[Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Alex of ILikeGoingPlaces]
Dear friends and family, I’ve gathered you all together tonight to tell you that, although I care deeply for every one of you, I’ve decided to go halfway across the world to a place where I won’t see any of you for a rather long time. It’s nothing personal, I just need an adventure and to try something new. See you when I see you!”
If you’ve ever taken or even considered partaking in a long-term travel adventure this is a speech you will inevitably have to make to your friends and family. It is far from an easy one. No one wants their friends or family to pick up and leave for an extended period of time. For this reason, the art of painting a positive picture of why you’ve chosen to quit your current life in the pursuit of an adventure is extremely important! Now currently on my third round of extended travel, I’ve managed to form a strategy in justifying to friends, family and most importantly myself on why I must pursue these globetrotting adventures at this point in my life.
What is a Long-Term Adventure?
Before we go into the strategies of justifying why you need to travel, we first need to define what constitutes a long-term travel adventure. This advice isn’t to explain why you need to go to Cancun on a 2-week vacation; this is for those of us who for one reason or another feel the need to go experience a new way of life. Whether you’re heading off to teach English in a foreign country, backpacking a new region of the world, learning a foreign language, volunteering, or just wandering, a long-term adventure means you will be gone for quite a while!
Step One: Convincing Yourself
Before you even begin to worry about what your friends and family think, you must first justify your reason for leaving to yourself. Perhaps your interest has been sparked by a friend, movie, book or it just popped into your head one day on your way to work. Whatever the reason, the idea of leaving your comfort zone has reared its adventurous head. You need to take some time to consider if it’s something worthwhile for you. Now, you probably have some sort of job, perhaps a relationship and no doubt some things of value lying around such as a car, apartment or maybe just a nice TV. The first thing to consider in your decision to leave is whether you are willing to give these things up just for the sake of traveling. I can tell you from experience that if you truly want to enjoy an adventure it’s much better to not be worrying about what’s going on with your things, relationships or employer back home. Trying to juggle your old life and your new adventure will prove to be stressful and take away from your experience. Once this decision has been made you need to examine how this trip will affect your life in the long-term of things. Perhaps a career may have to be put on hold for you to escape. Travel could put you behind your peers in your field of interest. Missing out on a year of “work experience” could bump you off track for you long term goals, but could also provide you with some seriously valuable life experience. If you have successfully played devil’s advocate with yourself and your sense of adventure overcame the battle, you are ready for the next step.
Step Two: Family
Maintaining a strong relationship with your family is an essential part of a healthy and balanced life, making this the most difficult step in the process. Whether they verbalize it or not, your family will probably be a bit bummed out. They will question their relationship with you, wondering why you don’t like them any more and feel the need to go so far away from them. To overcome this seemingly valid point you must stress that your journey, although long, is not permanent. I like to use the analogy of explaining myself as ‘being a boomerang not a Frisbee.’ Unlike a Frisbee you aren’t just traveling away in one direction to escape your family, rather you are on a journey to learn more about the world with the intention of sharing everything with them when you return.
Once you have successfully convinced your family you aren’t simply abandoning them, the next worry they will have is about your safety. One of the first questions posed when you tell someone that you are about to travel to an unknown culture will undoubtedly be “Is it safe?” Depending on where you are choosing to travel, danger could come into play during your journey. You need to make your family understand that safety is relative. I like to bring some statistics into play here to make them realize that going abroad is really not much more dangerous than living at home. The odds of being killed or injured in a car on your morning commute to work are far higher than taking an airplane, bus or walking down the street in some random city. For this reason, you aren’t really risking as much as one might believe in choosing to explore the world. While living in foreign lands can present many different and challenging situations, it’s how you handle them that will determine your safety. Now is a perfect time to throw in some flattery along with your argument. Tell your parents how their nurture and genetics provided you with an outstanding level of common sense and problem-solving that will be sure to get you out of any sticky situations!
Once you have successfully gotten your family onboard with the idea, the next emotion they will be feeling is a mixture of missing you and being excited for you, with a hint of jealousy. Perhaps they wish they had been able to undertake such a grand adventure at some point in their lives. Unlike travelers in the past, we are now blessed with a plethora of technology to make it easy to stay in touch and share while we are on the road. Make sure to let your family know (and follow through with it!) that you will be utilizing Skype on a regular basis so they can see that you are safe and sound. And you will share stories and pictures through e-mail and Facebook. Not only will this help them not miss you so much, but a piece of them will be traveling vicariously through you as you go on your journey!
The most important aspect of explaining your need for adventure is to help your family understand why. They will no doubt bring up the same arguments that you battled in the ‘Convincing Yourself’ step, perhaps with even more persuasiveness. Even after you have been traveling for some time, family will often ask when you are coming home. They need reassurance that you have a “plan”. Having an approximate return date gives them something to look forward to, even if that date changes many times. Encouraging family to visit you along the way is also helpful. Whether you are looking to learn about a new culture, have a deep philosophical reason, or just want to have some fun, you must make it clear to your family that this is something very important to you. In the end of the day, family is around to support you.If you can get them to see things from your point of view you are ready to confront your friends.
Step Three: Friends
Although friends might be the first people you confide in, they aren’t always the easiest to convince that quitting your current life and taking off for an adventure is a good idea. Before you explain to good friends that you are leaving them for a while, you must see things from their angle. For them, a friend that they spend considerable time with is departing from their social circle to go do something that quite honestly is a lot more interesting than what they are currently doing. Like family, their reaction will typically be a mixed bag of being happy for you, sad to miss you and a bit jealous that they are unable to join you.
Unlike family, friends are often more difficult to keep in touch with when you’re gone. This is due to a simple little thing I like to call the “I’m sick of hearing how cool your life is” phenomenon. No matter how close a friend, when you tell them about your foreign romances, thrilling adventures and cultural experiences while they are in an office back home doing the same old thing, it’s impossible for them not to feel some envy. Friends can quickly get sick of seeing all your amazing pictures and hearing your cool stories. It just makes them a little sad. This means that when you communicate with friends during an adventure make sure you inquire about their lives and be enthusiastic with their responses. Right from the start, make sure that when you discuss your adventure plan you don’t make your friends feel like their lives are not as cool as yours. It’s easy to unintentionally brag about how awesome your journey will be. So the next time you are explaining the how excited you are for the crazy Ukrainian nightclubs or delicious Thai food, take a step back and think about how you are making your friends feel.
Final Step: Going Away Party
Once you have successfully divulged your long-term adventure plan to all of the important people in your life, the hardest part is over. You are ready for the last and final step in the process… your epic going away party. Make sure you plan it out far enough in advance so that all your friends and family can attend. Don’t throw it the night before you go as nobody likes to travel with a hangover. Give yourself at least one day to make sure you didn’t forget anything, and to mentally prepare yourself for the journey. As no one really likes goodbyes, this last sendoff is an important event so that you can say farewell to all those you care about in a fun and happy environment. Once the party is complete and goodbyes have been said, you are officially ready for your long-term adventure!
About the Author
Alex is an avid explorer who is currently on a long-term adventure throughout Latin America. When he’s not writing he can be found climbing volcanoes, butchering the Spanish language or embarrassing himself trying to dance salsa. He writes a humorous travel blog detailing his adventure at http://ilikegoingplaces.com/