Why you’re never too young to travel the world

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A gap year for grown ups

While taking a ‘gap year’ is a concept more common amongst school leavers and ‘twenty-somethings’ experiencing an existential crisis, taking 12 months off to travel the globe isn’t just a Gen Y rite of passage.  As Peter and Denise Barnett discovered, the world is your oyster no matter how old you are.

Voluntourism at the School of St Jude

After watching an Australian Story segment called ‘Africa Calling’, Peter learnt about the establishment of the ‘School of St Jude’ in Arusha, Tanzania by Australian, Gemma Sisia.

After the program finished, he checked out the School of St Jude website where he found a role available for a Purchasing Coordinator.

“We decided there and then to give it a shot,” Peter says, “and never had a second thought about whether it was the right decision or not.”

“Before we made the decision to volunteer, we had already decided that climbing the corporate ladder was not for us,” says Peter. “Our daughters were all working, so we had nothing to stop us from taking a leap of faith.”

“We told our adult children to pay the bills, as we wouldn’t be earning anything, and oh, by the way, we’ll be gone for 12 months.”

With that, Peter and Denise packed their bags and made the journey to Arusha, Tanzania. Located at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, Arusha is home to the School of St Jude – an educational service which seeks to educate disadvantaged, but bright students from the local district. Being involved in the program and fighting poverty through education was the highlight of the Barnett’s experience.

“We were accepted into the community and had the opportunity to work alongside Tanzanians, sharing their warmth and friendliness and in turn, gaining an understanding about their culture,” says Peter. “When you volunteer, you discover that you can make a difference to the lives of other people.”

The importance of travel insurance

But like some adventurers, Peter and Denise experienced sudden heartache when Denise’s parents passed away within 5 days of each other.

“Before we left, we had talked about what would happen if one of our parents passed away while overseas, but not two within 5 days,” says Peter.

Having taken out travel insurance with Travel Insurance Direct, Peter and Denise had access to immediate service and support as they arranged to return to Australia for the funerals.

“TID made life so much easier by being there when we needed support. The representative allocated to our case was a credit to TID.”

Denise also required a root canal during their trip – a common-place procedure in Australia, but one which left Denise terrified as they made arrangements for the work to be done in Africa. With the help and support of TID, Denise was able to have the root canal completed, with her Australian dentist crediting the great quality of the other dentist’s work once they arrived home.

Having now returned from their grown-up gap year, Peter and Denise are already looking for more opportunities to volunteer and make a difference. To other mature travellers , Peter says, “Do it. Don’t procrastinate. The reason will be different for everyone, but at the end of the day, not only can you make a difference to others, but it will change your life, your values and the way you look at the world.”

“Get in before your children do the same to you, and if they already have, tell them it’s payback time.”


TID is an Australian online travel insurance company.

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