Growth doesn't have an age limit. Get to know two of Remote Year's over-40 participants, and learn why they chose to join a work and travel program at this stage in their life.
You’ve seen it on social media. Young adults in their seemingly early 20’s gallivanting around the globe, free of responsibility, and focused on having as much fun as possible before life gets serious. No spouse, no house, no high-maintenance full-time career, no children to speak of, in pursuit of a yearlong traveling party. You might think of participants as nomads, untethered to anything except for their own whims.
Like a scene from a music festival, but longer and with way better food.
That perceived reality is really just a myth. Work and travel programs attract professional participants from all around the world, including everyone from those who are young in age to those who are young at heart. People join work and travel programs to continue growing their career, not put a pause on their professional aspirations.
The average age of a Remote Year participant is 32, but participants have been as young as 23 and as old as 72 when they join a program. The diversity of ages represented on Remote Year indicates that participants are activated by the program’s larger purpose. It all comes down to the reason why people join programs and, spoiler alert, it’s not so that they can shirk their responsibilities.
Every single person could give you a different reason for why they chose to join a work and travel program. For some, it was to escape the stagnation they felt in their everyday life, a chance to live with spontaneity and flexibility. Some would say that they wanted to see more of the world and expand their individual perspectives. Others would suggest that they joined to meet new people and become a part of a community that shares their values and sense of adventure.
Each of these reasons can be wrapped into one underlying factor: people who join work and travel programs are craving change.
This is the thread that ties each participant together. It’s not about age, nationality, gender, socioeconomic status, profession, or to be honest, even the urge to travel. It’s about the passion that they feel when they consider a life lived to its fullest. It’s about the feeling that they get when they think, “What if?”
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The epiphany that there is more out there to be seen, more memories to create, can appear at any stage in life.
Scott Dukette, 59, traveled with his wife, Barbara, on Remote Year Veritas. While on program , he experienced a similar lightbulb moment.
“For most of our life there were always mortgage payments, doctor bills, tuition to pay, cars to buy, and kids to be driven around,” Scott said. “We never had time to sit back and consider what we wanted to do - we were always focused on what we had to do. We reached a point when life gave us a breather - we were blessed with good health, financial resources and time. Neither of us had done a gap year when we were young, so it seemed like a great option for now.”
Carol Litt, a member of Remote Year Kairos, came to Remote Year under similar circumstances.
“I joined Remote Year on a whim,” Carol said. “I had looked at other programs, and they clearly were not interested in a 65-year-old woman going on a journey. After 35 years of parenting, many struggles and triumphs, and an awesome career, I wanted more. I had a passion for travel and often set out on adventures as a single woman. It can get lonely. It’s often hard to make [deep] connections over a week of vacation.”
Community is one of the most important aspects of a work and travel program, but it can be one of the major deterrents for more mature professionals as well. Would a 65-year-old be able to easily connect with a 30-year-old? Would their interests align? Would they be able to find common ground and compatibility?
The short answer is: no relationship exists without effort.
Everyone on Remote Year is entering the same playing field, a potential community where each person is electing to leave their comfort zones for a world of unknowns. No matter your age, you’ll have the same opportunity to create lasting bonds with your fellow program participants.
There are many things that are unique about the Remote Year community, but their capacity for acceptance and inclusion are at the top of the list.
“[On Remote Year Kairos] there were people with a variety of ages, backgrounds, points of view, styles, and tolerance for their lives,” Carol said. “Many of those in their 20’s and early 30’s were struggling to find their bliss; find their place. Watching and coaching and loving them through that process was so rewarding. It was incredible to remember what is was like to be in their shoes and have wisdom to lend.”
“I was emphatic that I did not want to be their mother, but I did want to share my stories and wisdom. Kairos was such a loving group that watched out for me in a very cool way - never obvious but always felt, and I was so grateful. I hiked a five-mile trip to the waterfalls, which was scary, treacherous, and often dangerous. Someone always looked back to see if I was OK. Someone was always close by to offer a hand with heavy luggage. Someone was always aware and ready to give a needed hug.”
Carol Litt shares her story
The Remote Nation is a community that is focused on fostering personal and professional growth while becoming more aware of and empathetic toward different cultures around the world. With this ethos, it’s simple to see how and why each program has embraced the differences within their own cohort. Just as they want to meet and connect with people that live in different cities, they want to form those same bonds with the diverse people who they’re traveling with.
“Regardless of the age spread, every group is going to have its own personality. There will be people that you mix with better than others, regardless of age,” Scott said. “There are going to be a lot of things that go on that you probably don't want to take part in at this point in your life, and others where you may stick with being an observer rather than a participant. But embrace the commonality - people of any age who are interested in embarking on this program are not mainstream (maybe they will be in 20 years but not today!). We're all somewhat misfits. Embrace your oddness and the collective oddness of your group!”
At a bare minimum, being an older work and travel program participant can give you an opportunity to be the life of the party, and the go-to advice-giver.
“I was able to tell the group about my Tinder dates and their shock that I would be Tinder dating was hilarious,” Carol said. “A true community that is sustainable has a mix of ages. It is an adventure of a lifetime no matter what your age is. No matter if you are working a salaried job, or just working on yourself. I understand I had an impact on Kairos that was meaningful to them, and to me, because of my age. Showing them my fears, vulnerabilities, and growth was the most impactful experience I can speak to.”
Another key reason why people want to join these communities are because they act as incubators for personal and professional growth.
Each person, whether they intentionally set them or not, has a goal for themselves that they want to accomplish by the end of their time on program.
They want to write a novel.
They want to get over their fear of meeting new people.
They want to learn a language.
They want to get a promotion.
They want to feel free.
They take the leap into a new way of life with the hope that they’ll come out on the other side with a worthwhile experience that makes all the difference.
This concept is relatable for Remote Year participants of every age. We never really stop growing after all. We may accumulate academic degrees, job titles, family members, and awards, but we never stop expanding our opinions and our worldview.
The world is forever-changing - and so are we.
“I grew in ways I never expected,” Carol said. “I did have an intention [when I joined Remote Year]. I had just started to explore a journey to connect to myself authentically and follow my desires. I met a group of wonderful people just prior to Remote Year who also work remotely, and I was able to regularly SKYPE with them and get the support I needed to push past my comfort zone, to explore my deep fears and pains and grow.’
“The Remote Year Kairos community embraced my journey. They were sometimes incredulous that I, at 65, was confronting myself and seeking a new life. My wonderful Kairos Krew never criticized or ostracized me for my journey. In fact, they were curious. Several want me to meet their mothers of a similar age and connect with them about my adventure.”
Growth comes in more ways than one. Scott found that on his year with Remote Year Veritas, his relationship with his wife grew stronger.
“Our relationship as a married couple certainly grew - at no point in our 31-year marriage have we ever spent as much time together and in such close quarters as we did during our Remote Year,” Scott said. “And, of course, seeing firsthand how people live around the world and the challenges they've faced throughout history, as well as today, was a huge growth spot for me. It definitely provides a new perspective on what's really important.”
Then, there is the professional piece. How can someone who has an established professional career find opportunities for development on a work and travel program? What could this experience have to offer someone who has been a member of the workforce for decades?
“Although I am officially retired, I plan to always work and have purpose in my life,” Carol said. “Volunteering is one way. Being part of community is another way. On the Remote Year trip, I was able to write a treatise that had been on my mind for over 20 years when I returned to school to study Interior Design.”
“I had a notion about consumerism and decision-making relating to why we buy product. I finally cracked that project open and wrote it. I hope to share it with my professional community and others in the near future. I also opened myself up to a new career. I’ve explored a potential to offer myself in new ways to others in their healing process. Remote Year put me in cities that offered things not available in the United States.”
“I was also able to get back to painting,” Carol said. “My artwork was put on hold many years ago so I could support my family and now that I have that back in my life it is priceless. I was inspired by the travel and new locations to create new inspiration. Meeting another accomplished professional artist was way beyond my exceptions and yet I was rewarded by meeting Jase [Harley, an artist and musician also traveling with Remote Year Kairos] and rooming with him as well. We spent hours talking over the artistic process and sharing. We painted together. We went to art museums and shared our reactions. We talked over the challenges and rewards of the artist life. I shared my wisdom and he shared his current struggles and accomplishments. This is a bond that will last my lifetime.”
Carol and Scott experienced two very different work and travel experiences, one as a 65-year-old woman who found a new life for herself on a 4-month program, and one as one half of a couple that lived, worked, and traveled around the world on a 12-month program. Though there were contrasts to their circumstances, their advice has a similar ring to it: don’t try to be anything that you’re not.
“Be yourself. Do not try to act like you are 20 or 30 again. Do you. They will love you for it,” Carol said. “Go out if you feel the calling to dance the night away. Stay home and make a meal if that is what feels good, and invite some of the group over to chat. There are so many adventures on all different levels; find what makes you happy. Spend time by yourself and bring that adventure back to the group - they want to know what makes you happy and they may also explore it because of your enthusiasm.”
“Don't force yourself to do things you aren't comfortable doing, but at the same time take some risks and grow a little,” Scott said. “Our group figured out really fast that if something was happening after midnight, it would probably be happening without me. At the same time, you may need to reach out and get to know people through other means - I tried to schedule a one-on-one lunch with everyone in our group.”
“I would also suggest that you DO have roommates as early in the experience as possible. Because of our married status, we roomed by ourselves until Month 9, when we had roommates for the first time. Wish we'd done it sooner - it was a great experience!”
Carol’s and Scott’s advice rings true because it brings to light the very ethos of human nature. We are all after the same things: connection, understanding, fulfillment. Though we walk unique paths to reach these goals, the premise is the same, and we shouldn’t hold ourselves back from pursuing them because of our perceived differences.
No matter our age, we are capable of achieving change and chasing after inspired development. Whether we choose to do so on a work and travel program is a matter of choice, but whether we continue to grow? That’s a non-negotiable.