The other day I was engaged in a very fun conversation at #TNI (Traveler’s Night In) which is a weekly travel chat on Twitter (every Thursday, 15:30-17:00 ET – join in, it’s great fun!). One of the discussions was about letting your kids travel alone. Some people are comfortable enough to do just that, but some are worried about letting their kids travel.
This post is not meant to give you parental advice since I have no experience in that whatsoever. However, I’d like to give a view from a “victim’s” perspective.
My dad is a traveller while my mum is not so much. The travelling bug was passed on to me (YEY!) and only a little bit to my sister (she doesn’t complain). Ever since we were kids, our parents always took us travelling although it was only around Java in Indonesia. I remember going in my non-air conditioned car to Jakarta, having the best time in Dieng, and trying great food in Magelang. I can’t complain about my childhood.
Then we moved to England. It was a huge shock but we managed. I was a teenager by then, and my dad used to take us explore the English countryside. I’ve always loved my times exploring the Yorkshire Dales and going to museums in York while my mum would drag me to explore Chinese shops in chinatowns (she loves to cook Chinese).
Having two kids in a foreign country must have been difficult for my parents and yet they did the unthinkable: they let me travel without their supervision. When I was 13, I told them I was going for a day in the Lake District with a bunch of friends. I was ready for rejection, but they shrugged and said YES. I tried my luck again for a week of summer camp in the Yorkshire Dales, they said YES. And again for a week to Germany with my friends, again it was a YES.
I’m glad they did that. I learned a lot from travelling without my parents, letting me grow my travel instincts since I was a kid. They knew I love travelling and they trusted me which was why they didn’t say no.
When we went to settle back to Indonesia, I felt like I was more confident in travelling. After graduating uni in my hometown, my parents “kicked me out” of the house. I took a job in Jakarta, the most crowded place you can imagine with crazy traffic and pollution. Now, most parents would love their kids to hang around for as long as possible, but no, they kicked me out and insisted on me living alone.
It was harsh I have to admit, and although my mum let out tears when I moved out, she knew it was for the best. It was tough living by myself at first. The capital didn’t do me justice either, everything was just so chaotic that there were times when I wanted to go back home. In times, I made some great friends, moved to a great flat with awesome people and managed to survive Jakarta in almost 2.5 years. I’m glad my parents kicked me out!
After Jakarta, I got the chance to study abroad to Europe. I have lived in France and at the moment in Romania. Well, they say if you survived Jakarta, you can survive anywhere else.
Now, the story is completely different for my sister. She is not as travel savvy as I am, and she can get lost easily (sorry sis, but it’s true!). She has travelled with her friends before, and my parents let her do that with extra care like knowing exactly where they were going, having her friends’ number and so on.
Last year, my sister got offered a job in Singapore after graduating from uni. This meant my sister had to live in Singapore, alone, by herself. This meant moving out of the house and into the wilderness for the first time in her life. As her older sister, I have to admit I was a little scared of this. I imagined her being lost in some alleys and not knowing where she was. But my parents, and bless them both, let her go.
It was the best decision they have ever made. Even though it was nerve-wracking to watch her go and live by herself in a metropolitan city like Singapore, I can see that now it has improved her travelling intuition. Most of all, living in Singapore by herself has made her a more independent woman. Now she knows all the best place in Singapore, gained many friends and travel to different places in Singapore. This is the best news ever!
So, maybe you have a kid who is like me or maybe more introvert like my sister. Either way, I suggest you wholeheartedly to let you kids travel alone. It’s the best life lesson they can get and trust me you won’t regret it.
Here are a few suggestions based on my own experience (well ok, my parents’ experience):
- Know where your kids go and stay. If it’s with a friend make sure you know who they are.
- Check on them to see if they have arrived safely – but don’t check on them every hour 😉
- If you want to “train” them, start with a familiar city first then choose an “easy” city like for instance Singapore (I learned that it’s impossible to get lost in Singapore even if you want to!). If your kids are not travel savvy don’t start with a city like Jakarta, it would scare them!
- If your kids are already comfortable in travelling and wants to try out more challenging cities, sit down with them and do a little prep-talk about the city.
- TRUST THEM!
Yes, I am asking you lovely parents to let your kids go. Give them that extra push, it’s what we need. Even if your kids are not the travelling type, let them taste a little adventure as it would greatly help them later in life.
What do you think? Have you ever let your kid go on a big adventure on their own?
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