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Solo 18 year old girl - gap year

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Hello!

I am a mature, independent, go-with-the-flow 18 year-old girl from Chicago and I will be taking a gap year before college next year. I plan on staying abroad for about 10 months and I would like to go to the UK, Germany, Spain, India, Nepal, and Thailand for starters. After deducting airfare and insurance, I have budgeted myself for about $3500. I will be doing a archaeological program in Spain for 20 days, and I have family and friends in Germany, London, Spain, India, and Nepal that I can stay with for at least a couple of days. Staying in hostels and any other cheap accommodation is also completely okay with me. I also plan on volunteering through HelpX and wwoof as much as I can to help keep costs down (and I would really like to see the country from a different side). I have travelled before to Guatemala, Mexico, Italy, England, and Greece, but never by myself.

I have a few general questions and any advice or feedback is greatly appreciated!

1. I want to keep the trip as spontaneous as possible (while having a general itinerary), but everything is cheaper if it’s booked way in advance. Does anyone have any tips as to how to stay flexible on a budget?
2. Travel: Rtw ticket or major flights (Chicago to Europe, Europe to Asia, Asia to Chicago) and rails/buses?
3. Is it better to connect with people on HelpX/wwoof while abroad and as I go (keeping spontaneity in mind)?
4. Any places I should detract or add to my list? Safety is definitely a priority (for my parents and I). I love history, going off the beaten track, experiencing new cultures, so I am open to any place suggested!

I appreciate answers to one or all questions. Thanks in advance!

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