The simple answer is, of course, no. Just like taking up dancing or learning how to ride a bike (which I really must get around to doing at some point) you are never too old to travel. As long as you love meeting new people and exploring new cultures, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t have just as much fun as an 18 year old on their gap year.
One of the first conversations I ever remember having about travelling when I was a little girl was with a lady in her 80s who lived in an old peoples’ home. She told me that when she retired she realised she had never left the UK so sold all of her belongings, put on a backpack and set off on a trip around the world. I have never forgotten her tales about travelling to foreign countries on boats which took days and sleeping on park benches when she ran out of money. Her stories made me want to travel.
In fact, when I took my own career break last year I discovered that I actually appreciated it more having worked for a few years first. True, I had a brilliant time when I made my first solo trip straight out of university but I still think nothing beats that moment when you think to yourself: “If I was at work now, what would I be doing?” In my case, it was usually being shouted at by my boss or shouting at a poor PR person. Either way, it usually involved a lot of shouting, which when you’re travelling, there is fortunately very little of.
However I would, of course, be lying if I pretended it’s all sunshine and roses and there were a couple of times on my gap year when I felt old. My particular favourite is this rant I wrote in Australia after being described as “old” by someone who was 19.
The beauty of travelling though is that you don’t have to hang around with the people who annoy you. If you find you’re not meeting like-minded people and can’t hack one more conversation about who has the best tan, then you can simply pack up your bags and move on. There will always be someone along the way that you click with and when you do, age becomes irrelevant. I made great friends volunteering with the most mature 17 year old I have ever met in China and had brilliant conversations with a 60 year old retired school principal while tramping in New Zealand.
I guess it’s that old age saying: “age is just a number” and if there’s still time to take up a new hobby or learn a new sport, then there’s definitely time to pack up a backpack and get out and see the world.
If you are trying to decide whether to take a career break or a sabbatical, this post may help and if you don’t know where to start with planning your gap year, then here are some of my tips.
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