If you have ever started the journey of planning your solo trip, you may be familiar with this scenario: you have just booked your plane ticket and can’t wait to head overseas. You have a few hostel bookings in place and are endlessly researching the activities in each location. You are bursting with excitement, and when the time comes to tell your family and friends about your big travel plans, you hear… crickets. Then, perhaps a voice from a loved one asks, “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
Let’s face it, family and friends generally have the best of intentions, but safety and wellness concerns during solo trips can often lead those we love most to come across as unsupportive. If you are feeling more concerned about telling your loved ones you are venturing overseas than you are about the journey itself, you are not alone! Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make these conversations about your solo trip as productive as possible.
Whatever the outcome of these talks, you can rest assured that you came off as educated, prepared, and respectful during the conversation. And with time and patience, the odds are likely that your friends and family will come to embrace your love for adventure and travel as a unique aspect of who you are as a person (and what more could we possibly ask for?). Before you head into these conversations, arm yourself with these tips for creating the most effective conversations possible:
Tip #1: Know The “Why” Of Your Solo Trip
While this one might seem obvious, the truth is many people don’t take the time to contemplate why they want to embark on a solo adventure. Fully understanding your own motivation for traveling solo will help others be confident in your decision.
Write It Down
Don’t just think about it… write it down! Not only will this prove beneficial when you have conversations with family and friends, but it can also be beneficial when challenging days arise during your trip (and challenging days will arise!). Have a note on your phone or in a journal that will allow you to clearly and intentionally define why you are taking your trip, and to make future decisions in accordance with your “why” if you are ever at a crossroads.
Highlight Aspects For Growth
Most of the time, friends and family express concern because they care… so follow their lead and explain how this solo trip will benefit you in the long run. Whether you plan to learn a valuable lesson in budgeting, organization, or planning, highlight areas in your life you plan to grow as a result of your solo trip. This demonstrates how taking this trip will build character, develop resilience, and potentially help you acquire skills necessary for your future endeavors.
Speak With Confidence
Oftentimes, family members feel insecure about solo trips because they think the decision was rash or not well thought out. Prove them wrong in how you speak about your solo travels! Have the answers to the questions you think they are going to ask prepared ahead of time and prepared to write down and follow up on questions you don’t know off the top of your head. Hearing confidence in your tone and demeanor will do wonders in helping others build confidence in you.
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Tip #2: Lay Out Communication Plans
In this day and age, communicating overseas is easier than ever! Gone are the days of collecting calling cards or horrendous long-distance bills. With strategic thinking, you can affordably and regularly communicate back home. Understanding this aspect of your solo trip will help friends and family get behind your journey.
Invest In A Cell Plan That Works Abroad
Applications like WhatsApp allow you to talk, text, and video chat completely free, and on your current cell phone plan, so long as you have access to the internet. However, for occasions when you do not have access to WiFi, many cell phone plans offer eSIM cards that allow you to talk, text, and access data within a different country. Do your research, and purchase an eSIM card with some level of data, so you can rest assured you can contact home, even when the hotspot at the hostel isn’t working.
Develop A Schedule
More likely than not, your family and friends are going to be dying to learn about your trip and the adventures you are having. But the truth of the matter is you are on this solo trip to experience the moment, not constantly reporting back home! Develop a schedule that works for both you and your family to video call and see each other face-to-face (weekly or every other week tends to be a good cadence for most people!) Keep time zones and daylight savings in mind when you schedule this time, and prioritize these conversations so you can stay connected, and keep the home base at ease.
Start A Blog
As cliche as it may sound, a blog is an excellent way to communicate back home (and prevents you from having to repeat the same story time and time again.) A free WordPress site is easy to create and customize, and loved ones can subscribe to be notified any time you post something new. An added bonus to your online diary is a place to store photos, details, and stories that you won’t want to forget once you are back in the homeland.
Tip #3: Do Your Research (And Share It With Loved Ones)
Our families love us and want to protect us, and this often manifests in extreme worrying about things that are new and unknown. You can combat this worry-wart mentality by pulling together some research from reputable sources so your loved ones have an accurate representation of the places you will be visiting, and what being a solo traveler will look like for you.
Know Safety Statistics
What is the most common crime in your area? What is the risk of violent crime? Are there certain areas that are more inclined to criminal activity than others? Pull these stats ahead of time (the CIA has a very up-to-date website) and make sure you understand the facts and figures of the places you will be traveling.
Have A Game Plan
The boy scouts had one thing right: it never hurts to be prepared when it comes to your solo travel experience! Consider potential challenges that may arise during your solo trip, and have a game plan of how to handle them. These challenges may include losing a passport, having your wallet stolen, experiencing an injury or sickness while abroad, or being present in an area where there is a lockdown or terrorist threat. Knowing who to call or what action to take when the worst-case scenario arises will not only make your loved ones feel better but will also provide good exercise for you in practicing safety while traveling abroad.
Understand Cultural And Historical Relevance
This world is a big beautiful place, filled with lots of different cultures, values, and expectations. Make sure you are being respectful of these cultures to ensure a smooth and safe solo trip experience, (while providing you with an opportunity to learn about a different way of life!) Research appropriate clothing, etiquette, and conversational phrases before taking your solo trip, and be prepared to get a few things wrong along the way. (The learning curve is one of the joys of the travel experience!)
Tip #4: Get Clear On Your Safety Precautions
Investing in some safety precautions not only helps your friends and family understand how seriously you are taking this solo trip experience, but it can also give you a leg up in challenging situations. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Take A Self-Defense Class
Women especially can benefit from knowing how to get out of a sticky situation with a few self-defense moves in their arsenal. Oftentimes, public parks, fire stations, or police stations will host these classes for free, so keep an eye out for self-defense opportunities in your area. (For more information about ensuring safety when traveling abroad, check out our blog post here.)
Partner With A Reputable Solo Trip Company
Small group adventures or self-guided adventures with reputable travel companies like BACK&PACK allow individuals just like you to go on all sorts of adventures all under the safety net of a company that has experience operating in the region. Connecting with these companies ahead of time will prevent you from getting scammed or roped into an experience that hasn’t been well-vetted and could be dangerous.
Invest In Safety Gear
Nerdy or not, money belts are a great way to keep your most precious belongings as close to you as possible. Additionally, locks on your suitcase or a mini travel safe can be some cost-effective ways to keep your personal items secure. If you are an individual that regularly travels with pepper spray or another type of self-defense device, look up the legality of your product in the area you are staying. Different countries have different rules about these products, and you can save a few bucks by leaving them at home instead of having them confiscated at the airport.
Tip #5: Explain The Financial Situation
If you have already gotten your family and friends on board with the safety aspect of your solo trip, the next step is to get them on board with your financial situation. It is a huge privilege to be able to travel the world solo, whether you are taking time off to do so, or planning on working remotely along the way. Explaining your financial situation (in detail!) can help relieve some stressors in the minds of loved ones, and force you to take a critical look at how you plan to spend your money while abroad.
Outline Your Budget
Time to flex those spreadsheet muscles! From plane and train tickets to hostels, food, and activities, outline all of your anticipated expenses, and add a little cushion in there just in case something goes wrong. Now is also a good idea to ensure your credit or debit card will work abroad, or consider switching to a card that does not have foreign transaction fees (a major money saver.)
Keep It Reasonable
Even the best-laid plans go awry, so keep your budget reasonable. If you vow to cook at your hostel every day and not go out to eat to save money, chances are your budget is going to accurately estimate the cost of food. Additionally, allow yourself the funds to splurge every now and then, whether that means a hot water shower, a fancy dinner, or a solo room in the hostel. Having these types of expenses worked into your budget will allow you to have a little wiggle room which you will be grateful for in the long run, and your loved ones will more readily get on board with the numbers you lay out.
Have The Funds For A Backup Plan
It can be beneficial to have a few additional funds in case your initial travel plan doesn’t work out and you are forced to shift your course of action. This may include an emergency that requires you to fly home unexpectedly or purchase medical care, but it can also include fun, unexpected detours on your solo trip (like an extra day in the Galapagos or an Icelandic adventure you just can’t miss.)
Tip #6: Express Your Love
Perhaps the most important tip when having hard conversations about your solo trip is this: let your family and friends know that you understand that their concern comes from a place of love. Occasionally, conversations about solo trips can cause both parties to lose sight of the real reason the disagreement is occurring in the first place, a concern for wellbeing! Lead with the mindset that love is their motivation, and be grateful there are individuals out there who support you to such a degree!
Ask For Support (Not Permission!)
If you are over eighteen and no longer financially reliant on your family, you may not be seeking permission, but instead, support for the trip you are about to embark on. Try shifting your phrasing from “I really want to do this, please just let me go!” to “This solo trip is very important to me and something that I have been wanting to do for a long time. I hope you support my decision to take this trip!”
Voice The Importance Of Trust
If you are recently independent, or beginning to spread your wings for the first time, it can be difficult for parents or other older family members to see you as an adult, instead of the carefree kid they know and love. When this occurs, voice the importance of trust. You can try saying something like, “It seems like you have some concerns, even though I have presented you with the resources to show I can make this solo trip work. I know it can be hard to let me do something new, but I need you to trust me, trust my decision-making, and know that I will make wise decisions. It’s who you have raised me to be!”
Be Prepared To Chat More Than Once
The first time you bring up your solo trip may be the first time your family has ever considered you would ever travel alone, so give it time for them to sink in! Be prepared for multiple talks about the trip you are taking (and some potentially repetitive conversations) but know that while you are embarking on an adventure of a lifetime, your family is embarking on a new part of their life, too: one where you are an independent person who is off on new adventures. Provide space for this reality to sink in, and know that you are paving the way for more freedom in the future.
Explaining Your Solo Trip: Worth The Conversation
While it may be easy to shut out the naysayers and pursue your trip on your own terms, taking the time to gently explain your solo trip to friends and family can be a powerful bonding experience. This is a time that loved ones can learn about you at a deeper level, uncover your interests and taste for adventure, and maybe even consider your own solo endeavor as a result of your bravery and adventurous spirit.
Go in with confidence, with well-thought-out stats, research, and game plans, and chances are, your loved ones are ready to get on board. If you have additional questions about how to best plan your solo trip adventure, reach out to us at BACK&PACK at any time. There is nothing we love more than helping you plan your solo trip, gap year, or independent adventure, and would love to support you navigate the process of your latest and greatest adventure.
This trip involves a 4-day trek at high altitude (note that horses and porters carry the bulk of our gear) in often unpredictable weather, class II-IV whitewater rapids, hiking/mountain biking along dirt roads and paths, paddleboarding, and moderate physical labor.
This trip involves a 4-day trek (~34 total miles, hiking 4-7 hours per day with a backpack on) in Iceland’s highlands in often unpredictable weather, a day hike on a glacier, fresh water snorkeling, and moderate physical labor.