There is no formula in convincing your parents to let you travel the world
– Eileen, Philippines[/us_message]
For the benefit of our foreign friends, let’s give a brief explanation on 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 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 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 realised 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 butt in 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 a 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.
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.
Again, it all boils down to proving your 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. Instead of paying for our shit, they can enjoy their lives without burdens. We are actually giving them a favour by being able to provide for yourself.
It goes without saying: convincing your parents you will leave to travel the world does not apply to people who are still dependent on them.
What if it’s the other way around? What if I need to provide for my family?
Dear western friends, one of the requirements of being a member of a Filipino family is giving back. 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.
For the benefit of our Filipino friends, helping their family after University is not compulsary to our western friends. They just need to be responsible for themselves and not ask 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 rebutt, 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 is very important. They need to know you are safe and well.
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.
Are you one of those people who tried convincing your parents to travel the world?
Was it difficult? How did you do it? Share your experiences and make other travelers learn from you!