Breaking the news: How to tell friends and family about your RTW trip

In a recent post, Jessica Spiegel talked about the reactions that our loved ones may have about our long term travel plans. While I’ve never been ridiculed (to my face), I know that most reactions are less than positive. The good news is that through the years I’ve become better at telling friends and family. Here are some tricks that might work:

1) Don’t ask for their permission. Be careful of how you talk about your trip. You don’t want to sound like you’re asking for their permission. You’re telling them of a decision you’ve already made. “I’m going to Guatemala” sounds more firm than “I’ve been thinking about maybe taking a trip to Guatemala someday”.

2) Have a plan. You’re going to get a lot of questions. How will you finance the trip? What will you do when you get there? Do you even know what you’re doing? If you can answer all their questions, they’ll know that you have an extensive plan. Otherwise they’ll see your inability to answer as an opportunity to argue against your trip.

3) Remind them of how dangerous home is. One of the main concerns that relatives tend to bring up when I’m traveling is about the dangers of the place I’m visiting. They always say I’ll be robbed, raped, or kidnapped. I remind them that they live near a fault line, of how the crime rate is higher in their city than the small town I’m visiting, etc. This isn’t meant to scare them, it’s just a handy technique to put their fears in perspective.

4) Tell them how much they’ve inspired your trip. Quote a recent heart to heart talk you had with your father as part of your inspiration for the trip. Tell your Uncle Bernie how his photographs from Africa made the place seem so beautiful that you couldn’t fight the urge to go there yourself. If your decision somehow sounds as if it came from them, the news will go down easier.

5) Sometimes, they don’t even have to know you’re away.
If you don’t live near your family in the first place, you can get away with not telling them. My family lives in Texas, I’m in the Philippines. All they get from me are photographs and emails after my trips, when I’m “safe and sound” at home. Everyone responds to this positively. In fact, no one’s ever asked “How come you didn’t tell me?”

There’s no step-by-step surefire way of telling loved ones about your long term trips, but after considering their individual personalities and the strength of your relationship, you’ll know the best way to approach it. The only thing you have to worry about, I suppose, is an unexpected response. But for someone who is vagabonding in the first place (or plans to), the unexpected is something that you actually look forward to.

How do you tell friends and family about your travel plans? How do they react?

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Posted by | Comments (9)  | August 27, 2009
Category: Vagabonding Advice

9 Responses to “Breaking the news: How to tell friends and family about your RTW trip”

  1. Christine Says:

    Thanks for this post, Celine! I have some trips in the planning phases that I’d like to take in the next two years. Given that I’m a single female in my late 30’s, I expect that one of the destinations I have planned will make some of my family members uneasy about my safety. I will keep these very wise suggestions in mind.

  2. Liv Says:

    Hi, Celine! These are great tips, especially the one about telling them your “Decision” and having all the facts worked out. That’s the only way they can take you seriously. Hooray for the freedom we have today that lets us take these trips in the first place!

  3. Warren Talbot Says:

    Excellent advice. We have been telling all our family and friends about our plan to leave for a few years to travel the world. The reaction has generally been positive, but many have expressed concerns around safety. Ultimately I find that people who are most concerned are those who have traveled the least and thus it is impossible for them to understand that safety is an issue everywhere. We will be using your advice as we spread the news!

  4. David Says:

    Great tips.You can also bribe them by telling what gift you’ll bring for them.

  5. The Backpack Foodie Says:

    That’s a very cool blog post. I’d like to contribute my own little piece of advice, as I just quit my job to travel as well.

    One misconception you’ll have to fight, especially if you’re older and have a profession, is that you’re taking on this trip as a consequence of failure in your professional or personal life. It’s very hard for some people to conceive that you could throw away a life if you were successful in it.

    That was not the question I was asked the most, but once I started answering it (even when not asked), I saw attitudes change around me. I explained my reasons for traveling, and why it was much larger than my job. In some instances, it was very emotional: this is life-defining decisions, and you’ll likely end up saying things such as ‘I want to look back on my life on my deathbed and know that I lived life fully.’ I say let it out. Don’t be afraid to be intense on these things.

    In my own situation, doing so inspired some people to pour their hearts out to me, even if travel wasn’t a value for them. I had surprising admissions from people I barely knew – such as my boss telling me he dreamt of throwing it all away so he could work in construction. It’s been an awe-inspiring experience, and it’s very humbling when you open your heart to people and see them inspired as a result.

  6. Cheap Traveler Says:

    The timing on this is great as I just did an interview today where the person kept coming back to this idea that that you’re letting people down and there will be repercussions from appearing to be a slacker and giving up a set career path. (As if that even exists anymore.) If you follow the point here–especially #1 that you’re going no matter what they think–then you avoid much of this drama. Excellent advice!

  7. Lauren Says:

    I added a FAQ to my travel website – read the FAQ here – where I answered most of the questions and concerns I heard. Then, at my going away party(s), I printed the FAQ and hung it all over my apartment.

    Having the FAQ also meant that I didn’t get impatient answering the same questions over and over. Now that I’m back from my trip, I’m working on a post-trip FAQ.