It’s official; gap years are no longer just for students taking a break between college and university to go backpacking around Thailand. Some families are now opting to take a year out with the whole family. Taking an extended trip like this can be incredible for family bonding, and to give your kids an amazing insight into different countries and cultures. But how on earth do you pick up your life and move abroad for a year?
Decide Where You’re Going
The first choice is the destination. Decide if you want to travel for a year, or spend the time living in one country.
How different to home do you want to go? Settling for a year in a country in Europe is likely to be less of a culture shock than travelling around Asia or Africa for the year.
Think about where you’ll live when you get there. City or countryside? Will you rent somewhere to live for the year? Renting a home from a different country is never going to be easy, but there are ways to make it less of a challenge. Developments like those in Singapore built by the Housing and Development Board are ideal for expats.
Foreign nationals can rent these apartments, which are designed to be affordable, for up to two years. The blocks are built as satellite communities, with schools, shops, supermarkets, clinics and sports facilities. Use an HDB rental flat website to find out more about this option.
How Will You Manage Education?
As much as the kids would love it, you can’t hit pause on their education for a year, so figure out a plan for how you’ll keep up their studies. Time abroad can be a great accompaniment to a traditional education, helping your children to learn languages, history and culture in context.
You’ll still need some regular schooling. If you’ll be travelling, you could look into home-schooling. Just make sure your kids don’t fall behind when they return to the old school after the gap year.
If you’ll be living permanently in one place, you could choose to enrol the children in a local school. Speak to your children’s current teachers, and the school in your new home to ensure a smooth transition. Make sure that language barriers won’t disrupt their ability to learn. You may need to supplement their school time with some homeschooling to help your children keep up as they get to grips with learning in a new language.
What Will You Do With Your Home?
If you’re going to be gone for a while, you’re going to want to make sure your family home is safe so it’s ready and waiting for when you return.
Many people choose to rent out their homes while they travel, which helps to cover the mortgage payments while you’re also paying rent on a second home abroad. If you’re going to do this, think carefully about what belongings you’re happy to leave in the house. Put everything else in storage, and appoint a good agent to manage the property and tenants for you while you’re away.
If you don’t want to rent the house to other people, make sure your house is going to be secure. Ask a family member or friend to visit regularly to air the house, collect any mail and make sure everything is safe.
How Will You Pay For It?
Taking off for a year isn’t going to be cheap. You’ll still need to pay for your family home, as well as your expenses while you travel. If you’re going to be travelling, you could fund your year away through savings.
If you don’t want to put too deep a hole in the family nest egg, you’ll need to keep earning while you travel. Many jobs now can be done remotely, especially if you work for yourself. Many people are seeking out careers as a digital nomad. Any web based career can be done from anywhere, with a bit of web know-how.
If you’re going to be settled in one place, you could find a job in your new country. Think about this option carefully; not all companies will be willing to employ someone who’ll skip town in a year.
What will you do about your current job? If you’ve been with your current employer a long time and are a valued team member, you may be able to negotiate a sabbatical, which means your job will still be there for you when you get back.
Unfortunately, you may have to leave your job entirely if you can’t arrange a sabbatical. Be sure this is something you want and can afford to do.
Think About Family Health
It’s important to keep your family safe on the road. Consult your family Doctor about your plans and find if you will need any vaccinations for the countries you plan to visit.
If you’re travelling with children, remember they will still need the standard childhood vaccinations even while you’re globetrotting. Speak with your doctor about any vaccinations your child will need while you’re away, and mark the dates they should have them on your calendar. As you travel, find suitable medical facilities where you can get the injections your little one will need. Be prepared to have to pay for these, as not all countries offer these vaccinations for free.
If anyone in the family has a long-term condition or chronic illness, make sure you’re prepared to take care of them wherever you are. Speak to your specialist about your plans for travel, and make sure there aren’t any likely issues. If you need any medical supplies, such as medicines, blood testing kits or insulin, make sure you have plenty to tide you over, and know where you can get more while you’re away.
Get Good Travel Insurance
Get peace of mind while you’re away and make sure you’ve sorted out travel insurance and any relevant documents to fund any medical care you might need while you’re away.
Covering the whole family for a year might be tricky, but at a minimum, make sure your covered for medical expenses. It’s also worth insuring any electronic devices you’ll rely on while you’re travelling, in case of loss, theft or breakage.
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