My 18-year-old daughter, Emily and her best friend Caroline are graduating high school this year.
The girls are great students and overall are pretty responsible, but Emily wants to backpack around the world for a year with her girlfriend before going to college. I told her I would think about it.
The girls have been saving for the trip and have planned it out carefully. Emily says they’re prepared to travel and live cheaply. But since the two have never been away from home for an extended period of time, I’m nervous about Emily being so far from home for such a long time.
I’ve never traveled outside of the United States and want her to have that experience. However I feel that at 18 she’s still a little young, but after college might be too late.
I want to be supportive but need to know the best way to prepare her for such a big trip.
Rene, should I let my daughter travel around the world with her best friend for a year before she goes to college?
Here’s my one word answer to your question – YES!
And here’s why. I’m a firm believer that not all of life’s lessons come from a book. Kids also learn an awful lot when they’re out on their own so here’s what I would be thinking about if I were in your shoes.
THE WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY IS OPEN: Years ago, Buff and I went to Paris and while waiting in line for one of the overpriced guided tours, I saw two young women, probably about your daughter’s age. I was so taken by them; young, fresh-faced and giddy as they walked the streets with their stuffed packs on their backs. I felt a twinge of regret watching them and wished I had done that then. You see, no one tells us when we’re growing up and we don’t realize it until later but there are certain times in our lives when a window of opportunity opens. We have to seize that window before it closes forever. I suppose I could still walk the streets of Rome with a backpack and sleep in inexpensive hotels but 5 stars and fanny pack are more my pace now. Emily should do this while her knees and back will still allow her.
TAME YOUR OWN FEARS: Since you have never traveled outside of the US you know what a great opportunity this is for Emily. But I’m sure this is also a bit scary for you. I find one of the hardest things to do is not to project my own fears onto my kids and I think you need to guard against that too.
So let’s think about what makes you nervous. Are you concerned about her safety? Make sure you have a way to reach Emily and as best you can, know where she is at all times. Worried about her running out of money? How about the two of you sit down and put together a spreadsheet on what her expenses will look like? Use the internet, as there’s a wealth of information available there. I’d also ask around and see if there are people you know who’ve done this before.
LIFE IS AN ADVENTURE: When we are young this is something that we seem to innately understand, remember how a stick could double as a sword and a terry cloth towel became long, flaxen locks? But when we get older, a sense of practicality sets in that sometimes strangles the life out of our dreams. For Emily, the world is still full of possibility and she’s ready to tackle it with abandon everyday when she wakes up. There will be plenty of time for her to “be responsible” but this might be one of the last times in her life she has to truly be carefree. Let her soak it up, breathe it in, meet people she might not otherwise and grow by leaps and bounds in the process.
One more thing, make sure Emily and her friend don’t do countries where there are travel warnings and that they understand and use common sense. Then mom say a prayer, take a deep breath and let her go!
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