My gap years & how I funded them

I had two gap years before starting work as a doctor. First, after third year med school, and the other after graduating. Both years were spent travelling South America and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Keep reading if you want to know how I did it and raised the funds.

During medical school, I’ve always worked a few odd jobs, as a coxswain, tutor, retail worker, gymnastics coach and babysitter! (Not all at the same).

If you can manage it, try get a part time job about six months prior to your year away. Babysitting is great for $ per hour.

Deferring 4th year med school was straight forward. I told my dean and year coordinator, then filed the university paperwork. Done! I stated I’d recommence in 2017, and showed up for class no problem.

My first gap year I spent the summer holidays and the first six months of my year off working a retail job full-time. During my studies I worked consistently part-time too. I saved up and then travelled the rest of the year through South America, visiting Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina. Averaging about $85 AUD/day (including all big ticket items). I have a separate blog on my travels if you’re interested.

There were some big ticket items, like the flights ($2000 AUD), Inca Trail ($1000 AUD) and guided W-trek ($2000) in Torres del Paine. Besides that, I saved on food through buying at local places, saved on accomodation through hostels and got buses between cities and countries. I also have family in Chile, so stayed with them for free for a few months (thank you fam!). I could have definitely done this trip for cheaper, coming from Australia I thought everything should be booked in tours and in advance. In South America, that’s not the case! You can hike Torres del Paine for a fraction of the price (close to free) and you can do alternative treks to the Inca Trail for less. My other blog is more detailed on travel tips.

My 2nd gap year was after graduating from med school. Internship cannot be deferred, so I declined my place. In NSW, you can take up to 3 years to commence Internship and declining before the clinical year does not impact your future applications.

Then, I intensively saved from August 2018 until January 2019 with coxing, babysitting and retail. After this, I spent nine months of 2019 travelling South America again!

My husband and I bought a car ($6000 AUD) and we drove around Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. At the end of our big road trip we sold the car and made $6000 of our money back! During the trip we cooked most of our meals and we slept in the camper car. Showers were at gas stations, hostels, and houses of friends and family. Maybe this style of travelling isn’t for everyone, but it worked for us, and we got an amazing trip on a small budget. We spent about $40 AUD/day and drove a big loop from Santiago, Chile-Puerto Natales, Chile-Buenos Aires, Argentina-Uruguay-Iguazu Falls, Brazil-Humahuaca, Argentina-Santiago, Chile. With our money back from the car, we then flew to Colombia for a few weeks before returning home.

I also got a credit card in med school, as some banks give special credit cards for medical students that waiver paying bills back until starting work as a doctor.

While I don’t recommend credit cards and getting in debt, it can be handy to have this in emergencies. When you return to eventually work you will pay it off fast.

My advice

  1. Decide on what you want in the next year
  2. Calculate an estimate of minimum and maximum funds needed
  3. Find a job that has a higher hourly wage (babysitting, petsitting, tutoring)
  4. Be frugal while working and saving (it will pay off)
  5. Get creative (couch surfing, house sitting, buy a car & then sell it)
  6. Enjoy your trip! Iguazu Falls is still amazing with a few pesos vs thousands of dollars.

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