Over 50s Guide To A Midlife Gap Year

Whether you’re fully retired, semi-retired, or early retired – or you simply long to take a break from your routine – here’s my Backpacking Housewife’s Over 50s Guide To A Midlife Gap Year.

This article is tailored to inform and inspire those of you who, like myself and my Backpacking Husband, who are now over 50 years old and looking for more opportunities for travel, new adventure, self-discovery, growth, and rejuvenation in our midlife and beyond.

Of course, it might not be a midlife gap year that you want to commit to just yet.

That’s fine too.

It could be a one, two, three, or a six month adventure to road test a life of travel or to pursue your travel bucket list.

Janice Horton The Backpacking Housewife travelling in Honduras on a midlife gap year
The Backpacking Housewife and Husband Travelling In Central America


I’ve been a full time traveller for the past ten years, since my Backpacking Husband and I sold everything we owned to travel the world.

But we certainly don’t travel at a pace as we tend to break up our travels into bite-sized chunks of time.

We advocate slow and meaningful travel.

We try to ‘live like a local’ renting or housesitting to stay in places for a while subject to via restrictions.

However long you chose to travel – I promise you – if you embrace the travel journey with an open heart and a sense of adventure, you’ll likely gain a renewed perspective on life and a sense of wanderlust that’s never to be cured!

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Traveling in your 50s and 60s can provide opportunities for personal growth and self-discovery.

It’s a chance to step out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself, and gain new perspectives on the world and your own life.

Taking a midlife gap year or an extended trip can be an exciting and enriching experience for all of us aged over 50 who in our Third Age of Travel might have decided that life isn’t necessarily meant to be lived in just one place.

Travelling to new countries gives you a chance to explore new horizons, to rediscover yourself, and to create lasting memories.

New research has revealed that more over 50s are booking that trip of a lifetime or planning a midlife gap year.

Recently, Yahoo Dotcom reported: “While cash-strapped adolescents are starting to think twice about taking a gap year, silver adventurers are on the rise. Many of those now aged 50 and 60 plus – the retirees, the empty nesters and the golden year travellers – are opting to forgo the golf course to spend their retirement on a grown up gap year travelling round the world.”

Refreshingly, The Guardian Newspaper recently declared: “many people aged over 50 and over 60 felt privileged to be able to take the shoestring approach usually associated with younger people.” And concluded: “A growing movement of people are choosing to take a ‘grey gap year’ after retirement with a taste for travel on a realistic budget”.

Click the image to read My 10 Greatest Travel Experiences

A Gap Year For Grown Ups

A midlife gap year is also often known and can be described as: a gap year for grown ups, a gap year for adults, a gap year to work abroad, a mature gap year, a career break gap year, a senior gap year, a golden gap year, a silver gap year, a grey gap year, a revenge gap year, an empty nest gap year. What term do you prefer?

What Is Considered Midlife?

“Midlife” typically refers to the period of life that falls roughly in the middle of the average human lifespan.

While there’s no exact age range that universally defines midlife, it’s commonly associated with the age range of approximately 45 to 65 years old and is characterized by a variety of personal, professional, and psychological changes that often reflect a transition from early adulthood to later life stages.

It’s important to note that even if you are over 45, over 50, or over 60, the concept of midlife can vary based on cultural, social, and individual factors. Some people might experience midlife transitions earlier or later than the general age range, and the challenges and opportunities of this period can differ significantly from person to person.

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Click The Image To Travel The World in Midlife

Midlife Travel

When discussing midlife travel, various terms can be used to describe this unique stage of exploration and self-discovery.

These terms capture the essence of midlife travel as a period of exploration, growth, and self-renewal.

Whichever term resonates with you, the most important thing is to embark on a journey that aligns with your desires, aspirations, and personal goals.

Midlife Adventure: Refers to embarking on exciting and daring journeys during the midlife years, often involving activities like hiking, mountain climbing, or other physically engaging experiences. Read more about my own greatest travel experiences.

Being an adventurer signifies the act of delving into new territories, whether they’re physical destinations, personal interests, or self-discovery journeys.

This encompasses the various exploratory activities, both internal and external, that individuals may undertake during the midlife years.

Midlife Sabbatical: Similar to a gap year, a midlife sabbatical involves taking an extended break from work or routine to focus on personal growth, travel, and rejuvenation.

Midlife Wanderlust: Expresses the strong desire to travel and explore new places that can emerge or intensify during the midlife years. Someone who embraces a wandering spirit and actively seeks out new travel adventures during their midlife years.

Midlife Exploration: Signifies the act of delving into new territories, whether they’re physical destinations, personal interests, or self-discovery journeys. Exploratory activities, both internal and external, that may be undertaken during the midlife years.

Midlife Rediscovery: Suggests the process of rediscovering oneself, passions, and interests through travel experiences during the midlife years embarking on a significant and transformative journey, often with a focus on personal growth and reflection.

Midlife Cultural Immersion: Describes the act of fully engaging with the culture of a destination, often involving interactions with locals, participation in local traditions, and learning about history.

Midlife Retreat: Refers to taking a temporary withdrawal from the demands of daily life in order to seek relaxation, reflection, and inspiration through travel experiences.

This also implies a journey of personal significance, often with a sense of purpose and an underlying desire for self-discovery, and suggests the idea that travel during midlife can enrich one’s life through exposure to diverse cultures, new experiences, and personal growth opportunities.

Over 50s Guide To A Midlife Gap Year

10 reasons to travel in your 50s and 60s on a midlife gap year
Click the image to read 10 Reasons To Travel In Your 50s And 60s

How To Plan Your Midlife Gap Year

1. Assess Your Motivations and define your goals: Start by identifying what you hope to achieve during your midlife gap year.

Are you seeking personal growth, new experiences, career change, or simply relaxation?

Having clear goals will guide your decisions throughout the planning process.

Are you seeking adventure, personal growth, a break from routine, or a chance to pursue passions you’ve put aside?

Understanding your motivations and goals will help to shape your plans.

Personally, as a writer, I wanted to write about my travels while travelling.

I write travel adventure novels published by HarperCollins.

I also write travel features for magazines and other media.

I even started this travel website for other over 50s wanting to travel more.

My Backpacking Husband has always loved to scuba dive.

He was a PADI Advanced Diver but took his diving skills to a professional level to eventually become a PADI IDC Staff Instructor and SSI Assistant Course Director also while we were travelling.

Do you have a skill set you can improve or an ambition you can achieve while travelling?

2. Financial Planning: By your 50s and 60s, many people have established their careers and have had time to accumulate savings.

This financial stability can provide you with the resources to indulge in travel experiences you might not have been able to afford earlier in life.

Evaluate your financial situation and determine how much you can allocate to spending your gap year or gap months.

Ensure you have sufficient funds to cover your travel expenses, accommodations, daily living costs, and any unexpected expenses.

But if you don’t have any passive income then perhaps you plan work as a digital nomad or a TEFL teacher – Teaching English as a Foreign Language – or try Housesitting or Work Away or offer your skills as a Volunteer Abroad.

You don’t necessarily have to be rich to travel as I’ve explained in my post How I Can Afford To Travel The World.

The cost of living in other countries can be much less than at home.

3. Health and Wellness: While you might not have the boundless energy of your younger years, your 50s and 60s are often a time of relatively good health for many individuals.

You can still engage in a wide range of activities and explore new places without some of the physical limitations that can come with older age.

But health concerns are often a big issue for some over 50 and over 60 years of age who are longingly considering a midlife gap year or planning to travel for longer periods of time but whom are worried about healthcare as they age.

I often get asked questions about health and well-being while travelling, from potential travellers and from those in the planning stages.

I suggest you prioritize your health before embarking on your journey.

Schedule a comprehensive medical check-up, discuss your travel plans with your doctor, and ensure you have necessary prescriptions, medications, and vaccinations.

But other countries do have pharmacies, dentists, doctors, health clinics, and hospitals, too.

Often at a cost far less than you might imagine.

I’ve always received a high standard of dental treatment and healthcare while abroad.

Always consider buying the safety-net that is offered by travel insurance covering you for medical emergencies.

travel insurance for over 50s on a midlife gap year
Clicking the image to read Travel Insurance For The Over 50s

4. Destinations and Activities: Research destination, activities, and experiences, that align with your interests and goals.

Consider factors such as climate, culture, safety, and accessibility.

Plan activities that cater to your preferences, whether it’s cultural exploration, adventure, relaxation, or skill development.

Create a rough itinerary but also allow for flexibility.

Consider whether you want to travel extensively, settle in one place, or combine both approaches.

I personally prefer to combine faster paced tourism with an element of slow travel.

I recently travelled extensively as a tourist through Taiwan and Japan and stayed in hotels, homestays and hostels.

But now, I’m back in the Caribbean, living like a local in a rented home for a few months so I can avoid midlife travel burnout.

Next month, I’m housesitting in France.

5. Travel Companions and Solo Travel: Decide whether you want to travel alone, with a partner, or in a group.

Each option offers unique benefits, so choose what aligns with your comfort level and desire for companionship.

Do You Have Wandermust?
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6. Accommodation Options: Explore various accommodation options, such as hotels, guesthouses, vacation rentals, or even house-sitting.

Choose accommodations that provide comfort and convenience based on your travel style.

I like to mix things up regarding accommodations and I often use (affiliate link) Booking.com to source accommodations and to compare prices in specific countries and locations.

I love the luxury of a hotel or resort but often choose independent (affiliate link) homestays and hostels too.

Did you know you can book a private room in a hostel? It’s not all shared dorms and bunkbeds!

7. Set a Flexible Itinerary: Create a loose itinerary that allows for flexibility.

While planning is important, leaving room for spontaneity, that can lead to unexpected and delightful experiences.

Those of you who are retired or have reduced work commitments may be able to take longer trips and slow travel without worrying about limited vacation days.

Do check out my post A Step My Step Guide To Midlife Slow Travel.

Regularly take time to reflect on your experiences, goals, and whether you’re on track.

Be open to adjusting your plans if needed to ensure you’re getting the most out of your gap year.

Flexibility also helps you to Manage Jet Lag And Travel Fatigue.

8. Cultural Immersion: By this stage of life, you might have a greater appreciation for cultural experiences, history, and the finer aspects of travel.

You’re more likely to take the time to learn about the places you’re visiting, immerse yourself in local cultures, and savour the unique moments.

Immerse yourself in the local culture by engaging with locals, trying regional cuisine, and participating in cultural events or workshops.

Seek out authentic experiences that give you a deeper understanding of the places you visit.

9. Stay Connected: Stay in touch with loved ones back home through emails, phone calls, and social media.

Regular updates will reassure them about your well-being and allow you to share your experiences.

Document your Journey and keep a travel journal, take photos, and perhaps even start a blog or vlog to share your experiences.

These memories will serve as a cherished record of your midlife gap year.

10. Life Perspective: Remember, a midlife gap year is an opportunity for self-discovery, growth, and rejuvenation.

Embrace the journey with an open heart and a sense of adventure, and you’ll likely gain a renewed perspective on life.

Your midlife gap year might prompt you to re-evaluate your priorities and consider new paths in terms of career, relationships, and personal aspirations.

Take time to reflect on the gratitude you feel for the experiences and lessons learned during your gap year.

These reflections can guide your future decisions and mindset.

As your gap year concludes, reflect on the experiences and insights gained, and consider how they might shape your future endeavours.

And if not now, when?

Are you planning a midlife gap year?

Are you already taking a midlife gap year?

Let me know by leaving a comment below!


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