun
Negatives: time consuming, not a huge amount raised.
Money raised in stage 3: £156
Total so far: £3162
- Masquerade Ball and Raffle
This was incredible for publicity of what I was doing and many people who couldn’t make it made donations on my Virgin Giving page.
Planning a ball isn’t simple. Trust me. I had to plan this well in advance to fix a date, location, band, food, and sell tickets.
I am not going to go into huge depth right now about how I did this but I will tell you the basic outline. If you are super curious or are thinking of organising one yourself, feel free to comment below or email me for help.
I invited people to take a table, so that they were in charge of inviting 8-10 people themselves. I had 100 people in total, ages 16+. I rented a nearby hall, caterers and band. I also decorated the hall myself. After all costs I aimed to make £15 a head, and with 100 guests it was worthwhile.
I also held a raffle at this and asked for prizes from local businesses. To name a few who contributed: Lush, Oliver Bonas, Tiso, Pizza Express. I also managed to get cinema tickets, ice skating tickets and clothing vouchers. It is best to go in person to these places as they are much more likely to give to you.
I would suggest asking those who want to make a donation but cannot make it to your event to contribute to the raffle.
Positives: a large sum raised, such a fun evening, was able to hold a raffle
Negatives: this took a lot of prior planning and commitment
Money raised in stage 4: £1109 + £701
Total so far: £4972
- Krispy Kremes
During the exam period at school I sold Krispy Kreme doughnuts. This is such an easy way to make money as they have a fantastic fundraising program.
Positives: so simple, everyone wants one, minimum effort
Negatives: you want to eat them all yourself
Money raised in stage 5: £61
Total so far: £5033
- Ladies Lunch at home (twice)
- Church Tea Party
I invited some of my mum’s friends around for a fundraising lunch where I cooked a delicious meal for them and told them about what I was doing. I then asked for donations at the end. I did this on two occasions.
Positives: good to round up people you have missed, good food, fun
Negatives: not a huge amount raised
For the Church Tea Party I got together with the minister at my Church and organised an afternoon tea for the Churchgoers and locals.
Positives: a different bunch of people (elderly can be very generous), its a tea party…
Money raised in stage 6: £160 + £186
Total so far: £5379
- Local Triathlon
Everyone should do a sponsored event, and I highly recommend saving it until last so that you can tell people how much you have to go. This is also the only event in which people are not benefitting first hand so you really are just asking for their money at this stage.
I decided to make my own local triathlon which involved cycling, climbing a Munro (a very big hill for those non-Scots), and a canoe.
The way that this succeeded was by posting weekly/daily updates on my Facebook fundraising page to keep reminding people what I was doing and how close I was.
Positives: a good way to end, you can ask a large range of people
Negatives: you are simply asking for money
Money raised in stage 7: £821
You must must must be sure to thank each and every person who contributes towards your fundraising. This is SO important.
Stay committed. It can be really tough to run out of ideas and motivation half way through, but keep going and you will succeed.
Use your talents: are you a great Musician? My project partner made the majority of her money from playing the guitar and singing.
If you are doing Project Trust like I am then be sure to go to the meet ups as it can be really helpful to chat to past/present volunteers for ideas.
Other event ideas:
There are tonnes of ideas on the internet but here are a few to help out:
- car-boot sale
- own clothes day at school
- Halloween party
- carnival day with face painting and games
- get a job – waitressing is one of the easiest at a young age
Thank you for sticking with me throughout this very long post. I really hope it helps any of you out there who are fundraising. It is such a good skill to have and can actually be very enjoyable. It is also so worth it when you are finished.