Why should only our youngest have all the fun? Don’t you think?
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Everyone is volunteering in Cambodia…
Going on an exchange in Stockholm…
Learning Mandarin in Beijing…
But what about a gap year for the matured ones? Is the nomadic adventure limited only to young people without ties? It shouldn’t be!
Gap years should have no age limit regardless of what everyone says! They’ll tell you that seeing people in their fifties travelling the world is not exactly a poster for coolness and that you no longer need to travel the world trying to find yourself. Lies, lies and more lies! If you want a gap year, why not? Do your work commitments make it impossible? Why not ask for the chance to do your work online? If they trust you – which I’m sure they do – they will know you can do your work wherever you are. They may even be happy about having an additional empty desk at the office!
And it doesn’t have to be just for one year! Your gap year can go on for one, two, three, or as many years as you want! It’s only a matter of planning and having the right mindset. A gap year in your 50s is the perfect opportunity to break away from stereotypes and unwanted commitments, explore this wonderful world, and even learn new skills!
Who can afford a gap year to travel the world?
Anyone! Is your home paid for? Rent it out and travel around places where the standard of living is more affordable! Do you still owe part of your mortgage? More of the same! If you rent it out, it would pay for itself. Are you renting your current accommodation? You can rent in another country, can’t you? Or in several.
Imagine what you can explore while roaming around the world! How about writing that book you’ve been wanting to write for years? How about teaching English or creating your own digital business? Now’s your chance!
Where can the over 50s traveller go for a gap year?
Wherever you want. International travel is more affordable than ever. However, there’s no denying that some countries are still more accessible than others.
But think about specific issues that might be important for you as a traveller over 50:
- Are you going to need access to medical facilities? A route through central and eastern Europe could be ideal for you.
- Prefer a hot climate? Maritime Asia (Southeast Asia) offers you wonderful possibilities!
What types of activities can I do during my gap year at 50+?
The sky is the limit! Short-term opportunities range from volunteering to marine research to teaching English.
Many organisations can help you sort out your volunteering options. Projects Abroad and International Volunteer HQ, for example, offers volunteering programs for people over 50 in the form of:
- • Senior Environmental Volunteering in Galapagos – you’ll travel to these fascinating islands to assist with conservation and community work.
- • Senior Cultural Volunteering in Cambodia – an experience that will allow you to immerse yourself in Khmer culture and history.
- • And you can even travel to Nepal to support disadvantaged helpers!
Would you rather learn a language? Who says you can’t master Mandarin in your 50s? What about learning a skill that has always fascinated you? How about learning how to play the saxophone in New Orleans, for example?! Or simply enjoy the tranquillity in a small village in Sweden and help a local family with their day to day? As I said, the possibilities are endless!
What about the costs?
That is totally up to you! In a way, you are taking control of your destiny for a year, two or however many years you feel like travelling abroad.
Choose a country with a low cost of living or offer some service in exchange for accommodation and food. Or exchange houses!
You can trust an agency, or you can plan your own gap year.
Fortunately, the possibilities that the internet has opened for all of us today are endless. There are management, exchange, accommodation and planning platforms of all kinds that facilitate every step you take on the road to your new life (even if only temporary).
What about my house? My car? My children?
Try not to impose any mental barriers on yourself. Would your children do that if they had the opportunity to travel the world like this? I don’t think so! But, yes, I know you’re going to miss them, I do, too, every time I travel, tremendously! But why not take the opportunity to meet you occasionally in some of the beautiful destinations you are visiting during your gap year? Can you imagine a family reunion in Vietnam or a few days sailing through the Adriatic together?
And material objects… Well, they are just that, material objects. And they can be sold, recycled, gifted, and replenished if necessary.
Your house? Rent it or leave it in the hands of a trusted manager to advertise it on Airbnb.
And my health?
You know your limits. And you know if you can walk 25 km a day or if that’s going to be a problem. Or whether that’s exactly what you need! Are you worried about falling ill in an unknown location? With good travel insurance, it doesn’t have to be any problem. More and more insurance providers are designing sabbatical-oriented programs for 50-year-old travellers.
And remember that, more often than not, many of our health problems result from bad eating and lifestyle habits that we’ve formed throughout our lives. Travelling for a while can help you eliminate those bad habits and recover the energy you thought you had lost.
But is it worth all this trouble? There is only one way to find out! Sometimes life gets in the way.
We are blinded by work, mortgages, children, college payments and even by our commitment to the family pet! (And I love pets, don’t get me wrong!)
But, let me refer back to the same question I asked you at the beginning of this article: what about you? What about the dream you had when you were young, and you desperately wanted to go to Japan? Or travelling through Russia with the Trans-Siberian? Or getting lost in the Canadian peaks? Don’t you think this could be the right time? When then?
There you have it…