I don’t know if it’s because I am just back from a work trip to Monaco and Nice, the fact that the holiday season is here, or the unprecedented soaring tropical temperatures this week, but the concept of a midlife gap year has never seemed more alluring. And research suggests that I am not alone as an increasing number of 50 plus women are throwing in the towel and leaving it all behind to embark on a midlife adventure.
Many of us loved ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, the best-selling 2008 novel by Elizabeth Gilbert, about a former journalist who sold up her entire life and travelled across the world in her 30s to find herself. The idea that we could start again, pick up and discover an entire world of adventure, free of the ties that bind is seductive – releasing us from the shackles of lives filled with domestic duties, work commitments and the pull of other people’s needs. Is it seductive enough that you’d really do it, though? And to do it in your 50s, when traditional stereotypes say that women are winding down to a peaceful retirement?
The answer for a rising number of midlife women is a resounding ‘yes’. We’re not scared anymore. We’ve had careers, raised families and bought homes – but we still want adventure, and as we go into our prime years, the urge to make a life about more than duty can be overwhelming. Add to this more freedom, greater financial security and the fact that we are living longer, and it means that the destination bucket list we’ve been steadily compiling over the years is actually much more achievable.
Earlier this year I interviewed Telegraph columnist and travel writer and photographer Jan Masters, who at 60 thinks nothing of taking off to far-flung destinations to capture some spectacular images with her passion for photography. On her website she says: “I love to travel. Sometimes, the journeys include elements of sheer luxury. Often, they don’t. But whatever the experience, if I meet different and diverse people, and feel something new and true, then, armed with a camera, I am at my happiest.”
I think this is exactly what extended midlife travel, solo or otherwise, is all about – to “feel something new and true.” As nurturers, wives, partners, mothers and career women, by the time we reach our midlife years so many of us have lost sight of who we are. Maybe the answer is to step out of our comfort zones and head back out into the world to experience a life that is a little more off the beaten track and give ourselves the chance to rediscover who we are – truly who we are.
For me, for now – I love to travel – but with Studio10 it has to be shorter and more frequent trips throughout the year that keep me going – back from one and on to imagining the next! But for the many women who are thinking of taking a sabbatical, or a career break, or who are at a time in their lives when it belongs more to themselves than to others, I’d say these are precious years that deserve adventure – and that there’s a big, beautiful world out there to be explored.