Making the most of your retirement, travelling abroad when you are over 50. 50 is the new 30!
Getting older or retiring from full-time employment doesn’t mean that you have to lurk around the house watching day time TV all day. There are plenty of opportunities and adventures available to over 50s, both in the Australia and abroad. Although most of us dread Monday mornings, and you may have been looking forward to retiring for many years, often the reality of a lack of structure in your days and less social interaction can be depressing and demoralising. The good news is that these days, people in their 50s, 60s and 70s are, in the majority, able to enjoy the same activities as they did 20 or 30 years ago.
Making the decision to take a “grown up gap year” is not easy. Travelling and volunteering in remote places can be daunting, and the idea of being in your 50s, 60s or 70s (or even 80s!) and surrounded by thousands of heavy drinking, fresh-faced teenagers and twenty-somethings can be even more daunting! However, you won’t be alone, more and more people are deciding to travel abroad at 50, often this is due to retirement, a termination of employment, a divorce or the children having flown the nest. It is very easy to take part in trips and voluntary activities catering to those who are not looking to drink buckets of local whiskey and dance on the beach barefoot for 48 hours (however you can also do these things if they take your fancy!). Depending on your interests and requirements, companies have sprung up all over the internet, catering to every possible desire, to take advantage of the “grey dollar” – offering travel and volunteering to the new generation of grown up gappers.
Gap years are an extremely rewarding experience, particularly if you didn’t do much travelling in your teens and twenties and have always been keen to see the world. The flexibility of retirement, and often some saved up money, can mean that you can travel or volunteer for as long as you like. Volunteering can be particularly rewarding, giving your time and energy is the best thing you can do for people who need it, and having experienced life in other cultures can help you reflect upon your own life, with the effects and memories lasting long after you get home.
Before you begin planning your gap year, there will be few things that you will need to consider:
How long do you want to be away for, do you have commitments at home, or a job that allows you to have a specified length of sabbatical? Gap year, volunteering and travel companies offer a range of trips of varying lengths, some only last a couple of weeks, while others can run for several months or years.
Do you want to go alone, or join a group of other likeminded people? Travelling alone can be beneficial in the fact that you are totally flexible and your itinerary is entirely based around you and what you want to see. However, particularly when travelling to some of the more remote locations, you might want to go with a group who you can share experiences with, and a guide who can speak the language, knows the culture and can show you things that would be difficult to find or arrange when travelling alone.
How much money do you have to spend? Travelling without working or volunteering can be expensive, even if you are going to a country where the cost of living is cheaper than at home, if you stay for several months the cost of your trip can escalate quickly. Although most companies charge for volunteering schemes, you will, usually, be provided with food and accommodation, which can make it easier to plan your budget before you leave.
And the fun bit….where do you want to go and what do you want to do or see? Browsing the internet can be a good way of getting some initial ideas for countries you want to visit and things that you want to see or do while you’re there. Travel blogs are also a great way of reading about other people’s experiences and also activities and places to avoid. Travel Forums, like the Lonely Planet Thorntree Forum, are also good sites to visit as you can ask questions of other users in order to find out more information specifically related to your own plans and ideas.
Once you have a firm idea of where you want to go, what you want to see and whether you want to volunteer, travel or both, there are hundreds of companies on the internet who can help you book activities, volunteering programmes or just arrange your flights if you want to travel overland and immerse yourself in the culture.