Convincing the Parents?
I just graduated from college, and am looking to start traveling solo. I've done plenty of traveling in the past. I've traveled all around the US and to South Africa, but I always had someone with me. I'm looking to just start with short 2-3 day backpacking trips around the state, but my parents are always trying to convince me not to go. Do you have any suggestions or ways to calm their nerves before I go? I don't want to sit around and wait for someone to go with me every time I want to travel. Thanks for your help!
Answer: It's worth putting the dangers into perspective. Most young women travel around the world and come home without a scratch. Danger lurks everywhere and you're as much at risk of being hit by a car in your hometown as you are of running into trouble overseas.
A good way to allay your parents' fears is to show them a clear plan and give them plenty of details. If you've thought your trip through sensibly and can show them where you'll be, for how long, and where you'll go next, they may (grudgingly) accept you're at least serious about it all. Promising to stay in touch (and keeping the promise) goes a long way towards comforting them as well. Take a cellphone and agree a time and day - and stick to it. Choose one of the 'safer' destinations, or at least considered safer.
My mother was horrified when I told her I was going to backpack around the world on my own, and warned me about all sorts of things. I slowly brought her around to my way of thinking by countering her arguments diplomatically, showing her pictures, and even asking her to join me at some point (which she did, by coming to visit for two weeks when I had plunked myself down in Bangkok for a while).
You could also tell your parents you're only going to stay where there are plenty of other travelers. Stay in hostels, and give them their names. If you do that, I can almost guarantee that the only time you'll be on your own is on the plane. After that you'll make friends and will have plenty of people around. It may be a bit of a sacrifice to your freedom at first - but if it makes your parents worry less, it's worth 'staying with the pack' at the beginning. Once they get used to the idea of you being on your own, you can take a bit of distance.
There's no tried and true way to convince your parents other than showing them you are serious, sensible, and committed. You can never guarantee safety - anywhere. So tell them that - and tell them you are reading all the right things, taking precautions, doing plenty of research… and that you'll do whatever it takes to ease their concerns - other than stay home.
Come back and let us know how it goes! Your experiences and insight will help other travelers facing the same issues.
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What is the minimum age for volunteer work overseas?
Answer: Hi Claire, I take it from your question that you're quite young but would still like to volunteer...
The minimum age is usually 18. I say usually, because there are a few exceptions. For example, certain paying groups, like Cross-Cultural Solutions, offer teen programs for 15-17-year olds. These don't come cheap, however, and parental help would be seriously required. United Planet has some short-term volunteer plans if you're at least 16, as does Greenheart Travel.
Finally, check out Teen Summer 411 for a list of teenage volunteer opportunities for even younger age groups, some as young as 13.
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Young Aussie woman to travel solo in Australia, Asia and beyond
Hi, I'm 22 and would love to go and travel around my home country Australia and Asia then work in Europe or the UK, and South America - just go wherever I want to. This will all be on my own which excites me to a certain point, but how do I find someone to travel some of the way who is not from a dating site? Also I need to work - I will have a certificate in tourism and business.
Since this isn't a job site I can't help you with finding work but I can point you towards my Female Travel Companions and its resources on finding women with whom to travel.
If you're looking for men as well, your best bet would be one of the larger travel forums. Try posting a request at the Thorn Tree or BootsnAll.
A word of advice: if you're serious about finding travel partners, narrow down your search by giving people approximate dates and places and make your request a little less general and more specific. Happy travels!
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21 year old blonde traveling alone in Ecuador
I am looking to possibly volunteer at an orphanage in Quito, Ecuador during January of 2013. I will be 21 by then. I have always wanted to do service work in a third world country - I'm hoping to really gain perspective. However my parents and I are very worried about my safety while traveling. I am VERY natural bright blonde - I even get a lot of people talking about my hair color in the US where blonde is common! :)
I would be in Quito for a little less than a month, living with a host family. Im not sure but I think I have to find my own transportation between the host house and the orphanage. Additionally, this is my first time leaving the US.
Some insight here would be greatly appreciated :) Thank you so very much!
My answer: You're not the first with that question - ultimately what tends to worry us when we travel is standing out from the crowd and being singled out for special attention, not all of it positive.
I've suggested several strategies to another traveler headed to Costa Rica who faces the same challenges, and you'll find them at being blonde and female in Costa Rica.
That said, the first thing to do is take common safety precautions for Quito. I'm sure you've already visited the State Department page for Ecuador but if you haven't, take a moment to do so, bearing in mind that these government warnings usually present the WORST case scenario. It's true, there is crime in Ecuador, and a lot of it is directed at foreigners as they are perceived to be wealthier. That said, thousands of people visit the country each year without any mishaps at all.
You don't mention how you found your host family but this is one area where choosing carefully would make a difference. Make sure your host family comes with excellent references, and better yet, try to talk to previous guests. Given the availability of Google maps and similar software, you should be able to map your public transport route to the orphanage well before you go. The closer, the better. You might also check with the orphanage to see if they have on-site lodgings that would help cut transportation to a minimum. Distance from work becomes particularly important if you don't speak the language (you don't mention whether you speak Spanish).
If I were you I would also get in touch with expatriates living in Quito. Check out the various blogs - just Search for 'expat blogs' or 'expat forums' - and contact foreigners who actually live there. They will give you a far more realistic picture than you'll get from government and other websites. I've found most people to be helpful and friendly with this type of information - just don't give too many details about yourself. You're there to get information, not to give it out, at least not in the first stages.
Being blonde will make you stand out, no doubt about it. But most foreigners do stand out by the way they act or dress, so you won't be the only person they'll be staring at. A kerchief or some kind of relaxed headgear could help, but so will the way you carry yourself. The trick is to look as though you belong.
Finally, if there's any way you can join a few other travelers at least at the start of your trip, you'd have a bit of a support system that would help you get settled in. I've never been one to worry too much about travel, but since this is your first time and you haven't chosen the easiest country, I'd try to plan as much as I could before going.
Remember, safety is relative and things can happen, no matter how many precautions you take. Bad things can happen when crossing the street at home, so it's not being abroad that in itself increases your danger. And please come back with more questions if you have them!
Egypt/ Israel for a solo young first-time traveling female?
I am a 21-year-old female, and a travel newby. The farthest I've been is Puerto Rico, but I went with a friend and we stayed very comfortably with his family... I have dreamed my whole life of going to Israel and Egypt, but I have heard that it is a difficult place to travel - especially for a female - and especially for a first-time traveler.
I have a bit of shyness working against me. I know I'll have to get over that immediately traveling and to be honest that is sort of why I want to travel.......
My parents are very fear-oriented. So I am surrounded by an accumulated consciousness of 'worst possible scenarios'. I want to break free from it all! But of course, inevitably, I am a little afraid. I know that there are better places for a first-time traveler to go, but the Middle East calls to me. Any advice would help. Thank you so much!
Answer: I beg to differ with common conceptions: the Middle East is probably one of the safer places to travel as a woman on her own. People are extremely hospitable, and in most countries, certainly in Egypt, very courteous.
Terrorism is anywhere and everywhere - of course Jerusalem is a target, but history has shown that you can easily be a target in London, Madrid or New York. Certainly, some parts of the Middle East get more than their share, and you'll hear about it because the media will write extensively about a terrorist event. Thousands of travelers visit the region all the time - and they usually come home safely, filled with wonderful experiences.
Lets start with Egypt.
The more rural or remote your destination, the more conservative the people. If you're at a beach resort, you'll feel perfectly at home - they look like beaches anywhere.
A good rule of thumb outside highly touristy areas is to cover up a bit more - shoulders and knees, and your tummy, of course. It's not so much that you'll get really hassled if you don't dress conservatively - it's just that you'll project an image you might not want to. This remains a male-dominated society and women who show off more than men think they should are considered fair game. You might attract more attention than you bargained for.
In Egypt, there's a heavy sales culture and the country is poor, so more than safety issues, you'll have to deal with petty annoyances, people trying to sell you things you don't want. Just be firm, polite, and walk on. Being on your own won't make a difference - everyone gets this treatment so you won't be alone!
Then there's the male/female thing. As a first-time traveler, you should be aware that the culture you'll be facing in a Muslim country is different from yours. What you consider normal and friendly - looking a man in the eye, shaking hands, accepting a drink - may be innocuous where you're from, but in countries like Egypt these small acts have more of a 'come hither' meaning and may encourage men to think you are looking for something more. So unless you actually WANT to be pushing someone away loudly in the middle of a public place, avoid these situations. If a man is clearly being too forward by touching you inappropriately (touching your hair, or giving you a major hug) just say something loudly. Public embarrassment is something to be avoided at all costs and there's a good chance you'll scare the man off.
My biggest safety concern in Egypt? Crossing a crowded Cairo street.
Now, for Israel. Strange as it may seem, Israel is one of the safest countries for solo women on the road. Think about it: it's highly policed, the country is constantly on alert, security is tight. This makes it safer than many other places in the region, and beyond.
Certain parts of Israel are more dangerous than others, and I'd stay away from those. But my advice would be - and this also goes for Egypt - ask when you get there, because things change quickly. If you're staying in a hostel or somewhere accustomed to hosting travelers, you'll probably have the freshest news possible. Ask other travelers. And ask local people: they'll know their own backyard.
Mostly, use your head, as you would in New York or Los Angeles. If something feels wrong, stay away. Try to understand a bit of the culture before you go. Don't assume things are the same as they are back home. Don't be too naive. In other words, take the same precautions you would anywhere, with one small addition: keep up with news in the Middle East, so that if trouble does break out, at least you'll know about it.
All I can do now is wish you a wonderful trip!
How to travel solo and safely in the Western USA if you're a 20-year-old
I've always wanted to travel out West on the road. Whenever I mention it to my parents they always say that It would be a stupid thing to do for a single 20 year old girl to do. So I suggested that I take one of my friends but since she's the same age and a girl they said that would be dumb too (plus she wouldn't be able to come because of school).
And I understand where they're coming from but I can't find anyone that would come with me due to school or money. I think its dumb that people think I can't do it unless I either go with a lot of people or a guy. And I wouldn't mind going with a guy but I don't have one and I don't want to go with a bunch of people. So I'm kinda stuck on deciding what to do. Do you have any suggestions? Is there a safe way that would allow me to travel by car out west alone (due to the lack of not having anyone to go with)?
Answer: Safety is always relative, and having a guy with you isn't necessarily safer than having a girl - or going by yourself.
If you do decide to travel on your own, you'd have to take certain safety precautions. Here are just a few of the things I'd do if it were me:
- Get the right maps and map your route ahead of time.
- Reserve your lodgings along the way - before leaving.
- Keep your cellphone on at all times and check in with your family at regular intervals. Don't forget to take a phone charger for your car.
- Stick to the most traveled roads and don't wander off into unpopulated areas.
- Make sure your car is in absolutely perfect shape to minimize the risk of breakdowns along the way.
- Join your local automobile association and make sure you have an emergency number in case of breakdown.
- Stick to family diners for food and stay away from bars or other places where men might be looking for entertainment.
- Basically, use your common sense. Your parents sound like caring people who have probably brought you up sensibly. Keep their teachings in mind.
These are significant precautions and if you stick with them there's every reason your trip should be a smooth one. That said, there is no such thing as a safety guarantee. Everything carries at least a small risk - as does crossing the street in front of your house.
How well can an 18-year-old girl travel alone in Europe?
by Paige M. Erickson
(Lima, Ohio, US)
My parents are sending me to Europe for the month of June as a graduation/accepted to college present. Will I be ok traveling alone? I'm pretty intelligent with common sense and funding isn't an issue.
My answer: What a wonderful gift - and how fun that you'll be able to focus on the adventure and not worry about money!
Once you know where you're going, try to reserve your first couple of nights at your first destination. It'll be a bit of a safe haven and you'll know where you're going once you land. Also make sure you know the best way to get to your reserved room! You've got all the Google Maps and other tools, and use IHateTaxis.com to figure out how to get from the airport to town.
Will you be OK traveling alone? I can't see why not! Europe is filled with 18-year-olds who are taking a gap year between high school and college. You say you're smart and sensible so just use those smarts, as you would back home, and apply these travel safety tips:
- be careful when meeting strangers and learn how to avoid unwanted male attention
- don't go off with anyone you don't know WELL (just take a friend along: you'll have new friends in no time) and beware of drinking with strangers (now I'M starting to sound like someone's mother! - but unfortunately not everyone has the best intentions and being careful at the outset can save you grief later)
- take a few basic hotel safety precautions
- set up regular times to talk to your family by phone or Skype (it will help them worry less about you)
- watch your money - wear a travel money belt and try to play down what money you do have
- stick to well-lit areas and if your guidebooks tell you to stay away from certain parts of town at night, follow their advice
Communications shouldn't be too hard. Many people speak English, and you can carry a phrase book for countries where it's not spoken. Hotels and guesthouses will all understand you, as will most tourist attraction staff. And outside Australia/NZ and Canada, Europe is in many ways as close as you'll get to the USA culturally.
None of this is scary or huge. It's just a bit of research, as you would do for a term paper in school. Know what to look for, and then go off and have a great time!
These other questions were also asked by young women heading off to travel on their own:
How young is too young to travel?
How can a 16-year-old travel?
Budget travel to Europe: Prague to Paris
Convincing the parents
Can a high school graduate travel alone across Africa overland?
Can a girl fresh out of high school travel Africa overland for a year? Alone?
Soon I'll be graduating from high school. For a long time I've dreamed about traveling in Africa. When I was twelve I visited Ghana, but only for a short time. I've recently realized that what I really want to do is see Africa, get in depth with Africa. My route would be overland from Jo'burg, South Africa, traveling in a wide arc to Mauritania, spending about a month in each country. While on route I *might* travel through Sudan and Chad, but I haven't decided yet.
And yet, more and more when I express this dream to people their response is, "Alone? Why don't you just volunteer?". But my motivation in visiting Africa isn't to bringing my own culture and way of life there, but in being exposed and introduced to the varying and fascinating ways of life that define the African continent.
So, is it possible? I will be eighteen years old. Please give me your honest opinion. Thanks so much for your time!
Answer: You asked me to be honest so here goes. As you'll know from reading my site, I'm very keen on solo travel and myself traveled solo for the first time at 15 (which, thinking back, was too young - I was fine but I was lucky).
You sound extraordinarily mature for your age, so that is a definite plus. However, Africa is one of the hardest - if not THE hardest - place to travel, for a number of reasons. The numbing poverty of some parts of the continent may not be something you're used to. Safety factors, such as poorly-maintained vehicles and awful driving, means your chances of an accident are higher than they might be at home. Going from country to country can be daunting, and even seasoned travelers may find it difficult. I crossed Africa and while it was brilliant, it wasn't easy.
At 18, in all honesty, I couldn't recommend crossing Africa solo. It's a continent for the seasoned traveler, in my opinion. Others may well disagree. I'd start with something easier, like Europe or Southeast Asia, if you want to travel solo for any length of time. Get your 'sea legs', then head for Africa.
All that said, if you feel ready to face such a major trip, then try to team up with people. You don't need to travel with the same person everywhere, but make sure you've got a travel mate you can share moments of frustration with. They're not hard to find.
The first thing I'd do is check out the best travel forums online and see who's going where. You should have no trouble finding someone to share that first leg with. Once you're on the road, stay in hostels where you'll meet plenty of other young travelers. I never failed to find someone to travel with this way.
For safety's sake, as a new traveler, I'd stay away from countries with distinct security risks or where foreigners have recently been kidnapped. Make sure you check out your government's travel advisories (you'll find the link at the bottom of my dangerous places page).
And don't forget: keeping in touch is one of the most important things you'll do on the road to let your loved ones know you're safe.
So, in a nutshell... I would not recommend travel across Africa solo if you're not an experienced traveler. I would opt for a small tour to get to the know a bit of the continent first, say a few weeks of overlanding to get your feet wet. Then at least you'd have an idea of what to expect. Or, if you're really keen on solo travel, start with an easier destination. Much as I love Africa, travel there is more challenging than in most other regions of the world.
If you really want to go it alone, then I'd make sure to find travel companions along the way. You'll still be traveling solo, but at least you'll have people around you. Of course the usual safety recommendations apply when you're looking for a travel partner!
A final option - homestays or couch surfing. The advantage of this is staying with someone local, who'll be able to show you the ropes and help you steer clear of danger, since they'll know their surroundings well. Just make sure you check them out thoroughly first. Families are best and again, make sure your own family knows exactly how and where to find you.
Please come back here and post about your decision and how and why you made it - we'd love to hear!
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How can a 16-year-old travel?
I am only 16 years old but I am so interested in travel! I have a list of over 100 places that I want to go and I add to it everyday! My parents are so busy and complain about travel expenses so my future doesn't look too bright! I know I'm young but experiencing new and exciting places and cultures is all I can think about! I'm obsessed with travel, quite frankly! It breaks my heart that I will have to wait so long to be able to go where I want to go! Any ideas or suggestions on how I can travel abroad? Solo travel even sounds great! Obviously I'm not married and I am a very independent girl! I don't need anybody, a man specially, to travel with. Thank you for your time!
Answer: Jenna, your enthusiasm is contagious! I'm sure you'll make a wonderful traveler - passionate, curious and open to the world.
You will have to wait a bit - but it's not a question of age. Most of us don't have the kind of money that allows us to simply pick up and go so we too have to toil and save until we have enough to finally visit our dream destination.
At 16, it's true that your options are a bit narrower because you don't have your own money and depend on your parents. If you have the option of a semester abroad, that would be a great way to get to know a different culture and these programs are well-organized. Similar groups offer student exchanges, where you go stay with a family who has a child your own age, and their son/daughter comes and stays with your family, either at the same time or one after the other. You'll find plenty of programs like AFS by searching online for 'high school student exchange'. Many of the groups listed will be able to answer your questions and maybe put you in touch with students overseas.
There are plenty of groups and organizations that organize trips for young people - some are hugely expensive, some less so, but all cost money. Still, reading their sites might give you some ideas, like Travel for Teens.
Another option would be to volunteer, since some organizations accept teenagers. You'll find a great list at Transitions Abroad and reading through them will also give you plenty of ideas.
My final idea concerns social or religious clubs. If your parents are members of the Rotary, Lions or similar club, talk to them because they often have exchanges with their counterparts in other countries. The same goes for churches, which sometimes host youth events in other countries and may be able to help.
Don't worry though - I know it seems to take forever but if you stick to your guns, you'll soon be sending us stories about your travels. Good luck, Jenna!
19 year old aspriring backpacker
Hey! I just wanted to say first of all that your site is amazing and has helped me a lot. Not just with information but with reassurance that I'm doing the right thing. I just turned 19 last month so when I said I was going backpacking alone I've gotten a few head shakes and discouragement. At first I just shrugged them off because I'm doing this for myself not for anyone else but I have to admit after a while they were starting to get to me. That is until I saw your site.
Anyways just wanted to ask you on your opinion of whether I should travel to Australia or to Thailand from Indonesia because that is where my mom and I are first heading and also separating.
Thanks for the nice words about my site, Catherine! I'm glad to hear you're finding some inspiration and courage here.
Of course people will discourage you from travel on your own - they care about you and don't want anything to happen. My parents were also concerned whenever I traveled on my own, and I'm glad they were. It made me try to do things in a way that would worry them the least.
One thing I found really helpful to my family was constantly keeping in touch. Wherever I went, I would Skype or email (or before the Internet, I'd phone) on a set schedule, usually a couple of times a week. It's comforting for them, and for me too.
As for your travel plans, there are pros and cons for both. Australia will probably be much more like home, so if this is your first time on your own, it might feel more familiar and be an easier transition. On the other hand, many of us travel to see new places, so the cultural change you'll experience with Thailand would be greater. Thailand is also a relatively safe country in which to travel, and it's full of foreigners so you'll feel right at home.
Both countries work, for different reasons. So just ask yourself - what are you looking for as an experience? That might help you decide.
Have a wonderful trip!
What is the safest Asian country for a 21-year-old?
I'm a 21 year old girl from Holland and my dream is to go for a certain amount of time on my own to a very beautiful country.
Now my question is that I'm a bit confused about which country I want to visit. Last year I went to Japan with my ex boyfriend backpacking, which was amazing. Now I want to go again to Asia.
Which one is in your opinion one of the safest for a girl and one of the cheapest?
Thank you very much for helping, this site helps me a lot to make my dream come true :)
Answer: The good news is that if you're looking for cheap, beautiful and safe, you won't do much better than Asia so at least you're on the right continent.
Once upon a time I would have said Thailand instantly, without thinking. It was beautiful and safe and cheap. These days, it still is, but just a bit less so. Prices have crept up, though it's still one of the cheaper Asian destinations; huge tourist pressure means natural beauty is being crowded by tourism over-development, but not everywhere - you'll still find islands of breathtaking beauty; and the massive number of foreigners make petty crime (and at times not so petty) a lot more common that it used to be. Still, I wouldn't let that stop me - I'd just be more careful, that's all.
One country you might consider - and I do urge you to do your own research by reading what the forums have to say - is Laos. To many, it's what Thailand used to be 30 years ago. I've been half a dozen times and have always enjoyed the laid back pace. I have not visited in several years, though, so again, head to some of the better travel forums online (I would suggest you start with BootsnAll) and see what they're saying. Back then, some of the rural roads were unsafe (bandits!) but there was always widespread information about which ones these were and how to stay away. You'll probably enjoy the capital Vientiane, but Luang Prabang in the north has amazing character.
Lets see if anyone else weighs in with some suggestions!
How young is too young to travel?
I am sixteen years old and I'd love to backpack in Australia with my friend of seventeen years old next summer. I was wondering how old you were when you 'started'. It seems like you have a lot experience and I love to hear from you! (:
Answer: Although I traveled with my parents nearly from birth (I was on the Orient Express or whatever it was called in those days at the ripe old age of five weeks), my first solo trip was at 15. Now in all fairness my parents did not know I'd gone. I wasn't exactly honest about where I was spending the weekend (with a friend) and I jumped on a train instead and headed south in Spain, where I was then living, and caught a ferry to Morocco. My poor father had to come all the way down to bring me home because although I made it there, I had neglected to plan for my return and ran out of money. I just hadn't learned how to budget at that age. So I might have been mature at 15, but I was too young to do what I did, and the dishonesty didn't help.
The next time I traveled on my own was at 17. We had moved to Vancouver and I decided I wanted to visit California. I had relatives there so I wasn't exactly on my own. At 18 I flew off to Amsterdam and London, and somehow I haven't really stopped since.
In my travels I've met quite young women traveling. I truly believe it is about maturity. I know a 15-year-old girl who was mature beyond her years and went off to Europe on her own for the summer. I think that's too young because you don't have the experience of life yet, experience that will tell you if you're in danger, if someone is lying to you, or if the friends you meet are genuine. That only comes with time. That said, I've met women well into their twenties who should never have been let out of their back yards - immature, rude, unobservant and disrespectful. I don't know why they bothered to travel.
If you do decide to go, make a plan and stick to it. Have a strict schedule for getting in touch with your family, and don't miss a call, ever. In all the years I've traveled, I've always called in at prearranged times, even today.
So… I feel 16 is quite young for a summer of backpacking but I should in all fairness qualify that by saying it also depends on whether the two of you are experienced travelers and whether you do some serious planning with the support and approval of your families. Age isn't a number - it's a state of mind but it also does take time to become aware of the world around you and know what to do when things don't turn out the way they should. It's not about what happens when things go right, but what happens when things go wrong. At 16 I hadn't quite learned how to handle real trouble.
Also I thought recent posts might be interesting:
- How can a 16-year-old travel?
- 19-year-old aspiring backpacker
- Convincing the parents
- Can a girl fresh out of high school travel Africa overland for a year alone?