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When might you take a grown-up gap year?

There are many reasons a person may take a gap year as a grown-up so there isn’t a time limit on travelling the world.

People often assume the only time you can take a gap year is at 18 years old or as a recent graduate. That’s because that’s when young adults go to celebrate finishing school. But that is not always the case. Can you take a gap-year as an older adult?

Gap years can be taken at any time and for any reason. Usually there is an event that makes people want to see the world for celebration or healing, but what’s to say you just want to go away for the sake of it? A gap year as a grown-up can be just as fun and beneficial as one you might take in your early 20s.

What’s better about going when you’re older is you have more life experience to put behind the trip so it might be better than you expect. Why should the younger generation get all the fun?!

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Is a gap year always a whole year?

It may sound like a silly question but it’s actually one of the most common questions asked about this type of trip. Since a year is a long time for many people to commit to, over the years the concept of a “gap year” has moulded into various different lengths depending on the type of adventure people desire.

Many of this trip type may actually be anywhere from 3 months to 12 months even though it’s named a year. The majority of sabbatical (work breaks) trips are around the 3 month mark yet are still categorised as a “gap year”. It would make more sense to name them gap trips since they are a gap in your life to focus on yourself.

Since working holiday visas are valid until only the age of 30 or 35 for some countries, grown-up traveller’s are ineligible for a WHV if they are already over this age bracket.

Note: The UK is in talks with Australia about extending the age to 35 for the WHV for British citizens. You can keep an eye on updates here.


When might you take a grown-up gap year?

handwritten note that reads "I'm a doctor now"

Celebrate finishing your extended studies

If you start university later than expected or have a goal of getting a doctorate or PHD for example, you could be studying well into your thirties. This means you are likely to miss out on the typical year out that many students take as a teen or in their early 20s.

After so long studying, you’re probably hoping for a little bit of freedom before you enjoy a life without studies for the first time. It could potentially be the first time you get to relax after a lifetime of building up your career & education so you know you will deserve it.

"take a break" written into a notebook -  a work break is one of the main reasons to take a grown-up gap year

to take a break from a long work service

If you work for the same company for many years, there are often ways for you to take a grown-up gap year as a reward break from work. These trips are also commonly known as sabbaticals and allow people to enjoy a trip and still have a job to come back to at the end.

This is a good way to live a little, enjoy yourself but knowing you have the stability to come back to a work position again. Many people get put off by long term travels due to needing to leave their job so this is a huge plus since that problem is eradicated.

This is a prime time to travel solo and there are so many benefits to travelling alone that you’d be silly not to!

two adults legs from the knees down and a pair of baby shoes placed between them

Before starting a family

Have you ever heard of a babymoon? Well, they’re on the rise! Most babymoons take place early in the pregnancy when a couple first discover the news and enjoy a week to themselves overseas. These days, it’s not uncommon to see a couple embark on a long term trip instead as their final chance at travelling alone before they start trying for their family.

Since it is much more complicated to travel with children, it is becoming more popular to see people travel on adventure trips before they settle into a completely new way of life as parents. It’s a good time to let loose and enjoy some private time as a couple before you welcome any children into the family.

two wedding rings on a dictionary - an extended honeymoon is another great reason to take a grown-up gap year

to celebrate getting married

This is pretty much an extended honeymoon. Usually, you might expect a couple to travel for 1 or 2 weeks after tying the knot but there are no rules saying all honeymoons have to be that length. When you get married, you’re about to embark on a new exciting stage of life with your partner so this is the perfect time to celebrate that next chapter and explore the world together.

Seeing the world with the love of your life can really help you share some exciting new memories with each other. Since so many people take a honeymoon anyway, what’s the harm in taking your time to see some places you’ve always wanted while celebrating your love?

neon change sign

big life events

It’s no surprise that people like to travel after enduring big life events. These events could be anything from purchasing your first house, completing a major project, coming into some money and more. For example if you come into a lot of money through work bonuses, or selling a property, you could be in a much better situation to take that dream trip that may have been out of budget previously.

If the life event is something positive people often use it as a reason to celebrate, and what better way to celebrate than to explore the world and treat yourself?

scrabble letters laid out to spell bereavement - bereavement is another reason to take a grown-up gap year

to help heal after a Bereavement

Taking a trip after suffering a loss is a way many people try to heal. This could be done by visiting the destinations they loved or taking a trip on their behalf. Many people think of travelling as a relaxing and sometimes therapeutic activity so it is regularly used as a way to heal and prepare for life going forward.

In many instances it can be hard to heal close to home surrounded by painful memories. So stepping into a temporary new environment allows them the time and space to heal on their terms and in their own time.

an alarm clock

They feel life is at a standstill

Some people decide to take a grown-up gap year without an event occuring. This can sometimes happen when you feel you’ve been in a routine for too long and want a bit of excitement. Maybe your life has been focused on one thing that you didn’t give yourself a chance to travel and you find your life stale and at a standstill.

When this happens, (sometimes categorised under the midlife crisis) people want to explore new places and activities to bring that wow-factor back into their life. Maybe you decide you’d like to scout out a new destination to move to if your current location doesn’t bring you joy or perhaps you just want to enjoy a trip to let your hair down.

Don’t let yourself focus on the downsides of travelling alone. Turn your trip into a way of improving yourself and your skills. Make it a positive experience.

neon coffee break sign

Career break before changing career completely

So this is similar to a sabbatical, but you don’t go back to the same work position. When you want to make a drastic career change, this should be treated as a large life change. Since you will no doubt need to learn some new skills and a new industry, it’s understandable that people want to take a break in between.

This can be a great time to relax and enjoy yourself before starting this new path. By travelling you can learn some worldly skills that you can even take with you into your next role with you and feel refreshed having taken that time out for yourself.

a graphic cartoon of a broken heart

To start a new life after a divorce or break-up

For those that have had a long term relationship or marriage breakdown, it can feel like your world is falling apart. Whether you believe it was for the best or not, it can still cause confusion and hurt while you try to move on. When you spend a long time with another person your life is entwined with theirs.

This is why it becomes common for people to travel after a breakup as a way of reinventing themselves and learning to be alone again. It’s often taken as an opportunity to do things you want to do without the need for compromises and using this time to move on from your past.

Just because you’re romantically alone doesn’t mean you have to travel alone, there are plenty of ways to find like-minded travel partners to enjoy the journey with.

an empty birds nest - becoming an empty nester is another reason for taking a grown-up gap year

To adjust to being empty nesters

Another popular time grown-up gap years take place is when a parent finds their house empty after all their children have left home. Since this usually happens when the children are adults themselves, you can expect people to be enjoying these new trips from 40 years and older.

After spending the last 18-25 years prioritising their children it’s no surprise these travellers want to enjoy themselves in a new way. Maybe you want to head to places you couldn’t afford before, or you have an interest in a place your children didn’t. Well, now’s the time to check it out.

garden scene with a string of bunting flags spelling out the word "retiring"

When starting your retirement

Often you’ll see new retiree’s treating themselves to a trip after a long life of working. When their pension comes though they often have the chance to get part of it in a lump sum and the rest of it on a monthly basis. When you’ve spent your entire life working your retirement should be enjoyed!

One of the most common types of grown-up gap year pensioners go on is a round-the-world cruise. That’s not to say that once you hit retirement age you have to book a cruise line too. If you’re physically able there is nothing stopping you ticking off your bucket list, in your senior years. The old saying goes, “you’re only as old as you feel”.

Not sure where to start with gap years? Check out these posts:


Any more reasons to take a grown-up gap year?

As you can see there are plenty of reasons people over the age of 25 might want to take a long term trip. Grown-up gap years allow people to experience a year abroad. Even if they missed the “usual” age to do so due to other life commitments.

So regardless of how your life is going, there is always the possibility that you can take an extended trip down the line when you have something to celebrate. Or maybe you want to welcome in a new chapter of your life.

Either way, you can make it a trip to remember!

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