It’s been nearly twelve months since I made the decision to travel full-time, and what a year it’s been!
When I made this choice, I was aware that there would be people who wouldn’t understand and people who wouldn’t support my decision. I knew there would be infinite questions I would have to answer, and I knew there would be people who would tell me that the lifestyle I wanted wasn’t attainable. I encountered these people throughout the year, but I also encountered so many who were infinitely supportive and excited for me.
Maybe you’re considering a gap year, working or studying abroad, or a nomadic life of long-term travel. No matter what the case, if you’ve made the choice to see the world, you’ll need to know how to talk to loved ones about travel.
Here are a few things that I learned after 12 months of question-answering, defending, and celebrating my decision.
Be honest up-front.
I told my closest friends and family members about my decision to travel as soon as I made it last January. However, there were some people that I felt I had to hide it from. This included some extended family members, co-workers, and my roommate.
I had my reasons for holding back. In some cases, I didn’t want them to think I was a “quitter” if my plans fell through for some reason. In other cases, I felt that certain people in my life were too negative, and wouldn’t necessarily be happy for me, or they would tell me that my choice to give up my well-paying marketing job was irresponsible.
My old roommate, in particular, had rather harsh opinions when I tried to bring up just the suggestion of potentially traveling long term (I didn’t let her know that I was already planning it). She crapped all over the idea from the get-go, so I no longer felt comfortable telling her about my plans.
I found myself having to lie multiple times to avoid disclosing my travel plans, which made me feel very uncomfortable. She couldn’t understand why I never wanted to go out with her anymore, and because I couldn’t be honest, I couldn’t explain that I was saving every penny of my extra money for travel and my solo-biz startup costs, or that I was spending every extra second of my time building my new business and researching every facet of long-term travel. My priorities had changed and I couldn’t say that out loud. In the end, it destroyed the little bit of friendship we had left.
If I could go back, I would have been honest with everyone about my plans up-front to avoid the awkwardness and head/heartache.
Know your heart.
The question I’ve been asked most often when disclosing my travel plans is, “why?”
For me, there is a very long list of reasons, so I simplified my answer by focusing on my crazy, insatiable wanderlust. I explain that after returning from my short stint traveling last year, I couldn’t sit still at my desk at work. I needed to see more and do more before settling down again to a full-time job.
In reality, there are several more reasons that are close to my heart, but they’re less relatable for most people, so I keep my story short and sweet and leave the soul-purging for this blog.
The best advice I can give is to know your heart and know what to say when people ask why you’re planning to travel. The answer is personal and unique to you, and if it’s heartfelt and genuine, most people will be supportive.
Do your research.
There’s no better defense for endless skeptical questions, than solid, well-researched responses.
Do exceptional research before making your decision. Learn all you can about your destination(s), travel safety, travel insurance/vaccines/visas and financial game-plan.
It’s been my experience that once people hear your answers and realize that you truly have thought through every part of this adventure, the questions stop.
Know your audience.
Your friends will want to hear about all of the amazing parties and festivals you plan to hit. Your parents will want to hear about the safety precautions you’re taking and how you plan to keep in touch. Your grandparents will want to hear about the museums and historical stops on your list.
If you’re looking for support, know your audience and adjust accordingly. You may not want to tell your grandparents about your plans to party hard in Ibiza, and your parents probably don’t need to know if you plan to hitchhike or couch-surf. Keep it relevant.
Accept the inevitable.
People will come at you from all perspectives when you tell them about your travel plans.
Experienced travelers will praise you, and lend their expertise and experience.
Good friends will ask how they can keep up with your adventures.
Best friends will offer to join you in a country they’ve never seen.
Those who long to travel will marvel over all of the amazing experiences you’re about to have.
Those who fear travel will run through a laundry list of terrible things they’ve heard happen to people on vacation. They’ll throw out phrases like “Don’t eat the street food” and “I heard an American got kidnapped there last year….” (Caveat: They’ve never actually been to any of the countries they’re calling out.)
Those who are jealous will tell you that you’re too old to stay in a hostel and that it’s irresponsible to leave everything behind to pursue your dream.
No matter where they’re coming from, the inevitable fact is that some people will be incredibly supportive of your plans, while others will simply never get onboard. Know this truth and accept it from the beginning. Know that you don’t have to fight a battle…you have every right to go your own way, whether they like it or not.
How do you deal with sharing big life decisions with your loved ones? Let me know in the comments below, and follow my “Inspiration: On Going Your Own Way” board on Pinterest for a little pick-me-up!