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Telling Your Family “I Want to Travel” (plus how to respond)

how to tell your family you want to travel

If you come from a family who doesn’t travel much, telling them you want to set off on an adventure, whether it be your study abroad trip, spring break or a round-the-world trip, can be difficult. Their reactions may range from concern to outrage to disinterest, but it’s best to be prepared for any and all outcomes. I’ve been blessed to have friends and family who understand how important travel is to me, but that doesn’t keep them from being concerned about my safety. Not everyone will be so supportive, so here are the best ways to handle the comments from opposition.

“It’s Not Safe”

Your safety is a reasonable concern for your friends and family. They wouldn’t give this response if they didn’t care about you. They might spout out all the “for instances” like rapes, kidnappings, robberies and murders. But while there are bad things that happen to solo female travelers, assure them that you will use common sense and call often.

  • How to Respond: Check in at least once per week through email or Skype. Tell them that you’ll be vigilant about your safety, registering with the embassy. If they want you to carry a personal safety alarm or whistle, consider doing so. Remind them that something bad can happen to you anywhere, including at home.

“But What About Your Job or School?”

They might even ask what you’re going to do about your job and how you’re throwing your career away. Or if you’re taking time off from school, they might remark that you’re quitting or running away. This response is also out of concern for your best interest.

  • How to Respond: Tell them that you take your career or studies seriously and that you will use your trip as an opportunity to learn more about the world and grow emotionally. You can always go back to school or find another job.

The Things You’re Going to Miss

Yes, you’re going to miss things while you’re gone. People get engaged and have babies and life generally goes on without you. Your friends and family might say, “But what about this event? You’re going to miss it!”

  • How to Respond: Give your apologies and send a nice gift, but tell them this trip is important to you. If they’re a good friend or family member, they will understand.

The Guilt Trip

I’ve heard everything from “do it while you’re young,” to “it must be nice, but not all of us can take off.” Not everyone makes travel a priority in their lives, so they may not understand the rationale of those who do. Some of these comments may get downright nasty, which you can’t take personally.

  • How to Respond: Brush it off. You have something to look forward to, so don’t let the jealous haters mar your experience. You will be glad you took this opportunity, despite the guilt trip people may send you on.

At the end of the day, you’re an adult who can make your own decisions. You want your loved ones’ blessing, not their permission.

Have you had experience in telling your family you want to travel? How did you handle their responses?

Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Jessica says

    I was terrified before I told my friends and family about my RTW trip. I delayed telling them my plans for so long, and built it up in my head so much that their reactions weren’t nearly as shocked as I had feared. These are great tips! Our loved ones just want us to be happy, so I think as long as you show them that this trip will bring a lot of joy, they’ll be supportive.

  2. Dianne says

    When I was in my late twenties I started traveling, and lived in Australia for 3 years. I decided I was ready to return to the USA (my grandparents were getting old and I wanted to be able to be with them more often). I was ready to go home, but wanted a good adventure on the way. I booked my trip home via South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Greece, Nice, then a railpass around Europe.

    My grandparents and great-aunt and uncle came to visit me in Sydney for Thanksgiving, about 2 months before my departure for home. My grandmother thought I was nuts for living so far from home and going to places she never heard of. But my Aunt Lois (who was 83) had left home in 1918 to take a job in Washington, D.C. (totally unheard of at the time) and she was the only one in the family who understood why I wanted to live overseas and travel all over. She was, and still is, my inspiration.

    I took the family on a ferry ride from Circular Quay to Manly, it was a glorious day full of sunshine. I asked Aunt Lois to come out on the deck with me and we sat on a bench admiring the scenery. I confided my Africa and Europe plans to her and she lit up like a chandelier. “Oh, how wonderful. Do it!” I told her I needed her help in breaking the news to her sister, my grandmother. Aunt Lois said, “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure she understands why you want to and have to have this adventure.”

    My 3-month trip home turned into 9 months, I finally arrived in D.C. just in time for the next Thanksgiving at Aunt Lois’ house. She was beaming at me when I came out of the customs door, I was so happy to see her I jumped over the ropes. She wanted all the details and her support of me is something I greatly treasure to this day.

    Five months later Aunt Lois had a massive stroke and died, she had been fine the day before. That was 35 years ago and I still miss her. I’m especially thinking about her now as I plan my trip to Australia, Bali, and Korea for this November.

    So, if you want to tell your non-understanding family about your dreams, find one person who “gets it” and enlist his/her help. If you don’t have an “Aunt Lois,” just blurt it out and smile.

    • Brooke says

      This was a beautiful story – thanks so much for sharing. I’m glad you had that adventure and your aunt was able to see you complete it. And I agree that having another family member’s support is a great tactic.

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