Think ‘gap year’ and you might imagine students pulling beers in London or drinking out of buckets in Thailand. But it’s not just 20-somethings investing time and money on ticking off their travel bucket list.
Last year, Australian bookings agency Travel Associates, whose customers are typically aged over 45, reported a 29% spike in open-ended bookings —which suggests a growing number of older Australians are setting off on a life-enriching international adventure. so, what’s really behind the trend?
Your kids have grown up. You’re taking a step back from work. You’re financially comfortable.
According to demographer Bernard Salt, “Today’s generation of 50-and-60-somethings are at the right time of their lives to travel. Kids have finally left home, you’ve left the workforce, your health is good and the Australian dollar is good.”
Less commitments means “all of a sudden, you’re free to follow your heart’s desire for the first time in 30 or 40 years”.
For Fay Knight, 58, a stressful work situation led her to resign from her job and spend five months travelling through Asia in 2010.
“I’d operated on overdrive for so long as a sole parent and it had been ages since I’d been able to focus on myself,” she explains.
“Both my kids had left home and I took this as a chance to think, where else might I live? My daughter took a year off to travel, and I thought, ‘Why can’t I?’ ” but is there a short-term alternative?
Gap years don’t necessarily mean leaving the workforce altogether, but they can be a springboard to a more flexible arrangement.
“You might take a year off to travel but when you come back, work part-time,” adds Salt.
For some, it’s a way to re-energise and consider a new path. Returning from Asia, Knight switched from a career in journalism to corporate communications.
“Now, I’m much more self-confident and found I really crave a challenge,” she admits.
By changing her “default setting to saying yes”, she reinvigorated her health, career and confidence levels. We’d say yes to that, too