Gap years

What I learnt on my grown-up gap year

Earlier this year, quite unexpectedly (and for personal reasons too tedious to share), I was forced to be outside the UK for ‘a while’. At the outset, I had no idea how long my exile might be: maybe weeks, maybe months. To add to the ambiguity, I had no particular place to go, except two already arranged travel writing trips of a week each (in the USA and Greece). So I decided: why not make a pleasing virtue of necessity? Why not, at the age of 58, do a geriatric version of a gap year, wandering freely about the globe? And that is exactly what I did. I packed my suitcase,

The death of the gap year

When the University of Cambridge’s vice-chancellor Stephen Toope told the Times that students’ gap year projects abroad can build less resilience than the everyday lives of students from modest backgrounds, he was of course right. In today’s culture, the three months I spent attempting to teach English in southern Malawi in the late Noughties now feel like a dirty secret of over-privilege; something that’s deserving of the same discretion as having a childhood pony or the fact that you spent the Easter holidays in the Alps. Actor Matt Lacey’s three-minute You Tube sketch ‘Gap Yah’, that went viral in 2010, cemented the cliché: the pashmina-clad Orlando braying about chundering his way