The silver gap year: 4 vital things you need to do to plan your retirement adventure

November 03, 2022

Life is a long journey and many retirees are looking forward to going on an adventure. You finally have the free time to do all the things you may have put off in place of work and other commitments.

According to AgeUK, for many recent retirees, one of the things that catch them off-guard is their sudden loss of identity and purpose. 

They will probably be so used to the routine of getting up for work and filling their days with domestic and professional duties, that the rapid shift into a clear schedule can be unexpectedly jarring.

Some choose to find a hobby, others return to part-time work, many decide to travel whether to an all-inclusive resort or onboard a luxury cruise. 

According to the Guardian, there is another option though and one that is growing in popularity. The idea of taking a “silver gap year” and opting to backpack around the world.

It can be a rejuvenating experience and is likely to satisfy an adventurous spirit. But what do you need to know before departing on your travels?

Read on to discover four important steps to tick off before heading off on your backpacking journey.

1. Whip out a map and stick pins in your prospective destinations

For the spontaneous souls out there, simply packing a bag and hitting the road will suffice. 

But for the majority, going on a border-crossing adventure requires a certain degree of planning.

As silly as it sounds, it can be quite helpful and satisfying to visualise your journey by buying a cheap world map, pinning it to a wall, and marking your desired destinations.

You’ll want to work out if there’s a clear path between each leg of your journey to simplify your travels and save on the overall cost of your adventure. If you’re having to pay for dozens of flights along the way, you could find your holiday costs far more.

One of the great benefits of a backpacking adventure is being able to take in nature. So, a starting point for planning your route could be looking up some of the world’s greatest natural wonders and building your journey out from there.

According to World Atlas, the seven natural wonders of the world consist of:

  1. The Northern Lights 
  2. Mount Everest in Nepal
  3. Victoria Falls in South Africa
  4. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia
  5. Guanabara Bay in Brazil
  6. Paricutin Volcano in Mexico
  7. Grand Canyon in the USA

Conveniently this gives you a wide range of options for which continent you’d like to explore.

You could land in Copenhagen and slowly make your way north until you reach the land of reindeer and glowing skies. Or head to Rio de Janeiro and traverse South America from the Copacabana to the heights of Machu Pichu. 

2. Do your research into any issues you might face on your travels

Once you’ve got your destination in mind, it’s time to do your research into the nitty gritty that will stop your adventure from turning into a nightmare. 

You’ll want to factor in a list of pitstops along the way and have a clear idea of what kind of accommodation you’re going to use. 

Are you going to rough it at times with a sleeping bag and tent? Will you find yourself bonding with some globetrotting twenty-somethings in a hostel? Or will you account for resting at a luxury hotel or two for a good night’s sleep and a cleansing shower?

You’ll want to make sure you’re apprised of any potential dangers you may face. Whether it be local wildlife or diseases (of which you’ll likely want to book vaccinations beforehand), local scams to be wary of, or simply when the local weather might make things extra perilous. 

Having a useful notebook on hand with warnings, essential phone numbers, key local phrases, and cultural tips can be invaluable.

Lastly, before you depart on your journey, make sure your loved ones know where you’re headed and roughly when you’ll be at key checkpoints.

3. Create a backpacker’s checklist

The last thing you want is to find yourself in the middle of the countryside and suddenly realise you left something essential at home.

So, take a moment to sit down and come up with an essential travel checklist for when it comes time to pack for your journey.

Your checklist may include items such as:

  • A smartphone with an international SIM card (or roaming on your plan enabled)
  • A universal plug adapter and mobile power bank
  • A book or kindle and headphones
  • Adventure attire such as a raincoat, hiking boots, and a microfibre towel
  • A reusable water bottle
  • Travel locks, a first aid kit, and a pocketknife 
  • An eye mask and ear plugs to help you rest on an overnight bus or noisy hostel.

You’ll also want to bring along regular holiday essentials such as key toiletries, changes of clothes, suncream, and insect repellent.

Packing cubes can be an incredibly useful addition to your backpack as they can compress your luggage down and save room.

Beyond all the physical items, you’ll also want to ensure you’ve ticked off travel insurance.

4. Plan for any potential disasters and have an emergency fund ready

You’ve picked your destination, you’ve planned your route, and decided upon all the key activities along the way. 

You’ve accounted for issues you may face and made sure your bags are packed with all your essential needs.

You’re nearly ready to embark on your adventure. 

The last key step is to make sure that you have an emergency fund set aside for your travels.

Upon arriving at the first leg of your journey, you’ll want to make sure you have both accessible physical currency on your person and an emergency fund easily available through your bank account to cover any unexpected expenses that may arise.

You don’t want to find yourself out of pocket and trapped in a foreign country.

Once you’re safe in the knowledge that you have plenty of cash to cover your travels, then the time will have finally come – your silver gap year adventure awaits.

Safe travels!