By Holly Barry, @HJBarry
If you’re well into your professional career and are considering taking a gap year, don’t be alarmed. After many years of working hard with little respite, it’s natural to reach a crossroads and reassess whether the current path you are travelling down is still the right path for you. With a good few years of professional experience under your belt, now might be the time to broaden your horizons and head off to do some overdue travelling.
It’s a commonly held stereotype that gap years are exclusively for the younger generations but don’t let this put you off. As a mature adult, a gap year is something that you may appreciate more than the younger generation. If you’re undecided about taking time off to travel, we have put together a brief guide that may sway you to indulge in your wanderlust.
Obstacles and Solutions
There are many reasons why people choose to take time off from their careers, whether it is raising a family, further education or illness. But, taking time off to travel is unlikely to factor into your choice to have a break. This could be because the idea of leaving your job with nothing to return to is a terrifying prospect, maybe you have a mortgage and a family or perhaps funds are too tight. Although the idea of slinging a rucksack on your back and hopping on a flight may initially seem an impossible feat with all of these concerns, it is not as unachievable as it may first appear.
If it’s funds that are keeping you from your dream trip, reassess where you spend your finances. Do you have unnecessary outgoings? If you own a car that will only sit on your driveway whilst you travel, consider selling it. Are you getting the best deals from your amenity providers? Could you spend a few more weekends in?
If this still won’t cut it there are a number of ways to work during your gap year. Teaching English abroad is an excellent way to make money and travel. As English is one of the most desirable languages in the world there is a huge demand for instructors. Many schools also prefer more mature teachers as they are seen as more knowledgeable and reliable. For more information and job opportunities have a look at eslcafe.com. Woofing, or fruit picking, is another great way to earn money that requires no training, involves the outdoors and offers a welcome break from responsibility. If your job allows, you could also consider working remotely whilst on your travels. For more information on the logistics of your working gap year and how to plan, visit the YouGov website.
If it’s your job that you are concerned about, look into the possibility of a paid or unpaid sabbatical, which would allow you to return to your position at the end of your break. Many large corporations offer sabbaticals to employees who have been with them for two or more years. Smaller companies also offer sabbaticals but this is a little less common. Remember that if you do take a sabbatical, your company may stipulate that you can’t do paid work during your break and your pension and salary are usually frozen.
Where a sabbatical is not always possible, bear in mind that if you are feeling disenchanted and uninspired by your job, time taken to travel can inspire you, give you a well-needed break and help you meditate on your next step. Remember that as a mature adult you have a breadth of experience unparalleled by the younger generation that won’t disappear in a year. As well as this, travelling demonstrates an adventurous and ambitious spirit that can give you an edge over competitors upon your return. You could fulfil a lifelong ambition of learning a new language, which is also an excellent professional advantage.
With regards to family worries, travelling can help to relieve stresses and tensions that have been accumulating in day-to-day life. Going it alone could give you some well-needed headspace, whilst travelling with your partner could reinvigorate your relationship, which may have been neglected because of professional responsibilities and the daily grind. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your children for any length of time, consider doing a family friendly gap year. You would have to tailor your gap year to the needs of your child by forgoing noisy hostel rooms, avoiding countries with dangerous viruses and diseases like Malaria, and ensuring that everything is clean and hygienic. Beware, this may come at a considerably larger cost. Travel Nation has some great tips on what to consider for your family friendly gap year.
The Benefits of Mature Gap Years
A great thing about taking a mature gap year is that as an adult you know exactly what you want and what you like. As an 18 year old you might have opted to spend your travel funds on full moon parties surrounded by other English teens. But as an adult you know what you’re interested in and how to make the most of your time, whether that’s relaxing on a beach with a great book, visiting art galleries and museums, or doing a guided culinary tour of the cities you visit.
A mature gap year also affords you the opportunity to give back through volunteering, which you may not have had the time for during your busy professional life. You might already have an idea of what kind of charity work you would like to do, but if not there are lots of options available. These include environmental work, archaeological digs, animal care projects, marine conservation, or culture and conservation projects. As somebody with years of professional experience you no doubt have a range of skills and knowledge to offer, you will therefore be a valuable asset to any volunteering team.
Final Tips and Safety Advice
If this is your first time travelling it might be worth considering travelling with a friend. It’s a great opportunity to catch up and reconnect, spending quality time together and making memories. As well as this you may feel safer and less anxious about the trip to come. The downside to travelling with a friend is that you might have to compromise on activities, and your much-needed alone time may be limited.
Whilst travelling in pairs is safer, you may decide that you want to go it alone. If this is the case there are a few precautions that you should take on board. Never hire a taxi off of the street, instead always get your hotel to book it for you. If this isn’t possible, research the official taxi services in the area that you visit. Unfortunately, if you’re a lone-female traveller you may have to consider the way that you dress, as it could make you a target. Again research is essential, but if in doubt dress conservatively. Learn a couple of phrases in the local language so that you can ask for help if you need to, and always let people know where you are headed by social media or text. Don’t carry around large sums of cash and walk and talk with confidence.
If you are still toying with the idea but are not yet sold, research from the American professor and Karl Pillemer should convince you. He surveyed thousands of elderly people regarding the most important lessons they have learned throughout their lives and discovered that not travelling when they were able to featured as one of their biggest regrets. The elderly interviewed advised those who can to stop worrying and get out and do it. So get planning, get saving and get on your trip of a lifetime!