How to plan a gap year for grown ups

It’s not just school leavers who dream of a gap year. Those of us who’ve been working for a decade or two (or more) may also long for a real break from career and commitments.

An adult gap year is a chance to reset and to take stock of what’s important to you. There‘s the opportunity to learn new skills or another language, explore different cultures, do a road trip around Australia or just take time for an extended break. 

With a little planning, some savings and a determination to ’seize the day’, a gap year (or longer!) can be achievable.

Dare to dream 

Start by finding an idea that might work for you. There are a host of websites that can help you to plan your adult gap year. They will provide tips and tricks for travel and where to find work (paid or volunteer). 

You might consider:

  • Setting off on the well-trodden path around Australia, taking time along the way to really get to know parts of the country you’ve never seen. You could camp, caravan or stay in quirky country motels along the way.

  • Chasing the sun. Research affordable countries in warmer climates and set up in a beach shack. You will need to check rules on tourist visas.

  • Becoming a backpacker. There are plenty of cheap but comfortable accommodation options around the world to allow you to prolong your time away.

  • Taking a long walk. You can find much-loved and ancient tracks in Australia and around the world to expand your horizons. From the Great Himalayan Trail in Nepal – to Spain‘s Camino De Santiago, or one of Australia‘s iconic walks such as the Heysen Trail in South Australia.     

Costs and benefits

With your plan in hand, work out a budget that takes account of the costs you will continue to pay in Australia (such as insurance, loans, utilities, car registration and rates) as well as your best estimates for accommodation, food, travel and spending money for your destination.

Don‘t be daunted by an amount that may appear unachievable at first glance.

Work out how to save on costs. Some ideas include:

  • Living like a local by swapping your house with someone in another part of the world. House swap websites match up homeowners looking to live in different places for varying periods of time. Alternatively, you could rent out your home while you are away and/or sign up to a housesitting website to live in someone else‘s place.

  • Working differently. Your gap year might be more about doing something different than taking it easy. Find organisations and websites – such as workaway.info and wwoof.com.au – that cater for working travellers. You could choose to work on farms around the world in return for food and board for example.

  • If manual labour isn‘t your thing, becoming a digital nomad might be more appealing. Pack your computer and hook up to one of the many digital work websites – such as digitalnomadsworld.com, upwork.com or fiverr.com. Many countries now encourage this trend by offering digital nomad visas.

Then, with your costs under control, and a clear goal in mind, it‘s time for a savings plan.

You will want to reduce your current living expenses as much as possible to maximise savings and consider setting up a direct debit to a high interest savings account. Check the MoneySmart Savings Goal calculator to see how much you will need to save every month.

If you have more than a few years to plan your gap year, you could consider some longer-term savings and investment options such as shares, exchange traded funds (ETFs), or term deposits.

If you would like to discuss effective ways to save and invest to help fulfil your gap year dream, give us a call.