How Should I Tell my Family About my Long-Term Travel Plans?

Ask Rolf: Vagabonding traveler Rolf Potts answers your questions about travel and the world

05.05.09 | 11:03 AM ET

Rolf Potts

Dear Rolf,

I’m 18, I’ve graduated high school, and I’m interested in traveling for at least a year while I’m young—probably after two or four years of college. The problem is that my family has very mainstream expectations—start a career after college, get married, and start a family. I know I have to follow my travel dreams, but I still want the support of my family. How can I intelligently inform them, and calmly reason with them, about my plans for life, and about the one thing I look forward to the most for my future?


Dear Megan,

Your concern with how your family will receive your travel plans is a very common one. And while all families are different, I can give you some general advice.

For starters, most parents are more open to the idea of long-term travel than you might think. They might be concerned about safety, and they might be concerned that you’ll party too much—but at heart they’ll probably understand because they’d probably love to travel too.

So I’d start getting them used to the idea immediately. The fact that you have plans to go to college is helpful, since it will show to them that you are serious about “normal” pursuits, even as you plan your long-term travels.

You don’t even need to tell them everything at once. Just tell them you’re considering taking off a year to travel after college. Maybe at first tell them you’re thinking about study abroad, or maybe a long-term journey to a part of the world that fascinates you. Make them understand that this is a sincere intellectual and spiritual interest for you, and that you plan on taking it seriously. You might even look for some blogs or stories about other young female travelers who’ve gone out and had amazing experiences (parents always like examples of other people who are doing it). You can truthfully tell them that thousands of people do this every year and then come home to lead “normal” lives that have been made more amazing by the travel experience.

Again, I don’t know your family, but if they are like most families they will respect your decision if you let them know your desires early, give them time to get used to it, and be confident and constructive in telling them about your desires. By the time you finish college they’ll be used to the idea (and maybe they’ll want to do some vagabonding themselves!).

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