A gap year is a rite of passage for countless fresh-faced twenty-somethings who are straight out of university and eager to explore the world. However, this is increasingly popular with the over 50s who are developing a more “seize the day” attitude towards life in recent years. Perhaps inspired by our children’s exciting experiences, a new generation of ‘grown up gappers’ are determined to age with attitude by ditching a self-catering week in the Mediterranean for something a little edgier.
Fuelled by this new sense of wanderlust, many of us in our autumn years are now volunteering abroad and swapping our suitcases for backpacks in far flung destinations including South America, Thailand and the Far East. And why on earth not? The ancient city of Machu Picchu in Peru won’t discover itself you know!
Naturally, we are more cautious than our younger counterparts when it comes to slinging our backpacks over our shoulders and heading out into the big, beautiful world. And, there are probably a hundred reasons why you think you can’t go. But when you really think about it, this is the ideal age for a spot of gratuitous globetrotting as it’s only now that many of us have the time, resources and life experience to travel. Although it’s a cliché to say it, the world really is your oyster and you’ll be blown away by all you can get up to in a year. Plus, why should we let younger people have all the fun?
Travelling is an ideal way to see new places, meet new people and learn new ways of thinking, even at our stage in life. In fact, travelling is an instinctive curiosity that’s inherent in most people – some just choose not to exercise it out of habit or fear of the unknown. But if we’ve whet your appetite already, then have a look at some of these ideas to get the travel ball rolling, so to speak.
Maybe you fancy helping in a third world country such as Ethiopia, teaching English in local schools for free? As a volunteer, you’ll live and work alongside local professionals helping improve the quality of life for those who need it most. Furthermore, you’ll experience a different culture in a way few people can. There are countless organisations in need of help around the world and the UK’s Voluntary Service Overseas is a good first port of call.
Camino de Santiago
Arguably one of the most famous pilgrimages in the world, thousands of people of all ages walk this well-trodden route* across the north of Spain to the Galician city of Santiago de Compostela each year. You don’t have to be religious to do it and if you set off from the traditional starting point in the south of France, the walk will take you around six weeks to complete. You can also start from most European countries if you want to make it longer. Interested? Watch the Hollywood film ‘The Way’ to help get you in the mood.
A round-the-world trip of a lifetime
Have you always wanted to visit South America, Australia and the Far East? Perhaps visiting the Great Wall of China* raises an eye brow? Round the world flights with multiple stops are more reasonable than you think. Plus, you could rent out your house to academics while away to help cover the costs of your travel. Registration with www.sabbaticalhomes.com costs as little as £21 and they specialise in putting landlords in touch with academics all over the world – saving thousands in estate agents’ fees.
Learn a language
Why not spend a year abroad learning a new tongue or polishing a language you already know? You could learn Spanish in Argentina, Portuguese in Brazil or even Chinese in Shanghai. In order to supplement your income, you could also teach English while you are away. Visit www.tefl.com for more information.
If all else fails, stick a pin in a map of the world and have fun finding an adventure. You could cycle around Cuba, take a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway, climb Mount Kilimanjaro*, back pack across Europe or snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef†.
However, most importantly and regardless of how long you are going for, don’t dream of leaving home without travel insurance. If you are investing in the trip of a lifetime, you don’t want to spoil it by penny-pinching and finding yourself out of pocket in an emergency situation.
So why not arm yourself with a passport, a YOLO attitude (you only live once), a Staysure policy and book that gap year holiday? You know you want to!