Desperate to Travel: What’s Your Advice?

Pesquero en Playa el Yaque / Boat in El Yaque Beach
Creative Commons License photo credit: Javier Volcan 2.0

Travel bloggers LOVE to give advice. How to travel, where to go, what to see do and eat.  I love that willingness to help one another out with tips and advice, so I’m hoping you guys can pitch in and help me out on this one.

I got an email from a younger reader asking me for some advice. I’m always so flattered when people ask me for advice, even though I don’t always feel qualified to give it. This problem deals with some themes that I think many of us can relate to: the desire to see the world, the frustration of feeling stuck where you are.

I’m going to paste the letter (edited for brevity and anonymity, along with the answer I sent back.  After that I’m going to ask for your input on this not so uncommon problem.

The Letter:

Hey Steph,

I’m going to make this intro quick: I’m a seventeen year old girl who can’t see anything in my future other than travelling. The only thing that’s stopping me is my parents. You’ve probably heard this a hundred times, but this time it might be different.

Ever since I was little, I dreamed of going to Egypt. Everything about it intrigued me. And still does. But now, I’m dreaming of more than Egypt. My dream started there and branched off to the rest of the world.

If I was to tell my parents that I wanted to go travelling, my mum would just ignore it and my dad would probably laugh and make a joke out of it. In my family, people don’t just go off wandering. Especially females. “What girl do you know in our community that goes travelling?” my mother said to me the other day.

I hear all these stories and older people saying things like, “do what makes you happy”. Nothing would make me happy if I wasn’t able to travel. Nothing. I’m finishing high school very soon and I have no idea what to do with my life. I’ve been told I’m intelligent, that I shouldn’t waste my brains. That I should try to be a doctor or a nurse or something like that –mind you, I know I’m incapable of studying medicine. But that won’t make me happy. Maybe if I could tie the two with traveling, it would work. But how can I travel without my parents’ consent? How could I possibly make them let me go?!

I’m the type that wouldn’t care if I don’t have stacks of money. I’d love to visit developing countries. Anywhere. Literally. Every nook and cranny of the world, I just want to see it.

Its just those two dominant figures in my life that are stopping me. I just don’t know how to make them see that this is what I want. Its more than what I want. Its what I need. I need them to let me choose my path.



My (edited) Response:

Hi P,

I think it’s great that you know you want to travel. It’s hard when you are still underage and need your parents consent to do things like fly to foreign countries. The good news is you are 17, which means you will have more control of your life very soon.

The number one thing you can do to help your case is go to university. This is for a couple of reasons. I know that in America, and I assume in Australia, many schools have study abroad programs where you can go learn in other countries. That is what I did on my first trip abroad and it was a great experience. I would look for a school that has international programs- either studying or volunteering abroad. You could also look at schools that are in other countries.

Once you are out in the real world, you really don’t need your parent’s permission to travel anymore. You need to get yourself to a place where you will be able to fund your own travels, and to do that you’re probably going to need a job. Getting an education guarantees you a better paying job and even opportunities to go work abroad. This doesn’t mean you need to study medicine. I know a lot of kids from university who started out studying science because their parents wanted them to and ended up dropping it because they weren’t passionate about it. Think about what you like to learn about and look for programs that will let you do that.

I hope that’s at least somewhat helpful. Unfortunately there are no magic words to change your parent’s minds. But a large part of the traveling lifestyle is taking charge of your own life, and to do that you need to think long term. A lot of what comes with travel is delayed gratification. I’ve been working for almost two years to fund my next around the world trip. It sucks at the time but I know it’s going to pay off in the end.

Let  me know what you decide to do! Good luck!

Greek to Me (1)
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kim Scarborough


Alright, your turn: What advice would you give P that I left out of my response? How many of you have encountered family conflict with your travel choices? How did you deal with this? The more answers we get the more useful this will be, for P and the many other young people who I’m sure deal with this issue.

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38 thoughts on “Desperate to Travel: What’s Your Advice?”

  1. I ran into the very same situation, with parents being less than accepting of my travel desires. I will say though, that heading off to uni will provide the best start for your travelling. And not only because of study abroad programs, but because you’ll meet other folks out there that are going to be interested in travelling as well. The best thing that happened to me at university was meeting my travelling partner. We wandered all over Europe together, and from there, I had the knowledge and experience to start planning trips on my own.

    1. Wow, thank you so much Anna for some Australian perspective! I know that here in the states our cultural perspective on travel is very different then in Australia. For example I don’t know a single person who traveled right after graduating high school. For many, the opportunity to study abroad in college is their first chance to go abroad.

      You add some great suggestions which I think are really useful.

    2. Anna,

      Thank you SO MUCH for your insightful response!
      1) I never thought about travelling after I obtain a degree. Thanks for that. I always just imagined travelling straight after school and being some-what scared. I can also see that you’re not a Victorian. I’m finishing my VCE this year. Utterly terrified, I’ll have you know!
      Thanks so much for this point. I needed it!

      2) Studying abroad sounds surreal. I would love to do it! I’ve got my little travel fund up and running so I hope everything works out money-wise.

      3) A lot of people say that they won’t be motivated enough to head back to uni. But unlike a lot of people I know, I actually love learning and studying. Especially if its something I’m most passionate about . That three-month break does sound appealing! And yes, I’d be very determined to work a lot! Thanks so much for this point!

      4) I’m actually thinking of doing some volunteer work/aid work in various countries. Believe it or not, I may actually take this up as a career. Thank you!

      5) No I do not want to cut them off. I respect them very much, even though they sometimes aren’t as understanding as I want them to be.

      To be completely honest, I haven’t actually outlined exactly why I want to go or even, if I want to go! I’m just so scared of hearing “no” :(. When I become more confident with what exactly I want, I’m planning to sit them down and forcefully make them hear what I want. I hope that eventually I will not be scared of being who I want to be!

      THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR RESPONSE!!! You gave me so much of the information I needed, fellow Australian! I will try not to be so distressed. Its very hard though 🙁

      I’d love to chat more. How can I get a hold of your email address?
      Thanks a billion again!

      .-= Pearl´s last blog ..Bright Star =-.

  2. I don’t normally feel qualified to give advice but being a fellow Aussie I thought I might be able to help P out a little.

    Dear P,

    1) It is 100% normal to take a gap year straight out of school if that’s what you want to do. None of my employers have looked down on the time I have spent travelling. However, I took my main gap year after I had finished my degree and I’d really recommend this. Many of my friends went straight after the HSC but I personally think the maturity and perspective you gain in undergrad opens your eyes to the world and you’ll get more out of your adventures if you delay them a little.

    2) What Steph said is correct. Going to uni doesn’t mean you can’t travel. The majority of universities in Aus have some form of exchange with foreign unis. You can spend a semester in another country, learning the language and travelling on weekends/holidays. It’s hard to advise because I don’t know your money situation but the tuition fees are covered under the H.E.L.P loan scheme and you need approx 10K to cover living costs.

    3) You can travel in your 3 month summer uni holidays. Just like you, I was desperate to travel as soon as I left school but was worried that if I hit the road I would never want to go back to uni. So I started uni, worked on weekends and at the end of first year I went on a 10 week trip to South-East Asia. You can study and travel, you just have to work hard (which it sounds like you would be willing to do!).

    4) In terms of ‘doing what makes you happy’. Yep, it’s a common refrain and it’s a great goal to have. Travelling might be that ‘thing’ at the moment but unfortunately you need to fund it somehow 🙂 If you do decide to go travelling straight away maybe keep an eye open for things that might make you happy in a career (or while you save for more travel). Perhaps you could visit some charities that are doing aid-work and see if nursing/medicine/social-work in developing countries is something you’re interested in. It might inspire you to get qualified back at home so that you can really use your brains to help people and travel at the same time.

    5) Regarding your parents. I agree with the comments above. You don’t really want to be cutting them off at 17 but they shouldn’t really be standing in your way either. From what you’ve written though it doesn’t sound like either of those situations is really happening. It sounds more like they don’t really understand why you want to go, not that they will disown you if you do go. Have you tried really detailing why it is you want that you want to travel? If they still aren’t keen maybe they would be happier with something more organised like a Rotary exchange? My friend got a scholarship with Rotary to spend a year in Japan and she loved it so much she came back, studied Japanese at uni and now works for the consulate in Sydney.

    Sheesh! Sorry about that mammoth essay! Got WAY too carried away. Ultimately it will come down to personal circumstances but it’s always good to know the options and there are so many so please don’t be distressed!

    If you want to chat about more specific stuff I’d be happy to help. Always keen to give a hand to a fellow ‘travel-mad’ young Aussie.


  3. Oh man, my heart is breaking a little for that girl. I understand entirely what she means. Your response was dead on though, good job. I’d also like to throw what I always tell people…do whatever feels right. taking directions forced by your parents will set you on the path to misery, trust me. If you find something you’re passionate about, you’ll excel and success will follow. I did a BA in English for godssake.
    .-= Candice´s last blog ..The Epic Prologue =-.

    1. Fellow English major here! I can’t even begin to tell you how much better off I feel than the kids I knew in college whose parents pressured them into the pre-med track.

      I think that learning your parents don’t always know what’s best for you is one of those hard life lessons isn’t it?

      1. Hooray!! And most definitely a hard lesson, especially if they’re funding your education (mine didn’t, which is both a blessing and a curse)
        .-= Candice´s last blog ..The Epic Prologue =-.

    2. Aaww, thank you Candice!

      I used to take the path they wanted me to. But I realised it wasn’t for me and finally grew half the balls I needed to do what I want. Hopefully I will eventually get where “I” want!


  4. Great responses, both by you and readers. I remember being a teenager and feeling like adulthood and freedom would never come. How nice to get encouragement from other travelers.

    This worried me though: “Nothing would make me happy if I wasn’t able to travel. Nothing.” I’d say it’s important not to glamorize travel, or to think of it as a cure-all; it borders on escapism. And that while it’s important to follow your passions and I can definitely say I feel most alive when I’m traveling, I wouldn’t say it’s the only time I’m happy. Not to be too cheesy, but that kind of fulfillment won’t come automatically, as soon as you travel; it’s really gotta come from within. I once heard a guy say, “In this moment, right now, I have everything I need to be happy.” Happiness can’t be reliant on external forces that are out of one’s control.

    Now I’m gonna go burn patchouli and play drums, cause apparently I’m a big giant hippie…
    .-= Lauren Quinn´s last blog ..Hipsters Vs. Homeys: Oakland YouTube Travel Guides =-.

    1. Lauren,

      You don’t understand how grateful I am to get this encouragement! Thank you!

      Hahaha, yes you’re right. I’m sure there are other things that make me incredibly happy. But I know that travel is one of the big ones. I have a lot of growing up to do, so I guess I’ll find out what I need to in due time. I’m just terrified of not being able to do what I want.

      Thanks for your response, I’l very grateful.


  5. When we were in Australia, we were surprised by the number of 18 year olds taking gap years before they started university. Personally, I think 22 might be a bit better age to take a gap year because you get a little more perspective of the world but in Australia, it definitely wasn’t uncommon for people to travel younger. In addition to all the good advice here, I would suggest that if her parents are worried about her traveling abroad, then maybe consider traveling for a short stint closer to home first.

    1. I know it’s much more common in other parts of the world but it’s hard for me to imagine traveling at 18 as well. I first went abroad at 21 and I still had a lot of growing up to do!

    2. Akila,

      Yes I don’t think I’m ready at all to travel independently now. 22 seems like a better age. Hopefully things will fall into place by then!



  6. It’s always good to have a bit of money before leaving to travel, so I suggest building up funds as quickly as possible to fund them, and as soon as you feel ready enough to go for it without parents permission, then go for it!

    You’re only going to regret the things you don’t do. But on that note, I can tell you now you will be going travelling if you desire it that much, everything seems to take ages to achieve at that age, but don’t worry too much, it’ll come sooner than you realise.
    .-= AdventureRob´s last blog ..A Cheap Way of Getting Across Australia =-.

    1. Oh thank you, Rob!

      That’s very inspiring. I will hopefully get there.

      I have now got a little money bank with “Il mondo” written on it!

      Thanks again,


  7. Great advice about school! P, your parents might be more open to a travel experience that is organized through the school, with a living situation set up, etc…

    I’d also say: start small and work your way up. Travel locally, travel for a shorter amount of time to somewhere ‘safe’, somewhere where you know the language, etc.. When you take the initiative to save some money, plan a trip, execute it and come back in one piece you will show your parents that you are responsible and in charge of your own life. Then hopefully they will see how happy you are and what great life experiences traveling has given you and be open to more and more trips!

    1. I definitely think that most parents would be more comfortable with some sort of organized trip, at least to start. Sometimes you have to work your way up with the parents…

      1. I agree with both you and Steph there. If I make it back in one piece they probably will see that I can do it!

        Thanks a lot!

  8. I think your advice makes perfect sense. Though, I haven’t traveled a lot, I am currently in the phase where I making it more possible for myself to travel in future. This would involve keeping a job/looking for higher studies opportunities (esp abroad).

    Another thing I’ve realized is : in the process of waiting for a suitable opportunity to ‘travel the world’, why not travel locally as well! Wherever one might be, there would be 10 times the places nearby that one wouldn’t have seen as compared to place already seen.
    .-= Abhi´s last blog ..Tequila Sunrise =-.

    1. I always marvel when people describe the travel lifestyle as “impulsive.” Sure some trips are like that but usually a lot of saving, planning and waiting is involved.

    2. Hello Abhi,

      You’re right! Travelling closeby would be amazing. But the thing is…they just won’t let me go on my own. I haven’t hit 18 yet! But even then they probably still won’t let me!

      Thanks for your response,

      .-= Pearl´s last blog ..Bright Star =-.

  9. Lots of pertinents elements in your answer, Stephanie. Finding yourself and living according to your own rules is part of becoming an adult… it is important, but there is no need to alienate your parents right away – sometimes parents turn out to be right!

    There is a lot of glamour surrounding the idea of traveling the world straight out of high school. My boyfriend did it ; I didn’t because the timing wasn’t right for me. I have regretted it, true, but I know there will be plenty more opportunities for such adventure in my life.

    I do think you should pursue your education, P, and my own piece of advice is:
    INTERNSHIPS! because

    1) they make you more employable and may bring you school credit, so there is nothing your parents or university can complain about,

    2) they are usually paid/compensated/qualify you for grants, which makes travel a lot smoother,

    3) they will be a proof for your future employers that you can work abroad, thus multiplying your chances of travel and expatriation in the future.

    Over my 6 years of study (I have 2 master’s degrees) I have accumulated close to 24 months of work experience abroad, and I haven’t regretted a single of them, even the crappy ones. A lot of recruiters have thought my resume was weird, but once in a while I’ll get another like minded, international employer who’ll swoon over it and offer me a position that fits me perfectly.
    .-= aelle´s last blog ..Welcome, December =-.

    1. Aelle,

      Thank you for your insight! Both yours and Steph’s responses have inspired me to study ABROAD. I hope that if I do well in my studies, my parents will see what I’m really about and let me do my own thing.

      Thanks again!
      .-= Pearl´s last blog ..Bright Star =-.

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