How to tell your family and friends you are leaving

backpackI have been reading a lot of travel blogs over the past few months, ever since I came back from Hawaii and read the book ‘4 hour work week.’ I realize though that there aren’t any posts about how to first of all tell your family that you are leaving and second of all, how to deal with missing them while being on the road.

I wanted to chat about the former. Especially if your parents are a bit traditional like mine are, you will appreciate the background knowledge from someone like me who’s already been through the process.

I knew that if I went right out and told my parents what I wanted to do, that is, go out into the big, bad world for 2-3 years and travel around, by working in different places doing menial tasks, like farm-work and dishwashing, or whatever else comes my way, they would have balked at the idea and refused to let me out of the house, doing whatever they could to prevent me from leaving.

I believe they would have even been savvy enough to tear up my passport right before my flight was about to leave. Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But I know every parent worries about their children and that is why, having some kind of guide to how to tell your parents so they don’t explode would be helpful.

The following is a list of what I have found to be helpful:

1 – When you are going through the process of thinking about traveling, before you have even decided, tell your parents what is going through your head. I know everyone thinks it’s best to tell family and friends when they are ready to leave, but that is the wrong time to tell them.

Your parents, siblings, friends, relatives, whoever else will feel more at ease with you deciding to go, if you include them in the process of your decision. They will no doubt try to deter you, and if their points against traveling does end up deterring you from going, then you weren’t really serious about leaving at that time of your life anyway.

Your conviction to go should be so strong, that every fiber of your being should shout ‘Yes’ to leaving. The minute you even think about not going, your body should revolt against it, by projectile vomiting or causing some dire infection. The more everyone gives you reasons for not going, the more your mind will have to come up with reasons of why you have to go. This reinforces the fact in your mind that your leaving is absolutely crucial and it will build your case for leaving even more to yourself and to others.

2 – Make a list of reasons why you want to go on this trip. This is absolutely necessary, not only for your family, but also for your own sanity. For those moments when you start doubting yourself, go back to that list and consult it to remind yourself why you are leaving.

It should contain at least 5-6 strong reasons that really resonate deep within you. One of my reasons was that I wanted to experience true freedom and independence, where I didn’t rely on anyone and no one relied on me. That really spoke to me, and it spoke to everyone who knew me, who knew that freedom and independence is a big deal for me.

3 – Talk to as many people as possible about you leaving. I didn’t realize that at the time, but every person who knows me, even mere acquaintances were flabbergasted when I didn’t tell them in advance that I was leaving. I had one person tell me, that they were really disappointed that I hadn’t chosen to confide in them earlier on and our fragile friendship broke off even a bit more.

It wasn’t my intention to keep this from anyone, but I felt that people wouldn’t understand why I was leaving, when in reality, a lot of people came to me with their own stories of how they had wanted to leave the shackles behind and travel to a different country for a year or two in their younger days.

These stories not only tell you that you are doing the right thing, when you see the regret in their faces of why they didn’t go and do what their spirit was obviously asking for, but it tells you that you are not the only one who goes through this. There are hundreds of people who are going through the exact same thing as you. You are one of the lucky few who have decided to say damn to the world, and go and do your own thing. Like they say, you only regret the things you don’t do, never the things you do.

4 – Talk to your close friends as soon as you decide you want to leave and travel around the world. The one great thing about this experience of telling people that I am doing this is that I found out who my true friends really are.

I knew that I didn’t have many true friends, most of the people I know are mere acquaintances, drinking buddies or office colleagues. But the people that I thought were my true friends, some of them upon hearing this news of mine, immediately started delving into their issues, and their own problems, not giving a thought to why I was actually doing this. They started complaining about the fact that they will have no one to hang out with; you are doing this at a really inconvenient time, and so on.

Some of them also started bringing up their own desires to leave, and telling me, that if they could suppress their desire, then I can do the same. Why should I be any different? Why can’t I just conform? Just listening to them say these things made me realize how I had misjudged them and that they are not the true friends I thought they were. I am glad I found out sooner rather than later. But it also told me, that I would turn into that bitter person who would trod upon other people’s dreams if I don’t do this right now. That was something that I will not stand for (or sit for).

5 – Once you have made your decision (along with your parents, of course), do not change your mind about it. You have made your decision. You are an intelligent individual, you have thought about this for long hours now, debating Should I, or Should I not? It’s done now. The decision is made. Do not go back and forth about it. Buy that ticket right now and prepare yourself to leave. You are done with the questioning, with the doubting, with the self-flagellating. It’s all over now. Be at peace with your decision, and just follow in the footsteps of hundreds others who have done the same.

And some day when that friend comes up to you and tells you, ‘I’m thinking about leaving to Africa to travel around for a year’, you can say to them, ‘Do it, Do it now, there’s no better time than the present.’ And you can support them, because you will have no regrets of your own for not doing it years ago.

photo by chrismetcalf on Flickr





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Older comments on How to tell your family and friends you are leaving

Flackattack
20 July 2009

Tell your inner circle of family/friends early on. Tell your intermediate circle 2-3 months from departure, after the plans are solid and the dominoes are falling into place. DO NOT tell your work circle until right after you put in your notice. There is no way you want to be a “lameduck” at work for any more time than necessary. It is vital to wring every last $$ out of them for your trip.
I’ve done this three times in the past 20 yrs, and this is how I handles all of them.

Amrith Sudhakaran
23 July 2009

Hey Shikha thanks for the tips. I don’t think my family would rip my passport, but they will be upset. They are the “call me when you get there” type. So when you go on a trip, how often do you keep in touch with your friends and family?
I’ll be working for a year to save some money and after that I’ll just take my car and drive away….

Hideo
23 July 2009

I’m not so sure about the comment that friends and relatives “would no doubt try to deter you”. For me it was the complete opposite and surely you friends and family should encourage you in the things you want to do rather than try to stop you? Like you say, it helps you realise who your true friends are. Perhaps it’s also a cultural thing? I’m English, and here it’s not that unusual for people to go off travelling for long stints of time at some point. Not necessarily the norm, but certianly not that unusual. Perhaps it’s more unusual across the Pond from here, hence the more negative reaction?
My friends and family were never anything other than 100% supportive and thrilled about my plans. People who weren’t really friends, but more just acquantances were not always so encouraging – the usual “but what will you do when you get back?” or “you can’t just give up your job” comment.