Daring the Gap

by Roseanna McBain on 2 November, 2011 · 32 comments

Daring the gap. By ClickFlashPhotos  (Flickr)

It’s that time of year when the bees are buzzing, the birds become vocal far earlier in the mornings, and the flowers are starting to bloom abundantly as Spring gains it’s foothold a little later than usual. A new season of growth, changes and opportunities lie ahead, and speaking of changes …

The ever ethereal “they” say that a change is as good as a holiday, and if your idea of a fun holiday is learning new skills as you travel, then you should be aware of the many wonderful opportunities for both matriculant’s and (young) adults.

Airport adventure. By Grant Wickes (Flickr)

Taking a gap year – where you travel and work – is a great option for those who don’t know what they want to study yet, and a break from the hum-drum norm for those who have been studying, or working.

Some of the many benefits include:

  • Getting to be a traveller and not a tourist.
  • Learning about a new culture.
  • Gaining new skills and a variety of work experiences.
  • Improving your resume.

There are a lot of programs on offer, but always do further research on the company you choose to use, so you don’t end up with an agency who’ll take your money and vanish into the night. If you are accepted into a work program, ensure you read the fine print, and are aware of how long you will be staying, (if it’s only one season, or a whole year).

Collecting visa entry stamps - by Clarita (MorgueFiles)

It’s important to note that most programs require applicants to submit to a drug test, medical examination, and for females, a pregnancy test. To get rid of some of the stress of searching for a reliable company, below are a few established work and volunteer programs:

  • If you’ve ever thought of running away and joining the circus, then this is the next best thing. Away2xplore specialises in placing applicants in various carnivals across America. The prospective employers will pay for your return air ticket and work permit. Furthermore, they’ll even pay for your travel expenses in the United States. If you’re accepted, all you need to do is get a passport, a visa, and then you’re well on your way to start earning dollars. http://www.away2xplore.co.za.
  • Speaking from personal experience, I can recommend Workaway International as a reputable and reliable agency, placing South Africans in various positions at country clubs in America. You will need to have a valid passport, and attend the briefing session so you are aware of what you’re signing up for. After, you will be informed when interviews will be taking place, and if you’re lucky enough to be chosen after the interviews, all you need to do is apply for your visa, go for a medical exam, and once that’s out the way, they’ll sort out everything in between. http://www.workaway.com.
  • The Chennels family have been actively involved with volunteering for over 30 years. Based in Eshowe, Zululand, they offer you a choice of working with either children in local schools, assisting with a community upliftment project, or helping out in the skills centre. They also give you the flexibility to move from project to project to on a weekly basis. Find out more: http://www.chennellsvolunteerprojects.com.
  • At Work Travel S.A, all of the volunteer projects are aimed at giving back to local communities. They offer a variety of volunteer work, such as working with orphans, wildlife, marine life, and getting involved with community projects. They also have an internship program in the hospitality industry. Find out more information by visiting their website: http://worktravelsa.org.
  • If what you’re looking for is just the travel experience, and no monetary compensation, then consider Workaway.info. The aim of this agency is to introduce working travellers to like-minded hosts, without having to pay expensive agency fees. By doing volunteer work for only a few hours a day, in exchange for food and accommodation, you have the opportunity to learn about the local lifestyle and community. Choose which continent and city appeals to you, and then pick work that you’ll enjoy, from painting to planting, shopping to shearing, and building to babysitting. A small joining fee is required to access their world wide database of hosts. www.workaway.info.

Fast paced city life by hqwallpapers

I speak from experience when I say that travelling opens your eyes and gives you a chance to learn more about the world around you. It is a gift to be able to immerse yourself in a new culture, live a different lifestyle, and meet many wonderful people. When you return home (be it two weeks, six months or only after many years of travel), you’ll find that you’ve grown a great deal – and often have a plethora of great anedotes and stories – and some amazing new friends.

Keeping that old saying in mind, “You need to walk a mile in someones shoes to understand them”, I say just start moving forward, and enjoy the journey. Let us know your experiences, if you’ve ever done local volunteer work, or gone abroad to earn dollars, pounds, rubles or yen. Feel free to add any agencies you’ve used in the past, and remember, no matter where you go or what you do, take some time out to relax, look around and memorise every moment.

Main image credited to Nicki Varkevisser (Flickr)

marc November 2, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I can also recommend Workaway International. Having gone through to America with them, I can honestly say that it was one of the best times in my life – filled with memories that I will cherish, as well as the amazing people I met.


Amberlee November 20, 2011 at 7:53 am

This is going to make things a lot easier from here on out.


TravelGround.com November 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Hi Marc,
Many thanks for sharing your experience with Workaway International. I’m glad you had a wonderful time, with memorable people.


Daryl J-Boogie Järvinen November 2, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Amazingly enough, I wish you would’ve written this back in ’08-’09 while I was still lookin through my options, involving staying in Germany. But oh well, I had to come back here to the states sometime. Haha. But pertaining to the blog, it was very well written and very informative. I definitely have to come back and read it every time it’s updated. You always know how to read my mind, Mrs. McBain. ;)


Kayden November 20, 2011 at 1:36 am

A few years ago I’d have to pay some one for this kind of information.


TravelGround.com November 9, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Hi Marc and Daryl,
Many thanks for your valuable comments. We’re working on making the blog more comprehensive – so check back every week for a new post. Also, feel free to suggest any topics you’d like more information on, and we’ll see what we can do.


Andre November 13, 2011 at 7:32 pm

I went to America through Away2Xplore this year and had a great time over there. I worked hard, but also played hard too. Away2xplore are well organized and profesional to deal with. They have agents in just about in all the mayor centres in SA where you can go for your interview.




TravelGround.com November 25, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Hi Andre,
Many thanks for your comment. I’m glad you had fun with Away2Xplore. I’m curious as to where you travelled to with the carnival, as a carnival is something I hold in an almost mythical reverance (I suppose watching Carnivale had a small part to play with that).


Angelica April 13, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Hi, away2explore is great when you work through them your first year, but after that they are not very interested in you. They rub it in that you are not special and should be grateful for what they do. They get paid an outrageous amount of money to get you there, but in the end they earn more than you will there. I do not recommend away2explore to anyone, if you want to send your child abroad use New Horizons. They treat you well and they actually stick to the truth, so you will know what to expect. I used them and I am very happy with their service, especially after the service I received from away2explore.


TravelGround.com April 17, 2012 at 8:12 am

Hi Angelica,

I’m so sorry you had a bad experience with away2explore, but I’m glad you found another good company, who treated you properly. Where about did you go with away2explore? Were the other people you met more friendly?


Philly January 8, 2013 at 9:10 am

Angelica // TravelGround.com

please let me have New Horizons website.

I also want to work abroad – pretty please


Roseanna McBain January 9, 2013 at 10:06 am

Hi Philly / Angelica,

I’m not sure who New Horizons is/are – perhaps a Google search will turn them up, as they weren’t one of the organisations mentioned in the post I wrote.

Good luck for your future travels abroad.

Rene November 23, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Hello Angelica, I do know is that A2X have numerous recruits come return home, with between R50.000 and R80.000, after a season of hard work. Many of them return for another 2nd, 3rd, or 4th season after the first one and prefer to choose to use an organized, reliable recruiter for security reasons. It is unfortunate that you had the experience you did, which leaves me to consider that you were simply not one of the ones the American employer wanted back. However I am sure that A2X wish you good luck with whom ever makes you feel special.


Roseanna McBain November 25, 2013 at 8:58 am

Hi Rene,
Thanks for your official Away 2 Explore company response to Angelica’s comment on our blog from last year.


Charlotte November 20, 2011 at 2:52 am

There’s nothing like the relief you feel when you find what you’re looking for. Thank you.


TravelGround.com November 25, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Hi Charlotte,
Many thanks for your comment. Have you been looking to go overseas? It would be wonderful if you could share your experience with us one day.


JerryTorson December 1, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Interesting article at least I think so. Thanks for posting this info.
Jerry Torson


gap year May 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Interesting post, but you should also know that volunteering during your gap year can be an invaluable and rewarding experience too. :)


Roseanna McBain May 11, 2012 at 8:30 am

Hey Gap Year,

Thanks so much for your comment. Yes, volunteer work is also a great option for those looking to get some work experience and travel at the same time, and like you said, its incredibly rewarding for those who assist as well as those being helped. :)


Monique Cloete July 3, 2012 at 12:45 pm

I would like to explore America with Away2explore. I just want to find out on what to expect when I’m there. Is the environment good for girls too?


Roseanna McBain July 4, 2012 at 8:04 am

Hi Monique,
Unfortunately Away2xplore are not a company I’ve used personally, but there are several reviews from all genders and ages (girls, boys, and parents) on their website – and these reviews are all positive. Maybe you could contact them and set up a consult, or ask for reference numbers of people who’ve worked for them before.

I wish you much luck, and a wonderful time overseas if you can go!


jj November 22, 2012 at 2:06 pm

I have been accepted at away 2 xplore very nice place and very very friendly people can’t wait to go


Roseanna McBain November 27, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Hi JJ,

I hope you have a wonderful time with them. Feel free to comment again with your Away2Explore experience, to assist others. :)


nikita March 5, 2013 at 1:24 am

I just want to know if I want to apply to Away2Xplore is it better to call or to apply on their web site? Can someone please help me?


Roseanna McBain March 12, 2013 at 8:13 am

Hi Nikita,

Calling first is always advised, as you can then speak to someone and get answers straight away, without the wait after sending an e-mail. However, a follow-up e-mail after you’re satisfied with their answers, can also be useful, so they can confirm (in writing) what you discussed. Good luck! :)


Mcah May 23, 2014 at 4:40 am

WTSA appear to offer genuine hands on long hours of involvement in conservation work at Addo. In fact the program is disorganised, volunteers do little but watch the rangers work, mostly checking water points and fencing. Accommodation is not maintained. They advertise it as an opportunity for people keen to make a difference but the reservation is well staffed and volunteers are not needed. WTSA lists 16 possible activities but in 3 weeks has delivered only 2 ( fence and water checking) repeatedly and only one day of work with wildlife after complaints. Whole day also spent clear litter from the staff village. Some days totally wasted. Avoid. Do not return calls or take responsibility for failings either. Search for ETHICAL gap year projects, avoid this organisation. Addo reservation itself is a wonderful park and the rangers very nice. The program stinks and that is down to WTSA misrepresenting reality.


Roseanna McBain May 29, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Hi Mcah,
Thanks for the insider info on Work Travel SA. It’s quite sad to hear that the program has fallen short regarding what they initially advertise, and I do hope their standards improve for future volunteers.


Tammy July 24, 2014 at 11:30 am

Is there a way to help you be more likely to be chosen? My fiance and I are going to apply for Away2Explore this year to go away next year and I would just like to know, maybe some things to avoid, that could sway them from choosing you?

My fiance and I both have matrics both have working experience. We have no children and we work very hard. I am overweight, not heavily but a bit. Will that count against me???

Thanks in advance


Roseanna McBain July 24, 2014 at 11:38 am

Hi Tammy,

Thanks for your query. To be completely honest, the criteria which agencies look for depends entirely on which position you’re after, since agencies usually have a variety of placements and jobs to fill. Generally a willingness to work hard and a friendly demeanor will see you through most interviews. :) I’m afraid you’d have to contact ex-Away2Explore employees to answer the second half of your query as to whether being slightly overweight will count against you (I’d assume it wouldn’t, as generally it’s your team compatibility / previous experience that holds the most sway) ^_~ Wishing you and your fiance the best of luck!!


Tammy November 25, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Hi Everyone,

I just want to let you all know that we have been accepted and I do hope we find the time to let you know some of the areas we go to next year!

I am so excited for this amazing experience.

Away2Xplore has been super helpful. The interview was very professional and done well. I felt very comfortable doing the drug test with them. I know I haven’t actually left yet but so far, I am very happy with their response.

Thanks all :)


Roseanna McBain November 26, 2014 at 8:28 am

Hi Tammy,

That’s fantastic to hear – we wish you all the best with your time overseas! :)


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