Backpackers welcome a new generation: stressed-out executives

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The Independent Online

They are gap-year backpackers who trek through the Andes and lounge on idyllic beaches in Thailand to satisfy their wanderlust. But they are not seeing the sights of the world before starting on a career - they are taking a break from one.

They are gap-year backpackers who trek through the Andes and lounge on idyllic beaches in Thailand to satisfy their wanderlust. But they are not seeing the sights of the world before starting on a career - they are taking a break from one.

A new wave of senior backpackers has joined pre-university students who frequent the world's youth hostels on limited budgets to see some of the planet's most beautiful sights.

Unlike the undergraduate in waiting, the older traveller is seeking to escape a 14-hour day at the office and hoping to reassess his or her life.

A YouGov of 2,013 people aged 26 to 34 found that gap years were no longer the preserve of students in search of golden sands and holiday adventures. Many regarded their gap year as a chance to reflect on life as well as a final fling before they settled down to a life of children and domesticity.

The research found that in particular, jaded executives in their late twenties and early thirties were quitting their high-salaried jobs and selling their homes to re-examine their lives on extended trips abroad.

Nigel Asplin, group insurance director for Bradford & Bingley, which commissioned the research, said travelling had become increasingly popular at an age when "life itself has become a 'stress zone' ".

Nearly half of the adults questioned (49 per cent) believed the best time to travel was after gaining some life experience, while 46 per cent sought to review their lifestyle and attitudes, as well as craving more relaxation time. The most popular destinations included Australia and New Zealand the US and Canada.

While half of this affluent group opted for backpacker-style trips, staying in cheap accommodation and having a daily food budget, they could afford adventure sports activities when abroad and tended to take hi-tech gadgets such as iPods and PalmPilots.

Brett Shepperson, 31, who has just returned from a £25,000 backpacking tour of 13 countries with his girlfriend, said he managed to pay for adventurous experiences that he could not have afforded in his early twenties.

"We learnt to climb the Cotopaxi mountain in Ecuador, skied in Argentina, scuba-dived and saw the Galapagos islands. We never had to scrimp," he said.

Fiona Smith and Justin Harvey have given up their jobs and a joint salary of £60,000 to backpack across South America for six months, travelling through Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. While they are on a tight budget of about £14,000, they will punctuate their stay in hostels with the occasional night in luxurious accommodation. They intend to have Spanish lessons and stay at an eco-lodge in the Amazon at $100 (£53) a night.

The couple, who will leave for the trip after getting married tomorrow, felt a break in their professional lives was a welcome break. Mr Harvey, 32, who worked as an IT consultant for eight years in London, said: "I am looking to experience a different pace of life and to have some time that is not at the coalface."

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