Sweaty palms, sleepless nights, obsessive list writing (and re-writing)… it must be travel nerves. They’re bound to creep up on you at some point in the run-up to any extended period away. Will I make friends? Will I get sick? What if I wake up one morning in a strange place, covered in chicken feathers with no belongings or recollection of how I got there?
Being an only-daughter – an only child – who, up until the age of fifteen, wasn’t allowed to go to the cinema without being dropped off and picked up at the entrance, it was my parent’s travel nerves that really hit the hardest in the days leading up to my own departure. Leaving home to spend a year in Asia’s warm embrace was hands down the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. But saying ‘see ya later’ to my poor mom and dad was one of the hardest.
And I know I’m not the only one! When it comes to the whole backpacking, working, or studying abroad thing, all of our parents need some coaxing round to the idea. So to help you out we’ve pulled together some tips on how to tell your mom and dad you’re going traveling, and how to tackle their worries.
It’s not all about you after all!
Step 1: Have an answer for everything
There are four or five very typical responses that every wanderluster is used to hearing from strangers and loved ones alike, when they take the deep breath and utter those three magic words,
“I’m going traveling.”
First of all. Don’t worry about the strangers’ reactions. They don’t matter. It’s the people who really care about you that need the real reassurance. Here’s how to quell your fam’s biggest fears when they say things like…
“But it isn’t safe…”
Maybe your ma and pa have only ever left the States on a package cruise. Maybe they’ve never left the States. Maybe they don’t even have a passport, and their only view of the world – and the other 7 billion folk who make it up – is from what they see in the media. Which, let’s face it, is nearly always gnarly.
Remember this – people are mostly pleasant wherever you go in the world. You’re as likely to fall victim to a mugging, passport theft or assault in New York or Chicago than you are in any other country, and you’re more likely to be harmed in a car accident at home than in a plane crash.
“it’s running away from responsibilities”
Definition: Responsibility (n).
“The opportunity or ability to act independently and take decisions without authorization.”
Many people’s interpretation: Holding down a job for more than a few years, getting a promotion, getting a mortgage, settling down.
Your mom and dad most likely finished school and got jobs straight away, worked hard to earn money to buy a house and start a family, which, never forget, is super admirable.
But this means they could struggle with the concept of taking a break from that norm to explore distant places, if only for a few months. Remind them that the economic climate is different these days, people are more fluid, there are more jobs available, it takes longer to save for a house, and you’d like to see the world because you’re not sure if you’ll be granted the luxury of a retirement at a healthy age in the future.
“But what about a career?”
Traveling enhances your resume. Fact. A few months spent absorbing and navigating different cultures and generally having the time of your life makes you fulfilled, confident, self-reliant and assertive. Basically, just an all-round more bad-ass version of your former pre-travel self.
We can also offer you opportunities to work, study and volunteer abroad – so you could come back with a new skill, and valuable career experience.
“you’ll bankrupt yourself and come home without a dime”
Factual answer: No I won’t. Dinner in Southeast Asia is $1. A beer is 20 cents.
Sensible solution: Have a backup fund for emergencies, and to cushion you when you get back home. Ask them to guard it so you don’t have access to spend it all. Then, there’s our STA Travel cash cards, too.
With the initial discussion out of the way *phew*… there’s some more things you can do to smooth out the planning process. Like…
Let dad get involved
Admit it. There are certain things parents just do better. Like finance-y stuff, insurance documents, haggling a better phone contract and shopping for malaria tablets. Just sit back and let them. At first it may come across as controlling but if honing in on the details and getting hands on reassures your mom or dad you’re going to be a little bit safer, it’s worth involving them in these elements of planning.
You should consider letting them speak on the phone or in store (in NY) to one of our Travel Experts who can explain things like MultiFLEX flight passes (so you can change your travel plans or fly home at any time, at no extra cost). We’re a Travel Company for young people, after all, and we’ve been doing it for almost four decades. We won’t judge.
The period between first booking your trip, and take-off can be over a year. That’s a hell of a long time for your parents to spend worrying about the big goodbye… and then it’s only gonna get worse for them while you’re away.
Try to remember to spend this time nurturing their trust. What can you do to make them see you’re a responsible, switched on and sensible adult who most definitely would not end up getting themselves locked up in a Bolivian prison?
Here’s some for starters: Lock away the black-out drunk version of yourself who drops your phone down the toilet. Don’t call dad for a ride home at 6am because you’re stranded. Stick to a strict budget to show you’re serious about saving to go away, and don’t ask to borrow any money.
Get (them) social
Snapchat, Facebook, even Instagram stories are – believe it or not – good for more than just showing off. Get your ‘rents set up and fully trained. Then go mad sharing as many huge smiles, friendly locals and cool new travel friends as possible one you’re out on the road. They’ll soon realize you’ve got people looking out for you, and even though you might forget to call or email as much as you said you would, you’re having the time of your life.
Map it out
Once you’ve planned your route, show them. Sit them down, and present all of your plans to them. If they know where you’re staying – even if only for the first few weeks of your trip – they’ll feel reassured.
In fact, they could even be impressed. When I showed my old man my route around Asia, I got a pang of something I didn’t think possible from him – pride!
Introduce them to people who have done it (or whose kids have)
Backpacking is nothing new. People have been doing it, in some sense or another, since the sixties. Our long-haired, sandal-clad hippy forefathers were probably considered a bit weird when they first set out Down Under in 1979 for no apparent reason, but these days, the world has gotten smaller and everyone (well, 2 million a year, from STA Travel alone) has followed them.
If your ma and pa weren’t among the first wave of nomads, introducing them to people who can broaden their vision and reassure them it’s all gonna be cool will calm their nerves.
And once you’re back in one piece, you’ll be able to share all that zen and calmness you picked up in that Himalayan ashram with them, too.
And finally, there’s a few things best left unmentioned.
…until they’ve already happened at least.
Like skydives, mopeds, Full Moon parties and bamboo tattoos.
Just remember. The decision to go traveling is bold, brave, and sets you out from the crowd. Haters gonna hate. Your parents will no doubt turn into manic fire-breathers in the days before your departure, but they’re not haters. It’s all because they care.
Are they still not convinced? Send them to this page. We’ve got help, support teams, cash cards and insurance.