If your parents are a big part of your life then you can probably relate to their tendency to worry about you, early and often. This tendency is even more noticeable when you tell them you’re planning to leave the country – at least for most Americans where international travel is not as much a norm among teens and early adults like some other countries around the world.
Last year I took off on a 7-month trip around the world. When I told my parents (many times over the 2 years preceding that trip) that I was taking off on a long-term adventure, they had a lot of questions. And so did my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmother, professors, and almost everyone else who heard my plan. I found the worrying endearing (most times) and decided to keep a list of all the things I was asked. I’m not including them more than once for your sake, though several of them I know I was asked upwards of ten times. I thought I’d share the list in case the interrogation is relatable or the answers are helpful.
Here are the 24 questions my parents asked me before my long-term travel, and my mostly patient answers.
1. What are you going to do about laundry?
Some of the hostels I’m staying at have laundry, so I’ll try to take advantage of those. I’ve got laundry tabs for soap when they do have facilities. I’ve packed a few quick-dry underwear so I can hand wash those as often as I need in the sink/shower and have them ready for the next day. Otherwise, it’s the good ole’ classic laundromat!
2. What are you going to do about your job?
I’ve saved up enough that I shouldn’t need to work*, but luckily my boss has agreed to let me work part-time on the tasks I’ve been doing from my laptop anyway! So, I just need to get to Wi-Fi 20 hours a week and bring my laptop with me.
*See #3. Admittedly, it was sometimes a hassle to find Wi-Fi or have to work when I wanted to be exploring. But other times I was grateful to have something to do that kept me from getting too bored or lonely.
3. Where are you going to get the money? If you have any idea how much this is going to cost?
I’ve been saving for two years since I graduated, putting away as much money as I could into savings. I’ve been doing my research too so I do have a pretty good idea of how much this will cost. I also have money in savings and an emergency fund if I’m very off and run short on cash. And I’ve got enough airline miles saved up for my return flight so if I do run out of money and need to come home, I’ll at least be able to get there that way.
*As it turns out, I did not save enough money and the fact I was working part time was a godsend. Even then, I blew through most of my modest savings and had a small credit card bill to contend with when I finally got home. None the less, I’m still working for the same organization today.
4. How are you going to pay all your bills?
I actually don’t have any bills right now except for my phone bill and car insurance. I’ve been living rent free at my moms, who plans to sell the house when I’m gone. No rent or utilities will be owed to her after I leave. I’m leaving some checks behind for her to cash each month for my phone bill. I’m selling my car, so I won’t need my car insurance payment anymore. And since I’m under 26, I’m still allowed to stay on her health insurance under our current laws so I won’t need my own health insurance until after I get back.
Since I don’t have my own place and I can afford to give up my bills at home, I’ll essentially be replacing rent with hostel & hotel payments, car insurance with public transportation costs, utilities with sim cards where needed. Very strategic, huh?
5. Where are you going to sleep?
Mostly hostels, which are like hotels except with big dorm-rooms instead of private rooms. They’re a lot cheaper and usually have some sort of kitchen too so I can make my own meals when I want and save money by not eating out. When I need some privacy, I’ll get a hotel room for a day or two.
On a couple nights, I’ll be sleeping on the train on the Trans-Mongolian railroad. I’ve also got a gig dog-sitting lined up where I’ll be staying in a regular house north of London by myself, and two gigs in the Czech Republic and South Korea where I’ll be volunteering on various projects and staying with the host and other volunteers.
6. Are you staying with strangers?
Mostly I’m staying in hostels, which are just like hotels except you might share rooms with other people. But you usually have a safe to lock up your valuables and otherwise it’s usually just as safe. If you have an issue with anyone in your dorm room you can just tell the hostel staff, though that’s never happened to me before.
When I’m doing my Workaway, the hosts and other volunteers are strangers though they have posted their listing through the website and operate on a review system, so it’s usually pretty safe as well. On Trusted Housesitter there is always a review system, and the person isn’t at the house so you’re just staying in a strangers’ home without them being there.
travel without fear
7. What are you going to do about your phone?
I’ll keep my plan with T-Mobile because they have unlimited data and texting in over 140 countries. The only place I’m visiting that isn’t covered is Mongolia*. Since I’ll only be there for a week I’m just going to rely on WiFi when I’m in the hostel and otherwise be off the grid. Elsewhere it should operate fairly normally, and I always have the option to buy a SIM card in a country to allow me to use my phone if it’s not working well with my data plan.
*This ended up being not true, and I actually did have service in Mongolia! It was a wild thing to be in the middle of the wilderness, turn my phone on, and find that I could get a bar or two in the right position. Japan ended up being the only place where we bought a Wi-Fi router, simply because the service can be poor in a lot of areas even with a plan, and we needed internet access to use the map functions and get around.
8. Are you taking a suitcase or backpack?
A backpack! Everything should fit into my backpack and a smaller day pack, and I’m packing a reusable fabric tote bag in case I need more space or need to go grocery shopping.
9. How are you going to fit all that in your backpack?
Very carefully. I’ve planned my outfits well so everything coordinated as much as possible. I’ve tested everything to make sure it fits, and if it doesn’t it isn’t making the trip! I’ll try to exchange some things out with people who are coming and going on my visit and buy things along the way if I need them.
10. Are you worried about your safety?
Not really, I’m not planning on walking the streets at night alone much or hopping into cars with random people or any of that. Plus, my own hometown can be fairly dangerous too at times if you’re not cautious. I’ll be smart about whatever I’m doing, I want to make it home as badly as you’d like me to.
Safety is somewhat of an illusion in my opinion. There are absolutely places where you are at more risk than others, I won’t debate that. As a woman that’s even more true. But at the same time, you can never guarantee your safety. Bad things happen to people all over the world every day and the most you can do is take the precautions you’re able to take.
Again, as a woman, taking steps to ensure my safety when I’m out and about is part of my daily routine. Walking home alone at night is always dangerous. Being in dark parking garages alone is dangerous. Drinking is dangerous. Driving a car is dangerous. Women have been abducted and murdered in my college town, and sexual assault is a prevalent issue where I attended university and in the world at large. Carrying large sums of money and flashing your expensive jewelry or gear can get you robbed or stolen from where I live as well as anywhere else.
When I travel, I take every precaution at my disposal within reason. I refuse to live a life of fear and would much rather be robbed abroad than never leave my home town out of fear and end up getting robbed there instead. On this particular trip my itinerary takes me through some of the safest countries in the world – countries who rank far higher than the USA in safety and quality of life for women.
11. Why do you have to go to that country? Can you go somewhere safer?
I’ll be fine! I’ve been to “more dangerous” countries and statistically the places I’m going aren’t any more dangerous than our own country. The media doesn’t show all the people who reliably get home safely each day, you’re only seeing the drama. I promise to check in as often as I can to let you know I’m safe!
12. Are you bringing pepper spray? What about this extendable baton? A whistle? Bodyguard?
I am bringing a whistle but more for hiking than anything else. Pepper spray isn’t allowed on airplanes and I can’t afford a personal body guard. And have no interest in carrying an extendable baton around with me everywhere.
13. You know I’m not Liam Neesan right? If you get taken there is a very real chance I will not be able to rescue you?!
Yes, I know. I’m going to do my very best not to require Liam-Neesan-like services of any kind.
14. How long are you going to be gone?
*On that particular round-the-world trip. My next journey to Uganda in late 2019 will be about 3.5 months.
15a. Where are you going again???
I’m leaving from Chicago, flying into Norway and working my ways east around the world until I end up back in Chicago and someone picks me up to take me home. Highlights include Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, Russia, Mongolia, South Korea, and Japan.
15b. And where is that [insert different country each conversation] exactly?
*pulls out phone to show them a map*
16. And you’re really doing this alone? Don’t you want to bring any friends?
Partly, yes. But I’ll have friends joining me for about half of the trip at various points! I’ll be alone for about 3-3.5 months in total, spaced out over different legs of the trip.
But yes, I enjoy solo travel too and want to do this with or without friends. I want to see these places and I may never have people to join me so I’m going to go and enjoy myself. And enjoy the freedom of exploring on my own with nobody but me to worry about or try to please.
17. Why do you even want to do this in the first place?
It’s hard to explain! I feel like I have this insatiable desire to see as many parts of our planet as I can. I want to experience the food, the culture, the nature, of as many countries as I can during my short time in this earth. And now is as good a time as any since I’ve finished school, have a part-time job that will let me work mostly remote, and don’t have any kids that are needing my money instead.
18. What are you going to do with your car?
Sell it. I won’t need it while I’m gone and don’t need to be paying car insurance for a car I’m not using. I’ll investigate buying another one when I’m home but I’m not sure what my plans are at that point.
19. What are you going to do with all of your things?
I’m selling or donating most of the things that I don’t foresee myself needing in the short-term. I’m keeping some clothes and keepsakes with the boyfriend and in storage at moms until I am back home and/or have my own place again.
20. Have you thought about health insurance? I’m sure that’s pretty expensive… Have you considered that?
Yes, I’ve got my regular health insurance at home and purchased travel insurance for the duration of the trip through World Nomads so I’m covered! Travel insurance for the six months I’m abroad (since the last month of my travels is in other states in the USA) came to a little over $364 which really isn’t bad at all considering how much you could pay for insurance on a monthly basis stateside.
21. Do you have any idea how much I’m going to miss you?
A whole lot, but I’m sure I don’t know as well as you do. I’ll miss you too though, lots and lots! And I’ll make sure to call and send postcards when I can. And you can always text me or send me an email.
22. What are you going to do when you come back? You know you’ll need a job eventually.
What? I’ll need a job? What’s that?
Yes, I’m aware, I will seek employment when I get home if I’m not able to keep working with my current remote job. But as it’s six/seven months away, I’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
23. Why can’t you just go somewhere closer? Somewhere where I could come and help you if you get abducted or hurt.
I can get abducted or hurt in Indiana! But this is my dream to travel and I’m an adult woman who will be just fine on her own. I will always regret not following my heart and going on this adventure. I know it’s harder to help me when I’m in Russia but I will be okay.* Trust me.
*I was okay.
25. Can I come? (My favorite question!)
Yes! Look at my itinerary and see where you can come meet me! I’d welcome travel buddies on any leg if you want to go where I’m going when I’ll be there.
Though sometimes I may have answered these a bit less than patiently, even verging on exasperatedly, I can’t complain. I owe my parents a big hug and a HUGE thank you for worrying about me, checking in with me, supporting me financially and emotionally, and cheering me on throughout my trip. If your parents don’t physically restrain you as you’re leaving for the airport and especially if they’re your travel-adventure-cheerleaders, do them a favor and send them a picture or text when you’re abroad so they know you’re alive.
Hopefully this has provided a few laughs and a little advice on how to assuage the fears of your loved ones before your next trip. If you’re not in the mood to participate in their interrogations, just send them a link to this post and tell them to memorize the answers.