An In-depth Guide To Dealing With Parents Who Don’t Want You To Travel Solo
My parents tried to talk me out of quitting my job to travel alone and I’m so glad I didn’t listen.
It’s a shame because I would have missed out on the most enriching and dynamic experience of my life thus far.
I don't blame them though and I won't pretend to know what it's like to be a parent. At the end of the day, they only want what's best for us. It's natural to have concerns about this kind of thing, but sometimes they may not realize that they're holding us back.
I’ve known people with parents who gave them the silent treatment, threatened to send them to counseling, and even hid their passport when they told them they were traveling alone/visiting a foreign country. It's a difficult position to be in. We all want our parent’s approval and acceptance, so it's hurtful when they don't support our dreams.
It's no secret that I traveled alone AND quit my job against my parent's wishes, but they eventually learned to accept my choices. Now, I couldn't be more thankful for their support. I constantly receive messages from girls who struggle with the decision to travel alone without their parent's support. From breaking the news to convincing them, this in-depth article will help anyone with parents who don't want them to travel alone.
HOW TO BREAK THE NEWS
It's always best to keep it real. Easier said than done though, right?
If you know your parents tend to freak out about your safety, then tread lightly.
Prepare yourself for the conversation. Think about the questions you have and come prepared like you would for a college exam. They're going to have ALL the questions and you need to be ready to explain yourself.
Practical explanations include:
- "As I continue to grow, I'd love to discover more the world. I want to experience different cultures and meet new people while I can."
- "I will become more independent. I'll learn to rely on myself and make the most of every situation"
- "I think this trip will be great for my mental, physical and spiritual growth!"
- "Soon I'll be starting my career. I'd love to take advantage of the freedom I have now so that I can focus on my goals once I return."
- "I want to learn a new language!"
- "A study abroad experience will look great on my resume!"
These are a few reasons of substance. The goal is to convince them that this is a mature decision and you've really put alot of thought into it.
Impractical explanations include:
- "Ugh, but it's SO lame here in *insert your hometown*"
- "I just want an escape"
- "I just want to!!!!!!!"
- "Why not?"
This might be the real reason that you want to travel, but it's certainly not the way to convince them.
They'll likely have a lot of concerns and questions including, "Why do you want to do this?", "What makes you want to go there?", "What about school/work?", "What if you get killed?", "Why do you want to waste your money on travel?", "Why on EARTH do you want to go alone?", "You get lost in the neighborhood we live in, so what makes you think you're ready to take on the world?".
Be ready to answer all of these questions.
WHAT TO DO WHEN THEY SAY NO?
First, recognize that they love you dearly. I’m not a parent but I can only imagine how horrified I’d be if my child randomly decided to book a flight to a foreign country that I, nor they knew nothing about(SORRY MOM!). They are worried about your safety. Take a moment to be grateful for a family that has such deep concern for you. It's a blessing!
Next, practice compassion. Try to understand why they feel so strongly about this. They may have limited experience with different people/cultures/places and they may be projecting their fears onto you as a result. Sometimes it’s even as deep as them feeling like you don’t appreciate your home or the life they gave you. They may feel like you're “leaving” them and choosing a place over them, even though this couldn’t be further from the truth. Take a deep breath and try to put yourself in their shoes before arguing or getting angry that they don’t support this goal of yours.
BOTTOM LINE: Take their feelings into consideration.
And remember, Aaliyah, said it best - "If at first, you don't succeed, dust yourself off and try again"
This is a long game. For example, if you want to study abroad next year, you've got 365 days to plead your case. It may take them a while to warm up to the idea.
Here are some things that might help:
- Start small. Let them know that you're going to the movies alone or taking a road trip with your friends. Visit the next town over. This will help you establish your independence, which is a win for the both of you. Eventually, they'll begin to see you as a responsible adult. Prove that you're ready through your actions.
- Talk to your most reasonable parent. You know the one. They may be able to convince the other parent over time.
- Give them previous examples in which their trust led to independence like going away to college or spending a week at summer camp.
- Pay for your own trip! If they don't support or see the value in your desire to travel, the last thing they'll want to do is fund your trip. Fair enough, right? Fund the trip yourself and prove that this is something you really want to do. This is the ultimate sign of maturity, so they'll be impressed.
- Study abroad or join a travel group if this is your first solo trip. It might bring them comfort to know that you're not completely alone.
- Invite them! I know you want to do this alone but sometimes you've gotta compromise. After traveling with you, they may see the value in it. They'll be more likely to support your travels next time around. If they're not interested, invite a friend or sibling. Once again, this experience might ease their fears the next time around.
- Show them (positive) pictures, youtube videos, or documentaries about the place you'll be visiting. Sometimes parents have no idea what a place is actually like. Their fears are based on things they've heard. Their ideas of a place might not be based in reality, but you can teach them! Heck, make a powerpoint if you have to!
- Change your location. You may have your heart set on a certain location, but your parents might have negative views about it. Changing your location might help ease their fears. Travel domestically, instead of internationally this time around(especially if you've never left your home country). Baby steps! Visit a country that's statistically safer.
- Tell them about or show them others like you(same age, race, etc.) who are already traveling alone. This may help put things in perspective for them. They may be thinking "NOBODY TRAVELS ALONE!!!", while in reality, there are plenty of us out here living our best life. The concept may be foreign to them, to prove that it's actually a thing.
- Change your dates! Maybe it's all about timing! Maybe they prefer for you to finish school or wait until the family unit is in a better place as a whole.
- Establish a return plan. Your parents may fear that you're throwing your life, job, studies, or opportunities away. This is understandable. Inform them of your plans when you return. Prove that you aren't completely ruining your life. Show them how/why this will benefit you in the long term.
WHAT TO DO WHEN THEY WON'T BUDGE
Sometimes they just won't get it. At this point, you'll have to decide if you want to travel without their support. But FIRST, consider this:
I hate to break it to you, but you may have to hold off on traveling if you are financially dependent on them or live in their home. That’s just how it works. As long as they are supporting you, you will have to respect their wishes. Once you become financially independent, it will be easier for you to make your own choices with no strings attached.
Now, if you are financially independent and of legal age….you’re technically free to do as you wish!
However, I do know that being an “adult” means nothing to a parent in certain cultures. It may still be difficult to make your own decisions. Explain why you want to travel and how it will enrich your life. Explain why this is a great opportunity for you to expand your horizons, step outside of your comfort zone, build your confidence, etc. Assure them that you love your home & the life they’ve provided, and you’d just like to see more of this world. Understand that they may not understand why you want to leave the country, what you want to do when you get there, why you aren’t having their grandchildren already, why you’re wasting your money on travel, or why you would ever want to step foot on (GASP) *insert foreign country)*. That’s okay. It’s YOUR life, not theirs. If traveling or anything else for that matter, is truly in your heart, you shouldn’t allow anyone to hold you back - not even your parents.
HOW TO PREPARE THEM FOR YOUR TRIP:
- Tell them to be proud of raising a strong, independent child who is brave enough to go out into the world
- Print/email them a copy of your passport
- Send them a copy of your itinerary
- Provide actual facts about your the place you’re visiting to ease their mind.
- Get travel insurance so that they can have peace of mind in case anything does go wrong.
- Tell them you will call/text them every x days. Enroll in an International plan or purchase a sim card on arrival if that makes them feel more comfortable.
- Promise to send postcards/photos and bring back some souvenirs!
- Register with the US embassy in whichever country you are visiting via STEP
- Thank them for their support, tell them you love them and ask them to trust you to make wise decisions
THE HONEST TRUTH
The reality is that some parents may never come around, even if you do “all of the right things”. If you can’t gain their support, you may have to go on without it. It may be time to accept that you are not your parents and they are not you. You likely have different views, goals, and values. Politely ask them to keep any negativity to themselves because it will only cause you to doubt a decision that is already scary enough. It may be best to limit the conversation surrounding your travels before you leave, then update them as much as possible while you are away. It may be hurtful that they don’t show more support, but you can’t expect them to understand something that’s not in their heart. In the meantime, talk to friends who do support you or join online circles(facebook groups) full of solo travelers.
At the end of the day, you are the only person responsible for how your life goes down. You are the person who has to live with the choices you did or did not make when your parents are long & gone.
WHEN YOU RETURN
I’m gonna let you in on something that may be soul-crushing upon your return, especially if you're parents were unsupportive about your trip from the jump. The reality is that they may not care about anything you did when you were gone. You may have been gone for months and they may act as if you slept over your childhood friend’s house down the street for a weekend. They may not ask to see a single picture and they may do their best to avoid discussing anything remotely related to your travels. You may have had the most amazing, life-changing experience and they may not ask a single question about it. If your trip changed you in a fundamental way, then this will be painful. Hopefully, this isn't the case and they welcome you back with open arms. If it's not, you must always remember that you did this for you. Nobody has to care and you don’t need anyone’s expressed interest to validate your decision.
Whatever you do, don’t return and act as if you’re better or smarter than them now that you’ve gone off to travel while they’ve stayed home. Show interest in their life, be compassionate, be grateful for the opportunity to travel, and try to connect with others who might relate to your experience.
Keep the satisfaction of all that you’ve seen & learned close to your heart, connect with those that love travel(join a few Facebook travel groups), and keep on going. They may not admit it, but they are always awaiting your safe return.
'Hey Ciara' is a series where I address frequently asked questions in detail. Feel free to leave a travel question you have for me below or shoot me an email!
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