Is your family more freaked out by solo travel than you are? Maybe they’re trying to convince you not to go, hitting you with a bunch of horrifying news articles, or stopping you from going at all?
If this is happening to you, it’s likely your parents are just doing it because they care, but there’s a difference between expressing concern, and projecting their fears on to you. In this case, it’s helpful to know how to deal with it thoughtfully. You shouldn’t have to give up your dreams based on the fears of others.
This means acknowledging their concerns, and alleviating them with informed responses that not only shed light on a few holes in their knowledge, but demonstrate that you’ve done your research and are making mature and well thought-out decisions.
1. Prepare to answer a lot question
Your parents will probably have a lot of questions when you tell them you want to travel alone, but the main one will probably be ‘Why?’.
Think about the answer to this one carefully – the way you answer it could be the difference between them saying yes or no. If your answer doesn’t reflect a mature thinking pattern, they might deem you not responsible or experienced enough to go.
Bad answers include:
- I hate this town.
- I want to escape.
- Why not?
- I watched a thing on Netflix and it looked cool.
Deep down, these might be your main reasons, and there’s nothing wrong with that! You might just want to leave your hometown in search of something new, but if you’re trying to convince your parents to let you go, you might need to frame it in a different way. Rather than focusing on what you don’t want to do (live in this town anymore), focus on what you will gain from not living in this town anymore (independence, cultural awareness, life experience, something that looks great on your CV).
Good answers include:
- It will enhance my knowledge of different cultures.
- I’ve always been interested the history of <insert destination> and this is a great opportunity to learn.
- It’ll be a good opportunity to learn and grow as an adult before I start my career.
- I want to immerse myself in another culture and learn a new language.
Other questions could range from: Why do you want to go there? What about school/your job? How will you afford it? Is it safe? Do you know the risks? To statements, such as: You’re not old enough; you’ve never travelled anywhere before; I’ve heard that place is unsafe; you could get killed.
You need to be prepared to answer them all.
2. Put yourself in their shoes
If you can’t understand why your parents are so against the idea of you travelling solo, try and look at it from their perspective.
There are a lot of stories in the media about some very sad and awful things that have happened to solo female travellers – how must your parents feel about that? It must be scary to say goodbye to your daughter at the airport, wondering if it’s the last time you’ll see her and whether you did everything you could to prepare her for the world.
In their minds, if anything did happen to you, they’d spend the best part of eternity thinking they could have done something to prevent it.
Showing them that you understand where these fears come from is a key component of helping your parents accept your plans.
3. Show them you care about their opinion
Might sound obvious, but it can be difficult to truly show someone you’re listening and that you care about what they have to say when you really disagree with what they’re telling you.
At the end of the day, people just want to be heard and feel validated in their opinions, and they’re not giving you their opinions for no reason. If you dismiss your parent’s fears, you probably won’t get anywhere. It’s a bit like telling an arachnophobe not to be scared of spiders – it doesn’t take the fear away, it just makes the person with the phobia feel misunderstood, and like they’re not being taken seriously about something that is very real to them. Your parent’s fears are very real, and they’ll feel invalidated if you shrug them off or respond with anger.
Your first step is acknowledging and understanding where they’re coming from. Tell them you’re going to think about what they’ve said, and do some research.
4. do some Research
The amount and type of research you need to do is entirely dependent on what your parents are actually worried about, so here are a few examples:
a) They think solo female travellers get murdered and/or raped.
You need to acknowledge that this does happen, but show them it definitely doesn’t happen to everyone.
Of course not every case is reported in mainstream media, but out of the hundreds-of-thousands of women who travel alone each year (exact figure is unknown, but it’s possibly millions – this is not an exaggeration), a smaller percentage find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Join some female travel Facebook groups and ask some questions to the group – I guarantee you’ll get loads of responses from women stating they’ve always been perfectly safe while travelling alone, and maybe some who weren’t who can give you advice. There also are so many solo female travel bloggers in the world who will attest to this, so look at posts by women and see what they have to say. Better still, find posts by solo female travellers who have been safe in your chosen destination/s and show your parents.
If you don’t think it’ll freak them out further, you might also want to point out that violence against women is a global issue that (sadly) probably happens in your home country as well. While it can be more extreme in some parts of the world, it’s not an isolated issue and can happen anywhere – keeping you at home isn’t necessarily a safer option.
b) They’re uncomfortable with your chosen destination.
There are some destinations that are legitimately easier to navigate as a solo female traveller than others.
For example, Saudi Arabia is a relatively safe place to go, but women aren’t allowed to walk around outside in Saudi Arabia without a male companion. Personal feeling aside, it’s the law, so maybe it’s not the best place for a first-time solo female traveller.
On the other hand, if you want to head to somewhere like New Zealand and your parents are a bit worried after hearing about a tragic case involving a 21 year old who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, a bit of research will tell you this doesn’t mean New Zealand is unsafe. Show your parents that you’re aware of potential threats to your personal safety, but that you think your destination is still safe based on the research you’re about to show them.
If your parents are still really worried about a certain destination, think about it objectively – is your chosen destination actually deemed ‘safe’ by others?
With phrases like ‘fake news’ flying around the place, it’s important to understand the difference between when the media play up a situation, and when they make up a situation. If you’re doing research and a lot of sites are echoing the same issues in your destination, or giving you travel warnings against your chosen destination, pick another one.
If the research suggests your destination is safe but your parents still aren’t in to it, you might want to consider choosing another destination. If they see you were ok on your first trip, they might relax a bit when you tell them where you want to take your second.
5. Explain how you will keep in touch
They might feel better knowing you have a solid communication plan that you’re going to stick to.
The great thing about travelling these days is that you can connect with your friends and family with the touch of a button. Unlock your phone so it will accept sim cards from anywhere, and explain that you’re going to have data and calls available wherever you go so you can contact them, or emergency services if necessary.
Tell your parents about WhatsApp, get them in to Facebook Messenger, show them how FaceTime, Skype, or Google Hangouts works and let them know they can contact you any time. Better yet, make a travel blog so they can read all about what you’re doing!
6. Remind them you’re an adult
If you think about it, the majority of your interactions with your parents were when you were a child, as they were driving you to school, making you lunch, and generally looking after you. It’s the only way they know how to interact with you, particularly if you’ve recently left high school, and they might not know how to communicate with you now that you’re a legal adult.
Whether they’re still trying to control where you go, what time you come home, who you hang out with, or what you eat, you might need to remind them that you need the space to figure out what’s best for you.
For example, my dad recently said he was really worried about me when I went off to university in a country town six-hours away from home just after my 18th birthday. He said he didn’t think I knew enough about the world to experience it alone, and in such an isolated setting, but when he came to visit me, he realised I’d figured it out.
I say this because a lot of parents have trouble recognising when their kids need to go and learn things for themselves, so they might need you to help them understand that by restricting where you can and can’t go, they’re holding you back.
7. Don’t get angry
It’s easy to get angry when you feel like you’re being wronged, but it’s actually the worst thing you can do. You’re trying to show that you’re a mature and responsible adult – don’t lash out at your parents like you probably did as a little kid.
Instead of getting angry, try and understand why they’re still saying no – it could be a logistical issue. For example, maybe they want you to finish school first (change the dates); maybe they don’t know solo travel is a thing that heaps of people your age are doing (show them examples); maybe they don’t want to pay for it (wait until you can afford it).
If you start feeling angry, take a minute to find the source of your anger, channel it in to reason and explain why you feel that way. For example, if you’re angry because you feel unheard, calmly explain why having them hear you out is important to you, and that you don’t want to fight with them. If you deal with the situation respectfully, they will start to respect you as an adult.
8. Accept that they may never say ‘yes’
Even with all your powers of persuasion and reason, some parents will never give you permission to travel alone.
You have some choices here – if you’re legally an adult, you’re technically free to do what you want. Some parents need time to realise when they need to let go, and maybe this is what they need. Having said that, it’s very normal and ok to need the acceptance of your family, and it’s hard when they don’t want you to live your dreams. In some cultures, defying your parents in this way is unforgivable, so you need to figure out if doing it anyway will create a permanent rift in your relationship, and whether you can either repair it, or live with it.
Ultimately, you’re an individual, and your parents have to understand that they are not you. They have lived a different life, with different values, and they may never share or even understand your passion for travel, but you need to do what’s right for you. If that means following your parent’s wishes, that’s ok, but it’s also helpful to consider how you might feel about your choices in 50 years, when your parent’s opinions no longer matter.
9. Understand they may not be interested in your trip
When you come home after a big trip away, you’ll probably be all excited and wanting to share your experiences with photos and stories, but if your parents were against it from the beginning, prepare for the fact that they might not be interested.
You could have had a life-changing experience, met your soulmate, become religious, or started a million-dollar offshore business, and they still might actively avoid asking you about your trip, and not even ask you one question. It might be sad and uncomfortable, but if you want to maintain a relationship with them, don’t act like you’re more knowledgeable with your new-found worldly experience. Maintain the same level of respect as you’ve always had, and remember that you travelled for you.
Whether your parents accept your choices or not, at the end of the day, you will have friends in your life who will love hearing about your adventures, and remember that there’s a whole community of people online who you can share your experiences with! My favourites are Girls LOVE Travel and Girls vs Globe, but there are so, so many for you to choose from.