Moving to Australia for a senior gap year adventure

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Noreen and Declan are an amazing couple from Dublin, Ireland. Having worked hard their whole lives, their minds turned to their next chapter once they both retired. The couple took a leap of faith and decided to hit the road and embark on a senior gap year in Australia. Read Noreen's account of their incredible year and experience of discovering Perth through a homestay.d

Senior Gap Year

My husband Declan and I retired in 2014. We live in Dalkey, a suburb of Dublin, Ireland. We decided that life is too short to waste time thinking too much about what we want to do for our retirement. Our daughter who was living in Sydney had given birth to our first grandchild in November 2013. She was expecting her second child the following July so our decision was easy. We did not hesitate in putting plans in place to travel to Australia so we could be with her and her husband for the birth of our second grandchild. Our other two children are now grown up and both are working in Dublin.

Noreen and Declan with their grandson in Sydney

We applied for and received a subclass 600 visa which entitles us to come and go in Australia until 2017. Following receipt of the visa, we booked a world ticket lasting twelve months that would take us to Sydney for a year and to visit my cousin in California on the return journey. On the day we left, our two children came to the airport with us to wish us bon voyage. It did seem strange for them to be bidding us farewell for a year as we mounted the escalator waving our goodbyes. There were some tears, but both of them have visited us here this year.

We checked out all the logistics for the trip such as house insurance, health insurance, travel insurance and contacted a rental agent to let our house in Ireland. There were a few hurdles to overcome, but we managed to handle these with relative ease. Prior to renting our house, we had to prepare it and get rid of some clutter. Throwing out long held possessions is not easy but we could not let that stop us having our gap year abroad. Making the decision to take a gap year in Australia has been one of the best decisions of our lives.

Noreen & Declan at a koala park

Our amazing Homestay Hosts in Perth

For our visit to Perth, I did a search on the website which is easy to navigate. We wanted a place to stay that had easy access to the airport and to the city and I must say I was delighted that we were so close to everything. We hired a car at the airport and the house was about half an hours drive away. We used Google Maps to find the house and it was very easy. Arriving after midnight, we were met by our host Julie with a big welcoming smile. She kindly offered us a cup of tea, but we declined because all we wanted to do is sleep.

Next morning we had a lovely breakfast sitting in their kitchen at their lovely marble clad island where Julie worked preparing the food. We chatted like we were old friends and her husband Tony arrived and gave us a big welcome. Tony and Julie are a lovely couple and really enjoy having guests stay in their home. Their house is large and bright and very welcoming. They gave us good advice on where to go and the best places to eat. On the first evening, we arrived back at their house at around four o’clock in the afternoon and Julie offered us a cup of tea which we graciously accepted. Julie and Tony both previously worked in the service industry in top international hotels so they know and understand what people want from their stay.

Noreen and Declan with hosts Julie and Tony

We felt very lucky to have chosen them as our hosts and we will return there on our next visit to Perth. This was the first occasion we booked through but it won’t be our last! You are not one of a crowd with Homestay, hosts treat you as their special guest in their home. Perth is a beautiful city to explore. We visited Rottnest Island, Margaret River which is about a three hours drive from Perth, Dunsborough, Freemantle, Cottesloe Beach and did a City Bus tour which was a lot for one week visit.

Getting Involved in Activities in Sydney

For our time in Sydney we were based in Coogee. I went to the local library in Randwick and saw an advertisement for various classes including drawing, creative writing and yoga so I joined up. I also got involved in the book club. All the people I met at the various activities were very nice and friendly. Together with my co-writers in the creative writing group, we produced and published a book of short stories and poems. My husband loves it here, the outdoor life suits him and he spends most days playing tennis, cycling, swimming, walking or taking our grandchildren to the beach and the park. Now he has a permanent tan and looks so healthy!

Noreen and Declan on a boat

Exploring the City

In Sydney, we have visited many places of interest including several museums, art galleries and the Botanical Gardens where we took our grandson on the train drive. We also visited Circular Quay on several occasions and it's always a great visit. We have walked Sydney Bridge many times and we especially enjoyed the Vivid Sydney festival where all the buildings and Sydney Bridge were lit up in a spectacular array of light. We have seen the Bondi Sculpture by the Sea exhibition and some fabulous sculptures on display on the beach and on the walk from Tamarama to Bondi beach. We have travelled a lot during our time in Australia including trips to Melbourne, Cairns, Noosa, Coffs Harbour, Bluey’s Beach, Elizabeth and Boomerang Beaches and Perth. We also visited the Home and Away film location of Summer Bay on the North Shores of Sydney which was fun.

Before we leave Australia we intend doing a plane ride over Sydney bridge and having a nice dinner out in Sydney Café, compliments of our daughter and son-in-law. When we were in Cairns I even did a skydive- it was an amazing experience. Not bad for an over 60's Gran! Declan did the seven bridges walk in Sydney with friends which he enjoyed very much. Sydney is a wonderful city and lives up to its outdoorsy reputation. It has so much to offer even though it can be expensive. Having visited Perth, we would like to return because we could not visit as many places as we would have liked in just one week.

The amazing Noreen doing her skydive

Advice to Others

Anyone contemplating taking a Gap Year should do their homework carefully beforehand, especially in relation to their budget as accommodation can be expensive depending on where you decide to live. Rents in Sydney are high and if you prefer to move from city to city rather than to base yourselves in one location then a homestay is ideal because the cost per night works out about the same as renting an apartment, while staying in a hotel would be about double that amount. In Sydney, almost all the apartments on the rental market are unfurnished so you have to factor that into your cost as well. We wanted our budget to allow us to see as much of Australia as possible so we did our homework and discovered suited us for trips outside Sydney.

The gap year which is now sadly drawing to a close has given us a lot of confidence to continue our travels, something we could not do when we finished university in the mid 1970s. We leave Australia with fond memories and a longing to return.

Thinking of heading Down Under? Visit Noreen's host Julie's profile, or check our our listing pages for Sydney and Perth to find the host that's right for you.

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