A 60-year Long Gap Year

A 60-year Long Gap Year
Photo Credit:TIng Wei Chang CC BY ND 2.0

By Winnie

Travel is very addictive, especially when you get to temporarily break free from the comfortable but boring every day life.

Each day is unpredictable when you’re traveling and there are different expectations and excitements. You never know what and whom you will run into today. Even if you come across misfortunes, they are all worth recalling later and make you become an adventurous person.

So after you go back to your normal life and become your responsible self again, the interesting side of you slowly disappears and you go back to the same dull existence.

Ten years ago, I traveled to Thailand as a backpacker for the first time with my husband (my boyfriend back then). We didn’t make any hotel reservations and just got on a plane to Thailand. After we arrived, we wandered around looking for cheap places to stay. On our first night, we stayed in a small hotel that cost under NT$ 500 (approximately NT$ 15) a night and were so proud of ourselves. But later on we found a local hut under NT$ 300 (approximately NT$ 9) that had no air conditioning or hot water. We walked around local markets, eating curry from plastic bags while worrying if we would need to go to the restroom later.


Photo Credit:Leo Hidalgo CC BY 2.0

After that trip, it was like discovering a whole new world and we realized traveling is more than just roaming through a city on a tour bus. Staying in fancy hotels and visiting tourist attractions aren’t necessary to experience the local culture and lifestyle. I spent my entire seven-day holiday on this vacation and even risked being beheaded by my boss. But seven days aren’t that long at all and I was reluctant to go back to work.

We are always dreaming about traveling around the world, but touring a small island can already take up a lot of our time. How long will it take to actually travel around the world?

There are many places you won’t be able to go to if you wait until you’re 60 years old and retired. There are a lot things your body can’t endure when you reach a certain age, so why not live your life to its fullest when you’re young and have as much fun as you can?

I have even imagined my partner traveling as a diving instructor and English teacher while I room and board along the way. Anything is possible as long as you have the courage.

If we were still fresh college graduates back then and had nothing to lose, we might have had the nerve to take one to two years to experience life and better understand what we wanted in life through traveling.

Unfortunately, we were at the age where we were insecure about money. We didn’t have the courage to drop everything and travel without any income. The idea of squandering our best years terrified us and we worried about not being able to find a job after returning.


Photo Credit:Sabrina M CC BY 2.0

But to fulfill our dream, we started to think about retiring early and saving more money to travel around the world while our bodies still allowed us to do so. This led us to think about what is really important in life. Did we really want to work nonstop for mansions, cars, luxury furniture, designer clothes and fancy meals? Is all this worth our time?

So we started to look for ways to lead a life free from financial pressure and come across the “4% rule." After we set a target pension, we started reducing the four main expenditures of food, clothes, living and transportation costs.

From then on, we didn’t buy cars or houses, but biked to work and rented cheap student apartments. Eating at home became a norm, as did wearing second-hand clothes and not buying unnecessary items. We started from saving 50 percent of our income and then went on to 70 percent. When people around us started building up their income and upgrading their lives and we were still skimping away, our savings increasing along with our income.

Ten years later, we have reached our goal and are able to live on our long-term investment of income. We don’t have to worry about money and the 30-year-old us can leisurely travel the world when we’re still in good health.

In 2013, my husband and I emptied everything and started living freely carrying only two backpacks. We started out from Mexico and roamed around without a plan in mind, staying for a couple of months in towns we liked. We went into the mysterious ancient Mayan and Aztec ruins, went to live with aboriginals in a small village in Guatemala Crater Lake, visited Cuba before it lifted its trade embargo and there are endless possibilities waiting for us to explore in the sixty years to come.

Note: William Bengen, a scholar from MIT, proposed the 4% rule in 1994. After analyzing the stock market and retirement cases of the past 75 years, Bengen believes that as long as one doesn’t withdraw over 4.2 percent of one’s retirement pension in the first year of retirement, with the slight adjustment in inflation rate, one can have enough pension until death.

Translated by Olivia Yang

The News Lens has been authorized by to repost and translate this article. The original article appeared here.