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Top gap year activities, that don't involve a machine gun

1st November 2011

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In Machine Gun Preacher (released tomorrow) Gerard Buther, as real-life hero Sam Childers, demonstrates the difference that a bit of compassion and caring (and a pretty hefty machine gun) can make in the lives of others.

Machine Gun PreacherFrustrated at the injustice of the world? Tired of the same old uncaring indifference at home? Take that moral crusade abroad and make a difference. Whether its disappointing exam results or some spare cash on your hands, the increasingly popular gap year is the perfect way to spend that extra time wisely. So instead of spending the next 12 months playing Wii and working in the local supermarket, brace yourself for the adventure of a lifetime.

The possibilities of what to do during a gap year are endless...but there are some tried and tested activities which appeal to all potential gappers – and there’s no need to pick up any semi-automatic weapons just yet.

Finding yourself

The basis of all gap years, this is essentially the most popular of all gap year activities, providing the inspiration behind every backpacked and be-sandaled would be traveller. Translated into a range of activities – from writing a book on your experiences to blogging or documenting your trip in photographs; total immersion in another language or culture is seen, conversely, as the perfect antidote to the preceding years’ surfeit of Pro-Evo and blue WKD.

 Teach English  

Spread the word, literally, by teaching English. Easy to do (assuming you’re reading this) and generally with some sort of financial benefit at the end;  You’re helping the youth of today become the global society of tomorrow.

Go to a full moon party in Thailand

Admittedly a slightly less worthy cause, not many gappers may admit to this once-monthly party on the shores of Haad Rin beach being the sole reason of their 12-month jaunt; but ignore it at your peril. This will form the basis of conversation with any fellow travellers you may happen to encounter in Thailand (and believe us, there’ll be more than a few). So daub yourself in day-glo, go along, and pick up a bucket. Just don’t go in the sea.

Work with a wildlife charity


If endangered species are your thing, there’s no end of developing countries with a swiftly diminishing roll-call of rare breeds that need saving. Gorillas, Chinese pandas and the lesser spotted garden beetle – if it’s in trouble, there’s plenty of things you can do to help. Roll up your sleeves (maximum tannage) and keep those eyes peeled for poachers... Hell, if only you’d got to that Javan Rhinoceros in time.

Catch sunset over Ayers Rock

Another slightly dubious activity given the controversy surrounding it’s gradual erosion, but any gap year trip to Australia wouldn’t be complete without stopping by Uluru. Purchase some traditional Aboriginal trinkets, take some eye-wateringly beautiful snaps from the summit, and combine it with the obligatory road trip into the outback.  And heed the lessons learnt from every Australian soap opera when the characters leave the comfort of the suburbs – don’t light a fire.

Build a school (or a well)

Make like Prince Harry and get your hands dirty with some serious heavy-lifting. Even more of a chore than crazy-paving your grandparents’ patio – and without the prospect of a frosty one at the end – this worthy activity in the blazing sun will leave you with some pretty high-level Brownie points – not to mention bulging biceps.

Machine Gun Preacher is out in cinemas on 2nd November, for more information on the release visit the official Facebook page:

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