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Grey Gap Years on the Backpacker Trail

Grey Gap Years on the Backpacker Trail

With retirement looming, the kids flown and the nest empty, older generations are starting to jump back on the backpacker trail to see how the world has changed since the last visit.

For young people travel is a given: be it a gap year to expel all youthful naiveté or an OE in Europe chasing the dream job with frequent long weekends in France and Spain. There’s certainly no doubt on how travel can shape a young persons life and way of looking at the world but the same is true of all people, young and old.


An exciting and promising trend is emerging with the demographic over 55: some have called it the ‘grey gap years’. Although they’re decades older than their fresh faced, just out of school, counterparts – their numbers are booming in the travel scene. This is fantastic news as the benefits of travel are numerous, to mind, body and soul.


According to Statistics New Zealand over 428,000 people aged 55-plus left the country to travel in 2005, rising to 662,000 in 2014. Now that average life expectancy has risen, retirement is no longer simply a banal interval period between your career and eventual death. And cheers to that!


So where are all these grey-haired-gooses heading to?


The main destinations are Australia, the United States and the UK but Asia, the Pacific Islands and Europe are seeing an increase in numbers too. And without doubt the next generation of Grey Gappers will become more adventurous and tackle South America, Africa and when safer – parts of the Middle East.


Old people also tend to have more and better reasons to travel than their grandkids. For example they may be returning to places they visited when they were younger to experience a new and modern version of the country they fell in love with all those years ago – India and China are big on this point.


Many fulfil life long dreams when tracing their family heritage and history back to experience what shaped their ancestors lives – very popular in England, Ireland and Scotland. Another common trend for older travellers is home swaps, which provides long term accommodation and an exciting way to experience every day life in an exotic part of the world.


The best part about the increase in older travellers is the opportunity for new friendships to be formed on the backpacker trail with likeminded and similar aged people. Yes young people can be a lot of fun but for oldies with bad knees all night pub crawls and skydiving can only be achieved maybe once a week! There are limits to these things…


Grey gap years are a fantastic way to form a newfound lease on life and provide an energetic platform on which to approach retirement. So what are you waiting for?