Warning: you will occasionally feel old. Set out on a gap year in your 30s and you will sometimes feel like the mature age student at the uni lecture.
Your fellow travellers will all be bright young things with toned stomachs and white-toothed smiles who've never suffered hangovers in their entire lives. You, in comparison, will be wrinkly or flabby, and prone to requiring multi-day recoveries from any drinking session that stretches past midnight.
Still, you should go on a gap year when you're in your 30s. You should drop everything and just travel for 12 months, see the world, have experiences, take time away from working life and just relax and enjoy yourself. This stuff isn't purely for high-school leavers and university recalcitrants. Gap years are a good idea at any age. And taking one in your 30s has distinct advantages.
You can afford it
No need to beg your parents for a loan when you're in your 30s; no need to spend your entire holiday pulling pints in a London pub to afford the rent on your 12-person share house in Putney. You've probably been working a good job at home for 10 or 15 years now, which means you'll have enough money squirrelled away to pay for your own trip, to stay in decent accommodation, to eat the odd fancy meal, to do all the things you want to do and not have to work unless you really desire it.
You know what you want
Picture yourself as a high school leaver, or a uni student: did you really have any idea of who you were or what you wanted? Of course not. Now though, you're on top of things. You already know the style of travel you enjoy. You know the types of destinations that will appeal. You've figured out how fast you like to move, how far you like to go, and what you like doing when you get there. That's going to make for a far better 12 months away.
The mere act of jumping on a plane feels like a crazy adventure when you're 18. Moving to Edinburgh feels wild. By the time you've hit your 30s though, your threshold for adventure has widened. You're more likely to take bigger risks in your 30s, to go to more interesting places and to challenge yourself with different experiences. That may not always work out well, but it will be memorable, and probably life-changing.
You make better decisions when you're in your 30s. Part of the fun of being young is making mistakes, doing dumb things and learning from them. By the time you've hit your 30s though, you should be in a far better position to navigate your way around the world without getting into too much trouble.
House prices are falling
One of the major worries for people travelling long-term in their 30s is that they're giving up socially acceptable life goals like buying a house. But fear not, friends! House prices in Australia are currently dropping, which means you'll save big bucks by putting that major purchase off for a few years*.
You won't spend all of your money on booze
One of the few bright sides of suffering two-day hangovers is you're less likely to want to spend all of your money on alcohol. All of a sudden there are new priorities. You might spend some of that extra cash on expensive meals at fancy restaurants. You might splash out on private rooms at hostels. You might take trains instead of buses. It all adds up.
You'll meet like-minded people
Granted, the bulk of your new travel buddies on this gap-year adventure will probably be in their 20s. But you will meet others your own age. You will be able to hang out with fellow travellers who have also chosen to put houses and cars and kids on hold to explore and see the world. And you will inspire each other to continue.
You're willing to learn
When you've just left school, or uni, the last thing you want to do is study. When you're travelling in your 30s, however, it suddenly seems like a good idea to take a course in the local language, or to take art classes, or learn how to dance, or apply yourself to any number of authentic local endeavours. This is an amazing part of the travel experience that younger adventurers rarely get to appreciate.
Your career (probably) won't suffer
Employers, in Australia at least, tend to understand the urge to travel. Taking a year off to see the world might set your career progression back a little, but you're unlikely to suffer in the long term. In fact, you'll probably be able to spin this experience as something vital to your worldly education.
You can still work
If you really want to work on this gap year, you can. Canada and Australia have just extended their reciprocal working holiday visa arrangement to include travellers up to 35 years of age. In other countries you'll be able to volunteer, and in some cases work.
This might be your last chance
This could be it. You could have kids soon. You could have a mortgage. You could make all sorts of commitments in the next few years that will make it very difficult for you to take 12 months or more to just travel the world and have fun. Might as well do this while you can.
*I have absolutely no financial qualifications, and nothing I say about fiscal security should be taken seriously.
Have you taken a gap year in your 30s? Would you want to? What are the upsides and downsides?