We’ve heard it all.
“You can travel when you’re married.”
“Your brother will take you.”
“We’re going on a family vacation next year. What more do you want?”
“Haha habibti, you can’t travel by yourself, it’s not safe.”
Yada yada yada.
Okay cool I get it….but can I go to Italy now?
I’m the biggest fanatic about travel. I genuinely have a condition where I NEED to go somewhere. Even when I am quite literally on the other side of the world, I am already planning my next adventure. And you know how everyone’s on dating apps? I find my love on Skyscanner. Seriously.
So nothing is going to stop me from travelling. Ever. Not even Arab parents.
The reality is that parents are overprotective. It’s just how they come, it’s in their nature. It doesn’t matter if they’re Arab, Asian or whatever. Although I’m sure y’all understand it the most right? If you’re a girl, their immediate answer is probably going to be no.
To challenge this, we need to understand their ‘why?’ I can guarantee that for all parents/family, it comes down to our safety. This is their number one worry.
There might be other factors at play too. Things like “What will people say?”, “People will think you’re a….” – (get creative with that one). Or it’s just a cultural view that women shouldn’t travel alone regardless of how old she is. And of course religion.
But I’m not going to get into all that ‘political’ stuff. That’s not what I’m about. I’m here to give you actual tips to travel for the first time without them, i.e. with your friends, or even completely alone.
And before we start, let me just say I’ve been travelling for several years. And although this blog post is more about travelling alone, I love travelling with people. I travel with friends. I also travel with my brother once a year too.
But the point is I’m a woman. I’m Arab and yes I do travel alone. ( I’m sure I just heard an Arab auntie faint).
Okay so I’m here to give you a real, honest action plan on what to do, what to say to your parents, family, or guardians to make it happen for you if this is something you dream of.
If you want to see the world and you don’t have someone to go with, you don’t have a partner or a brother or a dad who can take you. Or you just want to be more independent and do your thing then this is for you. And from the bottom of my heart, I hope it helps.
1: Establish a level of trust
One of the most crucial things is to have a strong level of trust between you and your parents. They need to know that you are honest with them, that you are responsible. And that when you say you’re going to do something, you do it.
I mention this as the first step, because this is something you have to do daily, all the time. And it starts young. So if you are under 18, then you have to prove to them that you are responsible, you aren’t acting like a child and you can make good, smart choices.
This is not specific to travel and this starts now. You can make them see you’re trustworthy by your everyday actions. In your life now, what you do or say when you go to school or work. What you do in your home life. When you’ve established a good and long track record, they will feel more confident in letting you be more independent.
2. Tell them your plans
You can’t suddenly tell them you’re going to Australia and not expect them to have questions.
Talk to them, tell them your plans. Why do you want to explore this place? What are you going to be doing while you’re out there? How long for? Who will you meet there? How are you going to get around? Where will you stay?
You need to have answers to all of their questions. When they know that you know what you’re doing, they’ll understand it more and it won’t feel like such a foreign concept. We’ll get onto more of this later.
3. Answer their why
Now here’s the real dirt. As we discussed, you need to know why your parents are against it. Otherwise, you’re not going anywhere. Literally. I’ll go through a few of the major reasons.
Reason 1: Your Safety
Their aversion to solo travel comes from a place of love and concern for our safety, not always a distrust in us. But rather of the unknown and of ill-minded strangers in a far-away place where their help is not near.
I have a blog post coming soon with much more detail on how to be safe when you are actually out there exploring the world and it’s really important you can show them that you know these things too.
But the tips below are for convincing family that you will be safe before you’ve gone:
a) Choosing your destination
For your first time, choose:
- somewhere that isn’t too far from home, even if it is somewhere in the same country you live in. Try a place only a few hours away so that they’re close by if you need them.
- somewhere you have quite a bit of knowledge on – the more you know about a place the more they’ll feel you aren’t ‘lost’. You will be able to get around okay, and you’ll know how to figure things out if things turn sour for any reason
- somewhere that uses English to get by or of which you can speak the language
- somewhere you have a contact – it could be family or a friend or even a contact you’ve gotten in touch with online through your travel research of the place. Letting them know you have someone there who could help you if you were in any trouble will put their mind at ease.
Once you’ve done this once, and shown that you were safe and responsible the whole time, they’ll feel more comfortable with you branching out a bit more in future.
b) Getting there
If you have to fly to get there, then choose an airline they trust, or if you’re driving or getting public transport, then pick suitable hours in the day rather than night. Simple things like this will make them feel better.
Choose whatever you think they will find more suitable for you, if they think a hotel is safer than an apartment, then do that. If they’re happier for you to be in a flat all to yourself then do that. Be flexible and let them be a part of your planning.
d) shorten the trip
Do a weekend away rather than a week or more for your first time. It won’t feel like such a big scare to them.
e) be responsible
- get home at a reasonable hour, let them know you won’t be out all night
- you’ll be in contact, at least once a day
- keep your promises
More of these tips in another post, coming soon.
f) involve them early in your planning stage
Let them know that even though you’re not going to be under their roof, you can comply with a few of their rules. They can choose the accommodation if they want. If that’s what’s going to help make it happen, then be flexible. Give them some involvement.
But if you really want to demonstrate some independence, show them that you’ve already done your research and explain why the place is safe because of x y and z, and they should be able to see your view.
g) Plan how you’re going to be safe when you’re there
Like I mentioned earlier, you need to know how to be a safe solo traveller, both in the general sense but also more specifically for the place you are going to.
This means that you have to know as much as you can about the destination through reading, researching, other people’s experiences, people you have spoken to. You should know what the dangers of that particular place is. For some places, pick-pocketing is the problem in daytime. For others it’s more serious crimes at night. Know where you’re going and what the locals say about it. They will know best.
h) have backup plans
What are you going to do if you run out of money? What if you think you’re in danger? What if you lose something? What if you become ill? Have an idea of what you’re going to do and how you’re going to deal with it. Some of these things you will only learn if you (God forbid) actually experience it but having some clue like how to get to the police, or having travel insurance or contacts that you can get in touch with is all useful.
Reason 2: What will other people say?
You need to get them on board with your way of thinking. I know this is hard because they come from a different time. What society/community/people will say means a lot of them, it’s about respect, honour, dignity. Of course we also care about these things too, but in a different way. Explain to them that:
- you aren’t concerned with what people say because you aren’t doing anything wrong
- people will always have something to say, regardless of what you’re doing, good or bad, so let them
- you answer to your parents, not to ‘people’ – this’ll give them a nice boost 🙂
- you understand the community’s viewpoint but you aren’t trying to cause a rift or purposely go against them
- you won’t be doing anything that would ‘shame’ them (and this is something they should already know from Point 1 – having strong trust between you)
- having the support of your parents means more to you than what people say and if they decide to take a stand with you, then what the people say will have no bearing. And your parents can play this role.
That last one is really important and here’s what I mean. For example, if a family friend says “how can you let her travel alone? It’s not right for a woman.”
Instead of your parents’ response being in agreement, they should say something like: –
- “My daughter knows what she’s doing and she is responsible”.
- “She is visiting for a purpose and actually I think it’s brave.”
- “We couldn’t do something like that in our day, let them.”
If your parents don’t want to have a proper confrontation with the person then a simple joke is enough too:
- “I’m too lazy and old to go with her.”
- “It gets her out of my hair for a few days.”
- “Oh you know her, when she sets her mind to something…”
- “Ah you know how strong/crazy these girls are these days, let them get it out of their system.”
These kinds of remarks are also useful if your parents aren’t completely supporting the concept of solo female travel. Or if they have to give a bit more respect to the person as they might be an elder, then with these comments or something along those lines, they can fake agree with them so it doesn’t cause an issue between your parents and them.
When the person who’s being negative about it hears this, they know that your parents are backing your actions and then they feel stupid for saying something about it. It breaks the cycle and trust me, it starts to make change in the community, even if it’s slow.
Or last resort – they can keep it hush hush if they don’t want anybody to know about your travel. I personally don’t agree with this and feel it should be out in the open because that is what will create positive change. But hey, whatever works for you and them!
Sometimes deep down, your parents might not have an issue with you travelling alone, they want to give you more freedom and independence but they feel they have to answer to the community and that’s why they don’t let you go. It’s their struggle too. Give your parents these suggestions for things to say if it’s people they’re worried about.
Reason 3: Your priorities
Your family may have their concerns that you will be neglecting your other life commitments.
If you’re still in school or university then prove to them that you aren’t going to slip behind because of your trip. You’ve taken it into account and you’ve prepared well for any upcoming exams or assessments. You’ve timed it well, or you’ve chosen to do it after you’ve graduated so there’s no risk at all!
If you’re already working and earning, then firstly your money is yours and you can spend it how you like. But secondly, put some money aside for emergencies and rainy days. If they know you can spend on a vacation and still have money to spare, they’ll be convinced.
Reason 4: Money
Speaking of money, it can be an issue for different reasons, perhaps there’s not enough of it at the moment. Or maybe there is, but you aren’t saving for things they would consider ‘more important’, like a car or a deposit on a house.
Have a plan for this, fundraise or save up way ahead of time. Get the more important things in order. And really think about it objectively, maybe this really isn’t a good time for you to be travelling?
But furthermore, it doesn’t have to be expensive! You can do it on a budget – you can read my post about this here.
My intentions here are never to disrespect your parents and family. Whether you’re 12 or 45 years old, your parents will worry about you. And I know it can be frustrating when you just want some freedom, but your parents are also the reason you’re even here to live and experience the world in the first place.
So my beautiful ladies, be reasonable and be smart. It may take a while to convince them but they will get there eventually. So lastly, be patient too.
You are going to see the world and you will live the life you dream of, you just have to do it the right way!
I am so in love with seeing the beauty of this world and I want to share it all with you, not just my experiences but I want you do it too. So I am here for you, we’ve got this!
I have more posts coming as part of this series. Tell me your thoughts on this article and if you want to know how I made my first solo trip happen using some of these actionable tips. Go over to my last Instagram post and comment there! That’s where I’ll see it.