For a gap year spent embracing the great outdoors and trying adventurous activities, Canada is one destination that certainly ticks all the right boxes. As the second biggest country in the world, there is plenty of space to explore, with the Vancouver Island region - situated on the western coast - an especially exciting place to visit.
With this area consisting of more than 2,150 islands - spread out over a surface area of over 12,079 sq miles - you needn't worry about quickly running out of places to visit or things to do.
This significant surface area can, however, mean it is difficult to decide where exactly to head to, so in order to make the most of your time it's worth thinking about booking a Canadian yacht charter break. That way, you will have the means to cruise around the hundreds of isles here at your own pace and get a full flavour of what this astounding destination has to offer.
One place you should definitely make the effort to see is Desolation Sound, a beautiful set of fjords that is surrounded by towering mountains. Much like its name suggests, this is a great place to escape the pressure of modern life and reflect - something which many people are keen to do while on a gap year. Drop anchor in the middle of the tranquil waters and you can soon start to relax as you gaze out at the alpine-like scenery.
There's plenty of scope to be active too and if you're hoping to enjoy a little fishing during your time in Canada, you'll be glad to know salmon, oysters and prawns can be all caught here. You will, however, need to obtain a permit from the local authorities before you are able to cast a line.
Desolation Sound is also a great place for swimming and scuba diving, although if you are hoping to do the latter you will need to bring all the necessary equipment with you as there are no facilities in the area that sell or rent gear.
Of course, you don't have to spend your entire gap year in or on the water and Desolation Sound is also well-suited to hiking. Although the walk from Tenedos Bay to Unwin Lake can be completed fairly quickly, it offers a good way to experience the region from an alternative perspective.
As the Gulf Islands is typically regarded as being one of the best areas for water recreational activities in Canada, it is certainly worth incorporating the region into your gap year itinerary.
With the archipelago featuring hundreds of islands, you'll have plenty of places to explore. If you're hoping to go cycling, however, it's worth heading to larger isles such as Saturna and Mayne. It is here where you can pedal along twisty, hilly roads and soak up some amazing views. Remember to be extra-careful though, as there are no bike lanes or hard shoulders to use.
Given the region's - and Canada's as a whole - vast size, it should be unsurprising that you'll have the opportunity to spot fascinating wildlife. Whether you fancy strolling along the beach to look for crabs in rockpools or feel like going on a whale watching excursion - the orca and humpback are just two of the species swimming in the waters - make sure you pack binoculars and a camera in your rucksack so you're able to see these creatures in stunning detail.
If you would like to gain an insight into the region's cultural heritage, stop by Gabriola Island. Here, you can visit the Gabriola Museum, an institution that documents the entire history of the isle and contains stone petroglyphs carved by its aboriginal inhabitants. You can also learn more about how European immigrants settled on the island following its discovery by Spanish explorers, as well as visit the weekly farmers' market to sample organic produce, including fresh clams and mussels.
The stalls also sell a range of locally made crafts, while the nearby nine-hole golf course enables you to put your sporting skills to the test before you hop back in your yacht and explore the rest of the Gulf Islands.