Celebrating the Big 4-0 with a ‘Gap Year’
- by Matthew Brodsky
Turning 40 in any country is not necessarily a moment of peace for the sufferer, but in Norway it appears that the milestone inflicts particular trauma—especially for Nordic men. Midlife crises begin early in Scandinavia, and age 40 is the time for men to buy the Harley, go to “get gas” and never return to the fam’, or in the very least go on a binge of adolescence reminiscent of Kevin Spacey in American Beauty.
Stein Mellemseter, W’97, is being proactive about this “40-year-old crisis.”
“Personally, I have realized, we only have one life,” he says.
It is a cliché, sure, but it is easier said than done—if you have certain things in life you wish to do, do them before it’s too late.
For Mellemseter and wife Helen, one such thing is traveling the world.
The timing is right—and not just because he is staring down the barrel at 40. Mellemseter has been working hard in investment banking since graduation. He’s now with Nordea Bank (Scandinavia’s biggest), his wife is a real estate agent, and both are established enough with careers and clients to feel comfortable to take a “gap year” and return to work in 12 months without a hitch. Their children—Erik (9) and Hilde (7)—will be old enough to remember and appreciate the experience.
“It will also be a fantastic real-life learning experience, as our kids, for example, will learn about religions and geography, history and languages, firsthand as we travel,” Mellemseter explains. “Going on this round-the-world trip hopefully also makes them realize that the world outside of Norway is full of wonderful opportunities, and that we need to seek them out to truly benefit.”
Their travel technique is to pinpoint a country in advance and remain there for roughly about a month. Take Brazil. They will look to rent an apartment in one spot, say Rio for a week or two, and then spend the rest of the time in country on a more improvised route.
“We would like to live less like typical tourists and more like the natives on our trip, as we would love to immerse ourselves in the everyday life in the countries we visit,” he says.
The locales currently on the itinerary include the United States, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Brazil, Tanzania, India, Myanmar, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Australia and Tahiti.
Two highlights look to be Africa, where the family will do a safari in the Serengeti and where Stein and his son will climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. If Erik completes the ascent, he will become one of the youngest people ever to do so (at almost 10). The family aims to do Machu Picchu in Peru, and explore China, where Mellemseter hasn’t been since a year after his Wharton graduation.
“It may not be recognizable,” he says.
Mellemseter and his wife talked about doing this world trip for years, during which time they have traveled as much as possible with their kids for two- to three-week vacations—to Florida, Spain, Australia, the Philippines.
“We really see that we all just love going on a vacation together,” he says. “It unites the four of us.”
Mellemseter contacted me about his quest to travel the world and experience locales as a local because he is seeking his fellow Wharton alums’ assistance. If you’re interested in connecting with Stein during his trip, in his U.S. leg or international—or helping him and his family learn about your community—contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He would love to hear from you.
The Mellemseters’ trip begins in New York City on Aug. 10.