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Taking an Adult Gap Year: Is It For You?

Taking an adult gap year was the best thing we have ever done!

Over the years, a number of events happened to family and friends which led to discussions about what we wanted our future to look like.  

We wanted to travel abroad extensively as it’s something we really love doing together. We’d often wish we could stay on our vacations for an extended time, and so we began to formulate a way to actually do it. We thought we were too young to retire, but we really wanted a life of travel, of adventure and not to just work until we die or get too old to travel the way we want.

Mid way through the year 2017, the big decision was made – let’s do it!  Let’s take an “Adult Gap Year” and travel. We devised an exit strategy and stuck to it. Exit 45 Travels…

This article will help you learn more about what is an adult gap year, how a gap year works, how to take an adult gap year, if they’re a good idea, where you should go, gap year ideas for adults, and more. 


“Sometimes, you need to step outside, get some air, and remind yourself of who you are and who you want to be.” 

—Unknown —

What is an Adult Gap Year?

Traditionally, the term ‘gap year’ has been associated with young high school graduates wanting to travel and party their way around the world before deciding and committing to their career path.

However, there is a growing trend amongst those in (their late 20s or 30s, and even in) their 40’s and 50’s (as we were) who feel they are stuck in a rut or looking to take a break mid-career to take an adult gap year.

Some of those taking an adult gap year choose to travel, however, there are many that take this time to study, pursue a hobby, or volunteer and give back.

Why Take an Adult Gap Year?

The reasons as to why people choose to take an adult gap year vary from person to person. For us, the monotony of the day-to-day grind left us feeling unfulfilled. By the time the weekend came along, we were tired and lacking the energy to plan weekend adventures.

Also, we are both passionate travellers but our business and career didn’t allow us to have extended periods of time off to travel.

Life is short so in 2017 we decided to take a year to reassess, recalibrate and refresh, and travel the world. It was the best decision we ever made…

Some of the many other reasons for taking an adult gap year include:

  1. Feeling unsatisfied / stuck / bored in your life and/or career
  2. Re-evaluate where you are at and what is important in life
  3. To travel and check off a few bucket list items while seeing the world
  4. Live in and immerse yourself in another country and culture
  5. The need to take a break, rest, refresh and reenergise
  6. Time to pursue a passion or hobby i.e. train for a marathon, learn to scuba dive, become a better photographer, take up quilting, do a night course on wine tasting, become a master chef
  7. Learning a new language in a language immersion course in a foreign country
  8. Giving back to others through volunteering
  9. To learn more about yourself and what you want from your life
  10. Further develop your current career path through learning new skills and professional development courses
  11. Explore a new or alternative career path
  12. Ditch corporate life completely – this is now the result (3 years later) of our adult gap year

Where Can I Go on My Adult Gap Year?

You can go just about anywhere you want! Some people may want to stay at home while others choose to spend their year overseas.

You can teach English in China, travel slower and more in-depth to places you want to visit, volunteer in a rural Cambodian orphanage, build houses in Africa, sail around the Mediterranean, and do a lap of Australia or Europe in a motorhome….. The possibilities are endless!

And this leads us into….

Gap Year Ideas for Adults

There are so many options available to those who choose to take an adult gap year. You are only limited by your imagination.

Travel the World During Your Adult Gap Year

One of the most popular things to do whilst taking a career break is to travel overseas. This is the perfect time to explore new countries and cultures, and broaden your mind. It is an amazing world out there and there are so many things to see, do and explore.

Here are some places we recommend, and some that are still on our bucket list:

  • Explore Machu Picchu in Peru
  • Explore the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador
  • Visit Chichen Itza and swim in cenotes in Mexico
  • Cruise the Caribbean
  • Snorkel the reefs and wrecks in the Philippines
  • Eat your way around Thailand
  • Go shark diving in South Africa
  • Spot wildlife on a safari in Kenya

For most, travelling in foreign countries helps you break out of your comfort zone and develop practical skills. It is healthy, although uncomfortable at times, to be pushed beyond your limits, but overcoming your own limitations and challenging yourself help you grow as a person

Uppsala, Sweden

Explore Where You Live During Your Mid-Life Gap Year

Taking an adult gap year provides the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself and explore the city or country where you live.  Do some research and find an historic town or city to explore near where you live, national parks, remote countryside, hinterland regions, or coastal paths to wander. Check out some of the local restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops until you find your new favourite.

Volunteer Locally or Overseas During Your Mid-Life Gap Year

Volunteering whilst taking a career break is a great way to use your time to help others, take your career in a different direction, gain some valuable skills, or just try something new and exciting!

If you are a little nervous about venturing out on your own and volunteering abroad, there are many reputable companies offering numerous and varied volunteer opportunities all over the world. Some of these programs even pay for your room and board in exchange for your service. This is a great option for those conscious of budget.

Some of the fantastic options available through ProjectsAbroad include:

  • Enjoying the great outdoors and protecting wildlife in the Amazon Rainforest
  • Exploring archaeological digs and uncovering ancient civilisations in Romania
  • Helping entrepreneurs build businesses and improve customer service in Tanzania
  • Living and working with a traditional Nomad family in Mongolia
  • Raising awareness of diseases like diabetes in the Philippines

Learn a Language Overseas During Your Adult Gap Year

There are many language abroad programs out there for those taking a career break and a language immersion program is by far the fastest, and most enjoyable, way to learn and master a foreign language.

Language immersion programs are comprised of formal language classes with native speakers mixed with immersive planned activities. These programs provide the structure to efficiently improve foreign language skills whilst still having enough freedom and spare time to enjoy your time overseas and practice your newfound language skills with the locals.

Locations and languages include:

  • South America to practice Spanish or Portuguese
  • Europe to learn French, German or Spanish
  • Asia to practice Chinese, Hindi, Russian or Arabic

Teach Overseas During Your Mid-Life Gap Year

Teaching overseas is a great option for those wanting to live in another country and earn money at the same time. All you will need is English language fluency, and TEFL certification (most common certification required to Teach English as a Foreign Language) or a Bachelor degree.

Some of the most popular countries to teach overseas include:

  • Japan
  • China
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • South Korea
  • Vietnam
  • Thailand
  • The UAE
  • Saudi Arabia

Opportunities exist to teach students in K-12 in public or private schools, to help professionals excel in their field with business English classes, or become an after-school English tutor.

Gain Work Experience or Undertake an Internship

For those looking to gain career clarity or improve their job prospects, internships or gaining work experience during your adult gap year is great choice. It provides a great opportunity to explore previous interests, gain experiences you may not have considered before, and get a feel for what really suits you and you are interested in.

Internships can be found within the industries of Medicine and Healthcare, Law and Human Rights, Journalism, and Fashion, amongst many others. Using a gap year to undertake an internship or gain work experience will stand you in good stead for future career opportunities, or could lead directly to employment if you make a good impression.

How to Prepare for an Adult Gap Year

The hardest part about considering taking an adult gap year is the preparations that need to take place to enable it to happen. For some, preparation is limited and simple, but for others, the process is complicated.

Things you will need to take into consideration are:

1. Money

Adult gap years can be expensive so you will need to plan in advance accordingly.

What will be your budget for the year? How will you pay for your adult gap year? Do you have enough savings in the bank? Will you have to work to subsidise your gap year / travels? How long will it take to save this money? How can you cut your expenses? Are there personal items i.e. car you can sell to subsidise your travel?

Do you have a house mortgage, car loan or other debts? How are you going to pay these repayments while you are away?

N.B. Plan to save for at least six months’ worth of additional income for when you return.

2. Current Employment Situation

Do you want to stay at your current job? Are you entitled to long service leave or unpaid leave? What is the process for application? How much notice do you need to give for leave / resignation?

3. Home

Do you own your house? Should you sell or rent it out? Should you find a house sitter? Would you consider a home swap / exchange?

What do you do with your belongings? Keep them and find storage? Sell and replace upon your return?

4. Family

There are many more complications when there is more than one person to consider when taking an adult gap year. How this works for you and your partner / family will be very individual, but it is possible.

Are You Ready to Take an Adult Gap Year?

Taking an adult gap year was the best thing we ever did!  We were in a rut and longed to travel the world.

After our gap year of travel, we realised;

  1. We loved it and we weren’t ready to go back to our old ‘normal’ life.
  2. To us, the sacrifices we had made and keep making are so worth it.
  3. We would develop a plan and a budget that enable us to live this travelling lifestyle as long we want.

After all, you only live once, right?


Are you thinking about or have you taken an adult gap year? Was it a positive experience for you? What were the challenges you faced? Please leave a comment below.


Want more info to help you plan your fulltime travels? Check out all articles we’ve written on fulltime travel and inspirational stories of those living a fulltime travel lifestyle.