Planning a family gap year

Last week it was my birthday and I had another realisation:

 “Emily and I have been working for 25 years solid. The longest break we have ever had was a 3-week trip to New Zealand.... 17 years ago."

 Our bucket list is getting so big that it's getting difficult to carry and we may not be able to retire until we are 70 years old, 27 years away.

What we need is a break! Not a holiday, where you rush around a new location for two weeks trying to cram as much in as possible, but a bona fide break. Some time to reflect, to pause and think about how far we have come and how far we have yet to go.

 What we need is a gap year!

 If you are anything like me, you'll be thinking that a gap year is something done by students, some time off from studies to figure out what to do with your life. A time to travel the world, sleep in a hostel and generally bum about. But It appears that there are more and more people taking a gap year in later life. People who want to do things now, while they are healthy not hold out for something in the future. These people are taking a gap year, or a mini-retirement, to step away from their typical routines, create a blank slate and reinvent themselves. 

Is this something we can do?

When I first raised the idea there were so many reasons why not that we almost dismissed it entirely.

What about the kids? We can't just go taking them out of the educations system whenever we feel like it.

 Yes, we can. Children can be homeschooled with permission and you don’t even have to follow the national curriculum. There are plenty of online resources available and they’d be learning so much more on the road.

What about the house? We can't just sell up and leave.

 A house is just a house, it is bricks and mortar it can be replaced. Another option is to rent the house out whilst we are away providing an income to pay the mortgage.

What about money? It's too expensive to give up work for a whole year

 There are various methods we can use to fund a gap year and if we travel to a country with a relatively low cost of living the money will go further than we think, and It doesn’t have to be a whole year.

What about work? We can't just quit our jobs and leave

 Maybe, maybe not. We can ask for a 4-6-month sabbatical, do some remote working or just take some time unpaid.

Pets? We have a dog, a cat and 4 chickens to worry about.

 We could rent the house out with pets in situ. Find someone to take care of them while we are away or take the pets with us (ok maybe not the chickens!)

The mortgage? We are planning to pay the mortgage off early do we really want to put this on hold.

Yes. The mortgage rates are so low now that overpaying is pointless. An overpayment of £200 a month for the next 8 years will save a mere £2,000 and pay the mortgage off 2 years earlier. Hardly worth putting our lives on hold. Instead, we can use the rental income to tap away at our balance and still have it paid off earlier than expected.

 What about our children's inheritance? Any money we spend now is less we can pass on to them.

 Hopefully, by the time we “pop our clogs” both our children will be settled down with their own families. If we teach them the right things and give them the love and support, they need, they will not want our money. The life lessons we can teach them by just being around will far outweigh the costs.

So, no excuses.... what is the plan?

6 months, 4 countries

 In order to fully immerse ourselves in a culture, we are thinking 1-2 months in each country. This will give us some time to find an apartment, see the sights but not rush about. I want to spend some time exploring alternative incomes and we need to give the kids a chance to settle in.


 The trip will be funded from the sale of our VW campervan and cars, from cashing in a couple of old unit trusts and by saving as much as possible over the next 2-3 years. The house will be rented out and our personal items moved into storage. We will have no utility bills, fuel bills or tv subscriptions to pay and we will, wherever possible, stay in budget accommodation in countries with a low cost of living.

 The total estimated cost for 4 persons for 6 months is £33,000 which I have estimated as below:

Flights £4,000 (Return Flight from London to San Jose in December £1900+ additional flights to other locations and internal flights)

Cost of living £29,000 (£40/day x 4persons x 180 days)

 The cost of living has been taken from various websites that indicate anything from $20-$70 a day, a family of 2 adults and 2 children can travel for less than 4 adults each in their own rooms but we do need to consider that our accommodation needs may be more than a student staying in a hostel.

Where and how will we travel?

 This is, yet, undecided. I’d like to visit Central/South America with countries like Argentina, Peru and Costa Rica high on the list. In order to travel on a budget, we would consider the far east and countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. I like the idea of backpacking and not having the stress of the car but then again this will be more difficult with young children. However, we do it the idea is to take it slow and let us all relax in our new surroundings.

What now?

 For the moment we can only continue to make loose plans, save some money and wait.

 We do not want to put our lives on hold to save-up, but we also need to be mindful not to waste money. We have a 12-year-old Labrador to take care of and C is about to start secondary school. I am doing some research into finding a second income to help the finances and we are starting to sell off some of our clutter and think through the details.

 There will be far more blogs on our progress but…The Balls are now rolling!

 If you are interested in a Family Gap Year or Mini Retirement try the following websites for inspiration:


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