Photo: WAYHOME studio/Shutterstock

6 Tips for Explaining Travel to Your Parents

by Emma Thieme Jul 17, 2014
1. Respect who you’re dealing with. They only want the best for you.

I once played an April Fools joke on my mom. I posted a photo of a hideous rose-themed neck tattoo on Facebook with the caption, “First tat! Go big or go home!” next to it.

When my mother saw this, she collapsed on the ground and was UNABLE TO BREATHE. This woman is an emotional grenade. She would physically explode if I were to make a bad decision for myself.

Your mom may or may not be similar. Either way, you totally crashed her “freewheelin’ woman doin’ whatever I want” party back in the ’90s, when you forced your way out of her loins and left her with frizzy hair and varicose veins. So respect that.

I don’t even have to tell you what dads go through. Fathering teenage daughters. Mini emotional grenades. That is not how I want to spend my late 30s / early 40s. I will tell you what.

2. Come clean about your finances.

How many times have you asked your dad what he wants for Father’s Day and he responds with something you absolutely cannot buy at Cabela’s? “I want you to be more responsible!”

When I tell my parents that I’m going on a trip, and they come back with, “It better be a trip to the bank!” I like to recite a number. I usually share with them exactly how much money I have in my savings account, money which I am saving for “things other than travel.”

Even if this number is small, it still says that in some minuscule way, I am saving for my “future.”

3. Take steps to ease their mind.

Take a self-defense class. Contact any trusted acquaintance you have at your destination and let your parents contact them as well. Get an international cell phone plan. Do anything you can to give your parents the confidence that you’re going to be okay.

When I went away for a few months to live on a sailboat with absolutely zero sailing experience, my parents were a tad uncomfortable with the idea. So I asked my captain to get a SPOT device, which is a satellite GPS messenger. And he did, no problem.

4. Research your destination.

When you present your case to your parents, prove to them that you’ve taken the time to familiarize yourself with where you’re going. Have a list of websites and resources they can look into. Register with the embassy as soon as you finalize your plans.

5. Give them some kind of itinerary to go on.

When I left for a backpacking trip in the Dominican Republic, I was only going to be gone for 20 days, so it was easy for me give my parents some kind of loose idea of my whereabouts. When I came to a pretty rural village that definitely did not have internet access, I was unexpectedly out of touch for five days (for the last time, I’m sorry).

So my parents used my “itinerary” (a loose sheet of scrap paper with contacts like “teacher woman in Samaná” on it) to track me down in a German couple’s guesthouse, on top of a cliff, in Las Galeras, having a fantastic time. And that was lucky, because apparently my dad was “this close to booking a ticket and calling the embassy.”

That being said…

6. Don’t make them track you down.

For my parents, a simple “Hello, I am alive and I have eaten 23 tacos so far” is enough to keep them from hyperventilating on the floor.

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