Parents want to love and protect their children.
So when one of them says, “I’m going to live in Honduras, the murder capital of the world, and teach English”, they might get a little bit freaked out.
Talking to your parents about your desire to travel and see the world can be a messy conversation.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it.
I am lucky enough to have two parents who are caring and supportive, who also share my love of travel.
It was still an adjustment for them when they realized I planned on spending my 20s living outside the US.
It’s hard for parents to let go of their expectations of your life when you start on a direction of your own choosing.
As my own mother put it:
Then comes the dreaded seven words. I am going to travel abroad by myself and you freeze! You doubt all of the effort you put into raising this person…No, no! They cannot do that by themselves, she is still a baby and has no idea about travel and taking care of herself.
Obviously, that is ridiculous. My mother raised me to be ready to launch into the world, to discover, travel and dream. But her fear of me running amok on the planet suddenly made her doubt herself. That she hadn’t done as good of a job bringing me up as she thought.
Added to the fact that I was going alone, really upset and worried her.
At first, I was really angry with my parents for what I saw as trying to control me and stifle my dreams. I wasn’t thinking about their concerns and worries, only my own need to go on an adventure.
When I realized that actually they were scared because they loved and cared about me, I started to reassess what it actually meant for me to travel abroad and alone. And I understood that having a thoughtful, careful conversation would be more rewarding for all of us.
This can be a difficult conversation to have.
The first time I tried it with my mother it ended in yelling and tears. When I tried again, speaking my truth calmly and quietly, it went much better. I was prepared, I had answers and I had thought about WHY I wanted to travel and HOW I was going to do it. We both felt better.
How to Talk to Worried Parents about Solo Travel:
Remember that you are from different generations.
You have the advantage of living in a social, connected world. When your parents were in their 20s, there was no such thing as Facebook and Skype. They might have gone on a trip, and return before the postcard they sent made it home. Try to remember that your perspective on the world is different than theirs.
Promise to be in touch.
I don’t mean send an email everyday updating them on exactly where you are and what you’re doing. But a quick email when you have 5 minutes of down time to say, “I’m here, and I’m having fun”, can make them feel better and more connected to you. I tried to schedule Skype ‘dates’ with my parents when I had some extra time, because I liked telling them what I was up to. And seeing my face made them feel more relaxed. Take advantage of technology.
Have a realistic budget that you can share.
You are free to make your own choices. But if you rely on your parents for money, then consider the fact that they may not want to fund your travels. If you truly want to be independent, then be sure to have enough money to cover your expenses, plus extra for emergencies. They shouldn’t be angry with you for spending your own money. Plus, it helps put their mind at ease if you show you’ve thought about where your cash goes!
Consider getting employment or volunteering.
When I started traveling and living abroad, I was teaching English as a second language. This helped my mother feel like I had a purpose, and that I had things to add to my resume. It also guaranteed I was in a specific place for a certain amount of time. You can let your parents know this isn’t just about gallivanting around planet earth taking selfies (but a little bit, yeah), but about an actual investment in your future.
Be prepared to answer a million questions.
Realize they want to support your dreams. Instead of coming from a place of resentment, keep in mind that they love you and want to keep you safe. So be prepared to answer any and all questions that they have. If you don’t have a response, try “I didn’t consider that. Let me do some research and we can discuss it later.” This can demonstrate that you care about your safety and well being as much as they do.
Consider their possible feelings.
Maybe your parents are scared, worried, angry or even jealous. One of my friend’s mother later admit she didn’t accept her traveling so much because she wish she had done it when she was young and single. There could be 100 reasons they don’t want you to do it, so try and be sensitive to what they might be feeling.
Invite your parents to come visit you.
There are so many benefits to this. It demonstrates that you’re not leaving because you hate home or that you won’t miss them. They didn’t do anything wrong, you just want to see the world! If they can come see where you are and know what it’s like, it can totally help. They can see for themselves that there aren’t marauding gangs on every street corner trying to steal your soul. Maybe they’ll get bit by the travel bug, and soon YOU will be visiting THEM!
Accept that you might not get their approval.
If it really is important to you, then you might have to go without their support. This sucks, and is definitely difficult. But over time, if you continue to reach out and share your destinations and plans, they might start to see that you are capable and doing something you truly love.
It might take some time for your parents to truly understand where you are coming from, but don’t wait for something that you know is right for you now. You will hear arguments about your life and career, but remind them that you are living your life AND investing in your future.
Plus the conversation gets easier every time. My parents barely blink when I tell them where I’m going. 3 weeks in Colombia? Alright love, let me know if the coffee is actually any good. (It’s not, they export all the good stuff…)
To quote my own mother again:
My advice is simple, trust that you did a good job and taught your child well. Believe in her and her dreams. (And make sure she has a cell phone that works anywhere in the world so that you can reach her!)
How do you talk to your parents about travel?
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