The realisation that your child is now an independent adult who’s life no longer depends on you doesn’t get much more abrupt than watching them disappear to another country, completely alone.

Although I’m not a parent, I totally get it – parting with a child to go abroad who you have devoted your life to nurturing and guiding through life’s ups and downs, must surely be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences on par with their birth and first day of school. They’re so far away, how can you help if something goes wrong?

Of course this innate parental feeling is completely reasonable and to be honest, expected. However I hear all too often that unfortunately this fear not only causes issues between parents and child, but often actually stands in the way of solo travel.

The benefits of solo travel are endless and to be frank, it’s no more dangerous than traveling with a friend or indeed family. It’s simply different. I’m proud when I hear that an increasing number of young adults are choosing to do it, but that also means it’s now more important than ever to get parents behind it as well (or at least attempt to!).

If you’re a parent who has a child wanting to travel solo, (or perhaps they are as we speak) and you are unsure of how deal with it, then you’re in the right place. And if you’re not a parent but just curious then you are too! I have spoken to avid solo travellers from across the world with both supportive and unsupportive family, as well as parents of young and adult children from traveling and non-traveling backgrounds. I’ve compiled their experiences and opinions about what they wish their parents would do, what gestures they appreciate and in the case of parents, how they go about fostering and supporting solo travels. So although this is not a guide as every situation is different, I hope it inspires ways to support solo travel, highlights the importance of it and the very least, sparks a few things to think about.

Do your parents support your solo adventures? Do you approve of your kid’s solo travels? Feel free to let us know in the comments!

1. Understand It’s Not an Act of Rebellion or Fuelled by Anger

Firstly, I think it’s important to establish that a decision to travel solo is generally not a reflection on parenting or a negative attitude towards a primary caregiver.

This ‘what did I do wrong?’ attitude appears to be a common misconception many parents initially have when their son or daughter decides to go traveling alone. However just like me, many others I spoke to see this completely differently. To have brought up a child with a brave and adventurous soul, who is secure and open minded enough to jump into an unknown situation to learn about themselves and the world, especially completely independently, is in fact fantastic parenting!

Approaching discussions of travel with these negative, ‘self blame’ emotions can often manifest themselves as guilt for us when, (and even if) we go. Julia, a solo traveller from The Roaming Flamingo is all too familiar with this feeling: “[my parents] couldn’t understand why I needed to travel solo when I had all the love in the world at home… it does break my heart that I am causing them grief”.

See – it’s often nothing to do with being unhappy with home or feeling unloved or unfulfilled with what we have been provided. It can be hard to hear that our parents are questioning themselves like this. We have our own personal reasons but listening to them and steering away from a guilt trip is no doubt beneficial for all.

 

2. Be Positive

We know that telling us we will get raped, murdered, kidnapped and will hate everything about our trip comes from a place of worry and not maliciousness. However it sets off our travels on such a low tone and guess what? It actually makes us nervous!

Mimoza from Mimoza Everywhere told me that her mum was so worried about her going Interrailing that she tried to stop her: “she was saying things like the hostels are going to be very dirty, very uncomfortable, it’s going to be tiring, it’s going to be long, what if you can’t find a place to stay?” She was going to go regardless, so what use were these comments apart from injecting an unhealthy dose of negativity?

We don’t ask you to change your views because of course that is unreasonable but instead channelling these worries into contingency plans is much more productive. For example, what is the local emergency services number in case something does go wrong? The location of our home countries embassy? Do we have a power bank in case our phone runs out of battery?

3. Be Part of (or Offer to be Part of) the Planning

Although it depends on your relationship and personal situation, it’s so nice to see parents get involved with the practical planning, especially if gushing about solo travel doesn’t come naturally.

There’s loads of practical ways to help which will no doubt put parental fears at ease too. There is reading over insurance documents, reviewing itineraries, purchasing those little travel essentials like a padlock or a torch, organising visas or simply being a willing ear to run plans by as a second opinion is always useful.

Getting involved in the planning shows acceptance and encouragement which can’t always be vocalised.

4. Take a Solo Trip As Well

So much dismissal of solo travel is based purely on the fact parents do not understand it because they haven’t undergone it themselves. It’s essentially a fear of the unknown. Of course it’s not for everyone, but taking a solo trip (even for just a weekend somewhere local) means parents can experience another perspective and potentially relate to why we are doing it.

Lissa from Roots Wings and Travel Things has traveled alone since she was small thanks to encouragement from her parents. She has young children and has incredibly already discussed with her husband how they will encourage their kids to travel solo when they are old enough: “we are planting the seed early. We hope that by making it a part of the conversation now, they’ll have the courage to go for it when the time comes”. As they travel alone it has become an integral part of their lifestyle and are therefore completely aware of the benefits.

5. Understand it’s Not Detrimental to a Career/Mortgage/Serious Relationship

This doesn’t necessarily exclusively relate to solo travel as such but whether you believe this about travel or not, saying it is simply counterproductive.

Personally, the more I hear about how I am wasting my money on what could otherwise be spent on a house deposit, or worse, how I won’t get a mortgage because I’ve put my career on hold, the more resentful of societies expectations I become. As a consequence, the more money I want to spend traveling getting away from it all! This all will come, but I am simply not ready yet and wish to live my life with the freedom I have, whilst I have it.

Everyone works to their own personal clock which varies from person to person. Just because it’s not the same as yours or those around you, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Times change from generation to generation. It just so happens that our generation are settling later, having children a bit later and seeing the world before a career leaves us with little time to do much else.

6. Help Build up Excitement

A good way to show your support for solo travel is be part of the build up of anticipation and excitement as this is such a big part of the adventure!

This can be done in a variety of ways; reading up on things to do, the history or culture of the relevant country to share with us, sending links to blogs, buying a guide book, a travel novel, cooking local cuisine. It absolutely doesn’t have to be purchasing anything at all in fact. Just sharing discussions about our travels instead of silence or dismissal is more than we could ask for.

7. Offer a Lift to/From the Airport/Train Station

This for many may seem like a given, but showing a physical gesture of support like driving to the airport to wave goodbye is a nice way to almost give us a ‘thumbs up’.

After a year of solo traveling and returning to London, jet lagged, emotional and nervous I saw friends and family with beaming faces welcoming loved ones at the arrival gates. It gave me a wave of sadness to know my family would not be there. Instead I had to negotiate the underground, the crowds at Kings Cross and then get a train home. It may sound totally selfish to expect my parents to spend time and money to make the journey to meet me, but seeing their faces at arrivals, especially after 12 months alone, would have been a display of support like no other.

8. Trust Us

It’s tempting for parents to bombard us with messages to see how we are getting on through worry. Different time zones, a lack of Wi-Fi and enjoying the sightseeing may however mean we aren’t available as much as normal. This is an opportunity to enjoy time alone or with new friends but you can be assured we will reach out when we can. Scheduling in a Facetime or Skype chat is a good way to manage this.

Allowing space and reassuring us you have faith in what we are doing is a great gesture of trust.

9. Read Up on Solo Travel

This website alone is jammed packed with valuable resources written by women from a variety of backgrounds, on their experiences of solo travel. They include articles on the benefits of solo travel, tips for first timers, countries that are solo female friendly, how solo travelling can boost a CV and various positive personal stories. So if you’re a parent and a bit nervous, this is a great way to discover some material to make you feel more confident about your child going abroad alone.

 

Is there anything else you would add to this? Let us know below!

 

With extra special thanks to all those who contributed including: Julia from The Roaming Flamingo, Lissa from Roots Wings and Travel Things and Mimoza from Mimoza Everywhere.