Sometimes I’m on a roll. I feel like traveling (and blogging about it) is the happiest thing in the world. Other times, I get overwhelmed by my daily life and writing starts to burn me out. Then I get an email like this, and it reminds me why I love blogging so much in the first place. I want everyone to have the opportunity to travel. I want everyone who wants to take that opportunity to believe travel is accessible to them. That it is possible. Wonderful. And should not be passed up.
Between a busy week at work, my grandfather passing away and a lot of weekend trips, my inbox had been filling up. To the point where one of my friends told me, “there are two types of people in this world…,” while pointing to the 593 hovering above my inbox in my iPhone screen. I wanted to ignore them all for at least a solid week longer.
Then I saw Sydney’s unfamiliar email address, got curious and clicked. I was, no joke, in the middle of a project at work, just taking a break to look at my phone, when my response started pouring out. By the end I realized, I myself once had these same concerns and I think many others do as well. So I asked Sydney if I could share her question and she kindly obliged.
So last week I got this question:
I’m graduating college next May and have been seriously thinking about traveling with my best friend after the summer (September/October time). I’ve been reading your blog and all your posts about your experiences in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos and just recently spoke to my parents and explained my plans – they both pretty much told me this was a stupid idea and that it was an extremely unsafe area for ‘two women’ to travel around. They are also worried because its my first time reaaaaally traveling by myself. So, they basically shot me down but I’m still really set on figuring everything out and saving up and doing it!! Any ideas of things to tell them to make them more supportive and more excited rather than worried for me?
Here’s what I think:
I’m glad you have been finding my blog helpful and I completely understand the hesitation your parents are feeling. When I decided to go to Thailand my mom thought it was a fantasy thing at first, and when it finally hit her she started preparing me as if I were traveling to a third world disaster zone. I’m talking life straws, medications, emergency cell phone data and evacuation plans. She went a little nuts, but at least she never tried to stop me (she did however refuse to speak to me after I announced my plans to travel to the Middle East).
My roommate’s parents on the other hand insisted that we cancel our flight and even made threats when we decided to still travel to Thailand in the midst of their 2014 military coup. Now, I can say nothing could have kept me from going, but to be honest, at the time their threats and worry really started to worry me. Just days before going my roommate almost backed out and was crying. Then we got there.
Thailand is one of the most popular destinations for young travelers right now. Sure it’s far away and exotic, but much of their economy is dependent on tourism and so as a result their country is designed to welcome visitors. Signs are in English, hostels/hotels are abundant, bus/train/plane routes are built all over the country to connect travelers between their most popular destinations.
Cambodia is less developed, and understanding the visa entry process requires a bit more research (whereas Thailand automatically let’s Americans enter for 30 days on a free tourist visa), but Siem Reap is bustling with American expats. Due to it’s proximity to the popular site Angkor Wat, almost everyone passing through or living in that town is American, European or Australian. It’s super easy to navigate and rich with “western” influence (the cuisine, locals speak English, I mean, their official currency is the US dollar for goodness sake)!
And Laos offers its own experience (they speak the least English of the three countries – but really, they still speak plenty of it) and feels like an exotic jungle destination, but has become host to so many young foreigners since it opened its doors to tourism. The people are so friendly. It’s the least intimidating place I’ve ever traveled because the towns are so small and a travelers community naturally develops.
The bottom line is all three of these countries are designed to host and assist foreign travelers. People have been making this travel route so frequently since the 70’s that it has become nicknamed the Banana Pancake Trail. It’s actually exciting – all the traveler’s follow the same routes so you will end up bumping into people you meet in Thailand again in another city in Laos, etc. I really can’t think of a better place than Southeast Asia to begin your independent travel experiences. The destinations are cheap, the people are friendly and you will end up making so many amazing friends pursuing the same experience as you. But (as always, disclaimer), remember – just like you would at home – you are out in the world and you have to make smart choices to avoid typical dangers. I have a feeling though, if you have made it through college you are capable of this.
That said, to help ease your parents worry, you may want to consider booking a group tour for the first part of your journey. The second week I was in Thailand I joined up with a Contiki tour. You spend the entire time with a group of young, fun people and a knowledgeable tour guide (our’s was Australian) who partners with local guides to show you the region. It’s more expensive than traveling on your own and your schedule is predetermined, but it’s a great segway to independent travel. And your parents well rest easy knowing you are traveling in a larger group and someone is looking out for you.
Whatever you decide, involve them in the planning process. When my mom refused to speak to me about my trip to Jordan I still kept updating her on new, exciting developments – “I just booked a tour to see Petra and I’m going camping in the desert!” She eventually came around. Parents like to know what we’re doing. Including your parents while you plan will help them see how responsible and thoughtful you are being, not to mention that you are taking the whole process seriously. And quite frankly, I have yet to come across a person who doesn’t get excited in the midst of planning a trip. My mom now practically brags about my trips to Thailand and the Middle East when she tells her friends about me. Go figure.
Double that to TWO female travelers and you’re golden!
Sorry for such a long winded response. But definitely in a scenario like this the more information you can equip yourself with, the better! You will LOVE Southeast Asia. There isn’t a day I don’t miss it and want to run back (I mean, I cancelled my flight home for a reason – maybe don’t tell your parents that ha).
Hope this helps!! Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any more questions.
What do you think? I’m curious to hear if you’ve ever had to convince someone you loved to let you travel. Do you have any other advice? Thank you Sydney for letting me share your question!