Friday, February 1, 2013

Welcome to Gap Month! + Win a round-the-world Gap Year

With the advent of cheaper airfare and crowdsourced accommodations (hey air BnB!), round-the-world-trips aren't as rare as they used to be. Spurred by an-Eat, Pray, Love-like-trend soccer moms, twenty-somethings, and retirees alike are heading out, backpack (or Manolo Blahniks) in tow to 'find themselves'.

They are all taking, in essence, a Gap Year: a year to test their limits, get to know the world around them, and figure out their place in it while working, volunteering, or traveling.

I'll be exploring the Gap Year phenomena by launching GAP MONTH on Mike and Jess in Malta this February. Each Wednesday (let's call it Gap day) we'll chat with people who have taken Gap Years,  and we'll explore the kind of travel destinations and work/volunteer opportunities you might fill a Gap Year with.

Today I'll start by introducing a global contest that might see you catapulted into the Gap Year experience of a lifetime.

In a post-2008 world, many in my generation (born somewhere between 1980 and 1990) have unwittingly found themselves in a Gap Year. But not many have the resources to do what so many of us with itchy feet dream of - to use that year to travel.

But what if you could? Where would you go? What would you pack?

Havana Club Rum launched a Gap Year contest this January. The winner will be sent on a 12 month Gap Year to 12 different countries around the world, starting in July 2013.

To sweeten the pot, in each city the winner will be mentored by a local expert: a DJ in Tokyo, a photographer in Buenos Aires, a chef in Melbourne, an artist in Berlin, a Cantinero in Havana, a travel writer on the Trans-Siberian railway across Russia, Mongolia, and China (to name a few). Not only is it the ultimate Gap Year trip, it's the ultimate in global networking.

Plus, Havana Club has cleverly organized this itinerary to coincide with some incredible festivals and events: Carnival di Santiago de Cuba in July, The Notting Hill Carnival in August, Festes de la Merce in Barcelona in September, Australia Day in January, and Carnival in Rio in February.

And the part that makes me most green with envy? The winner will get to work at the legendary Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris!

the Havana Club Gap Year itinerary: Havana, London, Barcelona, Berlin, Toronto, Tokyo, Melbourne, Rio de Janeiro, Valparaiso, Beunos Aires, Paris, Moscow, & Beijing

The winner of the Gap Year will also be filming and photographing their experiences, sharing their story with the world on a dedicated travel blog. And what a story it will be.

Let's do some quick math: a 60 second video for 365 days (22.8 million seconds) of travel? Sounds like a good deal to me.

You can enter Havana Club's Gap Year contest by submitting a short video on Facebook (60 seconds max) describing the three things you would take with you, and the three things you would leave at home, if you won.

Facebook users will vote on the best videos, and the 5 videos with the most votes from each country will be interviewed by Havana Club, who will select a national finalist.

Each participating country (Malta included!) will be sending their national finalist to Havana for 5 nights to compete for the grand, global prize.

When I was contacted by Havana Club Rum Malta to chat about this contest, we agreed that even this second-place prize is amazing. Cuba will never be the same as it is today. The chance to see Cuba now, while its on the verge of big change? Truly, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

And the chance to experience a round-the-world Gap Year trip with a unique Cuban flavour?

That might just change your world.

Head over to Havana Club Malta's Facebook page to check out the videos and enter the competition, which closes on March 1st, 2013.

There are only three entrants in Malta so far, so if you're Malta-based, your chances of becoming a finalist are pretty good.

I think this contest is really fantastic (and if I wasn't writing my thesis this summer I'd be entering in a heartbeat), because something else happened post-2008. (Besides a craze for Eat, Pray, Love inspired sabbaticals.)

We learned to enjoy the simple things. Good food, good company, good drinks, good music. Sure, we're still plugged in and tuned in, insistently documenting all those simple things (and don't let anyone tell you that makes them less genuine, less meaningful or powerful.) But since 2008, we've all learned to take a cue from the Cubans, and, amidst financial and personal challenges, reach for the good life.

Cheers to that.

- Jess

ps. Check back next Wednesday for more of Gap Month!
pps. I loved this great BBC documentary about Cuba

images via: 1, 2 & 3 - courtesy of Havana Club,  4 (by michael eastman), 5, 6, 7 - couresty of Havana Club

+ disclosure: I was not monetarily compensated by Havana Club Malta to promote this contest.
I did, however, get to sample their rum.
And Mike (the mojito master) and I can vouch that it is superb.


  1. So looking forward to this new series Jess!

  2. Thanks! I'm really excited about it :)

  3. This is such an AMAZING contest! If I wasn't in the middle of Master's I would enter in a heartbeat!



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