Taking a long planned break and stepping off the treadmill of the everyday grind can be scary if you haven't done anything like it before, but seeing thousands of young graduates and students heading off into more exotic climes can make taking a career break a lot more tempting.
'Gap year' is a phrase that's been taken and marketed towards the youth of today, but a career break is essentially the same thing - taking time out after working for a long time and using your skills and initiative to travel to those places you've always dreamed of. Don't limit gap years to younger generations, middle-aged people having a mid-life crisis or wealthy people with a huge savings account - you can do it too, and it's pretty easy.
Your gap year doesn't have to mean following the trend and visiting the latest resorts in Australia and Thailand. If you're older you're more likely to have seen some more of the world than the youngsters travelling to 'find themselves' on party islands with bungee-jumps every five miles. Take this opportunity to fulfill some lifelong ambitions, such as diving with dolphins, trekking across a glacier or discovering lost cities amongst the jungles. Maybe you've fancied learning the tango in Argentina, or volunteering in South America, teaching in Asia or helping conserve wild animals in African nature reserves - you can do all this and have that rewarding feeling at the end of it.
There are some programmes out there specifically for adult backpackers and gap year travellers, allowing them enough space away from the younger gap year student-types for them to have their own experiences, but exploring the same destinations or undertaking the same sort of voluntary projects.
Taking time out of work - especially such a significant amount of time out of work - isn't as easy as taking all that spare time at the end of your exams and using it to go travelling with. With great professional accomplishment comes great responsibility, and asking for such a large amount of time off could basically mean you have to leave your job. If this is the case, ensure that when you're saving for your trip, you include an extra amount of cash to cover living costs after you return and are looking for a job.
Saving for your trip is easy enough - balance out your income between things like mortgages, bills and other necessary costs, then use some of the rest of your disposable income to go towards your trip. Break down aspects of your trip like transport costs, accommodation and things you want to do by cost, and remember to add in things like travel insurance, vaccinations, things you need to buy and daily food and drink costs and then you'll know how much you'll have to save. Once you have a lump figure to aim towards, you'll be able to track how much more you need to save.
Remember that in terms of staying safe, longstay travel isn't much different to going on holiday- separate your cash and travel documents and keep them safe, don't flash valuables, keep an eye on your drink at all times, never accept drinks from strangers, don't travel alone at night, those sorts of things.
The most important thing is that you use your time out to gain a new perspective on life, whether it's merely a reflective look on your life and deciding where to go from here, or whether experiencing another culture has meant that you have a totally different idea about life - travelling will almost certainly change you as a person. If you're more interested in starting to work again after your travels, the experiences you will have on your gap year will look great on your CV, especially if you've undertaken voluntary work or something which utilises your special skills, gaining you skills which might come in useful in your current or future career path. Ultimately - your gap year is what you make of it, and you definitely don't have to miss out on anything just because you're older than the average gap year traveller. Whatever your travelling dreams, don't put it off and get going!
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