“Some fancy travel quote”, scrolling through beautiful pictures of mountains and beaches always makes us want to book tickets for the next extended weekend, but sadly those posts just remain bookmarked or cornered in the saved folder. Being a girl in India and asking your parents to let you travel solo is definitely a difficult task. The media portrays only the negative stories and events when it comes to women’s safety. Since a lot of people had messaged me on Instagram asking to write a blog on “how did I convince my parents”, so here it is:
Disclaimer: Every individual and family is different and I trust your instincts to deal with the uniqueness of yours. Guaranteeing positive family responses is not what I will do. But let’s try and see what works with the common parenting ideals of Indian parents!
1) Background: I had started travelling with my friends after my 12th-grade examination, the first trip I took was to Dehradun and the second trip was to Parvati valley. In both the trips, apart from my friends I had my cousins along with me too. Thus, my family did not protest much initially considering the huge company I had. Though, later on, I realized that people often backed out at the last moment and due to them I had to cancel my trip too! This really frustrated me and I asked my parents if they would allow me to travel solo, and if not what do they expect from me to let me do so. I had also asked them for a year break from studies, due to various issues that I was facing during that time. This conversation happened sometime during my second year of undergraduation, so they asked for 80% and above as my final cumulative score , and I had to “prove” to them that I was “responsible” enough.
2) Warming up the family: Every generation has their own quirks, and it is natural that our parents do not understand our desire to travel solo. It wasn't popular during their times, so have some empathy for them and help them warm up to the idea of travelling for pleasure, solo. Along with that, try the following:
During my initial trips, as my parents had asked me to prove to them that I was “responsible”, I often used to consult with them about the location. Later I used to submit them a document which consisted of the places along with dates where I would go, details about transportation, accommodation (at least 4 alternatives), details of the weather and number of nearby police stations. Lastly, there used to be a total budget mentioned at the end along with the distribution. Now, the advantage of doing research and showing a piece of physical evidence is that your parents know that you have a good knowledge about the place you are going to and you are concerned about your safety.
Help your mother and father with daily chores, tag along with them when they go to the market to buy the ration. Make your bed when you wake up in the morning, fill the water bottles in your house, wash your clothes on time and keep your room tidy at all times. I know, it all sounds silly, but when you are asking your parents for allowing you to travel solo, they will mostly have two arguments: safety and being responsible. If you follow the above hopefully you will be able to tackle both. Otherwise your mother will cancel your travel plans saying “You can't even keep your room clean how can I let you travel alone!”
3) Keeping up with Pinky Swears: While you are on a trip with your friends, make sure you are constantly updating your parents about your location and plan for the day. I usually every morning send a tentative plan for the day so that even if there is no network on my phone, my parents are roughly aware of my location. I know it sounds tiring, but you have to make your parents aware of the fact that you are taking care of yourself, eating meals on time, and keeping them updated. Through this, you will avoid giving your parents unnecessary anxiety.
4) Avoid conflicts: I cannot stress enough on this point, parents often get irrational, but you need to keep yourself calm and try to reason out with them
Instead of ranting you need to support your arguments with facts.
Example: If you plan to have a discussion about travelling solo :
a) Try to play devil’s advocate, you know your parents and the arguments they will throw at you. Curate your answers accordingly and be confident while you are delivering them. Be prepared, make sure you have logic in your arguments and keep reassuring them that you can take care of yourself and you are responsible enough. You can always bring up things like “don't you trust your parenting, you have given me such great values, obviously I will uphold them”, “Until now I haven't done anything to disappoint you or which could have been a threat to my safety”
- Now, the research would help you negotiate the safety part, also, quote instances from your previous trips:
i) Tell them you always kept them informed.
ii) You weren’t reckless during travelling.
iii) You made it back home safe.
iv) You had researched about the place and your parents were aware of the same.
Through this, you can build up your argument about the fact that you can take care of yourself as you have done it before.
b) Negotiating about travelling solo:
- Obvious question which would come up will be why solo? Who travels alone, that too a girl?
Do your research, find out women who started travelling solo at a young age, find out the details about their background, so that in case your parents say that “they belong to such and such family”, “she is different”, you can negotiate with them.
If they are being highly irrational stop the conversation there, ask them if you can continue the conversation tomorrow or sometime later in the day.
If they still don't agree, apologize and leave it for a few days and try again. Ask them how can you reach a middle ground. Persistence and determination is the key!
5) Start with small steps: I acknowledge that backpacking to Ladakh/Spiti is the dream! Though try to take your first solo trip somewhere near your hometown (4-5 hrs away), so that your parents aren’t paranoid about you being on a lone mountain or at an isolated beach (because they will imagine the worst case scenario). Keep updating them every 4-5 hrs, send them pictures or video call them. They should be able to realize that travelling is something you genuinely like and it’s not just an act of rebellion.
6) Engage your folks in the planning process: Even though there is a huge generation gap between us and our parents, you should try to make the most of their wisdom. Share your plan with them, send them links to various blogs about that place, ask them for suggestions. This way they will feel included in the process and you will not have to hear something like “Tumko kya lagta hai tum bhot badi ho gyi ho?!” (Oh! so you think you have grown up so much?).
Things won't change overnight, but be persistent and have patience. Try to ask your family how can you make them feel comfortable while you are traveling solo. Before making an argument, try to be in their shoe and shape it accordingly, be very careful with the words you use. They shouldn't feel like you are going astray and you have decided to become a hippie!
May the force be with you! I hope your folks will soon say “Ja Simran Ja jee le apni Zindgi” (Go on live your life!)
P.s: After I wrote “Why I chose Travel over my Master's degree” my father actually said that XD