For the 50+ Traveler

Think taking a gap year to travel the world is only for millennials? Think again.

Popular among university grads who want to take time off before beginning their careers, the gap year is no longer limited to young adults -- and why should it be? Long-term traveling certainly broadens the horizons of young minds, but midlifers can also gain tremendously from a gap year.

Whether you’re a college student or a baby boomer, travel teaches you to handle difficult situations, develop social skills, and discover new ways of living and thinking. But taking a year off at a riper age comes with a unique set of advantages.

Let’s explore some of the reasons why you should take a gap year at 50.

1. It’s Time To Tick Off That Bucket List

In all likelihood, if you're reading this article, you've made a bucket list of places you want to visit in your lifetime. And while lists are a fantastic way to stay focused and get things done, they're worthless if no items on them get crossed off.

Now that you’re halfway through life, it's time to tick some of those travel goals off that list. Taking a gap year can provide the time required to achieve your goals. So, no more procrastinating -- get that list out and plan to cross as many items off it as you can during your sabbatical.

The writer on an international trip.
Nathalie McNabb

2. You’re Still Active And Fit Enough

Let’s be honest here: Although many of us have managed to make it this far in excellent shape, the fact is we’re not getting any younger. Ailments and aches are probably much more frequent than they were a decade ago. Furthermore, while many regions of the world are accessible to reduced-mobility visitors, others aren't.

Even if getting to Mount Everest’s base camp or exploring the Amazon rainforest isn't on your bucket list, many destinations are difficult to reach with long and uncomfortable transport options. Consider taking a gap year while you still have the energy and health to do so, and don't wait until it’s too late. Go visit those hard-to-reach destinations you dream of while you're still fit enough to enjoy the ride.

3. You Can Afford It

Financial stability is one of the biggest advantages mature travelers have over their younger counterparts wishing to take a gap year. You've worked hard all your life and managed to put some money aside; now it’s time to reap the benefits. Maybe you don't have the funds to book a suite onboard the luxurious Orient Express, but that shouldn't stop you from taking a year off to travel.

No matter how big or small the amount in your bank account may seem, chances are you've got more than you think to accomplish your travel goals. Remember that a year-long trip doesn't need to include only expensive adventures.

Start by simply putting your dreams down on paper. You'll find that some of your travel wishes come at a steep price, while others are more budget friendly. You might be surprised how far your dollars can take you in some countries, so go ahead and start planning that epic gap year.

A photo from the writer's trip to New Zealand.
Nathalie McNabb

4. You Have Time To Visit Faraway Places

Everyone can agree that traveling long distances is challenging. When traveling thousands of miles for many hours and through different time zones, you must face queues, delays, security checks, and customs clearance. That takes a toll on even the most seasoned travelers. And while youngsters bounce back in a jiffy from the inconveniences of travel, travel to faraway places can discourage mature jet-setters.

That’s exactly why you should take a gap year now. You have more time on your hands to travel to faraway places without fretting about your downtime due to jet lag or travel exhaustion. Since you have the time you need to rest, you can finally put those distant and exotic places back on your itinerary.

5. It’s Time To Prioritize Your Dreams

You've worked hard to build your career, care for your family, and nurture your relationships with your partner and friends. Now that your kids have flown the nest and you’ve secured your place in the workforce, you can finally breathe and relax. It's now time for you to turn the tables and put your dreams first. Make your bucket list your top priority. Life passes by so quickly, and before you know it, time will run out. No one else will take care of your wishlist -- only you can address that.

People zip lining over Niagara Falls.

6. Life Begins At The End Of Your Comfort Zone

This quote is very dear to me; in fact, it's my personal motto. No matter how intrepid we are, the reality is that each of us has a comfort zone. We all have habits we've grown accustomed to. And although a comfort zone is a beautiful place, few things ever grow there.

In order for personal growth to happen, you need to face discomfort, the catalyst for progress. Admit it -- you're scared of taking that sabbatical year, maybe even terrified of what could happen during that time or afterward. You’re already worried about your job and relationship status, and you haven’t even left yet.

But by pushing those boundaries, by challenging yourself and tackling your fears, that magic happens: You're growing and building character and confidence. Isn't that what taking a gap year is all about?

7. It’s The Perfect Time To Learn A New Skill

Do you dream of speaking a foreign language, getting your yoga teaching certification, or joining an outdoor photography class? You’re so busy hustling at work, commuting back home, making healthy meals, and running errands that it's no wonder you haven’t had the chance to participate in extracurricular activities. Taking a year off is not a necessity to achieve these goals, but a sabbatical will give you the freedom to immerse yourself completely in a new project.

Two older travelers on a hike.

8. You Can Be An Inspiration To Others

You've made it to 50 without a Nobel Prize or Hall of Fame recognition. That's okay -- you can still show your entourage what you're made of. There's no competition and nothing to prove, but a gap year is a fabulous opportunity to demonstrate to your partner, kids, and friends that where there's a will, there's a way. You can inspire them to follow their dreams, no matter how crazy they are. It requires courage to choose an unconventional path; show them how brave you are, and take that gap year.

9. You Can Rediscover Yourself

There's no denying that a long journey opens up all kinds of emotional doors. I know from personal experience that extended travel brings out parts of your identity you didn't even know were there. Challenges and unusual situations will arise that will reveal personality traits that might surprise you. You'll learn how patient, tolerant, and strong you are! Moreover, you may discover that you enjoy out-of-character travel rituals, like setting out without a plan for the day or not eating exactly three times a day. You never know what you’ll discover about yourself, but I guarantee that it will be a pleasant surprise.

10. You'll Only Regret The Things You Didn’t Do

“Twenty years from now, you'll be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines and sail away from the safe harbor.”

You've probably heard the above quote and thought: That is so true -- I need to do more of those “things”!

Yet, you probably haven’t done many, if any, of those things. There always seems to be a reason why you shouldn’t. If you've ever considered taking a gap year, don't let being over 50 stop you -- make it happen, and I promise you won't regret it.

About The Author

Nathalie McNabb is the female traveler behind Marquestra, a website featuring practical travel information, money-saving tips, city and destination guides, and beautiful photography. In 2013, Nathalie traded her corporate sales career for a life of travel and discovery, and she hasn't looked back. Presently location independent, Nathalie has visited more than 53 countries, and her wanderlust is stronger than ever.