Written by Hannah Lazarus

E4’s comedy-drama Gap Year is an entertaining and utterly relatable tale of travelling in new cultures and new countries, with old and new friends. Feeling out of your depth when you’re in a new environment or foreign culture is not an uncommon experience, and Tom Basden’s Gap Year takes this to a whole new level.

The show centres on the relationships of hometown friends Dylan (Anders Hayward) and Sean (Ade Oyefeso), and reluctant college acquaintances Ashley (Brittney Wilson) and May (Alice Lee). Greg (Tim Key) – the students’ enthusiastic and unlikely travelling companion – brings even more comic relief to Gap Year, with his optimistic and frankly refreshing state of mind. While the first-time travellers bicker and fall out, Greg plays the part of the worldly companion who, despite his eccentric character, stays faithful as a good and reliable friend to the rest of the group.

From China to Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Nepal, the group’s adventures lead them into more than a few sticky situations, and to some surprising personal realisations. When you’re travelling with a group, whether it be best friends or someone you met at the train station the day before, there’s bound to be some tension. Dylan and Sean are best friends at home, but it only takes a few hours in a new environment for them to butt heads. It’s the classic travelling companionship of the over-zealous planner and the way-too-laid-back friend. Heeding the words of the weathered travel writer Sam at the very start of the series, the group keeps trying hard to have the most ‘authentic’ experience abroad, looking for the ‘real’ Asia, but ultimately falls into the same old tourist traps and travelling clichés.

Gap Year captures all the problems you might encounter if you go abroad in a light-hearted and relatable way. It shows what can happen if you’re not aware of the different cultural practices and local laws. Despite the show’s humour, the topics covered by the show, like buying and taking drugs, and engaging in illicit behaviour in monasteries, can have more serious consequences than what happened to May, Ashley, Greg, Dylan and Sean. If Gap Year demonstrates one thing, it’s that it pays to know a little about the places you’re travelling to beforehand, so you don’t find yourself having to deal with the authorities, or even behind bars.

As the gang parts ways in the final episode, Ashely and Sean promise to embark on another adventure, this time to South America. Who knows if they’d run into the same troubles and excitement of their trip to Asia, but it would almost certainly be another example of a well-meaning cultural adventure, with highs and lows, and the amazing spontaneity of travel so perfectly captured by Basden’s comedy series.

For country-specific advice on the destinations in the show, take a look at FCO Travel’s updated website, at http://travelaware.campaign.gov.uk and for advice on how to cope with the law and prisons abroad, browse Prisoner’s Abroad’s website now.

Catch up on all 8 episodes of Gap Year on All 4 now. #TravelAware