A gap year conjures up the image of our precious treasures taking off into never-never land while we endure a nerve-wracking experience for the full time that they are away! The experience is never as bad as the thought! A gap year used to be the preserve of the school-leaver who had little responsibility and itchy feet. World-wide, it appears that the traditional year-off adventure is being ditched.
And now the term “gap year” is starting to take on a different kind of meaning for mid-lifers. The mature gap year market is taking off. Many over-50s and 60s are taking the travelling bug seriously, packing up their backpacks or small suitcases, and taking off on both lengthy and short foreign and local adventures. Leaving the monotony of daily life, grey gappers either take a short or long sabbatical from work or plan their adventure for early in retirement. Research in Canada found that nearly 50% of 55-64 year olds would give their eye teeth to have a gap year. The study reveals that the over-65s reveal that they wished they had travelled more when they were young – this is very true of South Africans who were not as easily able to travel in the sixties and seventies due to restrictive passports. Nowadays, grey gappers, while envying the mobility of the youngsters, are busy evaluating their lives to see how they can fill their need to visit must-see destinations and experience that once-in-a-lifetime happening.
Grey gappers have a desire to see the world and if time allows, they also like to give something back. Their life experience, work skills and knowledge make them valuable commodities. The grey gappers gap year can be defined as a working holiday that lasts for six months or more, or a shorter holiday to an adventurous destination.
Lyn and Rob are taking a short sabbatical from their “day jobs”. They have decided to stop talking about their number one grey gapper bucket list adventure and have decided “Let’s just do it!”. They head off to the Masai Mara in August in the hope of enjoying the migration. They are still trying to get their heads around their newly adopted “can-do” attitude.
Janet, widowed three years ago, has been teaching English as a foreign language in Thailand for four months – a dual purpose gap year – to immerse herself into a different community and to add coffers to her retirement fund.
The mature traveller has a greater sense of freedom in comparison to his younger counterpart. The thought of time spent away from normal life doing something extraordinary fuels their attitude towards global travel.
And what’s YEI’s take on this – just go for it! We take the view that if you really want to do something, you will make it happen! Don’t live this life with regrets – it’s not worth it.
We invite you to share your views with us.
As a potential grey gapper, you might be looking for ideas. Take a look at the following articles: