Gap years are no longer the domain of students on a shoe-string budget. More and more people are taking time out from their careers in their 40s and 50s and a significant number of people are choosing to embark on extended travels when they retire.
After years of work and saving, older gap year travellers generally have a bigger budget to enjoy. So rather than bed bug-ridden hostels and cramped buses they may choose to spend more on a little luxury. You can still throw yourself off a cliff attached to an elastic rope or career down a wild river on a raft but you can afford a comfy bed, hot shower and a slap up meal at the end of the day. Just make sure that your senior travel insurance covers the more adventurous activities!
Generally Gap Years are about getting off the beaten track and heading to exotic destinations where you can experience new cultures, be on your own or interact with local life. Look out for home-stay options where you can stay with locals and join in with their lives for a few days or even weeks.
There are also plenty of worldwide schemes that match you up to volunteering options, from working in Orang-utanÂ reservesÂ inÂ Borneo, eco-education in Northern India or building schools in Malawi. Often these schemes will involve you paying a fee or contribution to the scheme and in return you will receive accommodation and full board as well as an incredible and fulfilling experience.
Of course you may be looking for something a little more exhilarating and physically challenging. There are no shortage of places in the world that offer white water rafting, coasteering, bungee jumping, mountain hiking, gorge climbing to name a few activities. You name it and whatever white-knuckle adventure you are looking for it is sure to be out there amid breath taking views. New Zealand and Canada are top destinations for adventure holidays and a trip to Argentina or Brazil also throws up some great action options.
Those looking for a more spiritual journey with rich history and architecture could head to countries in the Far East such as India, Nepal, China, Laos, and Thailand. There are ample opportunities to find out more about spirituality, get involved in meditation and yoga retreats and discover some awe inspiring, ancient man-made wonders. Imagine waking up for your morning yoga session with the Himalayas rising up in front of you, a truly incredible experience and surely one to awaken the soul.
It may be tempting to plan every last detail of your gap year journey, and indeed many people will, but a flexible and loosely planned itinerary will allow you to make the most of impromptu opportunities. Often the most memorable experiences of travelling are unplanned and made on a gut instinct or last minute decision.
Tips for planning ahead
There are however a few things you will need to make sure you have prepared and planned for in advance of your trip.
â— Most important is a passport that lasts for at least six months after your expected return date.
â— Visas for countries that require them can take time so donâ€™t leave this to the last minute.
â— Vaccinations often need to be done weeks in advance of your trip.
â— Health Insurance and general senior travel insuranceare a must when travelling abroad as health care and costs vary widely across the world. Make sure whatever you choose covers you for the various activities you are planning.
â— Money and currency can be a headache if you are travelling to multiple countries but these days there are several currency cards which are a safe and secure option, allowing you to transfer and carry money all over the world easily.
As they sayâ€¦ the world really is your oyster when you decide to travel in later life! Enjoy!
Written by Sharmilla Bousa