• how to tell your parents you want to travel

Ask Me Anything: How to tell your parents you want to travel

I sometimes share e-mails under the tag “ask me anything“. I get a lot of very similar e-mails which means there are a lot of people out there thinking the same questions. Why not address them to everyone? You can search more like these by clicking that link above.

“My friends want to go on a year long round the world trip after we graduate but my parents flipped out when I even mentioned it. I’m really close with them and don’t want to make them mad, but I think I’m going to go anyways. I support myself, so they can’t stop me- but I’m nervous it will cause too much drama.”

I get where parents are coming from when they are upset at their children wanting to travel or move away from home.. even going to college as far away from home as they can. It’s like saying, “mom & dad, thanks for raising me… but I’m outta here.”

No matter how you tell your parents you are moving to another country, another state, or even traveling long-term, that’s how they’ll hear it.

Hopefully, fear of parent’s disapproval does prevent adventurous kiddos from traveling.

how to tell your parents you want to travelchildhood vaca

All trips I went on involved a mini-fight prior to departure. My parents saw traveling as irresponsible I think… that maybe I’d outgrow it. I still feel bad that I live so far away from them, but I tell them the truth: it’s not permanent and we actually see each other almost as much as when I lived in Charlotte or somewhere else in the US since I come home a month every year.

So a little background…

My parents helped my brother and me a lot. We were spoiled with a lot, not that we were rich, but we got all the coolest toys and clothes, etc. They helped me in college with groceries, utilities and everything else that wasn’t covered by my scholarship, but I worked since I was 15.

I did pay for all my backpacking trips with my own money; I worked as a nurse aide, in a book store, and babysitting in college. Obviously if they hadn’t helped me  with my school books, I wouldn’t have had the money to go backpacking.

I was pretty travel obsessed so I would have used loan money or credit cards and done it anyways; so thanks to them I have no debt.

how to tell your parents you want to travelcollege graduation

how to tell your parents you want to travelSouth Carolina, OSU football game, vaca

They also bought me a very cute car even after I proved I couldn’t drive for shit by flipping my mom’s Tahoe a few times. Since moving to India, they’ve sold my car.

There was a point were they had had enough with my shenanigans. It was after one year in Charlotte when I decided to go to India alone. I’d already been to Africa on my own, and Europe twice, but this was different. I was going for a long time and for no particular reason. I was quitting my first job out of college after only 11 months. They were pissed.

Lesson #1 don’t spring a trip on them out of nowhere, always show your interest in traveling instead of hiding it so they’ll see it coming

Our parents generation is all about loyalty and working for the same company forEVER. While nowadays, people switch jobs every few years. So leaving my job was not seen as professional. They had moved all my things with a U-Haul to Charlotte a year prior. They told me they were not helping me move my things back up to Ohio, hoping that would prevent me from going.

how to tell your parents you want to travelChristmas photo we take every year, me bro & his wife, Bre

how to tell your parents you want to travel

I sold most of my big things and took home what fit in my car (and the car of a friend that visited me). Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Lesson #2 have a plan and be able to 100% support yourself

If you’re parents are paying your bills, you really can’t run off. You have to be “on your own”. I was on my own for a year in Charlotte but after India, what would I do? I’d have money but no job or home. I had a plan for a travel nursing job and my parents of course let me come home for about a month until that job started in Seattle, Washington. If you can’t stay at your parents, do you have a sibling to stay with? If not, you need enough money saved to pay rent until you find your next job.

I told them then I was moving to India… but first a quick trip to Mexico to meet this random guy I’d met in India (Ben). I think it was too much moving in a year for parents to be cool with.

Lesson #3 start small, then do longer and longer trips, before moving abroad rather than meet a guy and move a few months later ;)

We definitely disagreed about me moving to Goa with Ben, my accidental boyfriend I met on my first trip to India.

how to tell your parents you want to travel

So I thought I should help you all out if you’re going through something similar, by sharing my story so you know a lot of people’s parents don’t totally approve of a traveling lifestyle.

I could ask my parents how they wish I’d told them, and what they wish I’d done differently. In what terms would they have better accepted my move to India? Was it because of leaving my job? Wasting my degree? Or just because they’d miss me?

Then I realized, on no terms would they have accepted it better and there’s no right way to tell your parents you’re moving to another country or going on a long trip. It’s not a normal thing to do in America and you’re parents are probably going to freak out.

Lesson #4 expect a freak out and be ready to answer lots of questions in detail to show that you are responsible and prepared INCLUDING how you will earn money after the trip is over

Write out a full itinerary and give it to them, tell them you’ve applied to the STEP program with the State Department so you’re safe. Maybe go with a friend the first time. Don’t book your flights before talking with them or they’ll be more angry. Tell them what you plan to do after the trip (even if you make something up). Explain WHY you want to go and show you have a purpose.

If they still won’t budge, you just have to stick to what your heart wants and DO IT ANYWAYS (sorry mom and dad). They will eventually come around. Lots of people will think you’re a b*tch for leaving home and making your family sad, and maybe we are, but you have to put yourself in a place you’re happy. Since all this, my parents have come to India to visit. If they did, then there’s hope for you all!

how to tell your parents you want to travel



About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Werkenntwen, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Werkenntwen has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. Joella December 10, 2015 at 12:34 am - Reply

    Great post, Rachel! At first I was all like- ugh parents, just ignore them. But your advice was better haha! You are right- its better to make sure you earn money to travel and have enough left when you come back. If people do it independently and responsibly then I think most parents will eventually come round. I think studying a language, working or volunteering is also a great way for kids to show their parents they are getting something ‘concrete’ out of travel too. I mean we all know its more than that but parents like it when you have something to show for it ha! I think I’m lucky that my parents were always happy for me to travel but it is also much more common in the UK. Loads of people travel before university, after university or after like 2 years of work when they realise it sucks haha! Hopefully gap years are becoming more common here in the US too.

    • Rachel Jones December 10, 2015 at 2:16 pm - Reply

      haha Just ignore them! You’re right, you UK kids are so lucky that it’s normal to go off traveling. Ben’s parents aren’t bothered at all he lives in India.

  2. Louis December 11, 2015 at 12:21 am - Reply

    Funny you post this today. I was just talking about my travels with my dad today and he says to me “You know I support you in everything you do, just please don’t join a cult.” No matter how old we get, we are eternally 12 in our parents eyes.

    • Rachel Jones December 14, 2015 at 11:56 am - Reply

      haha but you don’t know if you’ve joined the cult until it’s too late ! ;) haha

  3. Stephanie von Doering December 12, 2015 at 6:47 am - Reply

    I’m 55 years old and I still have to navigate the unenthusiastic responses of my aging parents! People that love you fear the pain of loss, and many destinations are falsely thought of as being risky and dangerous, especially for solo female travelers. Articles like yours are great tools for emotional navigating!

    • Rachel Jones December 14, 2015 at 12:00 pm - Reply

      Hi Stephanie! I guess parents will always see us as 18! But I guess I will know one day if I have kids what’s it’s like.. my mom always says she hopes I have 3 girls just like me lol

  4. Betsy December 14, 2015 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Great post! So true! My dad always tells me to stay home. This year I traveled a lot and I made some connections and also started a relationship in India, so in April I am moving to Rajathan. When I told my dad he did not say anything. Oh man. I am too old for him to stop me.
    I totally agree with you Rachel, I hope everyone who does not have totally supportive parents still travel. It really is the most amazing thing you can do for yourself. :)

  5. Patty April 29, 2016 at 8:19 pm - Reply

    I love reading your blog! I am moving to Bangalore for work in September and I am excited/nervous. I have previously traveled to India (Delhi, Agra, Jamshedpur, Munnar, and Kochi) but I have never been to Bangalore. Your blog makes me feel much more confident about living abroad! Have you ever done a blog post about things you wish you would have known prior to moving to Goa/India? I would love to read it!

  6. PG December 28, 2016 at 11:22 am - Reply

    Hi! I’ve traveled throughout the US and I’m ready to finally get out of the country. I was thinking Ireland. I finally had the courage to tell my dad that I wanted to go for a few weeks and he freaked! I’m 29, going on 30 in a few days, but there’s no convincing him. Of course I want to buy a home, find a husband and do all that fun stuff but traveling is calling my name. Any recommendations?

    • Rachel Jones December 28, 2016 at 5:17 pm - Reply

      Hey – in these cases you just have to go with your gut. You have to make yourself happy!

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