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.

It does not even need to be a year – just enough of an extended break 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 or do a road trip around Australia.

By planning ahead and making sure your break is not going to derail future financial goals, taking an extended period off work 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 around Australia. Taking off on an extended trip you can take the 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.

The importance of planning

Once you have established what your break will involve, work out a budget that takes account of the costs you will continue to incur (such as mortgage or loan repayments, insurance, 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 when travelling. Some ideas include:

  • Living like a local. Try 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.
  • 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.
  • Becoming a digital nomad. If manual labour isn‘t your thing, you could 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 think about 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 look into some longer term savings and investment options such as shares, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), or term deposits.

While a gap year is exciting, planning ahead financially is essential to ensure you don’t fall into debt.

You also need to carefully consider how this could affect your long-term financial goals. You probably won’t be making super contributions, so this may impact your super balance and retirement plans.

If you’d like to take time off in the future, contact us today to ensure that taking a break from earning an income won’t impact your future financial security.

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