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As the cliche goes, it’s a short journey from the cradle to the grave, so you might as well enjoy it. If your screensaver shows a tropical island, if you find yourself staring bleakly into travel agents or if the daily grind is turning you into your parents, it’s time to make the change. We’re not paying for your flight, but maybe we can help you make up your mind where to go, what to do and how to get there.

but there‘s something missing in my lifc.‘

These are sentiments that Tom (it‘ifliths. founder of the (iapyear Company. is hearing more and more often as a whole disgruntled generation thinks ‘serevv the nine to live. I’m off to Australiaf

Sound familiar'? Maybe you‘ve got friends who've done it or perhaps it crosses your ovvn mind every morning. liither vvay. taking a year out has never been more popular.

Griffiths charts the rise from vvay back in the 6082 ‘lt stems from the baby boomers vvho vvent on the hippy trail. That vvas very much against convention: it vvas a time vvhen you got a career for life. got married. had children. retired then died. So they broke avvay from that.‘

Then vvhaddyaknovv. tvventy years later their kids start doing the same thing . . . but this time round it‘s acceptable. l‘rom a pic-university option it wasn't long before it became equally fashionable for graduates. as (iriffiths explains: ‘You could choose an oflice junior job or graduate scheme in the UK or trying living in Bondai. Australia doing some job that is almost irrelevant but you‘re surling and you get to travel the vvorld. The stories vvere

I might have a car. a good job and a house

" :Pear mun); Wg’s beachy . . . gapyear.com’s founder, Tom Griffiths, on what makes people

leave it all behind. Words: Louisa Pearson

coming back mentioning the haven of Thailand along the vvay. with people saying: "This is brilliant ~

I‘m living on the beach for

£1 a night".‘ Largely through vvord of mouth.

the idea of taking a year

out spread like vvildlire. So you can broaden your hori/ons. explore far off lands. learn nevv skills and meet people you might never have encountered had you stayed in llillhead. But is it really just escapism‘.’ (it‘ifliths admits that not everyone‘s reasons for buying that round-the-vvorld ticket are as vvell thought out as they might be. '\\'hy are you doing it'." he says. 'There might be scary things like you‘re in the vvrong relationship or you're in the vvrong job. You need to face up to the facts. There‘s

no point running off to Maccu Pichu if

everythinng jttst be there vvaiting for you when you get back.’

Although (irifliths is pleased to see more and more people taking a year out ~ he describes his vvebsite gapyear.com as ‘one simple area where you come to lind all the information you need to get you started' n he points out that the largest grovving market is the career gappers: 25—35—y ear— olds. ‘lt boils dovvn to the fact that they didn't make the right choice at eighteen.‘ he says. ‘You hit 28 and think "life is going by really quickly” then you t‘e—asscssf

He points out the loss of value to industry and an older vvorkforce as people begin nevv careers in their late 2(ls. But these vvorries aside. no one could be more encouraging than (it'ifliths about the benelits of taking a year ottt. vvhatever your age. .\lost universities and employers look favourably upon it. and at the very least. you’ll have a vvhole stash of interesting stories to bore your friends back home vvith. (it‘ifliths sums it up: ‘lt‘s all about being honest vvith yourself. What you don't vvant to do is come back to vvhat you left. You vvant to move forvvard. Have faith.‘

Just think what you could be doing. Words: Louisa Pearson

I Write for a Bolivian newspaper You‘ll need to know some Spanish but if you do. you can write articles across the board for a nationwide English language publication. Projects last three months and cost 91595. For details: 0870 333 2332, www.i-to— i.com

I Dress up as Mickey Mouse That’s right folks, Disneyland Paris recruits thousands, from cleaners to Captain Hooks. Make your dreams of being a princess who lives in a castle come true at www.disneylandparis.com

I Teach adventure sports worldwide Whether you’re qualified or looking for training. there are loads of opportunities available. from teaching mountain biking in the Pyrenees to becoming a trainee skipper on a yacht. You’ll find a good selection of paid and voluntary work on www.adventurejobs.co.uk

I Help elephants in Sri Lanka Volunteer at a private foundation which takes care of abandoned or maltreated elephants, doing everything from feeding them to producing educational materials for the local community. Projects last three months and cost 521395. For details: 0870 333 2332, www.i-to—i.com

I Pick fruit in New Zealand 80 it’s not glam. but think about how you‘ll b