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As you know, I normally discuss my own issues with anxiety here. It’s one of the central focuses of this travel blog. However this post will take a different turn and focus not necessarily on anxiety itself, but worried family and friends.
Let’s use our imaginations for a second:
You’ve finally gathered your courage and planned your life-changing trip to an amazing destination. You can barely contain yourself as you share the awe-inspiring news with your family and friends. In response, instead of cheers and toasts, you receive shocked expressions and exclamations of “Don’t go! It’s too dangerous for you to travel alone!” Your excitement deflates and your shoulders slump, as your loved ones now rant about some news story, an article about a backpacker who disappeared into thin air and was found murdered a week later.
While this post offers tips mostly intended for solo female travelers (let’s face it: we deal many naysayers thanks to movies like Taken), these same suggestions can benefit male solo travelers who can also face disapproval from friends and family.
1. Stay cool, sis.
You already know female solo travel rocks. Other people aren’t as enlightened as you (yet). Therefore it’s your job to convince them why traveling is an incredible and life-changing experience. Plus you want to demonstrate you’re mature enough to explore the world without a guide holding your hand every step of the way. At this moment in time, the absolute worst thing you can do is let your anger cloud your judgment and take over the conversation.
This tip is especially true for convincing overprotective parents that you’re capable enough to travel around the world. Even if you’re independent, parents still harbor the idea that they know what’s best for you and their opinions may be difficult to mold.
My honest advice is not act like a bratty twelve year-old when you come face-to-face with active discouragement. I understand having a bad temper. I know better than anyone. But keep it under control. You’ll be proving them right, you’re NOT capable of solo travel, if you dissolve into a fiery ball of rage. Instead, if you find the conversation taking a heated turn for the worst, take a step back and CALMLY say you’ll discuss the trip later after your parents have had time to process your news.
2. Emphasize you will stay in touch.
Try to send a message home every day.
WHAT. You must be LYING, Blond Wayfarer. EVERY DAY? I’m gonna be taking city walks and hiking mountains! No one has time for that nonsense!
Okay, I know daily contact seems like a total drag, but honestly it doesn’t take much effort at all to check in at home. We’re a society now linked together via online networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. While I go back and forth on whether or not this constant connection is a good thing (ex. in hostels too many people are glued to their laptops or phones), you have to admit technology can lessen anxiety family or friends feel about your safety.
On all of my solo trips, I send my parents a text message when I wake up in the morning and briefly talk about plans for the day. They appreciate these daily updates. I actually look forward to my mom’s excited texts back, especially when she asks for pictures! I’ve gotten so good with keeping my family and friends in the loop that my parents don’t even flinch when I tell them about a new travel plan of mine.
I understand you may take a long hike and can’t have reliable internet connection every day. Fine, but make sure someone at home knows your itinerary. I’ve heard of travelers unexpectedly going off the grid, without warning, and causing their panicked families to use precious resources to track them down. Don’t be those travelers, please.
In short: promise you will send a text, facebook message, or tweet! And stick to your words!
3. Show off your outstanding research.
Do plenty of research about your destination. Even if your family and friends are the most chill people in existence, you still want to do plenty of reading about your destination(s) to arm yourself against common scams and rip offs. No one likes losing money especially not budget travelers.
Use Lonely Planet and Rough Guides, as well as current information from travel blogs to compile a small research packet. One of the biggest ways I reassured my own parents was to show them “solo female travel” blogs, because then they realized other young women were doing the same thing I wanted to do (travel) and still came home to their families with all their limbs intact.
Knowledge is power. With proper research, you can confidently answer any questions your friends or family may have at their disposal.
As time passes, you can use your research to create an itinerary that you will leave home with parents or friends, so they can track your travels and stay in touch with you.
4. Do a weekend trip together.
No, you don’t need to invite anyone along if you’re hellbent on a solo trip to Europe or Asia. I promise.
Solo travel offers many perks, many many many perks, which you ought to experience for yourself without others crowding your style. Besides you need to be careful not to compromise too many particulars of your dream journey. Your dreams are your dreams. Period. No argument.
However try a weekend trip with your family and/or friends, and use it as an opportunity to prove to them just how travel savvy you are! In our minds, we underrate several amazing travel spots in our own backyards!
So plan a short trip, take your family/friends with you, and enjoy the time you spend exploring a new place together! Once everyone sees how incredible you are at navigating public transit in a brand new city, their fears will disappear or at least alleviate somewhat.
5. Book your trip and go.
Okay, so you’ve followed all four tips and your parents, siblings, and friends still won’t change their minds about your travels. What do you do next?
If you are a legal adult and capable of funding all your travels without parental help, then book your trip and go anyway. Millennials, like myself, have annoying tendencies to feel uncomfortable or guilty if we make decisions that go against our parents’ wishes. I’m aware I’m speaking in generalities and not every millennial is like this, but it happens enough for there to be articles written about the subject. Just google “helicopter parents” or “millennials and parental approval.” The guilt intensifies even more if you’re a woman, because we’re meant to be caring and considerate of others At All Times even at the expense of our own happiness.
My advice? Stop feeling guilty about your decisions. You are an adult. You are a rational human being. You’ve already weighed the pros and cons of travel. So do what makes you happy! It’s YOUR life. Trust me, if you constantly cater to the needs of other people at the expense of your own happiness, you will become resentful and you will hold those negative, bitter feelings against your loved ones. So go. Sure, your parents may be annoyed, but they’ll get over it.
Now, if you rely on your parents’ help for financially supporting your trip, then you’re stuck making compromises, but don’t let go of all your travel dreams.
Is your family supportive of your trips? How about your friends? Do you have any tips that you would add to this list? More advice is always welcome.