Get set for a grown-up gap year

16 October 2015

Spending three months abroad

One retired couple, Liz Mullan and Roger Baker, from Deal in Kent, are no strangers to long-haul holidays, but the lure of Australia and New Zealand (where they both have family) were so strong that they decided to take an extended stay and really soak things up.

Taking in such sights as Christchurch, Mount Cook and Port Fairy as well as snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef and driving along Great Ocean Road proved to be so thrilling that Liz, a former legal secretary, kept a daily journal in order to remember everything.  “We did so much in those three months and it was wonderful to have plenty of time wherever we went,” says Liz.

The couple didn’t book accommodation in advance, but had help from family on where they should stay, and they enjoyed their trip so much that Liz and Roger are already planning their next excursion down under, with an aim to return in 2017, using their savings to fund it – “perhaps for more than three months this time,” she adds.

Taking a longer break

Christine and Ian Frey, from Newbury in Berkshire, both decided to retire early and see the world. Renting out their home to another family for funds and selling off their belongings, they departed armed with only one backpack each. This was last June – and they still haven’t returned to the UK.

Not wanting to go on a traditional series of trips, the couple have made a point of staying in each location for at least six weeks. “We don’t want to visit as tourists,” says Christine. In order to enhance this approach, they have also eschewed hotels and opted instead for Airbnb, which allows you to stay in people’s homes.

The list of locations they’ve lived in is impressive – including Bordeaux, Florence, Melbourne, Umina and Rome – especially when you consider how they have lived: “We had an incredible architect-designed apartment in Sydney, which was all glass and then a huge converted loft in Sydney above an art studio. We were happy, though, with a converted garden shed where we stayed in Umina.”

In order to save money they only eat out occasionally and they use their credit card, which earns them reward points to use back home – but when that will be is a mystery, as Christine says: “We have been back to the UK briefly to visit our daughters but we have no firm plans on when we will move back for good. We are having too much fun.”

Volunteering abroad

Angela Corcut is a retired English teacher from North London. Her inspiration came from her daughter, whose own gap year activities inspired Angela.

Every year she travels to South Africa for three weeks, where she helps look after animals being raised in conservation parks. Her husband, John, has no interest in such things, so she goes alone. “I have the most wonderful time, experiencing things beyond my wildest dreams.

“The day starts at 6am, and I am working with other gap-year students feeding and cleaning up after the lion cubs, and any other animals that need looking after, including monkeys, cheetahs and even giraffes – although they tend to look after themselves. When all the chores are done, there is free time to play with the cubs, which is wonderful,” she says.

As Angela is a volunteer, she has to pay for everything herself and doesn’t get remunerated for her work. The next trip that she’s planning, to Ukutula Lodge, will set her back £2,000.

Angela also needs to get specialist insurance as the activities are classed as ‘dangerous’. She says: “It wasn’t a problem and I’m just getting cover with MoreThan for my next trip. My advice to anyone thinking about doing something exciting is to go for it while you are in good health. Don’t miss out.”

How do I pay for my gap year?

• Savings
This is the ideal scenario but if you are cashing in investments, make sure you check for exit and administration fees.

• Pension withdrawal
The new pension freedoms introduced earlier this year have given access to money that was previously locked away. Under the new rules you can still take out 25% tax free cash, but anything in excess of this will be taxed at your marginal rate. Click here for more info on this.

• Rent out your home
If you’re planning on going away for a long time, talk to letting agents about the rent you could achieve on your home.  If, however, you just want to go on a jaunt, you could look into something like Airbnb, which can make renting out your house short-term surprisingly lucrative.