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Gap year with 4 year old - good idea?!

(51 Posts)
doolittle79 Sun 22-May-16 08:48:52

Hello -
My 4 year old son is not going to be going to school for another year as he is right at the cut off date for the school. I have this crazy notion to take him and do a volunteering programme for a time and take a sabbatical from work which I could probably get. I can't seem to see much about this online other than solo travellers or groups of young people! I am 37 and a single parent and work full time. I want this final year to be special and would appreciate any ideas! Thanks smile

Artandco Sun 22-May-16 08:58:49

I would. Not quite the same but Dh and I did a 10 week trip to Vietnam with kids when kids were 18 months and 10 weeks old. Was great. We managed to be tourists and see local people and parts also as a longer duration. The children just tagged along and was fairly easy. They were of an age were both just went in sling where we went and co slept etc so easy accomadation.

I would suggest doing maybe three locations. Each 3 ish months long. Gives time to explore and help in each area. Child to make local friends a little, and then change before you become bored. Do somewhere mountainous, somewhere beach, somewhere elsewhere

specialsubject Sun 22-May-16 11:30:05

volunteering will be tricky with a small child in tow, and unfortunately blows out any chance of a working holiday visa even if you were under the age limit. That's why you don't see much about it.

the use of western tourists as volunteers is also somewhat iffy.

go on a long holiday with him by all means - but make it a holiday, much easier. Several long stops sounds good.

specialsubject Sun 22-May-16 11:31:16

ps insurance will also be much cheaper and easier if you aren't working. Remember you need a single trip long stay policy, NOT annual travel insurance. You'll find you are too old for backpacker policies which stop at 35 (!!! - been there!) but you can still get cover.

MonsterDeCookie Sun 22-May-16 11:55:37

Check out this family:
They used to live in London and are taking a family gap year. They have done bits of volunteering as they go but mostly holiday. You might find something child friendly like protecting baby sea turtles that suits. I think it's a fab way to show your son the world and teach him to give back. It absolutely can be done. Keep searching "family gap year". Good luck!

MariaSklodowska Sun 22-May-16 12:00:19

I would not bother. You won't be able to work and you will find that the attitude to single mothers in some places can be shocking.
Also, your child will just feel upset and disturbed at that age.
I would wait til he is 7 and then take a long holiday. forget about working/volunteering with him with you.
Plus you have to think about his safety.

Artandco Sun 22-May-16 14:19:43

Maria - why cant she work? She said she didn't even need to as a sabbatical. Like I said we were self employed so worked still.

She can also go many safe places, doesn't have to go to Afghanistan.

Eastern Europe - Croatia/ Poland/ Romania, all very safe, and would offer volunteer work in agricultural/ teaching/ childcare

Japan - English or tech volunteering greatly recieved
( actually we did this before kids . Just Dh and I. A ski company wanted websites redesigned. In exchange for that Dh and I recieved free accomadation and ski passes for three weeks )

specialsubject Sun 22-May-16 14:23:41

Getting visas that allow work or volunteering isn't easy at 37 with a dependent. OK in the EU of course.

MariaSklodowska Sun 22-May-16 14:42:38

" Eastern Europe - Croatia/ Poland/ Romania, all very safe, and would offer volunteer work in agricultural/ teaching/ childcare "

None of those countries are 'safe' for a lone workikng mother of a child. And who would look after her child when she was working?

specialsubject Sun 22-May-16 14:45:06

Yes , that last obvious point too.

allegretto Sun 22-May-16 14:45:43

What's wrong with Croatia, Poland and Romania???

CheesecakeWarrior Sun 22-May-16 14:46:22

Do it!!! I so wish I could have with my ds. Have a blast!

Artandco Sun 22-May-16 14:48:40

There's nothing wrong with those Eastern European countries. They are very safe. But poor in remote areas there would be many places would greatly receive volunteering even with a child. Like in English at a village school for example and ops child could join.

MariaSklodowska Sun 22-May-16 14:48:41

" What's wrong with Croatia, Poland and Romania? "

Look for a single mother who doesn't speak the language, there could be a lot wrong with these countries.
I swear some people on this forum are living in 'lovely lala land'

Artandco Sun 22-May-16 14:49:35

I have travelled all of these countries alone with my children even though I'm not a single parent. It's Eastern Europe, not the Congo

MariaSklodowska Sun 22-May-16 14:52:51

Yes but you didnt try to stay there did you? And as you say, 'you are not a single mother'. The latter was kind of my point. Nobody who hasnt been a single mother can really know what they are up against.
I have also 'travelled' to various countries with my children so I have a faint idea of what I am talking about.

Artandco Sun 22-May-16 14:54:08

Op this is a good website to look at. It's basically any skill in exchange for accomadation. I'm sure some will be happy with child.

Artandco Sun 22-May-16 14:56:18

I stayed many times in those countries. No I'm not a singer mother but I travel and stay alone often with my children. Me and littl wines have spent many weeks alone in various Eastern European countries.Op isn't trying to relocate forever, just see some of the world and have experiences with son. She doesn't even need to work

cruikshank Sun 22-May-16 14:58:28

I think it would be great for you to go on a nice long holiday, but unless you have a relevant skill to offer why work? Someone up thread mentioned teaching - are you a teacher? If so, great; if not, you don't become magically good at it just because you're from the UK. Ditto most other jobs you can think of.

MariaSklodowska Sun 22-May-16 14:59:09

" She doesn't even need to work "
well good, because frankly finding local childcare when you don't speak the language and people think you are just some foreign W*** would be a nightmare.
That IS what they think about single mothers btw in those kind of places.
Trust me, I do know a bit about this.

Iflyaway Sun 22-May-16 15:59:52

Well, I'm a single mum and have travelled loads with my (biracial) son. Never had a problem with people looking down on me. They don't even know I'm a single mum!

South America, Africa and Asia adore kids. In fact travelling with a child is a great experience for meeting lots of locals.

Admittedly, never been to Eastern Europe and it doesn't really appeal....

mummymeister Mon 23-May-16 08:22:53

I think it is being a bit selfish to haul your 4 yr old away from his/her circle of friends etc so that you can go and work in a foreign country. if you are just going to travel and not do any sort of work then I think with a lot of planning then this could be fine. But I wouldn't do it if it meant working of any sort, even volunteering. The issues of language, child care - reliable and safe - would just put me off.

if you want to do some travelling then work out how long you can afford to travel without working and go for that.

if you do decide to go for a year then think about the practicalities of being away when its time to select schools and do all that sort of stuff. Its really easy to forget it so worth making sure you have everything in place before you go.

just because your LO is starting school doesn't mean you wont be able to travel any more.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 23-May-16 08:38:19


Think a lot more thought on your part is needed; its not that straight forward at all.

What skills do you exactly have?. You need marketable and readily transferable job based skills. How about volunteering in the UK instead to begin with and see how you get on?.

If you were for instance a skilled bricklayer, NCO, medically trained or have proper teaching qualifications then this idea might be more feasible. As for teaching, well you yourself would not want some unqualified person to educate your son so why is it seemingly ok to walk into some school in some far flung land to "help" some students with their English?. They do not need such "assistance". They want properly qualified staff.

If you are not qualified to do it in the UK, don't do it abroad
More responsible organisations, which offer placements that really enable volunteers to make a difference, will take time to find the right match. The organisation should want to find out about your skills and specialisms and spend time finding an appropriate role for you. It should feel more like applying for a job than booking a holiday.

I would forget this whole idea as it is really not feasible for you to do; as other people have pointed out westerners on volentourism schemes is a minefield of ethical problems. It takes jobs away from local people and the work the westerners provide is sub standard primarily because they do not have the right skills.

Its also going to be nigh on impossible doing any such scheme when you have your son to look after as well.

Artandco Mon 23-May-16 09:09:12

Op already said she has tefl qualification which is teaching English as a foreign language.

it doesn't have to be full on. Like I said we did was only around 20 hrs at each location. Op could easily do that. She could offer just two mornings a week whilst her son joins in those 8 hours. Then explore the area the rest of the time. After a month or two move locations.

MariaSklodowska Tue 24-May-16 18:36:18

I dont think anyone would give someone a job teaching EFL if she she has a kid with her. Sorry it makes me smile when people say 'oh yes teach English' as though you can just pick it up where you like, drop it a few weeks later, AND have a kid with you while you do it .....
Kind of insulting to professional English teachers tbh and a bit la la land.

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