Having sleepless nights? Thinking of the best way in convincing your parents to let you travel the world? 10 years ago, I was in your position, and here are some of the ways on how I did it.
Reader Mail: Hi Trisha! I’m 30 years old and I still live with my family. It’s not really my choice but as you know, our culture is used to living with their parents up until you are married and have kids. I am single, without children and I really want to travel while I am young and able.
The problem is every time I try to bring it up to my parents, they always have a reason and forms of discouragement. Hence, my plans always get postponed. My question is: as a Filipina, what is the best way in convincing your parents to let you travel the world? How did you do it???? Was it hard for you?
– Eileen, Philippines
For the benefit of our foreign friends, let’s give a brief explanation of why we have to ask our parents permission to travel the world or leave even if we are already adults.
In the Filipino culture, family is the most important unit. We are more often required to attend birthdays of extended families, go to mass (if we are practicing Catholicism), etc.
Even if you don’t know which relative’s birthday is it, being absent in such a gathering is a mortal sin. Family affects the environment of the young Filipino people that we are almost expected to live the way they want our lives to be.
I’d like to avoid the word “controlled” because we are not prisoners of our own parents. It’s just that, there is no right age to be free from that parenting.
I am not saying this applies to all Filipino families but a majority of the millennials have this problem. When I first moved to Italy at 21, I couldn’t wait to get out of the house but my mother was mom enough to make me live with my aunt.
For me, this was normal but in school, all of my classmates were already renting their own apartments and have small jobs like bartending or waiting tables.
Living with my aunt, for me, was completely normal but the exposure to western culture made me think, “why am I not allowed to do that?”
As time passed, I realized it’s not about being allowed but the idea of living on our own was not brought to the table. Our parents don’t talk about it because the turning point will always be marriage.
Getting married is the unspoken rule of getting out of the house. But what if, you are 30, not married, and without kids?
I am not implying that young people in the Philippines decide to get married or have babies at 21 they want to taste freedom but what if, it really is?
What if we were allowed to live on our own, pay our own bills by the time we graduate college at 21? What if we were given that responsibility and freedom at a young age?
Growing up in a western household, my parents always gave us the ultimatum: after college, we will help you for 3 months then you should be out of the house.
This rule startled me and my siblings but we all learned how to be on our own and live the life we deem fit. Like all things, it was very challenging at the beginning but eventually, we did thrive in the paths we chose.
As for me, ‘after college’ didn’t come as I didn’t really finish college so, in my own timeline, this is 22. My friends often think if there was a dramatic orchestra playing in the background when I told my parents I am going to leave and travel the world but there wasn’t.
I planned my travels, packed my bags, said what I wanted to say, and left. It was just another day. I was pretty sure my mom would say something ‘motherly’ but she didn’t.
My tone in the conversation portrayed, “I am not asking for permission. You’re just being informed.”
That ambient I set didn’t give her the opportunity to interrupt me or even give her kind maternal opinions about my decision.
Again, we are brought up by different parents so I can’t say what I did will work for you, hence, the absence of concrete advice. In my experience with Filipino readers, even if I write an essay about how to tell your parents you will travel the world, they will still have follow-up questions such as:
What if my mother gets mad and disowns me?
If there’s one thing I learned, our mothers’ anger is not solely directed to us but to the decisions we make. Okay, you might be 30 but what if you were living with her all your life?
You didn’t get the chance to prove to her that you can be on your own so putting the ‘I will travel the world alone on the table is shocking. Our lives work in levels so do it one step at a time: get out of her house, find your own apartment, pay your own bills, buy your own food.
It might be a small thing but it will make your parents very proud to know you can stand on your own without seeking help. This stage is very difficult most especially if you just got out of college but this is your first installment to freedom.
Once you’ve established this independence, let’s say, a year, your parents will find the many reasons to believe you can do it.
See also: How to overcome your travel fears
I am sorry but most of us will mistake this as our parents are being mean and that they don’t believe we are strong and independent. Our wrong impressions about their actions make us think they don’t trust us; that they don’t love us.
But remember, the reality is we need proof in everything we do in life. And even if we don’t, they will love us the same. Pushing ourselves to be better people should come from us – not them.
“You’ve made decisions that are very different from mine and it’s a bit… scary.”
I remember my mom saying this when I decided to leave and travel the world because it is true – she didn’t do these things while she was young. Not knowing is terrifying! I repeat: their anger or disapproval is coming from their fear.
What if we run out of food to eat? What if we are without shelter? What if we are out of money?
Put it like this: if you are a parent and your child will ask you to travel this tormented and unsafe world, won’t it terrify you? Wouldn’t you be scared? We won’t know that unless we are parents but think of it that way.
What if my family is financially dependent on me?
Dear western friends, one of the requirements of being a member of a Filipino family is giving back. The majority of the households are sending their children to good school even if the tuition fee is very expensive because they believe that one day, it will all pay off.
Their children will get better jobs and be able to send their younger siblings to school, help in building the house, and put food on the table every day. You might not agree with this system my western friends but it is how it is.
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For the benefit of our Filipino friends, helping their family after University is not compulsory for our western friends. They just need to be responsible for themselves and not ask for money from their parents because it’s easier to take care of yourself individually than to take care of the rest of the family.
I avoid offering advice to readers when it comes to stuff like this because I don’t really have the experience but my Filipina friend Ryazan is someone I admire because she was able to travel the world while financially supporting her family. Read her story and learn something from it!
What if my parents are really overprotective?
Aren’t they all? Bear in mind that yours is not the only one! All of our parents are the same when it comes to protecting us. Remember, when bringing up the topic, make sure you already have a solid plan and that the trust has already been developed – trust that you can do it on your own. If you haven’t given them this benefit of the doubt, then you should start there.
Remember they are just scared so they can say things they don’t really mean but try to understand. During your conversation, no matter what you do, do not shout.
Let them shout. Let them be angry. Let them take it all in without receiving negative energies from you. It’s very hard not to shout (especially when we’re adults) when our parents are angry at us but don’t do it.
Embrace the sermon and let them do the shouting. As for the talking or the rebuttal, always be kind and explain things in a way they will also understand: not in your own Millennial-ish language.
Show them your honest plan and give them the guarantee that you will be in touch. In most Filipino families, connection and constant communication while you are away are very important. They need to know you are safe and well.
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Even if they agree, even if they are angry, even if they said words that hurt you, the end product of this conversation should be: “I’m not asking for permission. You are just being informed.”
There is no right presentation to give your parents because we all have different parents. What worked for me doesn’t mean will work for you or for him.
You know your parents better than anyone else so tailor-fit your ‘presentation’ to something that will work for them. Don’t try what your friends did because it won’t work.
Don’t expect your journey to be perfect in the beginning because you will fail no matter what. It’s just easier to fail somewhere else because you will always find a way without the influence of birds chirping “you can’t do it” in your ear.
Our parents will get angry most especially if they disagree with our plans but if we succeed in the venture we chose to be in, they will be the happiest and the proudest. They are our parents. They will love and support us no matter what.
Go out there and make it work.
10 tactics on convincing your parents to let you travel the world
#1: Understand their generation’s language and culture
10 years after I left home to travel the world, I was on the phone with my mom and she told me, “when I was your age, I did not get to stay in luxury hotels like that.”
This is when I realized what my mom kept telling me about how different lives we lead; and that for her, the choices I make are scary.
Us millennials are actually the hardest generation to control because we live in a time when we do what we want. Our parents are super old school they don’t understand what we want to do. The thing is, we look at old cultures as uncool.
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We don’t try to put ourselves in their situation. We don’t even care about what they think because of the generation gap. If you really are an adult and you do not need supervision to be on your own, then you should be the one who is very understanding of your parent’s feelings.
They are not mad. They just don’t understand. It’s not a NO. It’s “explain it to me and let’s make it work.” We are so lazy to talk like adults and our parents are not built that way. Their generation needs a thorough explanation and we should give them that.
#2: Do it in levels. Don’t just throw the idea out of nowhere
After studying abroad in Italy, I left a boy. A boy who came to the Philippines to meet my parents. I never talked to them about him neither did I bring it up because… I don’t know. It just didn’t come up, I guess?
Most probably, I was very young to think that conversations like that are okay at our dinner table. I was a difficult teenager so adult stuff like that was hard for me to bring up in my 20s.
I only told my mom about that boyfriend when he was already in our house. I did not even ask for permission if he can stay with us. I just felt that it was okay because my sister does it a lot anyway. After that, that boy and I went on a round the world spree.
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Honestly, my parents are super cool. We are a mix of Asian-Western households so I think that contributes to our very evolved selves. My mom didn’t say anything but after a few years, I thought about it: shit, that was awful. I should’ve not thrown things out of anywhere and expect my parents to be okay with it.
When convincing your parents to let you travel the world on your own, poke them slowly. Mention some places you want to see and give some fun facts about destinations you wish to visit. Start buying cute passport covers or neck pillows. You don’t have to use them right away – they just need to see you finding joy in all things travel.
#3: Prove that you are able to provide for yourself
Again, it all boils down to proving you are independent in your own little ways. Being financially free from your parents is a key to that proof. Please don’t think they are required to fend for us for the rest of their lives.
Sure, this is a culture we are used to but this is also a cycle we have to cut. Our parents deserve to use their money in their personal leisure such as traveling, staying in a luxury hotel, buying their signature bags, etc.
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Instead of paying for our shit, they can enjoy their lives without burdens. We are actually giving them a favor by being able to provide for ourselves.
It goes without saying: convincing your parents to let you travel the world is not applicable if you are still financially dependent on them. But if you aren’t, read on.
#4: Show your commitment
Honey, this is not just some travel spree that you saw on Instagram and ignited your will to travel. Instagram might be a great tool to draw out inspiration but not everyone you follow tells the truth. The real world is so much different than social media.
Before you break it to your parents, make sure you are just not doing this because of Instagram. You need to show your commitment and stick to it. Are you committed to being away from family for a long time?
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Are you committed to solving problems on your own as you encounter them on the road? Or are you going to come crying home to mama after just a week of being alone?
It is so easy to say we want to travel the world while we are young but actually being committed to it is a different story.
#5: Do a trial trip
Trial trips are the best way in convincing your parents to let you travel the world. On my 18th birthday, instead of asking for the traditional debut party, I asked to go to Hong Kong.
Of course, even if I already turned 18, she didn’t allow me to go alone. My whole family had to go with me including my two youngest siblings. The day I became legal aged was a family affair.
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After that trip with my family, I went to Singapore by myself the following year. I wasn’t really alone because it was for a program for school. We had a teacher chaperone but still, that was out of the country.
I called my mom every night via Skype (there wasn’t Messenger, Whatsapp, or Instagram that time). Even if I was so lazy to call her, I did it anyway. I knew it was the only way she would trust me and allow me on trips by myself next time.
#6: Promise to call all the time
This one, you need to religiously do on your trial trip. You need to be convincing. You will probably start with nightly calls (as you should do in your trial trip).
In the beginning, nightly calls were too much but when I moved to South America, the time difference made it really hard for us to connect so I did weekly calls instead. But I never failed.
From then on, it became a habit. It wasn’t something I was still doing to convince my parents to travel the world. In these calls, I told them about my travels and everything they need to know, but in a casual way. Not in a reporting way!
#7: Normalize solo travel
With regards to #1, the generation of your parents does not really why our generation are avid travelers. Let alone if you are going on a backpacking trip or embarking on a digital nomad lifestyle.
Believe me, there will come a time that we will have children ourselves. Luckier for us to be more evolved but there are going to be things that we will never understand with our children. That’s just how parenting works!
Solo travel, especially for women should not be looked at as something that is not normal to do. It’s still being frowned up because we don’t know how to normalize it.
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Bring it up in conversations. Show your mom some award-winning solo female travelers on the Internet. Send article links of successful women in the travel industry.
It would really help your parents if you show them people who have the same nationality as you. This will give them more confidence and will make them believe that the world can be safe for people like you.
This does not usually happen in Western households so there are lots of successful American travel bloggers on the Internet but show them people from your country. I am sure there’s a lot!
Note that India and the Philippines are the countries that can relate much to this post. Yet these two countries have a very high volume of travel bloggers!
#8: Expect for them to freak out – especially your mom
My mom actually did not freak out. She knew it was coming because I did the steps above. She did freak out when I told her I was going to travel with the boy she just met. That made her cringe a little.
Since I was young and that boy was 7 years older than me, she had mixed feelings but she knew that she can trust me to do the right thing. In my case, her freak out came when I already left!
Do not question your parent’s feelings and expect they will react this way. I mean, I am sure this was the first thing you pictured in your mind when you decided you needed to convince your parents to let you travel alone, right?
#9: Be honest and ask for their support
They will wait for you to fail not because they want you to fail. Deep inside, they want you to succeed in whatever you do but they just want you to go back crawling to them.
Be more communicative in how you feel. Be an adult! This is not the same as asking your parents if you can go to a college frat party. This is way different because you are going to be away from them, going to environments they are not familiar about!
Where I am from, communicating and being honest with parents is not usually a part of our household cultures but I was raised by someone who told me that I can do what I want and I can say what I want. It may be hard for you but honesty is the only way they will let you go.
#10: The final decision is yours
In the first part of this article, I told you it was hard for me because I set the ambiance: “I am not asking for permission. You are just being informed.”
I don’t expect you to talk to your parents this way but the most important thing to note here is that only you know your parents. Think about the best way to approach them in your own voice?
We are taught to follow and respect our parents all our lives but know that as an adult, you are the only one who has the final say on what you want to do in your life. It will take time for your parents to accept it (mine took 2 years!) but being firm with your decision also shows them that you are committed, responsible for yourself, and that you’ll do fine.
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Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak, and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She’d like to believe she’s not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. In no particular order, her favorite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Mexico City, and Tel Aviv.
Monday 25th of June 2018
This is my current situation right now. Having a hard time to have a conversation with my parents regarding my 1st solo trip this coming July. It was so difficult to Informed them regarding my trip especially not being angry with them and your parents keep on ranting about your safety and everything. I understand them for being a concern parents for my safety but also I want to experience once in a while reward for myself. I'm praying, hoping that my parents would allow.me to travel alone this coming July.
Tuesday 1st of May 2018
“I am not asking for permission. You’re just being informed.”
This is so me. ?
Thursday 22nd of February 2018
TOTALLY agree. I travelled solo for the first time last year in August and I had no strategy as to how to present it to my mum. So, I did all the planning, took my savings out and told her the previous day about my plan. I was anticipating an outburst, but she said she was fine with it. I gave my single reason and she AGREED. There's no plan, really. If you lay out your reasons nicely, you are good, even if you are from a conservative family like me. Cheers!!
Wednesday 21st of February 2018
I love this Trisha! I can relate to your reader as I am also in my 30s already and just had my first parents-consented solo travel last January. It felt good to be more honest and also to have a more open relationship with them!
My parents just knew that I am going to Seoul to visit a childhood friend (where I usually stay when I visit Korea) but I didn't tell them it's just a stopover and that I am going to a solo trip to Jeju and Busan haha. I messaged our family's Facebook groups when I reached Jeju already, by sharing a photo of the hostel room where I'll be staying. Then I captioned it with "Mom I am here in Jeju for __ days, sorry my friend will not join me but I am okay on my own. I really just want to explore these places, don't worry coz I am safe." Then every chance I got or at least every night even though my parents wouldn't ask for it, I update them with pictures of cool stuff I did that day. I even caption some with "next time I hope I can bring you here".
I think in a way I relate with what you said “I am not asking for permission. You’re just being informed.” But I also make sure that my parents are still involved in my life by sharing these small updates. In a way, involving them also lessened their worries on my solo traveling addiction hehe . :)
Wednesday 21st of February 2018
I am following your journey, Anna! I am so happy that you get to resolve this with your family and that your relationship has indeed improved because of independent decisions. So lucky for you to be loved and supported by your family! Xx
Tuesday 20th of February 2018
Yes, Such things still happening in some parts of the world. Being a American such things not apply on us (in majority obviously) . But some of Indian and Filipinos friends faced the same problem. Parents always be little over protective.
Wednesday 21st of February 2018
Very nice thoughts, Justin! Yes, I get that a lot from Indian readers. It's funny how Filipinos and Indians have opposite cultures but are alike in many ways!