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Have You Considered… An Adult Gap Year?

“Stop the Ride, I Wanna Get Off”

More and more successful professionals are jetting off for a year of luxury travel experiences.  Mark Southern found out more and asks why you’re not joining them?

As first published in The Exchange Magazine, 2011

 Work.  The rat-race.  Stress.  Is it worth it?

Sure, the day your annual bonus pay-slip drops into your pigeon hole, it certainly feels like it.

But then, you were saying something a little different the day before when you were waiting in the rain at the station, for the sickeningly-early commuter train to not arrive on time. Again.

Or when it finally graced you with its presence and was so busy there was standing room only. Again. Still, at least that rail season ticket keeps going up in price, even if the service rarely bothers to do more than it needs.

No, in these moments, and many more like these, you closed your eyes and wondered what it would be like to pack it all in, and get away from it. To triumphantly hand in your notice, pack up your desk and set sail on a journey around the world. To visit all those places that you’d seen in movies, read about it novels, and lusted after at the travel agents. To relax into a trip, without the ticking clock reminding you that the luxury resort you are so expensively lounging in is just a passing fantasy, and that reality is waiting for you back in the office on Monday.

For this is just a holiday – a temporary diversion – and the truth is that the better the holiday is, the more it reminds you how mundane your normal life is.

But, we live in the nation that invented the stiff upper lip, and we’d be desecrating the memory of our rigid-lipped ancestors if we tried to buck this trend.  Wouldn’t we?

I mean, only students and irresponsible folk actually swan off into the sunset to explore the world. A successful adult wouldn’t chuck it all in to see out their days travelling the world.  Would they?

Well, yes, actually. They would. And they do. And, what’s more, you might even know someone who has, as the numbers of people doing it are soaring.

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Luxury flights specialist Round The World Experts report that the number of businesspeople changing their lives in this most spectacular of ways has more than doubled in the past year.  But these successful people aren’t leaving the City for a humble hostel existence – they’re traveling the globe in some of the most luxurious ways imaginable.

Round The World Experts spokesperson Paul Bondsfield said, “We’re seeing the growth of a new, completely different type of round the world traveller, with demand for business and first class itineraries trebling in the last six months. The people going on these trips are mostly over 50 professionals, who still have the burning ambition to see the world and experience new cultures.”

Interestingly, this new breed of global explorer desires to experience broadly the same kind of destinations as the more stereotypical Gap year student, albeit in often less adrenalin-fuelled ways. Bondsfield explained, “These businesspeople are inspired by younger travellers and are looking for similar experiences in the same destinations, but with an added element of comfort.”

In fact, the links between young and not-so-young are furthered as a high percentage of this new adventurous demographic have children, and the trend for graduates moving back into the family home further helps parents to take these big adventure trips as they know their homes are being looked after.

But how easy is it to step off the ride? Jason Richards was a 42-year-old stockbroker in the City when it got too much for him one rainy morning in November 2009.

Richards recalls, “It was a cold, wet Tuesday night, and I clearly remember standing in a cramped corner of the toilet carriage aboard a 6:30pm commuter train. I’m not sure if it was the fact that I realized that once again I had gone to work in the dark, and was now travelling home in the dark, or the fact I was taking too much stress home with me, but something clicked inside my head.  I just thought, that’s it, no more.

“I got home, went online and planned the route around the world I’d always dreamt of, booking two first class tickets to twelve global destinations, costing me my £20k bonus. It was the most liberating thing I’d ever done. However, announcing to my wife that she should plan to take a year off of work to go on the adventure of a lifetime in just three months time was probably the most nerve-racking thing I’d ever done!

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“February 2010 came around like a flash, and then we were packing for the most exciting experience of our lives. What made it all the more surreal was that our next door neighbour’s 21-year-old daughter came around to help us pack, being a serial traveller herself. She was full of good advice, but couldn’t quite understand why we were travelling with our Louis Vuitton luggage rather than a couple of battered old backpacks!

“When the day came to leave, the feeling of sipping champagne in that first class cabin as we prepared for take-off was like nothing else I’d ever experienced. The rush of adrenalin, the complete feeling of absolute harmony (and nervous energy), was overwhelming. For the first time in decades, I felt like I could cry.  It was astonishing.

“The trip itself was incredible, and it’s hard to pick a highlight, although the month learning Japanese in a five star hotel in Tokyo and the six weeks spent gaining a pilot’s licence in New Zealand were outstanding. Notable mentions should also go to the fabulous month we spent cruising down the West coast of the United States on our Harley Davidsons, the amazing fortnight on our own private Sunseeker in the Caribbean and the three weeks of walking safaris through Malawi with our own private guide. It was simply the best time of our lives.”

Richards’ story is similar to many other professionals who go from school to university to work, and then realise two decades have passed, and they’re still in the same building (albeit in a corner office, with a comfy seat and plush business cards these days). As John Lennon once said, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

But why now, in the midst of the biggest global financial crises, are so many businesspeople spending tens of thousands of their own savings on something so extraordinary?

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Bondsfield of Round The World Experts said, “We believe the recent increase has come from the fact that the passengers have been putting these major life and financial decisions on hold during the last few years due to the recession, election and recovery. However, now the future is looking more certain, and the changing economic and political environment has inspired many to reflect upon their core life values and ambitions. Plus with savings delivering very low returns, many feel that they can garner better returns from savings in the form of memories and experiences.”

Bondsfield also believes that the web has played its part too, “The increasing use of the internet and social media especially has opened this audience’s eyes up to world travel, whether it is through seeing their children visiting India on Facebook, or as a result of how easy it is to research and plan destinations and activities and access trustworthy reviews and advice via the net.”

But, if the familiar Monday morning feeling is so depressing after just a week in the sun, how does it feel to return to normality after the most incredible year of your life?

Richards said, “Coming back was undeniably bittersweet, as the realization that the party is over is a stark one. However, a year away from friends and family is a long one, and the sense of humility and appreciation you develop when you see the huge swathes of poverty across the world makes it very hard to feel sorry for yourself.”

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Would he do it again?

“Without question. In fact, we are. The thought of life being an endless slog now feels us both with dread, and so we’ve agreed with each other to live out our working years by only agreeing short employment contracts, working for a year to help the savings along, and then travelling for 365 days.”

And will the Richards’ newfound globetrotting lifestyle be done on a budget?

He laughs, “We both like the finer things in life, so we’ll be doing all we can to enjoy the fruits of our labour, but future trips will also include some less ostentatious exploring, and settling into communities to see how we can help.”

So, next time you’re gazing absent-mindedly out of the train window, on yet another generic day where nothing of genuine consequence happens, and your imagination concocts a tropical vision in your head, remember on thing – the only person who decides what is your reality and your fantasy is you. Why not join the thousands of luxury backpackers, and make your fantasy your reality?

Don’t let other people be the ones who experience their wildest lifestyle fantasies. Choose your own route at www.roundtheworldexperts.co.uk.

 

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