I didn’t see it coming.
I don’t know why. I should have.
My youngest son had just about every one of his July birthdays on the road. At two, we were headed west and celebrated at a Swiss Chalet in Thunder Bay. At three, I poached him a cake on a Coleman stove at a campsite in Newfoundland. His 5th was in the south of France. At 11, we actually took him out of school for a year to travel.
You get the idea. He was raised to travel. I now blog on solo travel. Why I didn’t see a solo trip on the horizon, I do not know. But then I heard it. His announcement: I’m planning to travel solo.
Is Youth a Factor for Solo Travel?
My son is not quite 19. I had to think back. When was my first solo trip? 28. Hmm, big difference. He was raised on travel. Was I? No. This, I believe, is an even bigger difference. This, and his natural good sense, gives me confidence in him as a solo traveler.
But trust me, since he announced his intentions, I’ve had my ‘yikes’ moments. He has a few things to put into place before he goes so I have time to adjust to all this but it has made me stop and think: what does he – and every young traveler – need to know as they set out solo?
Focus On the Important Safety Issues
What I think he needs to know and what he wants to know may be two different things. What’s most important to me is his safety. But, to most people his age, that’s easy. What’s most important to him is living life large!
As a parent, if I want to communicate what is important to me, and be heard, I need a strategy.
Approach #1: talk about what’s important to him and hope that I can slide in my message.
Approach #2: get his attention by acting out of character.
Approach #3: suggest that he read my post of 50 safety tips. He won’t.
So I sat down and thought about what I really needed him to hear. What’s critical. What’s at the very root of safety. Here’s what I came up with:
- The safety of your person is all that really matters.
- Money can be replaced.
- Opportunities will arise again.
- You don’t have to be polite.
- You can be selfish and serve your needs first.
As I wrote these I realised that I was asking him to break just about every rule he was raised on. That's out of character for me. Maybe this is something he will hear.
A Message to My Son, and All Young Solo Travelers
“When traveling solo, you are a leader of one – you. Choose your own path. Have a fabulous time. Your only responsibility is to be safe. If this means losing your money, missing an opportunity, being rude or acting selfish, you have my blessing.”
Naturally, as the preparations are made, there will be occasions to speak to the small details of safety like regular communication, keeping your passport secure, how to carry money, that public places are safer than private… but the key issue of being aware of and caring for personal safety would hopefully have been communicated with this ‘break the rules’ message.
Ultimately, I’m thrilled with the idea of my son traveling solo. While Dr. Seuss wrote this poem for a graduating class, it clearly expresses my enthusiasm for young solo travelers going out and exploring the world.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own.
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go.
… the poem continues and is wonderful.