Taking an Adult Gap Year - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Taking an Adult Gap Year

Taking an Adult Gap Year

By Anthea Gerrie

SourceJensen Walker/Gallerystock


Because it’s never too late for a globe-trotting adventure.

By Anthea Gerrie

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Typically, these mid-lifers head to remote corners of the globe where they can sleep out under the desert stars, stalk big cats in the wild, swim in the shadow of waterfalls or zipline across ravines. Some work as they go to fund their dream trip; others volunteer their services in developing countries. 

She reveled in spotting sloths and riding with cowboys.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 40 percent of British companies offer unpaid sabbaticals as a long-service benefit, and the practice is widespread in other English-speaking and European countries. Global market research company Mintel has identified adult gap years as a promising new sector for tour operators, and those in the market agree. “We’re consistently seeing applications from older people whom we recruit to manage teams of young volunteers,” says Mike Butcher of Raleigh International, an overseas development association. He says two-thirds of those applicants are women on a career break or sabbatical.

Vanessa Glynn took her 50th birthday as her impetus to experience the world after decades in a tightly scheduled diplomatic career. “I learned skills I never dreamt of — driving and fixing Land Rovers, sleeping in a waterlogged tent and wading through rivers,” says Glynn, who also reveled in spotting sloths and riding with cowboys. Glynn’s children, 20 and 27, encouraged her five-month adventure — but she had a husband who stayed home to provide parental support and feed the cat. New Zealand lawyer Natalya King decided to give up her job and see the world as a 30th birthday

present to herself. She has spent the last six months in South and Central America doing remote contract work five hours a week, and hopes to pick up her law career in London next year. But common as a career gap may be, there are no guarantees in a competitive job market for those without the safety net of an employer-sanctioned sabbatical.

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