It all began with a tentative “Hey Mom, Dad, I’ve decided I want to visit Switerland, Austria, and Czech Republic…on my own. Cue the reactions:
First Reaction: But what about a terrorist attack?!?
I think to myself—I’m not going to a war zone, I’m going to Switzerland. Bad things can happen anywhere, even in my home state of Florida (maybe even especially in Florida). I could walk outside on any given day and be eaten by a gator…or a boa constrictor…or run over by one the many blind centenarians that still have their license…the list goes on.
Second reaction: But what if you’re tasered in the middle of a busy square by kidnappers, and they pretend that you’re helping you to fool the other tourists, but then they put you in the back of a van and sell you into the sex trade?!?
That was an absurdly unexpected reaction, so obviously I burst out laughing. For future reference, laughing at friends’ or family member’s fears in not the best way to approach even the most unlikely of scenarios.
Sit Down and Talk to Your Family
After the initial (moderately insane) reactions, I sat down and pondered. I’m an adult (or pretend to be), and I know I don’t need my parents’ blessing. At the same time, I’m incredibly close with both of them and want them to understand why I’m going and ease their worries. This conversation was not easy the first time and involved some tears on my mother’s part, but I came up with a series of steps to help you pave the way for your solo trip conversation. Follow along for a guide on how to discuss solo travel with family and loved ones.
Understand their Point of View & Explain Yours
Recognize that their worries are coming from a place of love (and also scenes from the movie Taken). I know my family isn’t trying to stand in the way of my travels out of spite, but it can definitely be easy to lash out or try and brush off their concerns. From personal experience, do not brush them off. This makes it worse…and brings on the waterworks!
It also really helped in my conversation to be able to explain the WHY on my trip. Why do I have the urge to travel solo? Come prepared to the discussion with some idea to help your family understand.
Provide a Detailed Plan (with Visuals!)
Instead of a vague “Hey, I’ll be chilling somewhere in Europe for a while,” I gave them an idea of what I was trying to do in each city and showed them pictures online (a photo tour in Vienna, paragliding in Switzerland, etc.) Sometimes imaginations can run wild, and details help get them over that hurdle.
Provide Contact Info
This was probably one of the most important steps to give my family piece of mind. I gave them a list of when I was staying and where, complete with addresses, phone numbers, and emails for the hostels. If you book using Hostelworld, you can even show your family pics of where you’ll be staying! I also gave them my train info (where I had it), and tried to keep them updated about my rapidly evolving travel plans once I crossed the pond.
Create a Plan to Stay in Touch
Discuss ahead of time how frequently you expect to be able to contact them. It can be as easy as a quick Whatsapp message/ email every day…I know this was super easy for me, and gave my mom a little comfort. Plus, she loved that I tried to include fun pics of the day!
If you’re planning to travel for a longer period of time, it’s worth it to buy an Unlocked Phone and a SIM Card to stay in touch everywhere…not just on your hotel’s wifi. Another new option that I love is a Mobile WiFi Hotspot…this lets you take the internet with you wherever you go!
Do Your Homework
Before you set off on your adventure, research where the embassy is located, check Visa requirements, vaccination suggestions, travel insurance, and common scams that may target tourists.
Talk to your parents about your research, and let them know you’ll take precautions. It helps if they see you’re taking your safety seriously.
Addressing the points above definitely helped me discuss solo travel with family, and I hope it can help you with any difficult conversations. It’s definitely still a work in progress with my family, so leave suggestions below to help out all of us fellow solo travelers with neurotic, but lovable parents!