Why should gap years be the exclusive preserve of the young?

If youth is wasted on the young then maybe travelling is too...

Share

Around this time of year, thousands of young people will be planning their gap year. Will it be helping to build a school in India? Or working in an orphanage in Africa? Or maybe dispensing drinks in a bar in Thailand?

The desire to suspend entry into the world of work, and all the grown-up anxieties that follow, is perfectly understandable, and the chance to assert a little independence, escaping the parental shackles, is highly commendable. Universities, too, welcome gap year applicants, believing that the experience gained makes a more rounded human being.

When I was of university age, the concept of a gap year hadn’t taken root. The impetus, from secondary school onwards, was to get us into a career as soon as possible. Earning money took significant precedence over broadening our minds. I went to a polytechnic, so that a year after I had completed my A-Levels, I was in a job and paying taxes. I have been in full-time employment pretty well continuously ever since.

I’ve enjoyed the good fortune of a fulfilling career, but just recently I’ve had a creeping feeling that I’ve missed out on something in my life. I now know what it is: a gap year! Youngsters grow up today believing that a year off is an inalienable right, but why should it be the exclusive preserve of the young? I deserve a sabbatical, too. I’ve worked non-stop for three decades or so, and have never lived abroad, or properly experienced a different way of life. I want to travel for the sake of travelling, rather than for the purpose of arriving somewhere.

I know I am not alone in feeling this. There has been a considerable rise in recent years of “grey gappers”, those over the age of 50 with the resources to travel, with few constraints to tie them down, and a yen for exploration. This is the first generation, after all, for whom foreign travel became the norm, so it’s probably only to be expected that our wanderlust gets stronger as we inspect our one-way tickets to mortality.

 

One of the most uplifting and inspirational stories this week was that of the middle-aged Welsh couple who took early retirement, bought a small boat and sailed off to Spain for seven-day holiday. Sixteen years later, Clive and Jane Green (pictured) are back home, having sailed around the world, taking in 56 different countries on an epic 58,000 mile voyage. Talking exactly like a teenager, Mrs Green, now 60, said, “it’s been an amazing experience”, and the story of how their spirit of adventure and their sense of resourcefulness propelled them to the ends of the earth is an example to all of us who are the wrong side of 50.

My horizons may be somewhat narrower, but I have a nascent desire for discovery. And I cast envious glances at the students now organising all manner of exotic expeditions. If youth is wasted on the young, then maybe travelling is, too. No matter. All this will have to wait. I have work to do. But in the meantime, I’m going to take a gap fortnight. See you in September.

READ MORE:
Schools should stop taking so much credit for their students' grades
What's more important: skills or grades?  

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nick Clegg (R) Liberal Democrat Leader and former leader Charles Kennedy MP, joined the general election campaign trail on April 8, 2010  

Charles Kennedy: The only mainstream political leader who spoke sense

Tim Farron
 

The strangely parallel lives of Oliver Letwin and Ed Miliband

Matthew Norman
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral