Words Hiranmayii Mohanen | Photo Elianne Dipp

For the uninitiated, a gap year is typically affiliated to students who take a year off to embark on experiential learning by travelling, volunteering or simply taking a break before enrolling on college. Of late, there is growing popularity amongst adults who break the mould by taking a year off after suffering from burnouts or simply to seek adventures of their own. This is regarded as an adult gap year also known as a sabbatical.

What is a Grown-Up Gap Year?

While there is no exact definition for an adult gap year, it essentially refers to a career break or sabbatical from work. An adult gap year aims to assess, de-stress and reconnect with life at a different pace. Some take a gap year to experience something specific they’ve been longing to do like travelling, while for others, it’s about exploring their passions in life.

Why Should You Take a Gap Year?

Most of us have been brought up with a strong work ethic so taking a year off from work might be the most unnatural thing to do. On top of that, societal expectations and stigmas that shun taking a career break prove how important it is to take the time off and hit pause on the responsibilities of adulthood. Despite what society seems to imply, your life doesn’t need to revolve around your job. Especially given the current circumstances and if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed in your career, taking a break no matter what age you’re at can give you a fresh perspective on what work/life balance looks like. This is the time to finally get on that wanderlust bug and travel to countries you haven’t been to. Alternatively, if you’ve had a bucket list, evoke your inner child and cross off a few items off the list. 

Taking a sabbatical will also help you learn to colour beyond the lines, take risks and live fearlessly. Yes, the idea of taking a year off in your 30’s and beyond can be daunting but there’s nothing to be afraid of; embrace the spirit of discovery! When it comes to taking a grown-up gap year — the world is your oyster. From starting a business, studying or teaching abroad, learning a new language or dance, this is the ideal time to learn what you’re passionate about or create a new hobby. Besides the exciting adventure that lays ahead, what is most important about taking a break is taking care of yourself physically and mentally.

Embark on Various Adventures and Activities

●     Take this time to educate yourself. It could be taking cooking classes, dance classes or learning a new language in a foreign country. There’s no end to education so learn whatever strikes your fancy.

●     If you’re an adventurer at heart, embark on a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list type of travel experience and make memories. This could be a cruise that goes around the world or you could visit less patronised places such as Patagonia or the continent of Antarctica where you can do a polar plunge and spot whales — something that you’ll only do once in your lifetime and somewhere that might take a bit of time to get to. That’s part of the experience.

●     Travel unconventionally with say, a motorhome and experience Europe through a different perspective. Doing this allows you to take the road at your own pace, be spontaneous and head wherever you want, all while having access to the comfort of home.

●     Become a campsite warden for the summer season – if you enjoy being outdoors and meeting people, then this may be for you. You’ll get paid and your accommodation costs will be covered making this a good option if money is tight. Check out HHP South Camp for a flavour of warden life. 

●     In this day and age when technology is at your fingertips, making money on the road has never been easier. All you need is the internet and a laptop. So, if you’re having financial constraints but still eager to take a grown-up gap year, you can still work and make money while travelling. There is a myriad of employment you can undertake abroad, from fruit picking in New Zealand and South Africa to becoming a digital nomad and working online.

●     Giving back to the community is an important aspect of travelling and you’d be surprised to know that many people take a gap year to do a stint in volunteering. The world can’t change overnight, but you can make a significant difference to those you help. Before you lend your hand, be sure to do your research and ensure the organisation you’re volunteering at needs your skills. Another note to consider is before taking any employment, consider if the job could be filled by a local.

●     Harness the inner author in you and take your shot in writing a book on your time off. If you’re equipped with the desire and skills and have been putting it off because you lack time, you can easily achieve this during your sabbatical. Take your shot at becoming a writer.