How Much Should I Plan My Gap Year?

It’s the eternal question that has plagued many a gap year student, English teacher and holiday maker.

The notion of ‘travelling’ has changed from what it used to be.

Before the backpacker explosion, the notion of taking a gap year as we know it today almost seemed unnecessarily extravagant. After all, our parents never had a chance to do such a thing, why on Earth should we be able to?

But that was exactly why so many teenagers. during the late 60s and 70s, started to travel more. In the wake of the austerity that had gripped the UK for decades after the Second World War, teenagers and young adults were finally beginning to assert their rights to roam the country and began envisioning a way to grow up that was markedly different to how their parents did so.

Instead of leaving school at 16 and entering straight into a job, the young person’s youth began to extend beyond their teens. As the world changed around them and communications grew, the world appeared to shrink and each corner of the globe seemed that much easier to grasp. It wasn’t until the cost of flights began to significantly drop that the gap year, as we know it today, became a more viable option for the mainstream masses.

By the time the 00s hit, despite a constant barrage of Global Recessions and Financial Crashes, more and more British kids were heading overseas to ‘find themselves’.

By this point, the travelling gap year had become less of a daring risk and more of a rite of passage.

Thanks to a slow but solid increase in young travellers trotting the globe, thousands of entrepreneurial individuals from all over the planet were beginning to catch on. Soon, hostels began popping up, inviting travellers to take a load off in shared dormitories for cut prices.

The standard of these hostels at the start were poor. After all, most of the would-be budget hoteliers were not trained for the world of customer service. Beds were left to fester, bathrooms struggled to compete with the standards of prison camps and thefts were common place. As with all fledgling industries, it would take time and healthy competition to raise the standard of these places.

As the Information Age hit its stride, websites began cropping up, providing travellers with an opportunity to review their stays, causing hoteliers to reconsider the way that they transacted their business.

For many, they had reached something of an impasse. Their current standard of treating customers brought in money and had the bonus of requiring little action on their parts. However, if they chose to continue this they risked creating a bad reputation for their business and potentially ruining their future incomes.

The end result of the constant push-pull relationship between online reviewers and hostel owners is symbolised by the current state of hostels that we now see today. Thanks to almost ten years of customer based invigilation – we can now safely research our night’s stay before our holiday has even began.

Whilst the pioneering gap year travellers of the 60s may well snort in derision at the lack of spontaneity inherent in preempting such a trip – we can all sleep a little safer knowing that we’re in a decent hostel.

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Hostel Guide: Milano, Italy

Any trip to Italy is simply incomplete without a visit to Milan.

The city is one of the most populous in the country, with over 8 million Italians hustling and bustling throughout its twisting roads and towering skyscrapers.

Home to Italy’s Stock Exchange, you might want to pack a suit if you want to fit in with the sharply dressed businessmen and fashion designers that flock the concrete streets everyday. If you’d rather save some money then avoid the swanky areas and have a look at a few cultural things to see in Milan.

When the end of the day comes, you’ll need somewhere comfortable yet affordable to stay. Luckily, Milan has played host to travellers for decades and now boasts a truly competitive ecosystem of hostels and guesthouses, catering to all tastes.

These are our top 5 picks for Hostels in Milan:

Ostello Bello Grande

Although Ostello Bello’s little brother resides in a much more desirable location, in the centre of the city, Grande’s spacious communal areas, including peaceful rooftop garden and ultra-chic dining area, make this an absolute for any traveller looking for a comfortable break from the norm.

El Paso Milano

Just a short walk from Piazza Loreti – a transport hub for the city, this is a guesthouse that has been consistently rated for it’s cleanliness and helpful staff, The rooms are all tastefully furnished and you’re never far from a quick bus or train into the city – perfect for couples travelling.

Queen Hostel

Sometimes all you need from a hostel is a clean bed and a place to hang out. Queen Hostel is the latest establishment to adopt this simple credo, with an emphasis on creating clean, light areas for travellers to socialise. A particular highlight is the gorgeous open plan kitchen with complimentary board games!

New Generation Hostel Urban Navigli

There are 3 New Generation Hostels in Milan and they all uphold the same high standards for cleanliness and security. Whilst the decor may feel slightly too clinical at times, the beds are affordable priced and the locations are all fantastic, with Urban Navigli being a particular highlight.

Gogol’Ostello and  & Cafte Letterario

Whilst centrality might not be high on your agenda if you choose to stay at Gogol’Ostello, you will be rewarded by a comfortable night’s stay in one of the chicest new Hostels the city has to offer. Rustic Italian furniture blends with a modern colour scheme to create a truly unique place to stay.

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Family Feelings

I don’t particularly care about anything and I’m quite lazy. I think this a core problem for me. I don’t really care about my family or friends, but they should know that I also don’t really care about myself, so it’s hardly an insult. I mean yeah, it’s no compliment. But life isn’t all compliments so I don’t see how any one can really complain about that.


My feelings

My sister. My sister wants a lot of things, she’s really after stuff that girl. One week she wants some pair of shoes then it’s concert tickets then it’s a hat that looks to me just like any old hat that you could buy anywhere but apparently is a very special hat that you can only buy in one place and in that one special place it costs about two hundred British Stirling pounds. My poor parents. Last Christmas I got in touch with her before Christmas to see what she wanted for Christmas. She knows that I work a few days a week and am not a rich man. I’m not on the breadline but if I wanted any sort of lifestyle I would be. I live a simple life and supplement that with a lot of drinking. But she goes off asking me for some fur gilet from some really rather fancy place down in London. That’s right a fur gilet. 


Yes. That’s what that is apparently. Now, I have an opinion of myself, which is probably by a large margin quite inaccurate, that I try to stick to purchasing things which are essential, especially when it comes to big purchases. Of course I spend money on alcohol, and that’s not essential. And I spend money on cigarettes, and their not essential. But if you only buy those things, you realise that it means you can cope with not being able to buy anything more lasting. Success!



A fur gilet is not an essential. So I refused. I got her a book that was reduced to 99p. She pretended to like it and I pretended to be happy. That’s how family works.

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To Be On The Road

“Living on the road is hard. Dying on the road is really hard. But leaving the road? Now that’s impossible”


A life on the road is always a fascinating life. Those who truly live out there, out in the great ‘there’ that surrounds us all, necessarily have less regular routine, and more regular unique experiences. That is the blessing of the road, a blessing which some struggle with, but one I refuse to call a curse. It is a blessing, even when you are suffering it is a blessing. When you are lost and in pain and bleeding it is a blessing. When you are alone and cold and scared it is a blessing. When you don’t know how you’re going to get back to civilisation, and whether you even want too, it is a blessing. It is a blessing, now and forever, it is a blessing.


Many true road folk would rather die than retire from their nomadic purity. To ‘go static’ in the vernacular of the road, to plant your feet down heavily and hang up your wondering boots, to turn your back on the wind and the rain and the sun and the glory and make your self still. To stop. To stop after a lifetime. To stand still and stop. That’s tough.


I travelled North Recently, up Yorkshire way. I stopped in the rolling hills to pay a visit to a set of sited static caravans stashed away amongst the green. I was there visit an old friend who had retired from the road, left it after being one of the most embedded road dogs I had ever met. This guy embodied the damn road completely. He was the road. But no longer. He had decided that he wanted to try comfort, try routine. He wanted to see out his days static. And that is what he is doing. I am envious of him in some ways, he is gaining a new perspective on life in his last days. Perhaps he is the one acting without fear by leaving the road. I suppose the true embodiment of the life I wish to lead is following your feelings and following your instincts, whether that leads you along the road or off it…

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Hostel Hostel Kitchen Hostel

KITCHENS there’s no such thing as a good hostel without a good kitchen. A hostel needs a kitchen just like a human needs a brain, or a stomach or an iPad or something.

wertwertt Without a kitchen, how can the people cook? Without a clean kitchen, how can people cook happily? Without a big kitchen, how can people cook together? Without a modern kitchen, how can people cook without some sort of old time skills or something?

Well, its rustic, but not ideal…
No, you need a bloody proper bloody great big bloody proper good kitchen with all the things that you need and all the things that can be made and all the things that can be put in a kitchen. Apparently the place to start with is acquiring kitchen carcasses. They are not, as you might imagine, the dead bodies of brave kitchens that fought in the kitchen bathroom war of attrition that waged from the mid 1990’s until the peace accords signed in 2007. Neither are they kitchens who fell in the great kitchen-bathroom-livingroom triple threat that took place at WWE’s ‘House Of Pain’ event in 2013. No, kitchen carcasses are actually  just apparently UNDEAD KITCHENS WHICH CAN ONLY BE KILLED BY REMOVING THE HEAD OR DESTROYING THE BRAIN. No, they are like a kitchen unit but just the unit, no door or anything. Just the unit, just the bare bones. Get it? Kitchen carcass? Get it? Get it? Get it? Very clever!
If you buy great kitchen carcasses you can build great kitchen units. If you can build great kitchen units you can build a great kitchen. If you can build a great kitchen you can build a great hostel. If you can build a great hostel you can build a great community. And, most importantly, if we can build great communities we can build a great world. So yeah, kitchen carcasses are kinda important.
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Couch-Surfing, Airbnb And The Future Of Hostels (Part 1)

It used to be that for those travelling on the cheap there was only one game in town and that was the hostel. Hostels stretched across the globe creating a cohesive if chaotic path through it all and for us all. Whilst they would often be maligned and horror stories would always be shared of disgusting bathrooms, flea ridden beds and dodgy deals, the hostel reigned supreme and unchallenged and so could retain its defects without any fear that it would be punished for them.


That was always the deal, you took the rough with the smooth and when you turned up in a new town at a new hostel you just held your breath and hopped for the best. Sure sometimes you’d find that the hostel owner didn’t think that you really needed a working shower and licked to tickle sleeping customers with his naked feet, but sometimes you’d be welcomed with some warm food and a hot bath. Whatever happened you always had the solidarity of your fellow travellers, a solidarity born of the fact that your had to accept this situation, that this was the deal that you accepted when you left your boring home and your boring life and your boring friends and your boring family (that all might have been quite comfortable and smelt pretty good) for a life of adventure and surprise. That was the backpackers wager, and it was a wager that defined us.


But, friends, things have changed. First the information available to backpackers exploded with reviews being written and we many being empowered to actually know (to some extent) what kind of a place we where heading into. This meant awful hostels could only get away with it for so long before being found out by customer flow and sometimes regulatory authorities. Suddenly the relationship between backpacker and hostel was changing, and the very nature of backpacking was changing too…

(more next week)


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