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Three older volunteers enjoying themselves on their gap year in Thailand

Take a Mid Career Gap Year and Explore the World

Break away from everyday life for a grown-up gap year

By Ashwin September | 22nd January, 2020

You’ve been around the block a couple of times, but have you been around the world on a gap year for grown-ups? Have you discovered what you’re truly capable of?

You’ve been working at your future for years now, but after a while, you realise you didn’t get to take that overseas trip you promised yourself all those years back.

Last year you renovated the house, the year before you had family visit. Before that, it was mini you’s first year at school. And before that you had just changed jobs so you couldn’t.

We know life happens. Just be careful that it doesn’t happen without you

Would younger you think present you is cool?

Older Projects Abroad grown-up doing gardening work in the village greenhouse in Fiji

Chances are that most of us were thrust into the realm of adulthood, forcing our inner kid to take a backseat. This is not entirely bad, as sometimes our inner kid would have us eating ice cream for dinner.

But with the reversing of those roles, some of our childhood dreams and plans are forced passed the backseat into the trunk. Things like world exploration and the discovery of the deepest caves, thickest forests, and densest cities are put on hold. Dreams of making international friends and travelling to see them every weekend become just that...dreams. In our inner child’s defence, not all dreams are created equal.

Regardless of how silly you may think those dreams were, would younger you be happy with the experiences you’ve had up until today? Have you been on the adventures you promised yourself you would take all those years ago?

Yes, we all planned to be a lot more adventurous. It’s fair to say as a kid many of us thought we would have taken a gap year before we started our career. A gap year in our 30s, 40s or even a gap year for over 50s seemed pretty odd. Perhaps we didn’t consider it at all after our career started, but it’s still as viable today as it was all those years ago.

Is taking a gap year right for me as an adult?

An older Projects Abroad volunteer bird watching in Madagascar on her grown-up gap year

Maybe younger you would think you’re just another person who is all career and family, and no fun. Maybe they’d be right to a degree, after all, responsibilities don’t take care of themselves. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t be as adventurous as you were back then. Besides, this time you can do a lot more than playing in your friend’s yard and climbing trees.

You have the option of taking a gap year from work. It’s not exclusive to the younger generation who are trying to figure out their place in the world, or for aspiring backpackers.

It’s for all of us. Because why should exploring the world only be for youngsters? Don’t we all have questions about life, love, career, and ageing? A mid-career gap year could very well be the thing that helps you answer those questions.

What should I do for a mid-career gap year?

Two older Projects Abroad volunteers sawing a piece of wood as part of their building project on their gap year

A gap year for grown-ups doesn’t mean you put all your essential possessions in a backpack, store the rest, and head into the wild. You can opt to keep at your craft by doing volunteer work abroad in your field. If you want to go all out, try taking up some new hobbies, jobs, or skills and rethink where it is you want to be.

Once you’ve decided that a gap year is for you, you could:

Your options are vast. The key idea is breaking away from everyday life to experience something new and learn more about yourself. Like figuring out you can survive on one cup of coffee a day. Although we’d much rather learn that at a later stage.

One thing to learn sooner rather than later is that travelling and exploring the world is something everyone needs to do at least once. If you didn’t do it when you were younger, a gap year in your 30s, 40s, 50s, or 60s is still an excellent idea.

You may be asking what you should do for a mid-career gap year? Of course, it’s up to you to decide, but why not start with a childhood dream location that does not involve space travel.

Where did you think you would be when you were younger?

Projects Abroad older volunteers on a grown-up gap year at Machu Picchu

It’s important to have things planned out before you take off, but asking yourself what you should do to have a fulfilling and productive gap year is almost missing the point.

Revisit some of the dreams you had when you were younger and fly to those places you had on your destination bucket list. Explore that secret interest not many people know about, hike a tall mountain and give a big “Hello!” as it echoes around you. You’re not as ‘passed your prime’ as you may think.

There’s plenty of life left for you to live. What better way to spend it than showing yourself that you can be on just as epic an adventure as the best of them. Now that’s discovering what you’re capable of.

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