Editor’s note: The following is a guest post by Vivienne Egan Vivienne writes for FHR, who provide Heathrow Airport parking.
Many of us associate the term ‘gap year’ as an activity exclusively for teenagers. Typically the year after school or college and before entering university, people will head off for a year in some exotic antipodean location, sometimes taking a job and generally “seeing a bit of the world” along the way.
But are your late teens really the best time to see the world? As shown in the above popular YouTube sketch, the gap year has become the domain of the wealthy whose parents can afford to support them as they travel. The clip also highlights the question: is it really at an age where we can appreciate, learn from and respect other cultures?
These days, a lot more people are taking their ‘gap’ year after university or a few years into their working lives. They are saving up their own money and coming to travels with more life experience and a greater understanding of the world.
Also popular is combining a university exchange programme with travels. Simon, a 25-year old law student from Sydney, Australia took part in a university exchange in Montreal, Canada for six months and then travelled through Europe. “The best part of being an international student was having the opportunity to live in a foreign city for an extended period. Visiting a city for a few days pales in comparison to the experience of actually living there.”
Being a bit older will also mean extra freedoms – for instance travelling in America before the age of 21 means age restrictions on going to bars, and in many countries to hire a car you need to be over the age of 25. Being a little older and wiser as a traveller will mean that you make more informed decisions and are less likely to get into tight situations.
Chrissy, currently travelling overseas for the first time at 30, has found a few challenges to travelling solo – “I’ve found it difficult to meet people while travelling as I’m not staying in hostels. I’m now planning to meet and stay with friends and friends of friends who can show me to less touristy areas.”
Beginning to travel is great at any age. Sharon caught the travel bug at the tender age of 56 and hasn’t looked back. She has cruised the Rhine, navigated across Japan on the bullet train and driven across the deserts of Western Australia. “I’ve travelled alone, with friends and in organised groups. I’ve made lots of friends and had amazing experiences that I never imagined I would have.”
Have you been on a gap year? What age were you and would you do it again?
Featured photo credit: Hiker via Shutterstock