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THE OLD GAPSTERS front      help

‘More mature’, ‘a great experience’, ‘really brave’ or ‘ooohhhh, so lucky’. Other people’s comments when, over the last year, (actually, make that three years) I’ve explained about my little plan. Can I really do this on my own? Explore the world, live like a student and worse than that, live with students for a whole year!

Most people, and I include myself here, tend to think ‘backpacking around Australia’, is a student’s prerogative. They take a gap year, drink heavily, pick some fruit, run out of money, sleep in smelly hostels in bunk beds, which quite frankly wouldn’t look out of place in Strangeways, and come home feeling ready to take on the rest of their lives. It seems that everyone is doing it now, even members of the Royal Family; if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.

But the problem with me is I am certainly not a student. I’m too old, I’ll spend the whole year being sensible, no-one will like me, they’ll all think I’m square, I’ll wear unfashionable clothes. This list of insecurities could go on but I think you get the point. I’m not too old - I’m nearly 30. I have friends and a boyfriend who are nearly 40 and a mother who is 56 but in Australia I can’t help but suspect I will stick out, not unlike a sore thumb, as a 30 year old.

A friend of mine recently gave me an article entitled ‘Older Gapsters’. Since having read this, I feel more at ease and actually quite proud that I fall into a category! There are other people with this same urge to travel later in life; throwing in their careers and selling much loved possessions to get to the other side of the world. Going back to that category though, don’t you think that after a while, people, probably the younger, more energetic students might start calling us ‘old gappys’? Others will have visions of us on Saga holidays, coach loads of 70+ grannies travelling around with their knitting never too far out of reach in their rucksacks!

Some call it a travel bug (which is another strange turn of phrase - surely that’s a sort of medical problem connected to drinking water in India). What’s the reason behind this big adventure then? I really can’t be sure! Maybe it’s because everyone else has done it, is doing it or is planning to do it and I certainly don’t want to be left out.

Copyright and Permission: Karen Starr 2002

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