Parents: your daughter wants to go on a trip somewhere—maybe solo, maybe with friends, maybe with school—and you’re scared. You’re cautious, careful, worried. You watch the news. Should you let her go?
Honestly, with all of the uncertainties of a world that is completely biased against women, I understand. It is absolutely not surprising that parents are super protective of their kids especially in 2019.
These days it seems like you can’t even open Facebook without seeing a story about a bombing here, shooting here, or worse, a girl has gone missing there.
New technological advances, global politics, and the resonating wave of women speaking publicly about their long-hidden abuses in movements such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #BlackLivesMatter would make any parent wary of letting their daughters very far from their protection, let alone on an international flight.
If you’re one of those daughters who desperately wants to see the world but needs some help convincing mom and dad: be ready to forward this straight to your parents.
If you are the aforementioned parent, I hope you’re here with an open mind and most importantly, a love for your daughter.
Because despite all of the things I just mentioned, I’m going to convince you to let your daughters venture into this insane, uncertain world.
And to do this, I’d like to start with my own parents.
My parents: Why were they so… supportive?
Many of my college friends would listen in awe to my stories of how I went on my first solo trip at just 17, and how I just last year moved solo across the world to Dubai to study. A majority of them had the same sentiment: “Wow! I would love to do that, but my parents would never let me.”
I’ve been able to travel so much thus far because I was blessed to have two parents who loved to travel themselves and I’ve just followed suit, Traveling to more than 25 countries with groups and solo, from Australia to Turkey to Iceland.
Iceland was actually the first solo and group trip that I embarked on. I was a recent high school grad, just 17-years-old. I was there for two weeks—I spent one week exploring the capital of Reykjavik and surrounding areas, and the other week backpacking with a group I had never met on the 34-mile Laugavegur trail.
To this day, I insist that it was this trip that gave them confidence and experience I need not only as a solo traveler but a young, female traveler.
However, from the get-go, my parents have said that they trusted me a responsible woman, and I think that plays a large part in their confidence in me.
Before I travel anywhere, I carefully research the location I’m traveling. I give them the addresses where I’ll be staying, who I’ll be traveling with, and my itinerary. I don’t feel as though it’s invasive because if I didn’t give it to them I would be sending it to someone else as a precaution anyway.
I also always utilize travel-friendly Facebook groups such as Young TravelersNetwork to connect with local women in each location—I’ve stayed with tens of local women who I’d never met in person before, and they always made my trip so incredible, and all the safer.
When interacting with such huge groups of women who travel you see the many positive benefits that travel can have on a young woman’s psyche. A boost in self-confidence, a larger sense of community, a greater perspective of her place in the world, increased cultural relativism and understanding, etc.
But parallel to those benefits comes a reality check of the cruelties and wonders of the world. A sense of self-responsibility, independence, and a broadening of the possibilities of the world in terms of careers of passions. To a young woman, these are the life experiences that define her true character.
Knowing these advantages, my parents always encouraged and trusted me to carefully weigh my personal safety against the thrill of adventure. Even at 17 I had to acknowledge the limitations of what I was and wasn’t comfortable doing as a young, solo, female, minority traveler. It no undoubtedly takes a level of maturity.
So while I still believe every young girl deserves the opportunity to travel, I absolutely encourage parents to ask the necessary questions, to themselves and to their daughters:
Can she really handle herself in a foreign country, especially if she’s solo? Is she adaptable to situations? Is she easily overwhelmed, and will she regret going alone after some time there? Can she roll with the punches that will inevitably arise?
However, try to ask them objectively and not discourage her, and listen to her responses. Has she thought everything through, or is she only excited to travel because all of her friends are traveling? Ask her why she wants to travel, what precautions she’s taken, and what she hopes to gain by going. And if she responds that she’s following her heart, you need to accept that as her truth.
Additionally, being a young minority woman has its own daily complexities, especially on the road. It’s important to recognize that.
Though the world is generally a kind one, I’ve seen my share of microaggressions and racism abroad (if not mostly at home in the United States). A young WOC needs an especially strong heart to be able to look that injustice in the eye while on the other side of the world, and still yearn to travel.
As I grow older, understand the anxieties that a parent can feel for their child. It’s horrible, and it can eat away at you. And daughter’s out there, you need to be sympathetic to your parent’s reluctance. It’s written in their job description to worry excessively and try to keep you from harm.
But parents, as if I were your own daughter—I beg you to trust her.
Trust her to know her limits. To reach out for help if she really needs it, and believe in her ability to think on her feet.
This is the most amount of freedom she’ll really have in her life—young with wanderlust in her heart, not yet having to accommodate her life for a relationship, children, or a mortgage. This is the time, and she deserves to take her chance now.
Her travels at a young age will undoubtedly shape her life for the better no matter what happens. Whether the trip goes absolutely haywire or is picture-perfect, she will be a stronger person for her experience.