The prospect of visiting Australia always held enormous appeal. Perhaps because it’s so far away, or maybe because the weather always looks so fabulously good, and they love competitive sport. Or was it simply that Aussies I’ve met elsewhere in the world have always struck me as decent, laid-back types with whom you would want to share a beer.
Bucket lists hadn’t been invented when I was first attracted to the idea of visiting Australia.
A good friend of my father had journeyed Down Under as a ‘£10 Pom’ in the early 1960s, no doubt frustrated with seemingly endless post-war austerity and bright enough to recognise the opportunities offered by Australia.
I vividly recall him returning for a holiday during Britain’s ‘Winter of Discontent’ in the mid-70s when a combination of the three-day week, wage caps and limits on electricity usage had turned the nation into a drab, black-and-white place riddled with political turmoil and deep unrest. Stan arrived at our house with his wife, Barbara. I’d never met him before but was immediately captivated by his tales from the other side of the world.
Stan ran a car dealership in Sydney and was clearly doing well. He and Barbara had bought a house with a swimming pool! Photographs of the pair playing in the pool with their daughters under gloriously sunny skies were handed around; we caressed them as if they were precious manuscripts. Palm trees peppered a variety of outdoor domestic scenes, but the clincher was the image Stan handed directly to me. It was, he explained, his motorboat. This guy has a motorboat. “All of my mates have one,” he declared.
He recognised that I was transfixed. “You should come out,” he said. “Finish your education and Barb and I’ll sponsor you.” I was about 14 and would have left for Australia that night….
Post-university, I toyed with the idea of taking up Stan’s invitation, but landed a job working in London and New York; then the company asked me to go to the Middle East. A two-year posting soon became four. I met my wife. We got married, our daughter arrived, I started my own business, we lived in the States, then France and visited a host of other places around the world and still the desire to ‘do Australia’ remained as strong as ever.
Yet we never made it Down Under, although it remained an omission we were determined to rectify. Fortunately, we finally achieved our aim in late 2019, just before Covid-19 brought international travel to a grinding halt.
The journey to where our ancestors called the Great South Land began in Manchester and included a two-day stopover in Abu Dhabi (we would have happily stayed a week), before we headed Down Under.
Returning to Abu Dhabi’s impressive airport following a wonderfully refreshing break, our flight to Australia was soon called. This was it. Half a day from now, a long-standing bucket list entry could be ticked off. I recalled that acute sense of anticipation you experienced as a child when you almost wished away Christmas Eve, so desperate were you for The Big Day to arrive.
Such moments become rarer as we age, although we can still get excited at the prospect of experiencing something equally momentous. Visiting Australia for the first time fell squarely into that category.
Was it, I wondered, when we were airborne, a little too early for the complimentary glass of Champagne being offered? Well, I thought, it’s not every day you get to put a tick next to a bucket list item, is it? And we were on holiday…..
Between 2019 and 2022, a combination of lockdown and other restrictions severely hampered long haul travel in particular, you couldn’t journey a few miles up the road without being fined. Little wonder, then, that pent-up demand for long- and short haul travel, which built as millions of people contended with the pandemic, has yet to be satiated.
Not surprisingly, demand is greatest among folks aged 55 and above, their collective attitude towards travel increasingly influenced by that well-known mantra, often called upon to justify a little extravagance: “You can’t take it with you…”
However, another, less appealing, aspect of daily life with which we’ve become reluctantly familiar over the past 12 months is inflation, a debilitating imposition on travel and just about every other cost.
Once affordable, long-awaited visits to cousins in Canada or sisters in Sydney have become very expensive, a significant factor which accounts for an upturn in the popularity of equity release.
Statistics regularly show that around two-thirds of the latent wealth released from family homes is used to either replace an outstanding mortgage or to finance home improvements. The remaining third is employed to fund lifestyle items such as a new car, family gifts, or holidays. Indeed, an increasing number of older homeowners create their own ‘holiday fund’ to pay for a combination of long- and short haul travel with holiday dates spread over several years.
This ‘holiday fund’ can be created using a ‘drawdown’ lifetime mortgage. Effectively, you agree on a loan size with your lender which is determined by your age and property value. From this facility you can take an initial lump sum which tends to be the larger amount withdrawn. The remainder of the cash reserve you still hold with the lender can then be withdrawn whenever future expenses, such as trips abroad are necessitated. The advantage of drawdown equity release schemes is that you are only charged interest on any money taken from this reserve, not on any of the capital still lodged with the lender.
With a little planning, equity release can be used to underwrite ‘big ticket’ holidays, such as lengthy cruises scheduled to visit a series of exotic locations, or equally long breaks designed to soak up another nation’s guaranteed winter sun (Australia, anyone?). The same holiday fund can also be utilised to bankroll shorter breaks closer to home or on European vacations.
Homeowners understandably access the wealth built up in their property over many years to rid replace an outstanding mortgage or expensive credit card debts. Others use tax-free equity release funds as an accessible source of finance with which to improve their homes, adding value at the same time.
Yet there’s always room to accommodate life’s little luxuries, with holidays in warm, colourful foreign parts frequently proving a popular choice.
Of course, it’s also possible to add new places in countries you’ve already visited. A few years ago, we took five glorious weeks to journey from Perth to Sydney; our next jaunt Down Under will hopefully include Darwin, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and a host of others. Judicious use of equity release could see you there too.
If you’re dreaming of that trip of a lifetime, or indeed many trips over the course of your retirement, equity release could be one way to help make these dreams come true. You can find your expert adviser here, or if you want to browse the products available to you and see accurate live rates you can use smartER, exclusively at Equity Release Supermarket.