A Guide to Letting Go For Parents of Young Travelers

Just take slow, deep breaths, and resist the urge to scream “No, you are not!” You are going to get through this with our guide to letting your kids go overseas.


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You’ve known this was coming since the day the nurse cut the umbilical cord, but did it have to come so fast! Your baby is leaving the nest for the first time, going overseas – what could possibly go wrong!

Remember the separation issues they suffered when you first took them to kindy? Guess what, now you’re the one having the issues.

What to do

Communicate – talk about your fears.

It’s natural to worry and be protective, but if you talk to your child about those fears you may discover how well prepared they are, how they’ve thought rationally about the pros and cons. If they haven’t, you can help them by doing some research together.

Read, and share with your child, the World Nomads Gap Year Guide - everything they need to know to plan a safe and rewarding experience.

Check out the tour for yourself.

Go online and read about the trip they’re taking. Imagine yourself in their position and what you’d do. Get excited about what they’re going to discover.

Be realistic about the potential danger.

It might be a while since you did any travel, so your idea of what to expect may be dramatically out of date.

You need to investigate, but there’s no need to call Interpol, others have done the work for you. World Nomads’ Travel Safety section has close to 1,000 articles detailing the potential risks to health, and giving realistic assessments of crime in over 100 destinations.

Ask them to stay in touch, but be reasonable.

Don’t set yourself up for failure. If you insist on being emailed every day, there will come a day when no email arrives. You’ll assume your baby has been kidnapped or has been hospitalized in a bungy jumping adventure that went horribly wrong! When, in fact, they stayed to have one more beer with new friends, or there was no WiFi, or they simply forgot (this trip is about them, not you!).

They will come back.

Because you pulled on a tie-dye t-shirt and a backpack and went to discover the Silk Road for half a decade, it doesn’t mean they will. The falling cost of travel relative to income has fuelled a trend for people to take shorter duration trips, more often. There will always be some who decide to travel for a year or more, but they are definitely in the minority.

Let go!

You’ve raised your child to be strong, independent, and resilient. This is what you’ve been readying them to do. It’s a “happy-sad”, but time to give yourself a pat on the back, too.

Psychologists recognize this is the hardest phase of parenting, where you have to transition from “managing” to “mentoring” your offspring. This is your first test of that new relationship.

There are also good reasons why you ought to agree.

  1. Travel improves the chances of getting a good job.

It teaches real-life skills and shows an employer you are resourceful, adventurous and worldly. In the modern workforce, employers are often looking for more than educational qualifications, they’re looking for someone adaptable and resourceful – skills you learn from travel.

  1. Travel puts an old head on young shoulders.

It’s a physiological fact that adolescent brains don’t fully develop until age 25 unless some extraordinary circumstances force the brain to develop faster. We’ve all seen those westerns where before the cowboy rides off tells the 12-year-old “you’re the man of the house now, boy”. Studies show travel has the same effect, thankfully without the cheesiness.

  1. Young adults need risk in order to develop.

We’re talking about acceptable risk, not recklessness, but how do you learn from your mistakes if you’re never allowed to make any? Some psychologists are going so far as to suggest over protection is equal to depriving your child of the chance to grow and is a form of abuse.

Renovate your home!

You’ve got some time to get stuck into that refurbishment you’ve been promising to do. Paint their room. Throw out the junk. Fumigate your son’s bed! It will give you something else to focus on instead of where your child might be every minute of the day. They’ll be back before the paint’s had a chance to dry.

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