Go on a gap year and you can travel to exotic places and experience different cultures. However, to really get under the skin of a country and to give something back to the places you visit, why not spend some time volunteering?
Spend a gap year volunteering and you will have the chance to not only take part in programmes that benefit the local people and environment, but also develop new skills.
There are a range of opportunities available in countries throughout the world, so if you're looking for such work abroad there is bound to be something that matches your interests.
One popular activity for those keen to spend some time volunteering during their gap year travels is taking part in building projects.
This rewarding work sees you lend a helping hand in the construction of homes, schools and other developments in order to drive positive change in poorer communities.
But you don't have to worry that you'll need any specialist skills or knowledge prior to your trip, although this of course would be handy to have! You'll get shown how to carry out this work and you could be doing anything from digging footings and painting classrooms to renovating kitchens and installing water pipes.
If this sounds like a volunteering opportunity for you, you may want to consider spending some time in Thailand. Resources to build and renovate schools in the south-east Asian country are typically scarce, so coming here to help improve educational facilities will offer a real boost to the local community.
Another gap year experience you may want to consider being a part of is childcare.
Here, you will get the chance to play a key role in supporting and looking after young people, many of whom are disadvantaged and/or disabled, in countries such as India, Nepal and Peru.
But if you're planning on spending at least part of your gap year travelling through eastern Europe, you may want to help out in an orphanage in Moldova, assisting staff in ensuring that the children are safe and kept happy.
A really rewarding activity that you could take part in during your gap year is medical volunteering.
If you have the right qualifications you may even be able to work in hospitals and other facilities in areas such as first aid, malaria prevention and personal hygiene. However, if you don't have such skills you'll still be able to go on worthwhile placements that will help drive positive change for people throughout Africa and Asia.
One destination you could visit on this kind of gap year is Kenya, where you can work to improve the lives of people affected by HIV and Aids in Nairobi, as well as get the opportunity to learn some Swahili.
But if you're a budding athlete, a great way to spend your gap year could be to teach others your sporting skills. From coaching cricket in New Zealand to helping young people in South Africa learn how to surf, there is bound to be an opportunity for you to stay active while travelling and seeing the world.
However, you needn't worry that there won't be any free time for you to explore the countries you are volunteering in. Whether you've been spending your days looking after youngsters or helping to build homes, you'll generally have the evenings and weekends free to do as you please.
This will allow you to see more of the destinations you are in and take part in exciting activities; for example, when volunteering in India you can combine your time working with poor children with trekking through Goa and learning ancient yoga and meditation techniques.
With so many experiences available, you are sure to find volunteering a worthwhile and rewarding activity to take part in during your gap year.