Gap Years for Grown-Ups - Because You're Never Too Old for an Adventure

cleaning a beach
mark bowden/istock/getty images plus/ Getty Images 

by Hugh Morris, The Daily Telegraph, August 19, 2016

Jealously is an ugly color. So instead of bidding farewell to your son, daughter, niece or nephew, just to sit at home turning hues of green, show up your youngster as cautious by plotting a far more adventurous one of your own, perhaps calling it a “sabbatical”. There is a wealth of options. 

Rough and ready

Overland travel is a big, mean road trip for those who don’t mind getting their hands dirty. In parts of the globe where a hire car would not dare tread, a big truck can be your steed for anything up to nine months. Oasis Overland (01963 530113; ) offers trips all over the world, including a monster 40-week circuit of Africa (from £5,350, not including flights).

The Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO; 020 8780 7500; ) is one the most distinguished and experienced charities in the world. VSO sent 2,650 volunteers, aged 18 to 80, around the world in 2015 alone. Ideal for older travellers to make use of professional skills. 

Teach on the beach

A TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification provides holders with the chance to work in classrooms from the relative home of France or Spain to faraway lands like Ecuador or Cambodia. I to I (0113 205 4610; ) is a one-stop shop for the training (a minimum of 120 hours, generally), finding a job, and getting there. Once you’re qualified you can use teaching as an excuse for travel as you please. 

Born to lead

Volunteering is one thing but your experience might be better employed leading the volunteers. Some roles (adventure leader or medic, for example) require qualifications but there are positions such as project managers or communications officers available for anyone who wants to add a little productive structure to a career break. Raleigh (020 7183 1270; ) offers Lead and Support categories for anyone up to the age of 75, includ

Let your hair down

There’s nothing wrong with a career break centred on blowing the cobwebs away rather than giving something back. Grand American Adventures (0333 220 7209; ) does what it says on the tin and offers a range of “epic” journeys in, across and around the USA. The beauty of America is in its comfortable adventure (it’s safe, they speak English but it is still “epic”) and the potential to customise your trip. Great American’s packages include a 23-day camping trip along the John Muir Trail (from £2,709), a 22-day coast-to-coast drive from San Francisco to New York (from £3,149) and an 18-day tour of Alaska and the Arctic Circle (from £3,409). Prices do not include flights.

Why you should take a career break

Ann, from Tavistock, Devon, left her job as a primary school head and volunteered with the VSO in the Annapurna Foothills in Nepal, on a project to get more girls into education.

“After I retired I realised I had lots of skills that were useful in the developing world and felt too young to be sitting at home. I only planned to go for a year but ended up staying two. It was an amazing experience. We were only 20 miles from the epicentre of the earthquake [that hit the country in April 2015] and that was terrifying.

"You don't expect to have adventures like that in your 60s"

“We were offered repatriation but we could see there was so much to do. I have come back with increased confidence and knowledge. 

“It takes you out of your comfort zone and you gain as much from it as the people you’re helping. You don’t expect to have adventures like that in your 60s.”

Michael left his job as a financial services contractor in Manchester to volunteer on a sports and community project in Bolivia and then microfinance in Peru. He travelled with Kaya Responsible Travel ( ).

After five years in the same job with little prospect of change, I decided that I wanted to do something about it. As a financial services contractor and quality assessor, I often spent my days sweating over small details that just didn't seem to matter,” he said.

“Volunteering for me is about gaining experience, trying different things, getting out of my comfort zone and learning about myself, while at the same time doing something extremely rewarding. 

Michael, left, in Bolivia

"My four weeks so far have been an amazing experience. I'm based 45 minutes outside of La Paz, in a small town called Jupapina. I've been spending three mornings a week in a local nursery, three afternoons a week in a local children's home (where vulnerable children stay for up to three months) and another three sessions a week at an equine therapy centre that helps children with disabilities.

"At times, I've been taken back to my childhood - doing arts and crafts in the classroom or playing in the playground - and others have been particularly moving.

"Social media seems like it's full of inspirational quotes that don't seem to apply to real life, but simply put: I found myself in a situation that I wanted to change, with no good reasons not to. If that sounds like you, then go for it."


This article was written by Hugh Morris from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.