Could you take a grey gap year?


The words ‘gap year’ may bring up images of 18-year-olds dancing until dawn on Thailand’s beaches, but now the term means so much more.


Third Age reports that the mature gap year market is booming and an increasing number of over-50s are embracing the travelling bug and taking career breaks to see the world.

A recent study by Halifax found just under half (49%) of 55 to 64 year olds in the UK would love to take a year out travelling. Reasons given for wanting to go include a desire to see more of the world and to give something back. And the so called ‘grey gappers’ actually may have more to offer volunteer placements than their more youthful counterparts, as years of work and life experience can make them valuable commodities.


At 53, physics teacher David Saunders, had been working full time for thirty years, when he decided to take the plunge and ask for a sabbatical.

He said: “I’d lived in the same town and worked in the same school for most of my life when it hit me, I needed to see the world. I’d been abroad before but it wasn’t until my children came back from travelling, telling me about the amazing things they had seen and done that I decided it was my time too. “I must admit I was a bit nervous. I took a year off and planned routes which I hoped would not be too party mad. However, I was really surprised at the mixture of travelers  there were people of all ages and everywhere I went I was made to feel welcome. Other than having my children, deciding to take a gap year was the best decision I have ever made.”

He added that he has gone back to work with more enthusiasm than ever before, and loves that his students have noticed how much more chilled out he is since his return. David stuck mostly to Asia, focusing on India, China and Japan, but really there is no hard or fast rule about where is best place for a grey gapper to head. In fact many of the most popular routes for the older traveler  are indeed the same as a younger explorer may take, though having a healthier bank balance may inspire more comfortable sleeping arrangements.

Travel may also be easier if it is financially possible to replace long bus journeys with short flights. Several travel companies have sprung up to help including Inspired Breaks and Year Out Group. And you will be in good company. A number of high profile over 50s have recently announced their plans to take trips, including Sir Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, Johann Rupert, founder and chairman of Richemont and Peter Voser, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell.

David added: “I don’t think there were any of my friends who weren’t jealous of my trip. In fact a few of them are in the process of planning sabbaticals themselves!”

(Article source: Third Age)

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