13 Ways To Avoid Being Gap Yah While You Travel
A handy guide to stop you looking like a total d**k.
Want a break from working? Want to see the world? Want to learn about other cultures and yourself along the way?! It’s obvious, isn’t it? You need a gap year.
While there is nothing wrong with taking a year out after school to travel, there will be many who believe that your quest to ‘find yourself’ is really just a quest to find the best profile picture you can of you riding a camel. Here are 13 ways to avoid those tricky Gap Yah associations.
1. Avoid harem pants. Especially if they have bells on
Nothing says ‘Gap Yah’ like harem pants. Look, we get it, they’re pretty comfy, and they’d probably be an effective parachute if you ever fell from a great height (seriously, you could fit about five people in there). Unfortunately a lot of travellers use harem pants to disguise their Western identity – they think harem pants have a multi-cultural look that help them blend in wherever they go. But this is a myth. That’s taught in Gap Yah School.
2. Eat local food
Picture this: you are standing in a South American bus station and around you are endless lines of food stands. You’re starving. You have a choice for lunch, and it’s pretty much beef empanada, or chicken empanada. Suddenly, something catches your eye… it’s the beacon of Westernisation beaming at you from across the station… it’s a Subway! The temptation is almost too much to bear. But however bad it gets, you’ve got to avoid global fast-food chains. If you give in you are not just a Gap Yah, you’re a greedy sub-of-the-day Gap Yah. And what could be more shameful?
3. Get the lingo
English is a popular language all around the world, but that doesn’t mean that the locals will always speak it, and why should they? You are in their country, so why not reach out to them? Buy a foreign language dictionary, take a language class or download a language-learning app on your phone! You might have a weird and wonderful accent, you might even end up asking for a guy’s number instead of his name (awkward…), but you get points for trying!
4. Speak to locals
In places like London, nobody talks to strangers, ‘cos ‘stranger danger’ and all that. But talking to locals is a fab way of getting to know what they truly think about their way of life… and, let’s face it, they’ll definitely be more up for a chat than anyone on your average London tube. So why not attempt to strike up a convo the next time you ask for directions? In English or in your newly learnt local lingo! You might even learn something that they don’t teach at Gap Yah School.
5. Avoid referring to ‘Daddy’ or any sort of ‘trust fund’
Now this one is pretty self-explanatory. It doesn’t matter if you look and sound exactly like the locals, any time either of these code words are used people are gonna be shuffling away, sharpish. They wouldn’t want to catch Gap Yah-itus.
6. Avoid referring to being ‘at one’ with nature and all humanity
So sometimes travelling can be pretty life-changing, I get it. But hearing the epiphany you had about life, the Universe and everything when you were sitting on the loo in Thailand makes me feel a little uncomfortable (and more than just because you were on the loo at the time). I mean, it’s fantastic that posing for a photo with a sedated tiger has made you all spiritual and everything, but maybe this is one for your journal? You’re sounding pretty Gap Yah right now.
7. Spend at least 5 hours a day without social media
It’s a big ask, but worth it. Obsessing about what travelling photos you are going to post to Facebook takes you away from the experiences around you. And there’s nothing more Gap Yah than walking around an ancient religious site experimenting with Instagram filters. Also, you might get robbed. Which would suck.
8. Research volunteering opportunities properly
Some big volunteering agencies will send people somewhere where they are not helping in the slightest because so many travellers want to ‘make a difference’ to a community abroad. Voluntourism is now such a big way to make money that there’s corruption everywhere – we’re talking fake orphanages and made-up tasks (like building useless walls for the ‘community’ that are knocked down afterwards for the next batch of volunteers). It’s a classic trap that all the Gap Yahs fall into. Beware!
9. Go to local nights out
Research some local nights and get a taste of the true party vibe wherever you are. Even if that just means a dingy old bar that the locals like – be there, and soak up those bar vibes. You can learn a lot about people by the way they kick back and relax. Beats that ‘glow party’ that the hostel organised that’s full of Gap Yahs taking pics and adding each other on Facebook. At least for one night, anyway.
10. Try the traditional dance
This is often the result of going to local clubs, and it’s a lot of fun. Even if you are co-ordinationally challenged, just give it a go! Get a lesson, or simply learn from locals around you. You might not be the best dancer in there but, again, you get bonus points for trying! Gap Yahs don’t try local dancing, they are too busy ‘dropping it like it’s hot’ at the hostel glow party night.
11. Try the traditional drink
Try the local alcoholic drink if you are drinking, or at least a local beverage or fruit drink that locals regard as a speciality. They will probably be cheaper than your average rum and coke, and they will look far less "tourist abroad".
12. Find some sports matches
There’s no way to really understand a country quite like a local sports match - it’s where the passion and patriotism of a place comes out! Just get yourself a sports tee, dress in the right colours, and enjoy! Nothing unites everyone like supporting the same sports team, so you can bid your Gap Yah days goodbye… just while the match is on, of course.
13. Find those hot spots
There are places within any city where you’ll find all the locals at a particular time. Whether that’s a restaurant, a bar, a particular square, or a beach, be observant and see how people like to spend their day. Maybe you could use some of the spare time you now have away from your Instagram to chill there, make some friends and just watch the world go past for an afternoon? As long as you don’t talk about your Gap Yah epiphany while you do, you should be fine.
Now why not find out about water yoga, which is now officially a thing...