For many, the term gap year is synonymous with either 18 or 21-year-old school leavers going off to Thailand to get wasted and ride elephants. But once you enter the real world of work, surely it’s time to give up any ambition to travel the world – you’ve got a career now and bills to pay. However, things have changed. Gap years are now acceptable for older people – in fact, doing so after your 25th birthday is probably one of the best times to go travelling. Read on to find out why!
Reinvigorate your post-university life
What’s the last major life changing event that’s happened to you since leaving university? Sure, you may have started a career and possibly met that special someone, however compared to pre-graduation life, it’s probably starting to feel like life is slowing down a little.
You may have moved on from working in retail to starting your career in the last four to eight years, but is it really what you want to do long-term? You may have moved out of the family home, but do you really want to stay put in your current town or city, or do you want to explore the world at least just a little bit before you settle down for good?
Your mid to late 20s is the ideal time to go on a gap year because by now, you should have the perfect mix of financial resources (provided you’ve been smart and put some of your money away) and lack of major responsibilities such as having children in tow or a huge mortgage to pay off (and even if you do, you can always rent out your house for a source of income while you travel!)
Plus, it’s a great opportunity to come back with some fresh creativity and new ideas about where you want to go with your career for when you get back. Speaking of which…
Fewer worries about your return
One thing that put me off about taking a gap year before heading off to university was that I’d be a year behind my peers when it came to starting my first year – which already seemed like a big adventure in it’s own right. Why would I want to put off going to university? It sounds amazing!
Then, once I graduated in 2011, spunking all my savings on a round the world trip seemed like a very bad idea, as I’d be left in a highly competitive graduate job market with a heavily depleted bank account and very few marketable skills. The primary objective for me at that point was to get some work experience under my belt and get a decent job so I wouldn’t have to continue leeching off my parents.
Fast forward five years, and things are very different. I’ve built up a decent career and have a much more positive outlook on my employability. Chances are, it’s the same for you. By your mid to late 20s, you’re likely to have built up at a good reputation, earned some pay rises and promotions, and gained some new skills along the way, all of which improving your job prospects.
That means two things for budding backpackers who haven’t yet taken the plunge. First, you should have a cash buffer available for when you get home, giving you time to get a job without having to rely on the state or the Bank of Mum and Dad. Second, because you already have marketable skills and several years experience under your belt, you’ll also find it much easier to get straight back into business.
As you’re now much more employable than you were at aged 18 or 21, it will be much easier to return to work after your travels. You’ve probably worked hard to get where you are today, but heading off on a gap year doesn’t mean you’ll throw that all away, you’re highly likely to start again exactly where you left off, if not higher!
More money means you can travel on your terms
Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does help pay for a few modest luxuries on your gap year trip. For example, you can fly or take the train instead of taking a long distance bus. If you’re taking a night train, you can upgrade from a seat to a bed. You’ll have more money to do activities along the way, and you might not have to work a bar job while you travel just to make ends meet.
As you’ll have some well-honed skills from your years of experience in the job market, you may also be able to pick up some freelance work, which can be done remotely and on your terms – an aspiration of many travel bloggers. As a result of being higher skilled than you would have been when you were 18, you’ll also not have to work as many hours as you can charge a higher hourly rate!
Ultimately, with more money and better opportunities for freelance work along the way, you’ll have more freedom to travel on your terms, which is difficult for many 18-21 year olds without savings they’re prepared to burn through or experience they can draw upon for freelance work.
You might even have a better experience
At the prospect of going on a gap year, your younger self might have wanted to spend that time partying every night (or as close to that as humanly possible). At that point in your life, clubbing is still new and exciting, but by the time you’re in your mid to late twenties, that probably sounds less appealing.
Yes, you’ll still want to experience some awesome nightlife every so often, but you’ll also have learnt that having a good time isn’t necessarily correlated with the number of Jägerbombs you’ve downed. Once you’ve discovered that clubbing is pretty much the same everywhere around the world (apart from in Berlin), you’ll also want to plan your trip around some more cultured experiences and activities. You might even get a chance to experience the places you visited during the day time!
Possibly the most profound difference is that somewhere around the age of 22 to 24, going to a museum out of choice becomes an acceptable thing to do (unless it’s Amsterdam’s sex museum, which is a different story). If you have even the slightest interest in history, trust me, you’ll be hitting all the cold war museums in your next tour around the former Eastern Bloc, or if you studied art when you were 16, you’ll be deciphering the meaning behind the paintings in the Louvre for hours.
You’ll probably also be more keen to just relax and take things slow, whether it’s hopping onto a tour bus around the city, relaxing in the local park or trying the local cuisine. Ultimately, your trip will probably be more varied once nightlife isn’t the only thing on your mind.
Have you been on a gap year?
What’s the best age to go on a round the world trip in your opinion? Did you travel at a young age and now don’t think you made the most of it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!