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Want to go travel for a long time? Here’s how to tell your parents you are going travelling. An honest guide on what to do and say.
How to tell your parents you are going travelling can be one of the hardest situations to face when planning a long-term trip. I often reflect on those difficult moments I faced when I left home eight years ago to go backpacking, and where I am today.
“Mum, Dad. I have something to tell you… I’m leaving to go travelling.” As you can imagine, it’s met with a mix of emotions, and opinions.
Saving for an around the world trip? Want to take a GAP year after school? Want to travel after graduating from university and taking your first steps on the career ladder? Randomly want to fulfil your dream to travel?
There’s that indulgent (and somewhat selfish) moment when you decide to travel for a long time and you really couldn’t care less about what people think regarding your decision. Why? You are taking control and doing what some people only sit and daydream about; you are changing your life to accommodate this ambition and you are realising the dream that many see as impossible.
Yet that doesn’t mean you should ignore the reactions of others though, especially from those that mean well, like your parents.
I’ve been lucky that my parents have been very supportive. I had always undertaken much smaller travel stints before and they saw my big one looming, which meant it wasn’t so much of a shock of them.
But it doesn’t mean that my parents didn’t ‘have their moments’ once I announced my plans a year before I left. And by moments I mean questions, questions and more questions, sad conversations and the dramatic and inevitable: “Will you ever come back?”
Despite being confident, independent and determined, I’m also their only daughter and I was doing this alone. Telling my parents I was leaving for an around the world trip was one thing. Telling my parents that I was leaving to travel as a solo female was another.
Realistically, I couldn’t blame them for not having something to say on the matter. Other reactions from people, aside from kind words from friends, were mainly been the result of ignorance or jealousy and so I ignored them.
The only reactions you should be responding to are the ones that matter.
So here is my low down on some of the parental scenarios I came across when I planned to leave, how I told my parents about my travel plans and how I helped them to deal with it.
- Parents – A Different Generation of Travel
- How to Tell Your Parents About Your Travel Plans
- What NOT to Tell your Parents about Going Travelling
- Years Ahead
Parents – A Different Generation of Travel
Your parents are genuinely worried and they care about you. Full stop. You have to remember that our parents are not from a generation that could drop everything and backpack around the world. Your mother and father probably left school and worked, stayed at the same company for years, married young and had families – because security was the normality. And that’s what made them happy.
You could say we are extremely lucky to be a part of a generation where we have the confidence to walk away from something if we don’t like it (because deep down we know it will be OK) and to build up a career and qualifications so that we have something to fall back on. Where to delay getting married and having children is actually not frowned upon by those around you. More importantly, to be living in a time where the opportunity to see the world is both cheaper and more easily accessible.
So don’t blame your parents for asking you a multitude of questions about your travels, or simply not understanding at all. They are trying and they do mean well.
How to Tell Your Parents About Your Travel Plans
Keep them updated with your itinerary.
When I had a new addition to my destination list, I let them know about it and talked to them about why I was choosing to go there. If they know you are confident about your choices they will have less reason to worry. For example, my mum was not best pleased when I mentioned North Korea. But she was a little calmer when I explained why and how. That I was joining a reputable tour company for example. That I would be with other people. That I wouldn’t have any means of contact while in the country and therefore not to worry.
You are probably thinking that I shouldn’t have mentioned it at all. But then why lie? It would only make it worse if I announced it while I was in China, without being able to talk to her properly, where she would worry so much more.
While you have the time face-to-face, explain travel to your parents.
What you plan to be doing when in particular countries that to them are deemed a little unsafe, lesser-visited, different or unknown.
The reality of any misconceptions that may lead to unease. My dad told me he wasn’t sure if he could visit me in Cambodia because he ‘likes to stay in hotels’ – he soon learnt otherwise!
How you find and book a hostel and how you might get from place to place. Again, announcing from a country afar that you are about to board a night bus for 38 hours with a bunch of strangers may be best announced (and explained) now.
How you can (and WILL) meet people along the way and that you really won’t be completely alone 100% of the time.
That you will take measures to stay safe. I once had a 20-minute discussion with one of my parents about the use of motorcycle helmets. It was painful but I was glad it was 20 minutes before my trip than 20 minutes during my trip when the time to catch up was more precious. A discussion with your parents, before leaving for travelling, will save you having to explain it all when you are on the road when, quite frankly, you won’t have the time or patience.
Use modern technology and practice with them. A few months before I left, my mum bought a microphone for her PC and we set it all up, raring to go on Skype for future chats. My dad is a gadget geek and knows his stuff, but my mum got her practice time in. Because that’s what made her feel better, and I felt better knowing she had the resources to stay in touch.
Spend time going through the absolute basics of travel with your parents before you leave, if you absolutely have to. There will be times when you only have 10 minutes to chat when on the road and you don’t want half of that to be a tutorial.
Make sure they realise that there may be countries where mobile phones won’t work or you can’t find a sim card. Or wi-fi, or even an old PC with a decent internet connection. Explain to them and troubleshoot, even before you get to the next country, that contact might not be as easy, or quick running, as it is at home.
Tell Your Parents You Are Going Travelling By Getting Them Involved
There is knowledge in life about certain things that your parents would trump you on, 10 times over, like finances and wording in policies. Therefore, ask for help when you need it as parents feel joy when they get to help you. And there are things in life that you know a lot about and they don’t, like volunteering, flight planning and adventure activities, so get them reading and interested!
Parents and financial insights
I know my dad gets mad at me if I don’t make correct financial decisions and so I got him involved from the very start. He might not have known much about half of the things I had planned on my 15-month trip, but he sure has helped me find the best ISA and savings accounts which I had used to save and help fund my trip and he even helped me to lock down the best pre-paid travel card. In the end, at least he knew that my money was going to be well spent as it was being well invested.
Do your parents have friends abroad?
If your parents know people in different countries or have friends who have been to certain places on your list, ask them to seek out further information and advice for you. Or even someone to visit or a place to stay! I am sure they will love knowing that they have contributed to your travel plans and decisions.
Take your parents travel shopping with you
I found that taking my parents with me to travel shops was also a handy way for them to learn about your expenditure on certain items, why you need particular things and that, all-in-all, you really are well equipped for your time away. It gives them another reason not to worry.
Send them documents for reference
Send them links to websites, PDF’s of travel itineraries – anything they can read to fully understand some of the things you are doing and where you are going. I know my mum felt a lot better about my pending volunteering stint in Cambodia after she had a good read of the charity’s website.
Be brutally honest with your parents
Lay it ALL out now. You won’t be texting back straight away, you won’t be calling from every available phone and you won’t feel the need to Skype every time your heart skips a beat at the arrival of decent Wi-Fi.
You love them, but you will love your travel life a whole lot more.
What NOT to Tell your Parents about Going Travelling
Tell them horror stories. Really, don’t. Bad things can happen and if it happens to you, you will deal with it, unless you really and seriously need help. I didn’t tell my mother about a serious incident travelling until around five years later. At the time it was something very personal to me and which shaped me. It wasn’t something for her to worry about from afar.
Dwell too much on the potentially dangerous. It’s not really a word to use in a conversation with the parents, is it? Dangerous to you may translate into adrenalin-fuelled activity or driving along the world’s narrowest mountain road, but to them, it means instant death.
Promise them set times to catch up. Plans always change and missing a catch up will only make them worry that something has happened to you. Not that you are just out sightseeing or having another beer in the bar with your new friends.
Lie. Do what you have to do and do what you want to do. It’s your life and your unique travel experience so enjoy every moment and let them react to it how they will. My plan was to travel for 12 months, increased to 18 months and then to two years.
The reality is, I never came back. Well, I did and still do for a week or two, but once I had left, I found homes all over the world before eventually settling in Vienna, Austria.
What do I tell my parents now about travelling around the world?? That I am happy. That I turned it into a job and its fruitful. That it’s a passion and a part of my personality.
What do my parents see? A happy, well-rounded, well-travelled, incredibly curious daughter who adores people and cultural immersion and craves the adrenalin of adventure. I’m their child who got to do the things they never could. Or one who pushed them beyond their own boundaries when they travelled with me (or at least tried to).
A reaction from a parent, however extreme, is just a sign that they care. Work with them, not against them – because with more knowledge will come greater support and the chance to go travelling, on your own terms.
READ MORE: Top Excuses Not to go Travelling and how to Overcome them.
I hope you see this. I am currently 20 and I am planning a trip abroad for my 21st Birthday later this year and I need some advice on when I should tell my parents about my plans. Should I talk to them before or after I book my trip. I feel like if I talk to them before I book it might seem more like I am asking for permission vs telling them my plans. But I also feel that doing everything behind their back is kind of sneaky. I have talked to them before about wanting to travel and I am always shot down. I wanted to aupair before and made a whole presentation to talk to them about it and I didn’t even get past the first 3 slides before they started yelling about how dangerous it would be. And I know they are worried about my safety to a certain extent but their idea of safety is not objective. I’m from the US and the neighborhood I live in is not necessarily safe and I believe that I would be safer in a lot of the countries that I want to visit (including the one for my birthday trip). But in their minds, my safety = being close to them and I believe that their reasoning for not wanting me to travel is somewhat selfish. I’m confused about what I should do
I would say you should tell them right away, or at least start dropping the first hints: “So I have a plan for my 21st – I’m planning a trip to X! I’ve wanted to go for a while, and have been researching, and I figured this milestone birthday was a perfect time.”
What’s on your side is that you are an adult, and even if they don’t agree with your plan, they cannot stop you.
Often, once they cool down they can see the passion and how happy it makes you when making the plans. And then you can set the boundaries – when you will check-in, how they can help you, explaining that you are aware of safety and precaution and have done all your research.
Maybe get a sense for the situation by telling them you have already booked (even if you haven’t), and start from there.
There’s no one rule fits all approach to this, as every parent reacts completely different to the next. But I wholeheartedly believe honesty is the best policy, whatever the reaction. Good luck and joyous planning for your adventure.
Jordyn Rowland says
Hi Beki, I know it’s been a while since you got any comments on this post, but I just happened to stumble across it! So, I’m 19 years old and I’ve been planning a trip from Nashville (where I live) to LA over the weekend coming up in about 7 weeks. I have everything taken care of… flight, college assignments I’m going to be missing have been arranged to be submitted early, I’ve taken off work the 2 days I will be gone during the week, I have a place to stay, and I’m meeting a friend who I’ve stayed with before out there. The only problem now is I have no idea how to tell my mom about it. She knows I am not satisfied at home, but I’ve also never really done anything about it. I’ve never picked up and gone on a trip just to do something for myself and I have no idea how she is going to take it. Is there any advice you have on how I should tell her? Thanks!
You’ve booked everything and you are going for a weekend – which is a short taster for future adventures, and a timescale that will (and should) worry your mother less. Just sit her down and tell her how excited you are and what you have planned, and hope she shares the same feeling.
Me and fiancée are going traveling for six months in South Asia her parents are fine with it because she has been traveling loads before for long Periods of time. But my parents are so worried they keep asking me about what I’m going to do when I come back to no job (mainly my dad who has never traveled and always worked). My work has offered me a sibatocal but it doesn’t work with our plans so we are going at the time we decided which means no job when I come back which I’m not worried about as my career path has many options and opportunitys but when it comes to my dad he’s so worried that I’m going to come back to no job for the rest of my life (but dramatic I know but he’s panicking) I’m struggling with the pressure they’re putting on me but I don’t want to make them feel bad for worrying about me just because I feel like my heads going to exsplode and I’m just looking for abit of advice and direction on how to handle this
It’s a case of sitting down and talking to them maturely about why you want to go travelling – highlighting its benefits (i.e. many employers like someone well-versed in culture), and also that MANY people do it and that it doesn’t hamper their future job prospects. Good luck!
Brooklyn Davis says
Hey Becki, I’m currently sixteen and live in California, and plan to do a three day trip ( at least) to either some place in California as well or who the hell knows, as long as it is in my country, by the time I turn 18 or 19. This is something I have been planning since I was younger since I’ve always had that miserable, sad desire to get out. I promised myself I would by that time. But the thing is my mother is REALLY overprotective and will go apes*** if I ever even try and mention this with her, I think it is because of our religion (JW, always telling us we should listen to our parents + our customs) and because she well is really overprotective because she cares. I hope by then I get a car, even if it’s old I’ve come to a point to not care as long as I have one. I already know how much she will yell and how angry she will get even if sometimes when she’s been angry has yelled at me that I can get out of the house by the time I’m 18 and do whatever I want, which I don’t think she truly means since her plan and WHAT IS EXPECTED OF ME is to stay home with her and her fiance (might be married by then with him) until I get married. She also does not want me to live on my own and that is one problem itself, but I don’t worry about that too much. She even has yelled at me for even hinting I leave for college ( which she has told me I will NOT go anywhere to college, I will study in my town) so you know. And it is SO FRUSTRATING and makes me angry how I really cannot get out. The last person who commented was in 2013 but I hope you read this and help me, please. I quote Elizabeth Taylor in Giant, “He would die for you, but he is not going to live his life for you. And he is right.” Thank you and hope you understand. Thanks again!
I think this calls for larger support – for friends and family to talk to your mother also. It appears that no matter how much you try and talk with her, there is no reasoning on any of your thoughts and future plans, and you deserve independent and free choice as much as anyone else.
Right now, with you being 16 years old, she has every right to be protective until you are old enough to stand on your own two feet (trust me, 16 is young and we all thought we were invincible at that age). But ideally, she shouldn’t be overshadowing your dreams and the thoughts on the things you want, but instead nurturing them and finding middle-ground about how you can work together on that and how you can support yourself in doing so.
We all have expectations from our parents, but we also need to show and prove to them that we are capable of doing the things we often shout so loud about.