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Take time out of the routine.

IT'S not just soon-to-be university students who are taking gap years.

It seems that more and more 30, 40 and 50 year-olds are keen to take time out from the the routine of life.

A catalyst for many has been the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami.

Says David Stitt, managing director of travel firm Real Gap Experience - which launches a Gap Year for Grown Ups programme on March 1: "Many people realised their lives were so comfortable compared to devastation on that scale."

Students fairly claim to have invented the gap year concept, but now the "oldies" are jumping aboard the same bandwagon. Although journalist Julie Burchill has announced she will take a year off to study theology, gap years for mature folk mainly mean an opportunity for long-haul travel they couldn't afford in their youth.

Among older people, the market divides between those spending pounds 2,000 on eight-week volunteer " placements, and those spending pounds 10,000 to go away for at least eight months.

"Some people rent their homes out or sell their cars to raise cash," says David.

"Among these older 'gappers', about 75% of travellers are female, very often in response to a major event like bereavement or divorce. They tend to travel alone, working with other volunteers when they reach their chosen projects.

"Many people wish to change their lives or do something really different, though they may have quite fulfilling careers."

A Mintel report estimates 520,000 Britons take a gap year trip abroad each year, of whom 90,000 are on career breaks and 200,000 are 55 and over.

Over-50s tour operator Saga is also launching a Volunteer Travel programme for travellers keen to work on local charity projects in South Africa, Thailand, India, Peru and Morocco.

Meanwhile, The One Live Life exhibition, at London's Olympia from March 3-5, will feature a Taking A Break zone for older gappers.

Among experts ready to advise on organising the mortgage and taking the children out of school are leading travel firms Lonely Planet, Raleigh International, African Conservation Experience, Geckos, Earth Watch Institute, Coral Cay Conservation and Intrepid Travel.

For more information, contact Real Gap Experience (01892 516 164)' Gap Gear for Grown Ups (01892 701 881 or visit www.gapyear for grownups.co.uk)' Saga Volunteer Travel, Saga Building, Enbrook Park, Folkestone, Kent CT20 3SE or volunteersaga.co.uk. One Life Live exhibition details are available on www.onelifelive.co.uk. Tickets pounds 10 in advance, pounds 13 on door.

Mind the gap

FOR would-be gappers still in work, the current issue of Holiday Which? magazine says they must persuade their bosses of the potential benefits of unpaid leave for breaks which can run to several months.

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AGE NO LIMIT: Many adults are taking gap years to places such as Morocco
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 21, 2006
Words:468
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