“Don’t let other people’s fears scare you”
Nonetheless, I love my parents and I hate that my lifestyle scares them sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, after the initial panic attack they tend to support my bold plans no matter what (or at least they fake it until they make it.) But their confidence and support didn’t just arise overnight. They required years and years of baby steps in testing confidence, boundaries and trust. Having learned quite a while in the process, here are my strategies to deal with worried parents and answer their most asked questions.
Be prepared to answer to the “why?” question
The “why?” question is key. Why do you want to travel solo? Why do you think this can be an important learning experience? How can this be an opportunity career or life wise? Why now? Everyone has a different set of answers, making it clear will show your parents that this is a pondered choice and not just a passing whim.
Debunk the danger argument
Travelling as a solo woman can be dangerous. This is undeniably true but, unfortunately, it applies to life in general. The “danger argument” cannot be an excuse not to do things. On the contrary, it is an encouragement to take our safety seriously: we will be the only one responsible for it! And again, isn’t it like that all the time? In my thirty-years-long experience as a lady, I learned how to be mindful of my surroundings; how to dress appropriately; how to be nice but defiant at the same time; how to determine if its ok to walk alone somewhere or not; if its safe to drink alcohol with new friends or not. But most of all, I learned to trust my guts. Bad things can happen just outside of our doormat as well as abroad: it’s always a matter calculated risk and chance.
Explain the difference between travelling solo and being alone
Remind them that sometimes it is good to do things on your own! It’s good to be free to choose what to do without compromises; to learn how to solve problems by yourself; to rely on your gut feeling; to explore at your own pace. And to meet new people. Ironically, the thing that I love the most about solo travelling is meeting new people! When outside of the comfort zone of a friends’ group or the company of a significant other, it is much easier to socialize with other people. Teaming up with other travellers and locals along the journey is a way to really get in touch with people with different cultures and views. Explain how travelling solo can be such a huge learning opportunity!
Redefine the career-housing-kids expectations
When are you going to buy a house?
You need a house, everyone needs one
What about kids? You know, you’re getting close to thirty
Well, all of this is really personal but, from my point of view, when people ask this set of questions they usually forgot to ask another first “do you want to buy a house? Do you want to have kids?” Some people don’t realize the answer can actually be “no” or “not now.” Me, I don’t want to buy a house. And not because of a millennial-peter-pan-syndrome. Because I don’t believe housing is a good investment considering my lifestyle and the particular age we live in. Moreover, I don’t usually ask people how they like to invest their savings, why should they discuss mine? And then kids. Kids will come when mommy will find a proper dad for them and will feel like responsible and willing enough to take care of them! Or maybe some of us don’t even want kids at all. Seriously, this world is far too much overpopulated to worry about millennials postponing parenthood.
Reframe political instability
Political stability may vary depending on destinations but, generally speaking, travellers won’t usually be affected by the political situation of a country. Unless you’re travelling to a war zone, which probably isn’t the case. A wise man of my family once told me two golden rules of not-messing-up in a foreign country: no whores – no drugs. Until now, sticking to them as always kept me out of trouble, even in the most unstable countries I’ve visited. Usually acting like a decent person is enough to stay out of trouble. Abroad and at home.
Address the job issue
Every long-term traveller must have a money strategy figured out before leaving. Are you going to go freelance? Have you saved enough money to keep you going for a while? Are you planning to do casual jobs abroad? Whatever your strategy is, you can be sure that your parents will investigate it thoroughly. Nowadays, the job market is extremely liquid. Work contracts are time-limited. Freelancing is on a constant rise. Every experience is different, but leaving a stable income job for a period of travel doesn’t automatically mean never-ending bankruptcy. Careers evolve and I don’t believe that one should ever be defined by its job title. These things are temporary. Life is long and there will be other jobs. And I can promise you that the skills and the resiliency that you acquire when solo travelling can be extremely spendable in the job market. Maybe we won’t ever have retirement benefits, but I’m pretty sure that 9-to-5ers won’t have them either.