#991: How do I keep my dreams alive over the naysaying of my family?

Dear Captain Awkward,

I am working towards going on a year-long trip around the world. Besides the fact that it’s just this dream I’ve always had, I’m doing this for a few reasons.

1) I hate my life where I’m living and who I’ve become. It’s nice enough, if you’re already married with children. But I was recently in Berlin and I loved being in a city that had 24-hour public transport and interesting artsy things to go to all the time. I felt wonderful there, like I was an interesting, capable, sexy person, and I didn’t want to come home. Here I feel stagnant and boring. I moved across country to live here after college because my parents live here (big mistake, although at least now I have my own apartment).

2) I’ve always wanted to have children, and in particular adopt children. I’m 32, so I’m hitting the age where I have to start thinking of that as a serious goal if it’s going to happen at all. But I want to travel the world first, because after I become a presumably single parent it’s going to be a lot harder to travel. Possible, but harder.

The issue is with my parents. I have a troubled relationship with my dad, who is neurotic, has used money as a means to control me, and constantly orders me around like I’m his employee, so I knew he wouldn’t be on my side. But I had high hopes that my mother would be more supportive. That’s not what happened. They both recently held a little intervention in which they basically told me not to do it. Specifically, they said that they thought I should have a job lined up when I got back. I feebly told them what my therapist told me when I expressed worries about that same thing, that this trip was going to open doors for me and that it wasn’t important to have everything set in stone just yet. That did not go over well. I’m planning on having an extra $10,000 saved up as a cushion when I get back to the states. They don’t think that’s good enough. They don’t think that $20,000 is enough for the trip budget even though I have studied the budgets of other travelers who have succeeded to do this. They told me that I should just keep the soulless job that I have and travel somewhere for two weeks every year. I’m nauseous even thinking about that.

There’s a familiar pattern when it comes to my parental interactions: I want to do awesome, scary thing. They disagree with the thing, most of the time bringing up money or them not wanting to support me as the reason why it won’t work. I either do what they tell me or come up with some sort of compromise. Eventually, I realize that I should have just done what I wanted and become regretful and bitter. I don’t want to keep doing that. I’m tired of trying to manage their anxiety over my life choices on top of my own worries. When I was in Berlin, they insisted that I email them twice a day, once when I woke up and once at night like I’m on curfew or something. What the hell? I know they do this because they love me and they worry, but their worries really trample all over my self-confidence.

Compounding my problems is that, aside from my therapist, I don’t really have a lot of people that I can talk to. Many friendships from college have faded due to distance, and I haven’t made any new ones. I have a night job, so social stuff that is usually held at night is off limits to me now.

So I’m asking for 1) scripts to deal with my parents, because when they get into intervention mode I tend to shut down and not say anything, and 2) avenues to find emotional support for making my travel dreams happen.

Sincerely,

Wants to be Nellie Bly (she/her pronouns)

Dear Nellie Bly,

I am so excited for you and this potential life-changing year and trip.

I have been privileged enough to travel the world a lot in my life, from parents supporting me to go on club and choir trips in high school to studying abroad in Czech Republic during undergrad to working internationally for years with short-term assignments in Ukraine, Romania, Poland and Hungary, to traveling to France & to Indonesia with good friends to the most recent honeymoon trip. One of my dearest friends is in Tunisia with the foreign service right now, and another is moving to the Czech Republic and this passport is burning a hole in my desk drawer because I want to go see them so badly. You know from your time in Berlin that there is nothing like waking up under a different sky and feeling simultaneously that the world is so very small and connected and also so much bigger than you knew.

During my travels, I sent my grandparents a postcard from everywhere I visited. Even in small towns, I’d find the local shop and buy a postcard and send it, and they’d all say some version of the same thing: “I’m in (place), it’s beautiful here, I got to try (food), I met an (interesting person) or saw (some amazing historical sight). I miss you and am thinking of you. Love, Jennifer.” When my grandmother died, she left me two things: A pair of earrings from when she got her ears pierced to celebrate her 80th birthday and a box full of all the postcards I had ever sent her. There’s a map of the world in the box and she’d drawn little dots on the place every time a postcard came to map my travels. As her last gift to me she gave me back the world as I had told it to her.

If you want to go, and you can go, then you have to go. Accept no substitutes.

If you want to find some community and people who will be excited about your plan, maybe try to find an online forum for people who plan budget travel, or who freelance while living abroad, or the international guild of house-sitters (link is to a how-to house sit your way around the world article) or whatever? I bet if you started a “Here’s my proposed itinerary and budget for my cool awesome year of traveling the world” at the friendsofcaptainawkward.com forums you’d find some people who would want to live vicariously along with you and some potential new friends around the world. I can vouch that the Paris, France Awkwardeers are LOVELY.

In the meantime, you have to stop telling your dreams to people who shit on them.

This means: Stop running your dreams and your plans  by your parents. Your parents are not safe stewards of your dreams. You are trying to perform “good daughter” by including them in your plans like you would reasonable parents, but they are not that kind of parents. Think of your dreams as tiny crocus shoots coming up through the soil in early spring, when there might or might not be another killing frost before they can mature. You’ve got to protect those tiny vulnerable green shoots and not expose them to danger before they are ready to bloom.

Reasonable, supportive parents get to hear “I’m thinking of going on this amazing trip around the world, I’m 60% toward my savings goal.” They may ask how you plan to solve certain issues, or worry about your safety traveling alone, or try to reconcile (place) with (version of place that’s shown on the news). This is normal, it’s cool if not every parent is immediately in the “Yay, when do you leave?” mode without needing a little reassurance or time to process before they are on board. Reasonable parents also eventually get on board. When they raise potential problems, like, “Are you saving enough money to make sure you’ll be okay?” they do it hopefully in the spirit of wanting you to actually find solutions to those problems, not to sabotage your momentum. They understand that you get to make your own decisions and that they raised you to be able to take care of yourself.

Your parents have shown you they have a pattern of trying to keep you “in your place,” whatever that means to them, in this case literally. Their “worry” and “concern” for you is about control, is about them getting to define what your life is like. Therefore, your parents get “I bought my tickets and I leave in 3 weeks.” Or they get a postcard from Berlin when you’ve already gone.

And you email them, say, once a week while you’re traveling, not twice a day. (You make this happen by telling them: “I’ll check in once a week while I’m gone” and then you follow through with that).

In the meantime, no more details. No more money/budget/job/itinerary/future plans talk. Stop trying to convince them and let the topic die for now until it’s safe and you can leave. You’re not being mean or lying if you stop including them in your planning. You’ve tried including them, they’ve shown you that they can’t be trusted to nurture your hopes, so, it’s time for Small Talk Only (or Safe Talk Only) until you’re ready to go. It sucks to have to feel like you are reverting to Sullen Teenager mode ( “How was school today?” (long pause) “Fine.”), because you love them and you want to have a cool honest authentic adult relationship and you want to be able to talk about the thing you’re most excited about, but they are Lucy with the football and you are Charlie Brown and it’s time to take a break from setting yourself up for more of their “nurturing” for the time being.

Also, you laid out a very clean and logical case for why you want to do this and why now is the right time in your letter – the kind of case I recognize from growing up as a kid who was overruled a lot and told that what I wanted to do wasn’t a good idea or wasn’t possible and surely I wanted something else instead – so I think it’s important to say: You don’t have to convince your parents of anything in order to still do this. You don’t have to have airtight reasons for wanting to go or make the perfect case. You want to. Your heart wants it. It’s calling you. That’s a good enough reason. You will get old and die waiting for them to be convinced. Put your energy elsewhere.

If you go from talking about this plan to never mentioning it, they will notice and they may try to check in to make sure that they’ve really murdered the dream all the way, like, “You haven’t mentioned your trip lately, thank goodness you’ve finally come to your senses!” They will also become experts on everything bad that happens in places you’ve mentioned you want to go, aided and abetted by shitty international reporting designed to scare Americans. “Oh, terrible about what happened in [place]. Didn’t you say you wanted to go there when you were planning your trip? Good thing you stayed home!

Learn to recognize this for what it is: Bait. They want to trick you into exposing more about the plan so they can go back to shitting on it (and display their dominance and control). Don’t take the bait.

Eventually your script is probably: “Hey, either you raised me to be able to handle a challenge like this or you didn’t. I guess we’ll find out, but I just don’t share your worries about what will happen. If you can’t be excited for me I can’t make you, but I also don’t have to listen to your constant doomsaying or make the same choice you would make in my shoes. If you can’t be supportive, be kind, and if you can’t do that, let’s drop the topic and talk about something else.

In the meantime your script is probably some version of:

Huh, well, there’s nothing new to talk about” + GIANT SUBJECT CHANGE.

Well, you’ve given me a lot to think about, I’m just chewing on all of it before I make any big decisions.” + GIANT SUBJECT CHANGE

(You are thinking about what they said. You’re also quietly rejecting it, but they don’t need to know that).

Let me stop you there – I was not asking for advice, I was telling you about something I want to do. When I need advice, I’ll ask.” + GIANT SUBJECT CHANGE

See also – “You may be right.”

Your parents: Objection objection objection objection!

You: “You may be right.” Silently: “I’m totally still going, though.” Not silently: GIANT SUBJECT CHANGE.

You will be amazed at how this totally takes the wind out of some people’s sails.

Your parents can feel worried or disappointed or disapprove about your choices, but they don’t get to treat you badly and expect you to sit still and comply. They can be anxious about your safety, but their anxiety does not define the borders of your world for you. And fuck their whole “intervention mode” while we’re at it. Interventions are extreme, last resort measures for people who are seriously suffering. They also bear a heavy risk of backfiring, where the person remains unconvinced about seeking treatment for whatever it is and cuts off the family & friends who participate. “I’m a grown-ass woman and I’m saving up a bunch of money so I can do a thing I’ve always wanted to do” is not even close to something that needs an emergency family meeting of any kind. Good grief.

Also, disappointment goes both ways:

“I’m disappointed that you would make this choice.”

“Cool, I’m disappointed that when I try to tell you about something important to me you rain negativity all over it to try to get me to do what you want.”

“I think this is a terrible idea and I am worried about what will happen to you.”

“Okay, you’re allowed to have your opinion. I am still going to do it because I want to, and if it’s a mistake, it will be my mistake. I’d rather try and fail than stay stuck.”

“I love you and worry about you and I’m your parent and I know what’s best for you.”

“I know you love me, and you did your best to raise me and look out for me. Good news, you did your job well, and now I’m the person who has to decide what’s best for me.”

“But what if (catastrophe) happens?”

“I very much hope that won’t happen, but if it does, I’ll figure out how to handle it.”

Or (this is the time for it): “”Hey, either you raised me to be able to handle a challenge like this or you didn’t. I guess we’ll find out, but I just don’t share your worries about what will happen. If you can’t be excited for me I can’t make you, but I also don’t have to listen to your constant doomsaying or make the same choice you would make in my shoes. If you can’t be supportive, be kind, and if you can’t be kind, let’s drop the subject entirely and talk about something else.”

If these seem like daunting things to say to the people what raised you, practice them and talk them over with your therapist. Put them in your own words. Keep them in your back pocket in case you need them. Complying with your parents is a habit that they have groomed and reinforced, and you’re not going to suddenly snap out of that habit and become the Amazing Comeback Queen overnight, nor do you have to become that. Sometimes there is value in speaking up and resisting, even if you won’t win the argument or the day, just to show yourself that you can and the world won’t end. Sometimes there is power in holding on to all the things you could say and deploy them strategically.

Time for one of my favorite literary quotes:

Adulthood isn’t an award they’ll give you for being a good child. You can waste… years, trying to get someone to give that respect to you, as though it were a sort of promotion or raise in pay. If only you do enough, if only you are good enough. No. You have to just… take it. Give it to yourself, I suppose. Say, I’m sorry you feel like that and walk away. But that’s hard.” – Ekaterin, A Civil Campaign 

When you do go, email me and I’ll send you my mailing address because I’d really like a postcard or two…to add to The Box.

❤ ❤ ❤

 

299 comments
  1. ASJ said:

    All I can say is have an awesome, amazing time on your trip, LW. I am in awe of your willpower and bravery, and wish you the best of trips.

    • goddessoftransitory said:

      In the meantime, you have to stop telling your dreams to people who shit on them.

      This needs to be on billboards all over the world.

  2. No advice because I think CA covered it all, but just to say go with joy, go without guilt. I travelled by myself for six months five years ago and it was wonderful. Your heart says go and your head has planned it out. It will be everything you hope for and probably more.

    And if you make it to Toronto drop me a message!

  3. Roramich said:

    I wish you all the best on your trip. LW!!!! I expect it will amazing and wonderful and possibly scary at times, but that’s adulthood!! You can do it!!

    • PrairieChick said:

      I’m the grandmother of 2 wonderful early-adults who are breaking free of the dysfunctonal “care-control” the LW describes. It takes courage, strategies like the Captain has given, and good, understanding support, to fly free. I wish you all of the help that you need, to do what you want to do, when and how you want to do it. Life is too short not to do it, if it’s at all possible. Bon voyage!

  4. Anonandonandon said:

    I don’t think I have EVER heard anyone say, after a solo trip like this one, that they should not have done it. EVER. And my friends are travelers. Go, experience, get scared, screw up, triumph, do it all. And yes, your therapist is right. You have ZERO idea what doors this may open up. What a lovely opportunity.

    • goddessoftransitory said:

      And something else: staying home does not render you “safe.” You can’t act meek or humble or quiet enough to earn a pass from disaster.

      Even if the LW stays in her apartment next to her “let us control our anxiety by controlling your life” folks and never goes anywhere or does anything she isn’t “safe.” Terrible things happen all the time in quiet little places where everybody leads quiet little lives. Not that she should recklessly barrel into objectively terrifying scenarios with no plan, but that’s the opposite of what she’s actually doing.

      • Anisoptera said:

        Yes THIS. Whenever I do travel stuff alone (as a woman) people leap up to concern-troll me about safety. But actually, home isn’t always “safe” either, and has its risks. It’s a cliché but it’s true – you could be hit by a car crossing the road outside your house. Hell even staying inside the house isn’t safe – I read recently that 50% of all fatal accidents happen at home. LW I don’t say this as ammunition for you to bring to your parents – I don’t think you should argue with your parents at all about this, I think you should just *tell* them your decision and go do it. Instead I’m trying to convince *you*. Travel has its risks, but so does everything. LW you’re 32 years old. They don’t get a say. It sounds like an awesome plan, like you have a real financial buffer, and like the trip of a life time. 🙂

  5. nein09 said:

    The Summer Day

    Who made the world?
    Who made the swan, and the black bear?
    Who made the grasshopper?
    This grasshopper, I mean-
    the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
    the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
    who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
    who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
    Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
    Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
    I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
    I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
    into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
    how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
    which is what I have been doing all day.
    Tell me, what else should I have done?
    Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
    Tell me, what is it you plan to do
    with your one wild and precious life?

    —Mary Oliver

    Have an amazing time.

    • Roramich said:

      Gorgeous, love Mary Oliver

    • Indoor Cat said:

      I was all lip-trembly reading CA’s reply to the letter, annnd now I’m crying.

      Just do it. Just go and do it. Be beautiful.

    • Those last two lines always get me. Thank you for reminding me of them on the precipice of my own big “my heart is telling me to do this and my head has it all planned out” adventure.

  6. No advice dear LW, only good wishes.

    Have an awesome trip.

  7. twistycsc said:

    As someone who doesn’t really confide in her mother while still talking to her regularly, I’ve found a few methods that work well for me. I ask about how she’s doing and what she’s up to. I answer vaguely but cheerfully when she asks me about my life. “How’s work going?” “It’s good but busy. [Immediate redirect with a question about her].” I categorically avoid certain topics and basically ignore my mother when she brings them up. “tell me about that tattoo you’re thinking of getting!” (Thanks, sister…) “…so how was your trip to the beach?” to make it clear that I’m not engaging on that topic.

    Plus I call her enough that she doesn’t have to call me. I call her on my way to yoga MWF. It’s a five minute walk. Can’t get too in depth in five minutes. But she knows I call her three times a week.

    • chickia said:

      brilliant!

    • A said:

      Yes, these are the exact same strategies I use to communicate with my mother. I try to time calls for when there is a specific end point when I have to hang up like “my dinner is going to be ready in 7 minutes so I’m free to talk until the timer goes off”. When she tries to just tell me one more thing (it is never just one more thing), it is easier for me to go “actually, tell me next time” and hang up because if I don’t my food will be overcooked. Also, I focus on telling her things that are not a big deal to me, like what movies I have seen lately or something that went well at work, that let her feel like she knows what is going on with my life.
      I try not to tell her big decisions until they are set in stone or already done so that I don’t have to hear her anxiety about it for months or years like I did as a teenager.
      And yes, turning the conversation around to let her tell me all about her life is a great distraction from hearing her stress about my life.
      Tldr – same. It works.

      • Tea Rocket said:

        I try not to tell her big decisions until they are set in stone or already done so that I don’t have to hear her anxiety about it for months or years like I did as a teenager.

        This is how I deal with my parents, too. It especially keeps them from latching on to one possibility out of the many that I am considering [usually the most prestigious sounding one] as THE THING that I am definitely going to do (and then telling everyone they know about how I am definitely going to do THE THING). It also means that I don’t have to deal with their disappointment when stuff falls through, or their suggestions about how to do something that neither one has any clue about.

      • Inspector Spacetime said:

        Pretty much exactly what I do, too. My mom doesn’t know about any decision I make until it’s set in stone, 100% planned, tickets already bought. It works great! Then you can use the “I’m telling you my decision, not asking for advice” line, which is very effective, although my mom didn’t like it much, hahaha.

        Have fun on your trip, LW!!!! It’s going to be amazing.

      • Kitty said:

        Yes these strategies work to an extent with my mother too. I can redirect her to talk about herself for about 15 minutes of our weekly 30 minute phone call. I try to focus a lot on superficial things too like books and movies and TV I’ve enjoyed. But she always seems to notice and become upset that our conversations are “so superficial” and keeps asking more about what’s going on in my life. Often I just have to redirect with a vague “well, nothing much has happened in the last week since I talked to you!” She can still get pretty interrogative though, which causes me some anxiety in our calls, because I’ve been so groomed and trained like Captain says to comply with her. So my brain goes into a warring state between either scared child who just complies, or sullen resentful teenager who refuses point blank. I wish I could feel more like a fully competent capable adult who can coolly respond when these things happen.

        • flrpwll said:

          Me: Well, I caught the bus to work, and it was pretty crowded, but that was ok ’cause i only have to go 6 stops. Then i cut yp chickens and made schnitzels between serving customers. I had sushi for lunch.

          Basically, I deliberately make it really boring. Works a treat.

          • This is brilliant. I think I’ll use it with my mother because actually she doesn’t care about what’s important to me, and will pick up on something she can use as a springboard to talk about herself. “You made chicken casserole? I made a sort of chicken casserole the other day too [endless monologue about her cooking]”

          • Kitty said:

            Heh thanks, though I have a feeling mine would catch onto this tactic straight away and tell me to stop being stupid.

        • I don’t know anything about your mother of course, but the “interrogative” rings a massive bell about my grandmother. I must say we didn’t find ways of responding like cool competent capable adults when she got like that – asking direct, detailed questions in quite an aggressive tone and refusing to let go or be sidetracked. With hindsight we realized this was a form that incipient senility was taking. I realize now she hadn’t been like that previously, it was a personality change. I still wish I’d known the Captain’s boundary setting techniques at the time and I’m sure they would have helped. But there was something more sinister in the background … just throwing it out there in case there’s any chance it provides any insight.

          • gunesvar said:

            Been there, seen that. Not commenting on anyone else’s family, just saying that closer to the end, my grandmother also got very preoccupied in conversations and could never talk about anything but herself. Never asked questions, never responded to stories, just always always always dredged up memories. It was hard to carry on a conversation, but it was old age and senility, no question.

          • Kitty said:

            Wow, I’m sorry you went through that with your grandma. 😦

            Unfortunately, my mother has always been like this. :-/

      • I find that casually tossing in “I’m so glad you don’t like to spend all day on the phone like grandma did with you” works WONDERS.

    • e271828 said:

      Yes, this is an excellent technique! It works because people love talking about themselves—and I mean that not in an awful way, we’re all happy when someone takes an interest, right? It’s often possible to direct the attention of a controlling parent back to themselves. They’ll end the conversation no wiser about your doings than when they started.

    • DameB said:

      Fistbump of weary recognition. I call my mom and dad once a week, on Sundays. I don’t even answer the phone other days if they’re calling.

      I also never talk about my emotional life. It’s all breezy small talk. She’s easy to redirect back to herself.

  8. Dani X said:

    oh wow OP! How exciting and scary and wonderful for you! I have never done a year trip around the world so have no idea about how much money you need or problems you can encounter but I assume you did your research and know. I am sure there will be wonderful times and scary times, but think of all the stories and adventures you can talk about when you get back! Have fun on your trip! Is there any friend around you can send postcards or letters to describing everything you are seeing and doing? That might make it more fun – to talk to someone about it.

  9. CommanderBanana said:

    LW, I used to talk to my parents about my work/careers all the time and ask them for career advice.

    I don’t do that anymore. They talked me into taking a job offer that I was very hesitant about (like, waking up at night with cold sweat and stress dreams about a job I HADN’T EVEN TAKEN YET).

    I took the job. I lasted six months and then had a mental breakdown. Nearly five years later, I am still dealing with the fallout of that decision.

    The truth is, my parents may ‘love’ me, but they don’t know me. They’re both Type A workaholics for whom Work is Life, but they had very different career trajectories than me (military, then government service) and don’t understand that working a lower-paying job that you love is worth more to me than dying a little every day because the government gives you a Thrift Savings Plan, or whatever.

    I don’t talk to them about my work anymore. I recently started a new job and other than giving them a heads-up that that I was changing offices, I haven’t talked to them about it.

    Please, please, stop talking to your parents about your travel dreams. Find a supportive community (online forums! Other Americans living outside the U.S.! Facebook groups!) to talk to instead. I’ve found a couple of career networks and websites that have filled that gap for me, and I’m doing much better because of it.

    LW, go and have an amazing time!

    • Kitty said:

      Yes, I’ve experienced similar things with my mother around work. After my job contract at Fabulous Company ended and I couldn’t secure a different job there, she encouraged me to take a job offer from Shitty Boring Corporation, because she was anxious about my stability and being unemployed. I knew from the moment I walked into that place with its sad beige cubicles and no natural light that it was a mistake, but it took me two years of working there (and slowly having my mental health and self esteem ground down my it’s toxic atmosphere) until I could secure a new job at Average But Good company where I am now content. I really wish I hadn’t taken that job at Shitty company just because it was the only one offered to me at the time, and kept applying to find a better job. Being unemployed for a few months wouldn’t have been so bad, I had some savings that I could have relied on. Sigh. Anyway hindsight is always 20-20.

      Congratulations on your new job by the way! And on doing the work to rebuild your health. ❤

    • Kitty said:

      Yes, I’ve experienced similar things with my mother around work. After my job contract at Fabulous Company ended and I couldn’t secure a different job there, she encouraged me to take a job offer from Shitty Boring Corporation, because she was anxious about my stability and being unemployed. I knew from the moment I walked into that place with its sad beige cubicles and no natural light that it was a mistake, but it took me two years of working there (and slowly having my mental health and self esteem ground down my it’s toxic atmosphere) until I could secure a new job at Average But Good company where I am now content. I really wish I hadn’t taken that job at Shitty company just because it was the only one offered to me at the time, and kept applying to find a better job. Being unemployed for a few months wouldn’t have been so bad, I had some savings that I could have relied on. Sigh. Anyway hindsight is always 20-20.

      Congratulations on your new job by the way! And on doing the work to rebuild your health. ❤

      • CommanderBanana said:

        Thanks Kitty! I really appreciate your good wishes.

        I really think my parents had the best intentions, but ultimately they didn’t know what the right decision for me was. I knew what it was, but I didn’t trust myself to know that, and leaving that job is one of my biggest regrets and I can honestly say it’s one of the few things in my life that I would do over if I had the chance. I, too, knew the day I started that it was a horrible mistake.

        I realized in hindsight one of the reasons I took it was because I wanted their approval (I have well-meaning but distant parents who are pretty disinterested in me on the whole – my parents live about 40 minutes away and I rarely see them, they never call or text me to see how I’m doing…they just, kind of don’t care? and having them actually pay attention to me for once was pretty amazing). Ultimately they weren’t the person who had to get up every day and walk into that soul-crushing office.

        I’m glad you found a place where you are happy! I have a pretty long road to travel – severe untreated depression will do that to you – but I am Doing The Work, as they say.

  10. bostoncandy said:

    I don’t know if this would be helpful to you but recently I ran across a series of web articles about estranged parents. I realize you are not estranged; I also am not estranged, but nonetheless these really gave me a new window into the behavior of my own controlling parents, who it sounds like your parents maybe have some things in common with.
    If you are interested, you can see the web articles at http://www.issendai.com/psychology/estrangement/
    Have a wonderful trip.

    • Mayati said:

      This is a wonderful resource, but I want to add a content warning for psychological abuse. For those of us who have parents like this — manipulative martyrs with no boundaries or sense that a child is not a possession — it can be exhausting to go through the Down the Rabbit Hole articles. Ultimately rewarding for me, at least, but everyone should know what they’re clicking on and read this stuff in the right mindset. (Also, I talked to the author briefly on Reddit, and she’s a CA reader! Hi buddy!)

      • bostoncandy said:

        Thank you for adding the content warning. Very good point.
        I also found it very exhausting but validating. I recognized so much in there.

    • I just want to thank you for that set of articles. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

      • bostoncandy said:

        My pleasure, killerpuppytails. It was so validating to me to read them. I started by chance, then just kept going – I read it all in about 24 hours and then I felt wrung out and grief stricken and relieved and understood. I’m really glad it is a help to you as well.

    • preaction said:

      Thanks for the link. My birthday passed recently, which I don’t celebrate (because of anxiety caused by abuse), but one of my parents decided this was a good opportunity to try to reconnect, and did so by asking why I was off “doing things [my] way”. This link looks like it can help me remind myself why I went NC in the first place…

      • Why you were doing things your way? Er, because you’re an adult and an individual, maybe? Honestly I don’t get some parents.

      • bostoncandy said:

        You’re very welcome, preaction. Glad to pass it on. You deserve to do things your way! It’s your life!

    • Kitty said:

      OMG yes, Issendai is SO fascinating and so validating. I reread their articles just like I do Captain Awkward posts. I wish they posted more often!

    • DessertDweller said:

      Oh my. My sisters and I are low contact with the mom. At times it has been no contact. Some of those excerpts from the forums were near verbatim to things mom has said. Nearly the same situations, too. It’s actually very helpful and validating. I wish I had that as a kid and teen. Thank you for the link, bostoncandy!

      • bostoncandy said:

        It’s my pleasure, DessertDweller. I have had times of no contact with mine as well. I got chills reading some of that. I’m glad it helped you.

  11. chickia said:

    DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT!!!! buuuut . . . you are not dependent on them right? they do not pay your car insurance, cell phone bill, rent, whatever . . . ??? because if yes to any of that, then you need to free yourself of that. First, during, after, whatever — but please make sure that you cannot be controlled by them in any way, and that if they withhold money to try to control you, that you can get along just fine without it. Gifts are fine, them helping you is fine, but please be clear that you can get along without the help! I hope you are successful in changing your relationship with your parents!!!!!

    • laurencleansup said:

      I wondered this, as well. I know that for our generation especially it can be very difficult to make a living wage, particularly if you are single-income and can’t take advantage of family plans and deals. If your parents are paying for anything for you, that doesn’t mean they own you but it does mean you need to prepare for what you would do if this type of support were to stop abruptly. And honestly? Maybe work toward the goal of getting that dependence to zero no matter what you decide so there’s no added anxiety of “but they pay my phone bill!” Pick up a side hustle, sell some of the old furniture/memorabilia/high value items you aren’t using/investigate different commute options. It sounds like based on how much you have in savings you are already awesome with money so this shouldn’t be too tough.

      • Kitty said:

        THIS. I am actually in the process of this right now. I’ve stopped accepting the sporadic but regular “gifts” of money from mother, and really knuckled down on learning how to properly budget so I can know that I can survive on my own. It’s been hard at times, as I realise how much I had relied on having her “gifts” supplement my income, and how shockingly bad I was at planning long term for larger expenses like car registration and repairs. And how I actually sadly don’t have as much disposable income for eating out as I would like.

        But it has been so freeing to feel like I need NOTHING from her, so I owe NOTHING to her, especially when she is being controlling and manipulative. 😀

        (For anyone who’s interested, the budget software that really helped me was YNAB.com)

    • BradC said:

      In addition to financial dependency, think carefully about where and how you are storing your stuff while you are gone: are you asking your parents to store it? Will they be good caretakers? Or is this just another thing they can hold over you? Would it be better to find a storage unit and just pay the fee?

      • JenniferP said:

        This is 100% a “the cheapest way to pay is WITH MONEY” situation. Do not ask them to store your stuff. Do not ask them for anything.

        • Ros said:

          This is 100% a true saying and so few people say it. THANK YOU.

          There are just times where a few hundred bucks represents less life effort than 20 years of guilt trips will consume.

        • RabbitRabbit said:

          Yes, all this. Do not allow them to store anything, to be responsible for anything, to pick up your mail, nothing. Something. Will. Happen. and they will almost certainly find a way to make it all about you, even if they are the ones that caused the event to happen.

        • This phrase was extremely applicable to my life yesterday and I’m so glad I knew about it.

      • Camilla Fox said:

        Not to doomsay, but if they are likely to sink to identity theft, draining your bank account, reporting you missing to law enforcement, etc. while you are gone, getting your affairs in order before you go could reasonably involve retaining a lawyer, and setting up provisions for your lawyer to monitor your affairs and act on your behalf when it comes to certain financial or medical contingencies (should you need to evacuate for medical reason). State law varies as to how much leverage parents have if they go nuclear (or underhanded), but a lot of things can be quelled with a good lawyer letter.

        While not cheap, lawyers bill by the hour, so it only gets expensive if something goes really wrong and the lawyer has to spend a bunch of time on it (in which case it is probably worth it to you).

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        OMG yes! I traveled to south India (hot hot) for 3 months and returned to the midwest US in December when I was in college. My mom tried use the fact that all my warm clothes were in her basement as a bargaining chip for getting what she wanted. Like, she was going to withhold a winter coat and long pants in December if I didn’t meet her demands….ugh no…awful.

        • whingedrinking said:

          Ewwww. That…made my skin crawl, in a way I can’t quite explain or describe.

        • Saira Ali said:

          OMG yes. My first year of college, my parents refused to ship my winter clothing to me (in college in the northeast of the US!) until I complied with something or another. I don’t even remember what the demand was, twenty years later, but I remember saying fuckit and begging clothing off my roommates and scrounging at goodwill for wool sweaters.

    • NellieBlyWannabe said:

      LW here. Unfortunately, I am still dependent on them for some things. Most things I pay for myself nowadays, my job has a good salary and insurance. I have my parents old car that they thrust upon me. Before I was biking to work, but once I started working the nightshift my dad said, “I don’t want you biking at night. There’s homeless people where you live and I don’t want them jumping out and scaring you.” (This is a normal logic trajectory for him, it starts out normal then goes straight into ‘hold my beer.’) So we worked out a deal where I pay for the gas and he pays the insurance. I am actually glad I have it now because we had an unusually icy winter, but I have yet to see any homeless people jump out at go “boo.”

      But yeah, it’s possible that they could pull back on that financial support. If that’s the case I’ll still be able to survive, but saving money will take longer.

      • B said:

        Oh wow hahaha that logic. I could see a parent fretting about biking at night because of Cars and Visibility, but uhhh, not because of Surprise! A Vagrant!
        Well after seeing your comments I have some hope that your parents are not irredeemably toxic, just overprotective. Here’s hoping your resetting boundaries and their adjusting to Adult! Independent! You! goes well.

  12. Clarry said:

    A few things that helped me deal with parents who similarly used their anxiety as a means for control:

    It’s okay to lie. I don’t recommend this as a constant life choice, but it’s not the end of the world either. You can tell your parents you’re one place when you’re another. Use this judiciously, or don’t use it at all, but keep in mind that if it absolutely comes down to their being too controlling, you can lie to them. (Why do your parents know so much about a 32 year old’s finances anyway?)

    That leads me to: It’s okay to withhold information. You can say you’re going on a trip and name some of the safe cities that maybe won’t give them too much anxiety, then go to other places.

    Your therapist probably wouldn’t mind being a safety net when it comes to notifying someone of where you are. You can email your therapist of your location and plans. In case of (unlikely) real struck by lightening emergency, your parents could get in touch with her or the other way around.

    Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can allay your parents’ fears. Let me guess. Your parents mention an (unreasonable) fear (high crime in Country XYZ!). You try to allay it with real information (actual statistics showing low crime in Country XYZ). But somehow your parents never say “okay, I feel better now.” Instead, they say “Aaach! A 1% crime rate! My daughter is going to a place where there’s the definite possibility of her being hit by 1% crime. It could happen! It will happen! I better make it so she can’t afford to go.”

    This extends to not going into too much detail about nice things too. You can’t allay their fears by telling them how you had a nice time too and how you weren’t a crime victim. You want to be boring in your communications. You’re having a nice time. You had dinner. You might say you went sightseeing- Just don’t be too emotional in your descriptions because “Aaach! She took pictures from the top of a tall building. She’s going to fall off!”

    • 5 Leaf Clover said:

      I second the idea that it’s okay to lie a little when parents try to steer your ship. You want to do it in a way that makes you feel good, which for me is not, like, spinning elaborate stories but instead just saying “yep” when my mom asks me if I’ve put that emergency roadside safety kit in my car, or whatever. If it’s not their business, but they’re making it their business and I know they won’t stop with reasonable requests, then I am 100% ok with saying whatever will get them off my back.

    • Yolanda B. Cool said:

      Pretty much all this, LW. When you’re dealing with controlling or abusive people, lying can sometimes be a form of self-preservation.

      The truth is for trustworthy people, and your parents have shown, through their actions, that they are not trustworthy with your truth. They need to be put on a limited information diet yesterday.

    • “It’s okay to lie. I don’t recommend this as a constant life choice, but it’s not the end of the world either.”

      For me, there’s a huuuuuuge gulf in the morality of lying as a way to be deceptive/hurt/take what you are not entitled to and lying when you’ve been forced to answer a question you absolutely should not have to. You would be ethically in the clear to say to someone on a bad trip yes, you see the little green men too but don’t worry – they’re my friends, you can come down off the ledge now. It’s perfectly reasonable to tell the rabid Sam Raimi purist that you agree, nobody else should ever have gotten to make a Spider-man movie. You can leave things out in your talks with your parents that are going to make them similarly irrational.

      • Saturnalia said:

        This, although I still struggle with how it feels at the time and afterwards. I have to remember that it is a kindness to not trigger someone’s (misplaced) anxiety, and then work through my own issues with imposing stricter moralities upon myself than literally anyone else on earth…

      • Penprp said:

        In situations like this, I always remember the wise words of copperbadge– “It’s not lying if it’s in answer to something the questioner had no right to ask.”

  13. Stephanie said:

    “If you want to go, and you can go, then you have to go. Accept no substitutes”

    I think I need this cross-stitched on something.

  14. I was reading this letter waiting for the explanation of why LW feels like she needs her parents’ approval. You’re an adult, you have your own place, you’ve got your finances more than handled… maybe it’s because I have an extremely detached relationship with my dad and stepmom, but I just straight-up don’t understand why their opinion on your trip matters to you. You want to do the thing. You are paying for the thing 100% with your own money, it sounds like. Who gives a flying heck if they don’t like it? It’s not their trip or their money or their life. Go! See the world! Travel and explore and eat new food and meet new people and have the adventure of a lifetime. I love traveling as well; I’m too much of a homebody to go away for a year, but my trips to London and Sydney and Auckland were some of the best experiences of my life so far. Go. Do the thing. You’ll regret not going infinitely more than you’ll regret going and making your parents unhappy. They’ll be upset that you’re not bending to their will. They’ll live.

    You’ve got the plans and money and time. There’s no reason to compromise even an inch to people who have, ultimately, nothing to do with this.

    • JenniferP said:

      The “why” is that she has parents who have groomed her her whole life to seek their approval and fear their anxiety and disappointment. If you didn’t grow up with it you don’t know what it’s like, and it does seem really weird from outside. I like your comment because, yeah, she is a grownass woman paying for stuff herself and she doesn’t have to answer to anyone! It’s weird and not normal to be this concerned about what her parents think! Good news, she has a therapist and is working on that, because you don’t undo a lifetime of that kind of abusive conditioning overnight.

      • Christine said:

        Thanks for being so kind in pointing out my blinders. 🙂

        I grew up (and am still living with) the opposite problem–very detached parental figures who provided next to no emotional support. I don’t factor my dad’s opinion into my life choices at all, because he so rarely factored me into his. So I’m always just kind of baffled when people approach life choices by putting their parents first! One of the few good things that came out of my dad’s lack of involvement/interest is a very firm belief that my life is *mine* and I’m going to live it in a way that makes me happy. My dad would probably prefer that I’d taken a very different road. That’s nice for him. I’ll be over here doing what works for me, and I so deeply hope the LW is able to do the same. (Especially on a trip like this! I still can’t get over the fact that she was able to save up that kind of money and make all those plans, that’s SO MUCH time and work. YOU GOT THIS, LW. GO LIVE YOUR DREAM.)

        • Julie B said:

          +1 to this.

          Christine’s post could have been written by me. Except I had the horribly overbearing dad (who sounds a lot, a lot like LW’s parents), however, he too was incapable of providng emotional support.

          • BigDogLittleCat said:

            Are you me? I was shocked the first time I heard someone talk about getting emotional support from their parents. It had never occurred to me such a thing even existed. But overbearing father, hoo boy,

        • I had a bit of both from my mother – constant surveillance and interrogation about my plans but absolutely no emotional support whatsoever. Like, her response to seeing me crying would be “stop that horrible sniffing noise, I’m trying to read. You’re disgusting, get a tissue.” She quizzed me about my plans all the time not because she cared about what was important to me but because a) she wanted to be in control of my life and b) she did care about how SHE would feel if something happened to me and she had to explain to people.

          • sistercoyote said:

            UGH, I think you might be me.

      • Spider Hero said:

        Thanks for saying this- the weird programming takes a long time to shake off and can feel like all our fault for not growing up enough. But this things are installed early and reinforced often.

        But they are horrible and inappropriate for adults, and that’s important to know, too.

      • anastasia said:

        Yes, exactly this. I desperately want to travel, but I don’t, because…. I guess at some point I decided it just wasn’t worth all of the backlash I was going to get from my mom? With my extremely needy mom, it’s not so much concerns about my safety or financial well-being. It’s the guilt trips of “What if I need you while you are gone? You couldn’t get here in a hurry! Who would take care of me?” (note that she does not need any actual care at this time, though she likes me to play therapist to her) and “Oh, sure, you’ve got the money to travel but not to help me!” and “Life isn’t about running off and having fun, anastasia, it’s about helping others!” She would make me feel about 2 inches tall for wanting to see the world instead of putting my energies squarely on her where she feels they belong.

        It’s only after lots and lots of therapy that I started realizing that this wasn’t normal, and that what I want might actually matter, and that wanting to see the world doesn’t make me selfish and bad. That I’m not traveling AT her to hurt her even though she would see it that way. I haven’t mustered up the nerve to travel yet, but the fact that I’m even seeing it as a possibility now is huge (and I’m continuing with therapy).

        So yeah, different issue, but those of us who have grown up being told that we need to put ourselves aside and take care of others can have a really, really hard time doing something that we want just because we want to, if it might cause worry or pain in someone else.

      • MidnightBagels said:

        Also, this is reason three billion and one why LW should go. Expanding your limits has a way of letting you see the hold your relationships have on you in new ways. It won’t necessarily change the dynamics, but it can make you question why do continue a particular behavior or patter.

      • Lynne said:

        Had a wonderful therapist tell me:. “we ought not to be so surprised that our families can push our buttons; they’re the ones who installed them”!

        • Magnet said:

          I like this a lot, good quote

        • Julie B said:

          Brilliant! I need to pass this around my family for when my overbearing dad (who is 74) tries to control my sister and I (who are in our 40’s). Dad is still excellent at trying to push buttons (though my sister and I are much more skilled at deflecting his efforts). I swear he thinks we are still teenagers.

      • Kay said:

        While I totally understand why LW feels restrained by her parents even as an adult, I just want to add in how affirming it can be for people of all ages to remind themselves of their independence! Sometimes when I have a few days off in a row for work, I’ll just think to myself “I could get on a train right now and go anywhere, and no one could stop me even if they wanted to” (barring the police, of course). Or I’ll be getting on the subway home, and realize I can detour to my favorite store across town or wander around neighborhoods window shopping or snacking for hours and as long as I let my BF know I was alive, no one would say a word. I think those little acts of independence, breaking from routine and doing a fun thing to stretch your wings, might be good practice for The Big Trip!

        • The feeling of freedom is amazing! I once had a week off work with nothing to do so I took a nationwide map (I live in the UK so everywhere is pretty much within reach if you have that much time), shut my eyes and activated a random number generator to get the map page and square that I’d be visiting. The moment of excitement before I opened them was amazing: full of possibilities and the knowledge that I could be on the verge of an awesome adventure.

          I was even happier when I opened my eyes to discover I’d sent myself to the city where my brother lives. Of course, it made perfect sense to see him – it had been ages and I didn’t realise until that moment that I was missing him. We had a really awesome week.

        • TootsNYC said:

          I’m a parent; my kids are college age.

          My husband and I decided late on Friday to spend Saturday at an airshow. The kids were out of the house, and we went to bed before they got home and left before they got up.

          I wanted so very badly for us to not tell them where we were going–to just leave the house. My DH insisted on waking up our son to tell them.

          But it bothered me that he did.

          I was really loving the idea–so much so that it surprised me–of just heading off somewhere fun without having to tell anybody.

          So yes–“how affirming it can be for people of all ages to remind themselves of their independence!”

      • ThatGirl said:

        My parents still have moments of disapproval/disappointment and I am 36 and have been fully independent for 14 years and married for 10. But every so often, I think back on when I was in college and my parents were expressing some opinion to me. And I said something to the effect of “when do I get to stop caring what you think?” which surprised them, but they were like “uh…whenever you want?” So I took it to heart both as not actually needing their approval to live my life and also that I actually had pretty good parents.

    • unlurking said:

      Wanting the approval of parents is something that even some adult people deal with, and ESPECIALLY surrounding the money issues (which often get tied to not-good-enough issues). *raises hand*. But CAs advice is good — Although something in your heart may yearn for your parent’s acceptance of your every move, it is NOT necessary. Only you know best what is in your heart. And I can tell reading LW’s letter that she does know what is in her heart. Do not let the parent’s irrational fears sway you. (For example, that is an amazing stash of funds for during and after; I am proud and impressed by your work to accomplish that and be prepared.) And also do not try to “convince” them, either.

      LW, I am excited about your upcoming travels!

      • Spider Hero said:

        Oh yes, “convincing” never works, it just binds you into the dance even further.

    • NellieBlyWannabe said:

      LW here. I have specific answers to this. It’s partially due to traditional Italian-American family dynamics. There’s this idea that it doesn’t matter how old you are, you’re parents are still your parents and you must respect and obey them. Have you seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding? It’s kind of like that (Italians and Greeks are quite similar).

      But the biggest reason why our relationship is the way it is is mostly due to me having had a bit of a rough childhood. When I was very young it was clear that there was something mentally off with me, so they took me to a lot of doctors and specialists including one who told my parents, “Your daughter’s retarded. She will never learn to speak properly. Don’t expect anything from her.” Seriously, when they talk about that moment now, it’s like they’re having a Nam flashback. After that meeting my father distanced himself from me while my mother seeked second opinions, which were, “She just has a developmental delay.” I was college aged before I had even heard of Asperger’s, and I was 29 when I was finally diagnosed as being on the Autism spectrum.

      Anyways, my childhood was about as good as you would expect an undiagnosed Autistic persons to be. I was a painfully shy and very scared kid (although looking back a lot of my nervousness was probably from me sensing my parents nervous energy), and there were a lot of things that did not come easily for me. As a result, my parents developed a bad habit of doing everything for me. My symptoms are far less pronounced now, and my mother is understanding of the issues that I still have but my dad is very cold and impatient about them. For example, because my Italian/Irish/Puerto Rican family is loud and rambunctious, I tend to find family functions exhausting and over stimulating. If I don’t participate enough or get a little moody, my dad often pulls me aside and says some variation of, “Don’t you feel like it’s your job to pretend to be happy when you’re in public?”

      I did not include all of that back story in my letter because I didn’t think it was relevant. But my point is that they are in the habit of protecting me all the time and I am in the habit of being protected all the time. And just because a family dynamic has become obsolete doesn’t mean that they go away.

  15. tcruzi said:

    This. Sounds. Awesome. But seriously. Everyone I know who has done this has had an amazing experience, and none of them have come back to crash on their parents’ couch [permanently]. What they HAVE done is change careers/gone to grad school based on their experiences or came back to their regular life refreshed and more motivated than ever, or or or… Just so many things. You’re totally ready for this (DUDE, you’re saving $30k) AND you’re totally ready for when you come home. Bonus: there’ll never be an easier time to move to a big city and/or across the country than when you’re coming home, and employers may actually be more willing to hire you when you’re finishing this trip than when you’re in a job you hate in endless suburbia and will have to move.

    • Redgirl said:

      Agreed. Adding to this: I’ve never heard anyone in my life say, “I really regret traveling.” Bad things can and do happen on trips, but then bad things can and do happen to people who stay home, too. Do your research (sounds like you’ve done this and then some), take reasonable precautions, and go have the time of your life. I envy you this opportunity–bon voyage!!!

  16. Now that you’re 32 — almost twice the age of majority in the U.S. — your parents have a choice to make about how they stay involved in your life. Option 1: They can pooh-pooh everything you say and plan. Option 2: They can support you. Or Option 3: they can bite their tongue. If they choose Option 1, then you can choose to seriously reduce how much involvement they have in your life.

    It is saddening, and angering, when we figure out that our parents are going with Option 1. Life’s not supposed to be that way. But seriously there is no amount of performance or demonstration that you can do on your part that will make them understand that you are a fully grown adult with your own life outside of theirs. The choice is up to them.

    Example: When my parents were staying with Option 1 even into my 40s, I essentially locked them out of my life for a year. (There was a precipitating “straw that broke the camel’s back” moment.) I wrote them a letter briefly explaining that I needed some time off because they were treating me as if I were still a teen, not a grown-ass woman. It was a rough year for all involved while I did not answer their phone calls, e-mails, and letters. I think they had a come-to-Jesus moment at some point during the year, and now we’re back to communicating and having the occasional brunch together. I think they’re wary of a repeat no-contact year.

    Honestly I think a trip like this one would be just what the doctor ordered. It sounds like a brilliant plan and I’m envious! Happy trails!

    • Catherine from Canada said:

      I have gone “no contact” with my mother just recently and am considering writing her a letter like you describe.
      Did you tell them why? give them reasons and examples? try to lay out your point of view? or just say “that’s it, no contact?”

      I am torn. On the one hand I feel like it’s the honourable thing to do***, on the other I know damn well that it won’t make a lick of difference to her behaviour, she’s basically incapable of considering anyone’s needs and feelings but her own.

      (***It came as a surprise to her, because I’ve tolerated the abuse for decades, but when she crossed a line and endangered the life of my child and unborn grandchild…I just can’t anymore.)

      • Beth said:

        Did you tell them why? give them reasons and examples? try to lay out your point of view?

        Just as a guess, by the time a no-contact break is needed, it’s because further attempts at honest discussion can’t make any difference.

        In my own life, when I’ve had to walk away from toxic people or environments, it’s been essential for me to understand that nothing, nothing I say will get through the barrier of toxicity. Attempting to give further reasons and examples/points of view/etc. would only have been heard as “Here’s another collection of noises from me that you won’t hear except for the bits you can use as handles to flay me with my own hopes and dreams”.

        I don’t know if your situation parallels mine in this way — but I’m guessing it might. The time comes when protecting yourself includes not offering reasons and explanations — those offerings will be used against you, the way everything else has been.

        • Beth said:

          Argh, sorry about the messed-up italics there! Formatting glitch.

        • glomarization said:

          In fact, Beth, it actually worked for me and my parents. We had about a year off, and now we’re reconciling. In their words during that year (they sent e-mail and letters that I read but didn’t respond to), they did indicate that they hadn’t realized that what they were doing was so hurtful. I don’t know if they got themselves therapized or did some self-help or just sat and reflected on things, but we’re back on the right track now. Nobody’s been using anything against me. But everybody’s mileage will vary.

          I had already spent some time living a few thousand miles away from my parents. And our entire family is very, very small — no extended family living anywhere nearby, it’s just me and my household; my parents; and my sibling and their household, all within about a 60-mile radius. Extended family is literally in other countries. I really do think that this no-contact period “put the fear of god” into them, especially as they’re older now.

        • Jadelyn said:

          That’s how it was for me with my father. By the time I was ready to walk away, I’d spent years trying and trying and trying to explain and help him understand how toxic he was being to me, what his abusive behaviors were doing to me, and (in the last year or two of things) why I wasn’t willing to just shut up and let him walk all over me anymore the way I used to. I spent countless hours on emails, in fruitless and hurtful conversations over the course of a decade, saying the same things a hundred different ways to no avail.

          But I finally realized that if he hadn’t understood it by now, he was never going to. I’d let myself believe, because I am A Words Person, that if I could only find the exact right turn of phrase, the perfect metaphor, I could put words into some magical sequence that would open the lock of his refusal to understand. It was an ugly shock when I finally figured out that it didn’t matter what I said or how I said it, until he decided he was ready to listen and change his ways, I couldn’t make him understand. He’s not a stupid man; he’s perfectly capable, mentally, of understanding my point of view. But he doesn’t value anyone’s point of view but his own, and so it’s not possible to have a good-faith discussion about our relationship. Trying to do so was just me beating my head against a brick wall and expecting it to eventually turn into an open doorway, if only I hit it hard enough or at the right angle.

          Some people, some relationships may be salvageable if you lay out clear expectations and examples and reasons. But in some cases, it’s never going to help, and you may need to be willing to just let it go, no matter how badly you want to explain.

          • Kitty said:

            I’d let myself believe, because I am A Words Person, that if I could only find the exact right turn of phrase, the perfect metaphor, I could put words into some magical sequence that would open the lock of his refusal to understand.

            Oh wow, do I understand this sad and frustrating hope. My mother is the same.

            It actually was a real turning point for me last year reading Captain Awkward saying that the only way to make a boundary stick is to enforce it. So I decided that I would no longer try to get through to her why her actions were unhealthy and harmful, and instead just leave or hang up.

            It’s still hard though like you said, to resist the impulse to explain. I just keep telling myself that it’s wasted energy and that if she really wanted to understand or change, she would have done so after the first two decades of arguments.

        • gunesvar said:

          ‘Nothing I say will get through the barrier of toxicity. Attempting to give further reasons and examples/points of view/etc. would only have been heard as “Here’s another collection of noises from me that you won’t hear except for the bits you can use as handles to flay me with my own hopes and dreams.”‘ I’m sorry you experienced this, but it’s beautifully said. Thank you for sharing this.

      • glomarization said:

        I spent about a page and a half saying, “I need some time off, because at [precipitating event] you showed me that you can’t treat me like a grown-ass adult woman even when we’re in public and among friends and family. Here are a couple of examples of how you treat me with less respect than the barista who pulls your coffee in the morning. I’ll get back to you when I feel like it, if I ever do.”

        I read the letter again a few months later, and it was pretty damn angry. Everybody’s mileage will vary, but I think the anger in the text went a long way toward making them understand how hurt I was.

        This webpage is fascinating for ways in which mileage can vary: http://www.issendai.com/psychology/estrangement/missing-missing-reasons.html (Thanks to bostoncandy, above, for posting that website. Wow!)

      • Elenna said:

        I agree, there is little chance that reasons and examples will make a difference to her behaviour. But it might make a difference to you. IMO, if I were to write such a letter, I would probably include reasons/examples just so that later, if the brainweasels start saying things like “maybe if I just talk to them…” I can point at that letter and say “No, I explained there, I have explained enough, it’s them who are not being reasonable”. YMMV of course, do what makes you feel best.

      • I went no contact with my dad, not because he was actively abusive or controlling but because I finally got sick of him trying to pretend he some sort of patriarch when he was only ever interested in the fun bits of fathering (graduations, exhibitions, concerts, award ceremonies) and disappeared into the woodwork when there was hard stuff to deal with (between the siblings there’s been mental illness, rapes, suicide attempt, marriage breakdown, homelessness, life threatening injuries followed by long term disability, homes damaged by natural disaster, child with serious medical problems, and he did not help with ANY of it).

        My experience of trying explain the reasons for no-contact: I sent a fairly detailed email (complete with snarky comment to ask his wife if there was anything he didn’t understand – he is currently married to a child and adolescent mental health counsellor) then set up auto delete for his reply, which I was sure would be completely self-serving. I accidentally entered the email address incorrectly when I set this up and ended up with a reply anyway – and sure enough, it contained no acknowledgement of the pain he’d caused or that he could have been a better father, just “I will always be your father”. To which the silent reply was “fuck off” (followed by adjusting the email auto-delete setup).

    • Jason D said:

      I was thinking along these lines while reading CA’s amazingly awesome reply.

      This reminds me of how Dan Savage suggests ‘coming out’ to your parents (as gay, non-religious, whatever): give your parents a year to freak out about it, calmly allow them to pitch a fit and then if they haven’t gotten it out of their systems after a year, you drastically reduce contact.

      Your only real lever with overbearing/negative/etc parents is to withhold your presence.

      I hope you have an amazingly-incredible trip, LW!!

  17. Mollugh said:

    I love every part of CA’s reply, and good catch on the controlling parents part of it!

    LW, it’s hard to push back against such controlling parents, but as CA said, remember that you don’t need their permission to do what you want. I travelled abroad in college to Southwestern China, and it had such a positive impact on me in so many ways; I wouldn’t be the person I am today without that experience. You sound like you have a good head on your shoulders, and you’re doing your due diligence to realistically and safely prepare for this endeavor. If your parents can’t support you in this (because: controlling and/or anxious for your safety), it’s a reflection of them, NOT YOU.

    Keep your plans safe from your parents’ negative influence, prepare in secret, and go enjoy the world! You are so worth the beauty the world has to offer. Jedi hugs if you want them!

  18. wasabigrrl said:

    1. CA, I think this is one of the more beautifully written responses you’ve done.

    2. LW, I am so excited for you. I’m a decade older and I want you to know that it’s more than possible to have a job that involves international travel or even international relocation without losing your childhood roots. Of my high school and college friends: one is an American schoolteacher who does summer artist’s residencies abroad in Germany. He plans to retire there after his mother passes and fly back once a year to see his family (he is gay and does not plan to have children). Another friend married a man in Greece and spends six months there, six months in the US teaching at a university. A third friend is truly living his childhood dream and working as an engineer for Porsche in Berlin. He retained his American citizenship but married a German woman and has a family there. He writes frequent Facebook posts contrasting the sanity of Germany’s transit, healthcare, and labor systems to the US. My next door neighbor worked in international finance for years and lived in Japan and several parts of eastern Europe before returning to her hometown and raising a family one state away from her parents.

    No part of “I want to be an American abroad” is beyond the grasp of the average mortal. People do it all the time and the sky doesn’t fall.

    I also have a friend who went balls-to-the-wall “jobless backpacking in Europe” (at one point she was sleeping in caves on the Spanish coast with a band of Romany), as well as friends who took the (IMHO more feasible) route of teaching English in Prague and Korea. I recommend the latter above the former, but you do you.

    3. Like yourself, I was conditioned to let my parents’ fears hem me in and keep me mired in a hometown with nothing to offer. I don’t know if your parents’ actions spring from a desire to control; in my own family it wasn’t control but love and fear that kept me tethered. My mom was raised in a small town in the 50s, married young, had kids young, and relied on me a little too much for emotional support; when I mentioned that I wanted to live in England for a year or travel to Mexico, she would be so genuinely grieved that I would refrain from discussing these things to avoid hurting her more, effectively kneecapping myself. This pattern did eventually resolve, but there’s no one perfect solution.

    Good luck on your journey!

  19. Spider Hero said:

    Here offering a fist-bump of solidarity. My mother did not one but two interventions because she’d decided my chosen career “hadn’t worked out” and I should retrain as a teacher.

    I suffer from Good Daughter training so I cannot do comebacks- the second time I just yelled “NO!” And ran from the room. At least I said something.

    I also found out that my aunt and uncle were planning an intervention because they couldn’t believe I made enough money and had to be secretly sponging off my poor mother. My family needs to learn how to chat.

    Anyway all that intervening did damage our relationship- but was a wake up call to me to separate out and stop asking for permission to live my life my way. I am so grateful to the Cap and commentariat for that.

    I highly recommend reducing what you talk about and presenting stuff once it’s irreversible. It’s also OK to start gently when you’re going against your training, and just make noises or vague acknowledgements.

    A year after that intervention I developed health problems but was able to weather them thanks to my job choice. I would have lost a teaching job. I…may have mentioned this to my mother… 🙂

    Go on your trip, live your life and make sure, whatever happens, even mishaps, that you own it and enjoy it. They can choose how they live their lives, but this is *your* one precious life.

    Now I want to take a trip too!

    • 5 Leaf Clover said:

      I love your story about yelling “NO!” and running from the room. In some deep-down way that is the heart of all good responses.

      • Spider Hero said:

        It sort of bubbled up from some primal place. Definitely a good/bad moment of change.

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        yes! I also feel you on the “don’t do comebacks” due to Good daughter training thing. This is likely the best I could muster too if I ever get confronted again by her.

  20. policychick said:

    Echoing everything the Captain said, as I have lived this all myself. The traveling, the unsupportive parents who still think they ‘allow’ you to do things…. Yeah. I mean, I’m 52. I’ve been to about 20 countries and lived in three countries outside the states, moved countless times, etc. No one tells me what I can and cannot do.

    Recognizing what they can and cannot give you is critical to managing your expectations and what you choose to tell them. I realized fairly early on that it just gets me no where to tell them plans beforehand. They weren’t excited, they didn’t want to hear my excitement…they added absolutely zero to My Happy Life Party. So I finally stopped inviting them.

    Sounds like you are doing a good job of planning your trip. Also remember, since you are going solo you can do pretty much whatever you want. So if it looks like you are running low on money (for whatever reason) you could A) stay in that country for a while and wait tables, or B) if you are tired of being on the road, wind it up early and head stateside. I broke my ankle in Morocco so I had to cut short that trip by about a month, but I was getting tired as well…

    Anyway – you are on the right path. Look up LonelyPlanet.com, and I think their member forum pages is called The Thorn Tree. You can get a lot of recs there. I think it is arranged by continent. You do you and follow your own compass! You have to go out to see the world – it isn’t going to come here to you.

    Good luck!

  21. Alison said:

    My grandmother could be your parents. And while I believe her love and worry for her kids and grandkids are real, they are also part of a toxic stew of codependence and fear that have kept at least one of my aunts trapped and afraid. My grandmother convinced her: (a) to marry a man she really should not have married because he was local and from our ethnic/cultural background and therefore “safe”; (b) that she should live at home during college because WHO KNOWS WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN IN THE DORMS (There’s nothing wrong with living at home, but this decision was 100% driven by fear); (c) not to move to Florida for a great job opportunity because it was “too dangerous”; (d) not to get married a second time to a man whom she loved because he “might be a child molester” (…seriously). My grandmother has told me not to walk places (I could get mugged); not to take a taxi (the taxi driver could be a criminal) and not to take the subway (GANGS! DRUGDEALERS!). She would lock us all in her house in if given the chance.

    My mom is one of the ones who got away and she does exactly what the Captain recommends: she tells my grandmother things after the decision has already been made and as if there is no debate. “Hi Mom, here’s where I’m going to college.” “Hi Mom, meet my new fiancé.” “Hi Mom – so Husband and Kids and I are moving to England for a few years, isn’t that exciting?” “Great news! Alison is moving to Ghana for a year to volunteer.”

    Finally: GO. This is super exciting! You’re going to see and do so much. And, yes, sometimes it will be hard, but you will survive and gain so much by taking the risk. And, honestly, you’ll make your relationship with your parents so much healthier by setting the boundary and learning that their fear doesn’t need to control you. Have an incredible time!

    • Cor! said:

      Count me into the “only telling stuff when it’s already been decided” croud. People, even family, loose the right to that sort of confidence when the interactions become riddled with negativity and self-serving bull, whether they mean it or not.
      Advice shouldn’t serve the adviser’s ego or needs, advice is GIVEN so that the advised can make the best of THEIR own choices.

    • Buni said:

      I can’t remember where I read this – if anyone recognises it, hook me up with a citation – but the saying that sprang to my mind goes smth like:

      “If you keep your children in so nothing will ever happen to them, then….nothing will ever happen to them.”

      You will undoubtedly have experiences, but experiences are subjective – one person’s worst nightmare is another person’s hilarious drunken story. Nobody else gets to decide that your experiences will be ‘bad’.

      GOOOOOOOO! And look us up if you pass through London.

      • morticia said:

        Was it Finding Nemo?

        • Buni said:

          Ha! I wouldn’t be surprised. But no, I’ve had it in my head longer than that. I’m sure it’s a common enough expression paraphrased the world over. And cliches are cliches for a reason…

  22. Chechina said:

    What a fabulous thing to do, LW! Please dont let your parents be the voice in your head. I dont think you need scripts for your parents besides, “Yeah, its already been decided. Hows Aunt Bertha doing lately?”

  23. mokoroko said:

    My parents are doomsayer types when it comes to these sorts of adventures, too. They’re both highly practical and it has served them well in their lives. I’ve inherited a lot of that from them and have had to consciously fight against it when it has not served me quite so well. My older brother, magically, inherited none of that, and/or grew his spirit in opposition to that, and has had a lifetime of adventures and traveling. He’s also had some misadventures, but he survived them all and learned from them and kept traveling. He’s in his early thirties now and my parents are finally backing off a bit in how much they worry/ask him for details/offer their concerns/sternly warn him of their concerns. So maybe your parents will start to learn that you have your level of acceptable risk, it is different from theirs, and that’s okay. But I think you have to show them that, not just say it, and that means going on your trip.

    One of the most common refrains from my parents to my brother was about money. How are you going to afford this? You’re just going to quit your job? What about health insurance? What will you do when you come back? I hope you don’t think we’re going to bankroll this. Etc etc etc. They even got me asking him those things on their behalf. His response was to shrug and say he’d figure it out, and as unsatisfying as that was at the time, he always did. He’d work as long as necessary to save up what he needed for a trip, go on that trip, come back completely broke, and start the cycle over again. He had a community of friends who lived similarly and they’d put each other up on couches during the I’m-back-and-need-a-job-and-have-no-money times. LW, the best way you can start to build that community for yourself, if it interests you, is to start having these adventures, because that will allow you to meet those like-minded types of people.

    • Sounds familiar – my mother spent 30+ years telling me “We’re not paying for X thing you want to do!” “Oh you think you’re doing that do you? Well I hope you don’t think we’re giving you a penny towards it!” “You want WHAT? We can’t afford to help with that, you know!” When I bought a house with my husband (we are in London and house prices are utterly, utterly ridiculous) she sulked, bitched and moaned for ages when my dad gave us a few grand from HIS retirement package to help with the hefty deposit we had to pay. She made snide remarks every time we saw her until my dad pointed out that 1) his own parents had given them the same amount when they bought their own house, which was a LOT more money in those days, and 2) when they bought property, the price of a house was about equivalent to a years salary, rather than ten times as much as it seems to be now. She pressured me all my life to get married because she did so I had to, then when we got engaged she spent the entire engagement reminding us that we weren’t getting a penny from them.

      When she found out that we earned between us over twice what she and my dad did, she switched from “we’re not giving you any money” to “Oh it’s all right for some, I wish I had that much money, it would be nice to be able to afford all the nice things you can” (which actually she can now they’re retired and have a good pension).

      • CarpeFelis said:

        Oy, the pursestrings… My mother was one of those authoritarian follower personalities the issendai site talks about, and had huge money hangups in addition to being positively ADDICTED to Catholicism. I’ll never forget when I came home from my freshman year of college and told her I wasn’t going to church anymore. She actually threatened to pull my tuition because “that school is turning you into a little pagan”. She only backed off after I spilled about how the confessional had always terrified me. I dreaded it almost as much as the dentist. She was very old school Catholic and forced me to go to both Mass and confession every. single. damn. week. because missing it would be a Mortal Sin. “Forced” being the operative word – she was the most controlling person I’ve ever met in my life, and never could manage the subtlety to let me think anything was ever my own idea. And any accomplishment of mine, she’d take the credit for because “she only did that because I pushed her”.

        Issendai also mentioned how this type of parent thinks that any money they ever spend on you or give you is really theirs. Another incident burned into my brain was the time I saved my allowance for weeks to buy a Barbie evening gown. My father (who’d rate a whole post of his own, as in “I only liked you when you were a baby”) took me to the store to buy it, and when she found out she ranted on and on about how that wasn’t what HER money was for. And here, silly me, I’d thought my allowance was… well, MINE.

        I bet she’s rolling in her grave now, because when I got my inheritance from her the first thing I did was buy a used Model S.

        • ancolie said:

          OMG, I relate to this so much. Especially this:

          She only backed off after I spilled about how the confessional had always terrified me.

          Reading that made me remember how I had a literal panic attack the day of my first Reconciliation/Confession. We were put into groups for each priest and I just got more and more terrified and nervous and I almost barfed. I was convinced that the priest would be disgusted with me and see me as the most evil, awful person he’d ever met.

          I was 9 years old.

          My school/church was a bit more hippie/liberation theology (my mom is way more traditional) and so they did face-to-face confession instead of separated. I gotta say, I WANTED THE DIVIDER.

        • Yeesh.

          My mother got a lot of fun out of telling me that any money *I* earned while a minor was legally hers and she could take it from me. She didn’t, because she knew she’d face massive condemnation, but she got a lot of fun out of threatening to steal my earnings.

          I sympathize with the “everything good you ever did is really something I made happen” thing — my sperm donor loves that one. It’s practically his whole life at times.

  24. Beth said:

    Dear Nellie Bly:

    GO GO GO YOU AWESOME WOMAN!!!!!

    I’ve done a small amount of traveling and a fair number of cool things so far in life, and let several very precious dreams go because I let myself get put off. Guess which ones I regret? (I’ve added most of them back onto my list, with a few changes due to being in my 50s instead of my teens.)

    GO CONQUER THE WORLD!!

    • Saturnalia said:

      Yes!! I only regret the adventures I didn’t have! (Mental health reasons in my case rather than parents reasons, but the feeling must be similar)

  25. Maiasaura said:

    Go. Go! GO!!! Go to a travel clinic, get all the vaccinations (and long-term contraception if heterosexual intercourse might be on your menu) and then GO! It’s going to be so much better than you can even imagine, I bet.

    When I was 22, my partner and I moved abroad to teach English,* saved up our money for a year, and then travelled for another half a year. It was one of the best experiences of my life and it has informed every day of my life/career, in a good way, ever since.

    It’s entirely possible that you’ll have the type of child and relationship where traveling will be fun and easy. Or, like me, you might end up with wonderful, amazing, special needs kids who don’t do well without routines and familiar surroundings, and you’ll be so grateful that you have those memories to sustain you until your kid(s) are old enough to enjoy travel or independent enough to stay behind.

    The one thing I can *guarantee* is that whatever anxiety and controlling hysteria your parents harbor about you traveling is going to be significantly amplified when you have a baby.

    Bon voyage!

    *It might not be a terrible idea to look into internships/English teaching while abroad; it’s great experience, can provide some stability while you’re still adventuring, and will probably help with your job search when you get back.

    • Maiasaura said:

      Forgot to add this: Bad things did happen on the trip. They’ll happen to you, too. But you can and will cope with them.

      My partner got severe food poisoning and was hospitalized in a developing country. He got great treatment and recovered. My walk from the fancy, modern facility where foreigners and VIPs got care, through the everyone-else part of the hospital where there were crowds and bloody bandages on the floor, planted a seed of anger at the disparity that led to my current career.

      You’ll also see horrors. We saw (from a distance) what I am certain was child sex trafficking. We spent time in a recently post-genocide society where lots of people were still enduring extreme hardship. I saw human suffering in places so bad that I don’t want to talk about it for fear of exploiting it for an internet comment. I had terrible reverse culture shock, anxiety, and guilt when we returned home. I got therapy and have been lucky/privileged to grow a career where I can help make the world a better, healthier place.

      You may not be inspired to be a professional do-gooder, but you’ll probably return with a heightened sense of responsilibity for the welfare of other people. That can be scary but it will make you a better, wiser person.

      • sam said:

        So much this. My brother went from a relatively itinerant, traveling around the world on a REALLY shoestring budget, working at places like ski resorts in order to travel type of guy, to joining the peace corps, where he ended up teaching, which led to getting a MA in education, which led to getting a second MA in international development, which led to getting a series of NGO jobs in (1) Afghanistan (2) Beirut and (3) Amman (where he is now) designing and implementing educational programs for displaced and refugee children.

        • Mami 21 said:

          Wow. That is extra awesome, you must be very proud of him. (As I’m sure he is of you!)

  26. CoffeegirlKarin said:

    Dear LW, I did this. At 30, I quit my well-paying job, gave up my apartment, put everything in storage, saved a bunch of money, got a working holiday visa, and went to New Zealand for a year (well, 10 months plus 6 weeks of backpacking through Australia).

    It was one of the best decisions I have ever made – if fact, when I got back from New Zealand I had such a yearning to leave again that (at 33) I went on a working holiday year to Canada (while I was there I also travelled to the States, NZ, and on the way back home to Germany had a two week stopover in Ireland).

    Was it all sunshine and roses? No, but then again – nothing is. But overall it was a great experience and I got to know more about myself. It was interesting to see how I would react and it was scary, but good to step WAY out of my comfort zone (before my travels to NZ I had never stayed in a hostel dorm, for example).

    When I was in the process of deciding to do my first working holiday year, I only told two choice friends – people I could trust to keep a secret, to encourage me, and who I could vent to and with whom I could discuss the pros and cons. But most of it I debated on my own, but spent a long time on the internet, reading through travel sites and blogs.
    I have a good relationship to my family, but I told them when I had actually made the decision and started finalising everything (getting the visa, quitting my job, etc.). I knew that they would be supportive, but wouldn’t fully understand and would try to talk me out of it (“What about your safety?”, “Won’t you be lonely?”, “What about money?”, “What if you get sick?”, “Don’t you want to settle down?”). I answered their questions once and after that I shut it down, either with non-committal answers or with a terse “I’m old enough and I’ve thought everything through” + change of subject. My mantra was RuPaul’s saying of “If they aren’t paying your bills, pay them no mind”. You are old enough, LW, and it seems like you are responsible and can be trusted to make sound decisions – and even if you make bad decisions, that’s fine! That’s all part of being self-sufficient and growing.

    Please follow the captain’s great advice and keep preparing your trip – it will be amazing! I’m rooting for you, LW!

  27. Three (3) things:
    1. Good luck on your trip! That sounds like a super awesome, once-in-a-lifetime experience, and you’re clearly very prepared. You’re going to see so many new places and so many beautiful things! You’re going to meet interesting people and do fun activities! You’re going to learn and grow and become even MORE awesome! I’m super excited for you!

    2. Your parents aren’t. That sucks. You’re doing a cool thing and they’re treating it like you told them you wanted to go to the moon on a hang glider.

    3. You’re an adult. You can do pretty much anything you want. (Legality and morality aside, of course.) Your parents don’t have to approve. It would be awesome if they did! But even if they don’t, they can’t actually stop you. You can survive parental disapproval. Send them a postcard from a couple of the stops along your route and wait for them to adjust. If they don’t, then they definitely should when you come back from your trip in one piece. If not, *then* you can deal with it. Maybe try “My travel plans are not up for discussion” in front of the mirror a few times, so you can pull it out if they won’t cut it out.

    TL;DR: 1. You’re awesome and ur plans are awesome. 2. Your parents are being butts. 3. You have autonomy and can make ur own decisions.

  28. Cora said:

    Re: the trip, follow everyone’s advice and go for it.

    Re: the other stuff, God, do I feel you. I was very young when my older sister died of cancer, and thus I grew up being The Good Daughter, which meant always doing what my mother wanted me to do, even though she was kind of disorganized and I knew I could do things better than her for myself. Dad was mute. Here is what I know: it’s very easy to say/hear, “just go your own way” but really, really hard to do. I get it.

    In your letters, you go on and on about the details of how responsible you are — and you are! But they will never see that. I’m sorry. That’s harsh, but true.

    It’s also weirdly freeing. Once I realized that my parents would always see me as irresponsible and needing direction, no matter what I did, I totally gave up trying. Basically, the Rock of Gibraltar suddenly fell off my shoulders. I was forty.

    Please go on the trip, and say nothing further to the parents other than the smiling, “I can handle it.” It might have consequences. I have a nasty falling out with my mom that lasted five years, and our relationship will never be the same. But that’s what it took to get her to treat me like an adult.

    You are a responsible, kind, adventurous human being who knows what she wants. People will disapprove, and that can hurt. You can handle it.

    • d305 said:

      Oh gosh yes all of this. I am in a very similar position and am currently estranged from my dad and his entire extended family, in which I never talk to any of them but my dad guilt trips me via my mom (they are divorced but friendly) around holidays. I have seen absolutely no indication that his views have changed (and the last multipage letter he sent told me as much, in which he basically said “I’m too old to change so you have to”), so I’m not inclined to go back to The Face of Disappointment and Betrayal every time I say I want to do a thing. My dad told me when I was 28 that he’d never trusted me, and I had spent the first 18 years of my life being Optimal Kid who yes had a messy room but otherwise never did drugs, never partied, got good grades, was a shining star in the church community, never argued with parents, etc etc etc (and the worst I ever did AFTER 18 was like, not finish college due to mental health issues and inability to pick a major, and I DID eventually finish it around the time I turned 30).

      So I figure, if that’s true that he never trusted me, it’s because he got some sort of idea in his head when I was 3 of generally what a superstar I’d be, and since I didn’t do that, I am an impertinent child, or something. How dare I go to New Zealand, instead of visiting family members I don’t like. How dare I even go on vacation anywhere instead of visiting family. How dare I move to a different part of the country. He would never do any of that. That’s not how he raised me. Iiii dooooon’t caaaaaaare (also it’s not true because my mom did 90% of the raising while he lay on the couch acting like he resented all of us for existing)

      The last time I saw him, it was in the middle of seeing a therapist because of him (had to stop because she was no longer going to accept my insurance, but we were wrapping it up anyway), and I didn’t INTEND to see him but my brother “helpfully” brought him along on a visit in hopes of reconciling. And my dad pressured me into taking a walk alone with him, in which I don’t remember much of what was said, other than he said “As your dad, it is my right to tell you when you do things I don’t agree with” and I said “And it is my right to ignore you when you do” and then he gave me The Face again and then said we were making headway and should make another loop around the block. I noped out and my therapist told me I did the right thing.

      (And man it’s hard to find info on estrangement on the internet for people who weren’t actively abused, just plain don’t like their parent(s))

      So gosh yes, PLEASE go on your around the world trip if you have the time and money and drive to do it. Do it and be happy and enjoy the shit out of it, because you are a grownup and grownups can make their own decisions. God I wish I had the means.

      • Halpful said:

        Emotional abuse is still abuse, and intent is not strictly required. (but yeah, it is awkward being in that in-between zone where they weren’t completely awful… r/raisedbynarcissists was supportive about that when I was there)

      • whingedrinking said:

        My mother likes to bemoan the agony of my teen years, in which I dyed my hair purple, wore baggy clothes, had some weird friends, and listened to punk rock…and didn’t drink, do drugs, have sex, fail any classes or even get anything pierced, while also doing theatre, getting As in the classes that were important (ie not gym), and getting accepted to my first choice of university. Yup.

        • Cora said:

          For real. I’m pretty sure that the moms who do this were perversely looking forward to our teenage years such that they could play the victim (the favorite sport), and then we went and behaved ourselves and ruined it.

        • What on earth is it with parents being upset by teens in baggy clothes? I’ve never understood that.

          Punk fashion, as far as I could tell when I was a teen, consisted of, “Watch how adults utterly freak out over extremely modest and harmless clothing choices.”

          It got quite entertaining. As far as I could tell, the dominant pattern of adult reaction seemed to be, “I don’t understand your clothing choices, therefore I assume they must MEAN SOMETHING, and since I don’t know what that meaning is, I’m convinced you’re doing something bad and evil and wrong”.

          When the reality is something like, “I’m wearing a lot of fabric because sunburn hurts, ” or, “My friend gave me this bandanna and it means a lot to me so I tied it to some part of my person.”

  29. slfisher said:

    Jesus, you’re 32. Go!

  30. Resources for traveling!

    If you are on social media, join the Buy Nothing Traveler’s Network on Facebook. This group is an offshoot of the greater Buy Nothing Project, which strives to connect people and help reduce, reuse, recycle. This is a group you can just ask: “Hey, I’m going to x place, does anyone have a washer and dryer I might use to do laundry? Or a spare room to crash in? Or recommendations for what to do in x city?” It is about connecting and helping your fellow human being, and people are often overjoyed to share their city/place with you.

    gocurrycracker is a blog about a small family traveling the world.

    Personally, I have had two friends in the last few years do the big world travel. They packed light. They hung out with people they met online, crashed with family, family friends, and friends of friends. They weren’t shy about asking for help–this may not be your thing, but it’s an reminder of how insular we sometimes get.

    You will do this amazing thing, and your life will change in fantastic ways, and we will all want to see a postcard.

  31. Saira Ali said:

    This is so so so true “Your parents have shown you they have a pattern of trying to keep you “in your place,” whatever that means to them, in this case literally. Their “worry” and “concern” for you is about control, is about them getting to define what your life is like”

    LW, I too had controlling parents. It started from when I was young “Oh you don’t like the red crayon, you like the green one more!” and escalated slowly and surely. I remember one family vacation we got breakfast in a diner and I ordered a fried egg, and my parents overruled me. “Oh she didn’t mean fried egg. She meant sunny-side up. Sweetie, you know you don’t like fried eggs.” They forbade me to go to a 4 week camp (training for my very nerdy extracurricular activity, sort of like band-camp but nerdier) when I was in high school. When I got my first summer job at 16, I wasn’t allowed to get a ride home from a coworker because “the neighbors might think you’re having sex with him.” No study abroad my sophomore year of high school. No pursuing a pure sciences major like I wanted because “you know you’ll never survive in academia and you’ll starve with just a BSc in physics.”

    Eventually I snapped, LW, and got a job in Japan, and didn’t tell my parents. I just up and left, didn’t give them my address or phone number. The only concession I made was when I was in the airport already through security I called and told them what country I was going to. I lived in Japan for a year and it was the best goddamn year of my life.

    Not gonna lie to you LW, it was haaaard. I felt incredibly guilty. More than once I wanted to cave and call my parents and get their approval for the awesome robotics internship I’d landed and their excitement over the awesome learning and growing experience I was having. But I had to sit on my hands and not pick up the phone, because I knew they’d do everything in their power to bully me into coming home.

    And, again, not going to lie to you, my year away didn’t fix the dynamic. My parents learned n o t h i n g from it. A few years later, I was married, and pregnant with a very much wanted and planned for fetus. I miscarried, and instead of being supportive, my parents decided to rip me a new one because I chose a different medical option for handling the miscarriage and aftercare different than they would have. I went to grad school, and my parents told me I was stupid for my choice of thesis topics and tried to talk me out of it.

    At this point, I totally do what the captain referred to in the letter as sullen teenager mode. It suuuuucks. It hurts every time I redirect or deflect or lie by omission. But it doesn’t hurt as much as having my parents shit on me and my choices constantly.

    This was a very grim comment. I’m sorry for that. I really hope you get a happier ending than I did. But even if you don’t, this is your roadmap to freedom, which feels a lot better than the cage your parents want to keep you in.

    • Tea Rocket said:

      I’m sorry you had to go through that and I’m glad that you’re free of your controlling parents (and got to have an awesome year in Japan without their carping).

      This line: “I went to grad school, and my parents told me I was stupid for my choice of thesis topics and tried to talk me out of it,” made me do a double-take. Like, unless your parents are themselves experts in whatever field you were in grad school for, they have no fucking clue what what is and is not a good thesis topic (and honestly, even then, experts have different ideas about what constitutes a good project). I realize it wasn’t funny for you at all, but as a third party, it’s hard not to laugh at a story about people who are that unaware of their own lack of credibility.

      • Kitty said:

        Oh, controlling jerk parents think they know the best about eeeeeverything. I was once telling my mother about an issue we were having at work, in no way indicated that I wanted advice about it, and she actually started trying to tell me how to do my job. A job that she has never done. To a 32 year old adult. The mind boggles.

        • Nanani said:

          Beeeen theeere.
          Never shows the slightest curiosty or inclination to ASK about your job, yet 100% confident they know it better than you.

          F that noise

        • Yeah, my sperm donor loves that one. For a while, my field of research had a name that stumped even most people in my major profession — they’d usually respond with, “I have no idea what that means, but it sounds hard.”

          My sperm donor? I’d explained what it was. But after that, he’d continually ask me to repeat the name of my field of research, then say, “Yeah! That’s what I’ve been getting into!” Since he lacked the math and physics to even understand the basic concept of what my entire field was about, I knew that wasn’t true.

          Invariably he’d be referring to a very short, very bad and stupid and wrong, popular science book he’d read and loved. It was vaguely analogous to, “I read something that profoundly misunderstood how weather forecasts work, but it used some fancy words, so I am now an authority on your research in particle physics.”

          Narcissists gonna narc.

      • onia said:

        Ugh, I feel the thesis thing. I’m currently writing my master’s thesis, and when I told the topic to my grandmother (who by the way has NOT studied my field), her first response was “Don’t you think that’s a too narrow topic? You won’t have enough material!”, when in fact the problem I was having was that my topic was very extensive and I had to narrow it down to fit a thesis. I feel the only correct response to someone telling you what they are doing with their thesis is “Oh, sounds interesting! Please tell me more, how are you gonna tackle it?”

      • Saira Ali said:

        My father actually does have academic standing to comment on my thesis topic. My thesis topic was an interdisciplinary one, where I was getting my degree in a department for Discipline A and my father is a world-renowned expert in Discipline B. I had actually, and this is so embarrassing in hindsight, asked if he’d be willing to collaborate with me and my advisor. I don’t know why I thought it would be a good idea. I guess I had so many friends in both undergrad and grad school who did academic collaborations with siblings or parents, and it seemed so . . .IDK. Nice? Validating? Something? My father was the director of a large lab at a large well-funded state university system. I was at an R1, but it was a smallish private university and we didn’t have a huge lab in Discipline B, although we had a great deal of expertise and theorists in Discipline A. His reply was basically “this project can’t be done and even if it could be, you and your advisor are too stupid to figure out how.” It was devastating, and pretty much the final nail in the coffin of our relationship.

        • Cora said:

          Oh holy hell, Saira, I’m sorry. It’s one thing when a parent vomits all over your personal choices, but on the professional side… Jesus, I don’t blame you for cutting him off. What an arrogant person.

        • Tea Rocket said:

          Oh wow. I am so sorry to reopen that wound. Your story reminds me of one about Gauss, who actively discouraged his sons from becoming mathematicians because he didn’t think they would amount to anything and would thus tarnish his legacy. I can’t imagine what the world looks like to people who prize their careers (which are already very successful and it would cost them nothing to be kind) over their interpersonal relationships.

          • Saira Ali said:

            I didn’t know that about Gauss. How upsetting 😦

            And yeah, the prizing careers over people. I don’t get it at all.

    • Friday said:

      As someone who went through a miscarriage after planning, yearning and dreaming for a baby, I cannot imagine how I would react to this. Possibly by not talking to them for years. As I told my dad once, you really need to understand when the situation is not about you and treat the person you love with kindness, like you would do for a total stranger. Followed by hanging up and radio silence for a year (that was not after the miscarriage thankfully. Another heartbreaking situation years before). It hasn’t make him any less selfish. But it has made him think twice when these situations arise with me. (Unfortunately my brother and sister still get the full treatment as they depend on him financially).
      LW, if you don’t depend on your parents to do the trip, do it. They will get used to your new you. In my case, they made my achievements to be theirs, even though they trief to block every opportunity I had to move away for them. And if they don’t, you cannot live your life by someone else’s control. Again, letting them do that will not make them any happier with you.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      Wow. Your parents… I’m so sorry you have to deal with this.
      You are obviously an awesome intelligent talented person and they are missing out on all of it.
      Jedi hugs, if acceptable.

  32. MrsLokiofAsgard said:

    LW, my husband has parents similar to yours and he’s done exactly as CA has advised. Several years ago we decided to move to a warmer climate “just ’cause” and he decided to stay radio silent on the decision when it came to his parents. For a year we saved and planned and he didn’t say a word: not in person, not to family, not online…nothing! Literally 4 days before we packed the u-haul he broke it to them. His mom started telling him it wasn’t too late to change our minds and back out of the move. He just rolled his eyes and told her that this was the reason he hadn’t told them. We moved four days later. 🙂 Follow your dream LW and if you can’t keep the naysayers quiet, don’t include them in your plans! 🙂 Have a fantastic journey!!!

  33. Rhoda said:

    This was me in my 20s. If I went anywhere, my mother would get the vapours and frantically urge me to “Call me every single day so that I know you’re still alive!!!” I managed to resist to some degree because she’d failed to protect me from the family pedophile when I was a kid, but it was hard. I wish now that I’d been braver and pushed past that constant drip of family pressure to settle down and play it safe.
    Are there any daytime clubs or groups you could join to meet other women? Hiking clubs, that sort of thing? Even a gym would offer the potential for female friends, maybe even some travelling companions.
    Just go. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

  34. Tree said:

    Captain, that story with your grandmother totally made me tear up. Love it!

    LW, I haven’t been around the world, but I feel you. I have a bit of the wanderlust in me (inherited from my paternal grandfather) but my mom is a definite stay-at-home type you practically have to drag on vacations, and she never wants to go far. (Possibly inherited from her mom). While my parents are not nearly as controlling as yours, I got to adulthood without a lot of friends and still leaning on them a bit.

    When I turned thirty, I went to San Francisco (across the country) on my own. I had a similar thought process. I realized that I was an adult with a job and I was capable of going on vacation alone. I’d always wanted to visit California. And it occurred to me that, at 30, there was no need to wait for my parents to okay it. A year or two later I drove myself to Missouri to visit a friend I met online. It was the most wonderful, liberating thing ever.

    LW, you do what you have to to take this trip. You will never regret it. ❤️

  35. Panda said:

    Dear LW, about the worry of getting a job when you get back- I have a couple of friends who are traveler type people and turns out employers are *just as impressed* as the rest of us by worldly people with worldly experience. One of my friends got a job after her return from abroad based solely on the fact that she had been somewhere and done something.

    • CoffeegirlKarin said:

      That’s how it was for me when I got back from my world trips, too. You will get the “how do I know you’re not going to leave to travel around the world again” type comments, but ultimately it’s a bonus.

    • Nanani said:

      This 100%

      Also in the modern economy, having a job lined up a full year in advance is such an unlikely thing that it might as well be the new “spin straw into gold by sunrise”

      • Seriously! I work in an extremely in-demand field; anyone with my qualifications can snap a finger and get a new job whenever… But even under these conditions, I told my prospective employer I’d start a year after they hired me, they’d laugh me out of the state!

  36. Bess Marvin said:

    Definitely go on your trip, LW! Think of it as great practice for weathering your parents’ reactions as you approach parenthood.

    If they think you can’t live your OWN life adequately without their guidance, they’ll definitely have fits when that time comes. :/

    But this life-changing adventure will prepare you for that! You’ll learn you’re able to handle anything — perhaps most of all, uncertainty.

    And hopefully it will also prepare your parents for New You, who will take or leave their parenting advice/exhortations/interventions as you see fit.

  37. Sarah said:

    Goooo!!!!!!!! Pretty much everyone I know who has done one of these extended travel-around-the-world type of things has loved it and really valued the experience. Obviously it’s a know yourself kind of thing (I barely tolerate very planned, expensive travel with other people, and this sort of solo, low-budget, let’s see where the wind leads me sort of thing would set off ALL my anxiety issues!) but for those who know in their heart it’s the right thing, I really think it can be an amazing and life-changing thing. As someone above mentioned, you might also look into teaching English, internships, working on farms, etc. — I don’t know a ton about these programs, but several of my friends who have done these trips have incorporated some of those things to stretch their time/budget and also just meet people.

    Also — you obviously don’t need to plan all this out now, but I would do some thinking about where you might want to land when you return to the States. There are lots of U.S. cities that have good public transit, art, single people, etc. etc. I don’t think this is a substitute for your trip — and I’m not saying any of these cities are identical to Berlin or travelling in general — but it seems like there are lots of U.S. locations where you could look for work when you return rather than going back to the town where your parents live. I have a good relationship with my parents, but I still would probably feel like you do — trapped, bored, stagnant, etc. — if I moved to where they live (a small, rural town without much going on). Although I do sometimes envy friends who are able to rely on free babysitting or stop by their parents for dinner every Sunday, ultimately I’m much happier that I chose to move to a city I LOVE that fits my personality way better.

  38. Diane said:

    I just want to say that I /despise/ the practice of parents using “I just love you so much and worry about you” as a mask or excuse for boundary-crossing.

    What they should be saying is, “I’m sorry for crossing these boundaries. I love you so much and worry about you, and sometimes this clouds my judgement. It’s not okay, though, and I’m working on reining that in when we interact.” Anything less is highly inappropriate and can hit abuse levels very easily.

    It’s funny, but I never realized until now just how similar this is to the trope of an abusive boyfriend saying “I do [abusive act] because I love you so much,” but it’s totally the same! Our society just legitimizes boundary crossing in parent-child relationships so much that it’s that much harder to see.

    /rant

    • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

      My kids are still fairly young (middle school) but what I say is “I have my own issues that compel me to say things like ‘I worry’ or ‘be safe’. It doesn’t mean I don’t have faith in you or that I think things are going to badly. I know you can do anything you put your mind to and I want you to live your life, but I’m going to need you to call me and give me all the details once it’s over so I know you’re home and safe!”

      My daughter rolls her eyes and says “Moooo-oooom” but she goes and does her thing and checks in with me after it’s over and gives me all the details. My son isn’t quite as adventurous as his sister…yet…but I get the feeling that his reaction will be similar when it happens. It’s actually a cool feeling to know that my kids, at this age, already have these amazing experiences and stories that don’t include me that they are willing to share with me. 🙂

      • ThatGirl said:

        On a much, much smaller scale it’s like my mom, when I was young, saying things to me like “you look cold, put on a sweater” when what she really means is that SHE was cold or thought I should be or whatever. Thankfully she realizes the silliness of it.

        • Heh, mine does exactly the same thing. I’m in my mid thirties and she still thinks only she can judge whether I’ll be too cold. I’d be about to leave her house after a visit and she’d be like “Don’t be RIDICULOUS, you can’t go like that, you’ll freeze!” I’d tell her I was fine and she would literally grab my arm or clothes to stop me leaving, as if that would make a jacket magically materialise. Lady, I don’t live here, we are completely different sizes and there is NOT a jacket here I can wear so what do you want me to do? Also, unlike her, I am one of those people who are always too warm. But unlike your mother, she doesn’t see how silly she is being because she cannot see me as anything other than an extension of herself.

  39. IsayIsay said:

    My mom was worried when I wanted to become an Avon rep. As a side gig. She thought this was a terrible idea. I believed her. I believed that I probably couldn’t handle it.

    Fast forward 10 years I somehow built a wonderful business (not with the Avon – that actually never really panned out – lol). But it’s a real business that pays all the bills and is quite impressive.

    When I got a new piece of equipment I proudly showed it off and she said, “oh . . . I thought it would be . . . bigger.”

    When I told her I hired a collage gal to help me she said, “oh, that’s nice. But you know what’s going to happen? She’s going to learn from you and then steal your business.” (not true – she was a darling girl and is now happily working her dream job in a fun city miles and miles away)

    Each time I had a success I would think, “Yes, I’m so excited.” But each time, they’d say something, not quite mean but something, that would take me down a notch.

    I never considered my parents to be controlling. “hard to please”, “difficult”, “kill joy” all come to mind. I’ve since learned is that their love, their money, their whatever, is all about control. Their quiet, safe life worked out for them. It’s not possible for them to consider that there are other paths (even a path that involves Avon for crying out loud). It was too hard for them to watch me try and fail. It was probably harder to watch me succeed. Better to do what they did and be safe.

    At 40-something years of age I’ve got more regrets than I care to count. Failed relationships that seemed “safe” but required me to be someone I wasn’t. Jobs that didn’t suit me. I didn’t have a crazy and carefree youth. It took me 8 years to earn an associates degree at a community college. I struggle DAILY in my business because when you listen to your parents your whole life you find yourself obeying all your clients and that is a recipe for disaster.

    Sure, I’ve made strides and my confidence is there. I’ve benefitted greatly from therapy and I continue to learn. But a lifetime of control – even if it’s loving control – is hard to overcome. Things like starting a family, redecorating a home, planning a vacation are not things that I’m currently able to carry out. I spend a lot of time feeling guilty and wondering if certain decisions are “smart” or “stupid”.

    My point – LW, you HAVE to do this. Give yourself this gift of travel. The gift of freedom. Use this as an amazing measuring stick of how you plan to live the rest of your life.

    This post, and especially CA’s advice has hit hard today. I can’t go back and relive my past but reading all this gives me a renewed motivation to fail, to try and fall, to do anything that speaks to me in the confident knowledge that I’m in control.

    • JenniferP said:

      My mom told me I’m “not patient enough to ever be a teacher.”

      Your parents aren’t always right, is the lesson.

      • Dr Martha said:

        My stepfather told me I didn’t have good enough people skills to be a doctor. The night before my interview for medical school.

        The “well, fuck you, just watch me” response is a legit response when parents pull this sort of shit.

      • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

        My mom tried to push me into being a school teacher because “you’re so good with kids”.

        Um…no. I’m not. I don’t like kids. Not counting my own two kids I can count on one hand the children I actually enjoy spending time with…and still have fingers left!

      • My sperm donor has always insisted that women don’t have the parts of the brain that allow men to understand higher mathematics.

        I have a PhD in electrical engineering.

        I think he thought he could convince me if he tried hard enough starting when I was young enough, but he left it too late, because by the time I was six I knew that I could count better than he could.

    • Nanani said:

      My mom’s reflexive response to anything my sister and I like or are interested in is also to shit on it.
      Some people are just full of shit that way.

    • So much this. That really subtle, not anything that sounds bad when you repeat it elsewhere bullshit, SO hard to scrape from your psyche.

    • CMart said:

      Oh my.

      I know this was absolutely not the point of your comment, but this: “Their quiet, safe life worked out for them. It’s not possible for them to consider that there are other paths (even a path that involves Avon for crying out loud). It was too hard for them to watch me try and fail” just hit me right in my center.

      I am a parent who lives (and loves) my quiet, safe life. It’s not impossible for me to consider that other paths exist, of course (look where I’m commenting right now!), but it’s definitely hard for me to understand the desire for risk taking and adventure. I know it’s going to be very hard for me to watch my daughter try and fail.

      Thank you for reminding me that just because I’m afraid of the unknown, it’s not my place to shield or discourage my child(ren) from it. I should be proud if I manage to raise a young woman half as bold as the LW. She’s only seven months old right now, so we have a lot of time to learn about the world together.

      • One of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me was letting me go out and do dangerous exciting things and keeping their mouths shut until I was out of earshot. It will be such a blessing if you can give your daughter your faith in her ability to struggle.

        • Iolanthe95 said:

          This truly is a gift of love. I wish all parents understood that. I use a wheelchair. The first time I had to make it some distance in a thunderstorm, my Mom was all “You’ll be fine. I got you this poncho to take. Call me when you get there. ” When I did call her, she said, “Thank God! I was terrified, but now we both know you can do that.” She’s passed on now, and this is one of the many reasons I miss her every day.

        • Bagpuss said:

          YES! so much this.

          My parents were very good at this.(and at hiding their own anxieties)

          I took a trip to Paris with my parents to celebrate my 40th birthday, and when we were there, got talking about a visit I made to stay with a French pen-pal, when I was 17, which involved me travelling alone, including crossing both London and Paris. I made some comment about how I’d not told them about the indent where I encountered a flasher on the metro, resulting in me getting utterly, hopelessly lost (because I just ran for the closest train without knowing where it was going), because I didn’t want to worry them, and my mother replied “I’m glad you didin’t, even without knowing, I didn’t sleep for 2 days from when you let our house, until we heard you were at [penpal’s] house anyway, as I was so stressed about you travelling alone.”

          At the time, I had no idea. They were both encouraging about my plan to go on my own after the school’s exchange trip was cancelled, as as far as I knew saw me off with out a care in the world, and in full confidence that I would be absolutely fine.

          And it does reap rewards for the parent as well as the ‘child’ -all of us (I’m one of 4 siblings) are happy to share information with our parents because we know they are encouraging, not controlling.

        • Parenthetically said:

          I traveled, partly alone, in southeast Asia, as a 20-year-old naif. I didn’t find out until much later that my parents had been white-knuckling their armchairs and biting holes in their tongues to keep from saying total freakout things to me when we talked. My dad in particular was dizzy with relief when I got back safely to my east Asian uni setting, still thousands of miles away from home. It was one of the best things they have ever, ever done for me.

      • IsayIsay said:

        I’m not much of a risk taker either. I think that is a fine way to live and I’m (mostly) happy. Traveling the world is NOT my idea of fun. I like day trips and weekend getaways. Adventure to me is trying sushi. lol. I suspect you might feel the same way.

        But when you have people telling you that something as basic as selling Avon is a baaaaaad idea that will only end in defeat – well – that’s not really living is it? That isn’t someone who enjoys a boring safe life. That is someone living in fear.

        Another example – when I was just out of high school I went to the a town newspaper to see if I could freelance. They actually gave me a shot with an assignment to interview a local person with a quirky talent. I was SO excited. And proud! It was really hard for me to find the guys to just walk into an office and ask for work. But I did it and was rewarded!

        My dad was having a snack when I told them. He carefully finished chewing his mouthful and then said, “well, you aren’t going to be writing anything controversial are you? Because you don’t want to do that.” My heart plummeted. At 18 I was really, really excited to be paid to WRITE. I was already imaging a summer of interviewing. Probably I’d have a byline by the time I started classes. I mean, it was a small town paper that only published positive newsy articles – but STILL! At that point in my life it could have been The New York Times!

        He clearly wasn’t pleased and I got the impression that it would be best if I didn’t pursue this dream. I totally bungled the simple interview, wrote a few paragraphs and the woman who gave me the job ended up finishing the article.

        I don’t want to blame my parents. But sometimes I really wonder what kind of things I could have achieved it I only had support and encouragement. If I knew that I was smart, pretty, funny and talented maybe I wouldn’t have sold myself short academically. Maybe I wouldn’t have married the first guy who asked me. Maybe I wouldn’t have dated the alcoholic and spent years of my life “helping” him. Maybe I wouldn’t have avoided peers who were fun and successful. I didn’t know how to be anything but a non-special person.

        Now that I know better I can do better. And I can do anything but it’s exhausting to first have to coach yourself to do things and then to actually do them. My life is too easy to be this hard but I won’t give up. I can only hope that when I die I will be victorious!

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      All this. It made me tear up. Maybe hit too close to home. I too have issues planing vacations and redecorating homes…who cares? any option is good! I will mess everything up! repeat forever

  40. Happily Living with Cats said:

    Oh LW, I’m so sorry your parents are like this too. In college I was invited to attend an Alpha Chi honors conference in San Diego and present a paper. I told my mom, so excited, and her initial response was “you can’t do that, you’ve never been anywhere by yourself.” She insisted on going with me. I was 25 at the time.

    For my sister’s and my 30th birthday bash, I bought us tickets to the Supernatural convention next year in Vegas and photo ops with three of our favorite actors. (Total nerd here lolol). Guess who I haven’t told? Yup, my parents, because I’m sure they’ll shit all over what will be a super exciting time for us.

    I’m so happy for you planning out what sounds like it will be an amazing experience. Please don’t let anyone stop you from doing something so wonderful for yourself. You matter, and your dreams matter, no matter what allegedly well-intentioned naysayers say.

    • This sounds like it will be awesome! I hope you and your sister have an amazing time. 😀

    • SeluciaV said:

      Fellow SPN fan here and just want to give you props for your excellent choice of fandoms and to say that I hope that your Vegas trip is everything you hope for and more!

  41. Tree By Leaf said:

    Oh this sounds familiar. I also set out to travel overseas for a few years and had a LOT of push back from my family (both “interventions” and relatives drunkenly calling me in the middle of the night to go on a half hour rant as to why I was making a mistake) and no one who really understood why I would want to do this thing. Best. Decision. Of. My. Life.

    Yes, bad things happen to people out in the wider world – they happen at home too. Some places are more dangerous than others. At some point you have to do your research, figure out which risks you’re comfortable taking and then live your damn life. There’s risks to staying at home too. There’s a risk of not ever becoming the person you want to be. I think the Sheezelbub principle applies here as much as it does to a relationship: if your life was like this for another year, another 5 or 10 years, would that be ok or would that be too long? Sure, travelling the world is expensive and not everyone has the opportunity to do it, but it sounds like you’ve prepped pretty well. I certainly didn’t have that much saved up. Travelling might not solve all your issues or help you figure out where your life is going to go, but it’s pretty good at taking you out of a routine that will inevitably lead to you to becoming someone you don’t want to be. And to be clear: I’m talking as much about patterns with your parents there as any job or friend group. Travelling made me realize I was competent, taught me how to not be afraid/embarrassed to be alone or do what I wanted to. It taught me how to plan and set boundaries. If you go at it right it can help you learn languages, and in my mind that always make a person more awesome.

    So, your parents have concerns. Some of them may even be valid. Ok, and? You need to do your due diligence and then figure out what’s worth what to you. There’s always risks in life, even for staying home. One principle that helps me figure out whether my or others concerns/excuses are good ones to listen to is to ask myself, if this concern/excuse was solved would another one immediately take its place? I’d wager that if you saved up 10x this amount is still wouldn’t be enough, or then your parents would worry about you actually using and not having it. Or if you lined up a job for your return they’d start fretting about how maybe you shouldn’t risk your job and instead ask them if you can start 11 months early. People can even have valid concerns and you can still say “Yup, that is indeed a thing to be worried about. I’m doing this anyways”. Moving overseas helped reset boundaries with my parents. I did this when I was 19, and it really helped break them out of the idea (which they still very much subconsciously had) that I was a child who would listen to them because they know best (and can give me orders). Now they understand very clearly that I will listen to what they say and decide for myself regardless. They understand that I can consciously choose to not have them in my life if they’re not supportive. I’ve learned to re-frame this as: “Most people tend to give advice for other versions of themselves instead of advice for the person they’re talking to, and my parents especially tend to be good at giving advice for younger versions of themselves instead of advice for my own combination of situation/priorities”. There were a lot of dire pronouncements before I left. I was guaranteed that if I left I would be all of the following: mugged, assaulted, gotten pregnant, kidnapped by a cult, lost, and unable to write home because how would I find out how to use computers where they don’t speak English?!? And also I would never actually go to college because if you don’t go right away you never go. None of those happened (except for getting lost, which can be damn fun), and most of those could have happened at home too. Frankly, in my mind being an adult is doing your research, making up your mind about what YOU actually want (given your constraints and opportunities), and then going for it and taking your risks. Other people’s opinions are other people’s problems (except of course, for their opinions on how you treat them etc.). Take a deep breath and go for it LW. We’re all behind you.

    • Tree By Leaf said:

      One thing travelling didn’t do: teach me how to write concise, non-rambling comments. Sorry – that looked shorter in the commenting window.

    • the815 said:

      **“Most people tend to give advice for other versions of themselves instead of advice for the person they’re talking to**

      Brilliant – so true. It’s really hard not to, even with the best intentions. I try to stop myself and adjust along the way (like, okay, but they’re younger/older, I’m giving advice based on dealing with a good friend when their issue is with a co-worker and the protocol is different there, etc.).

    • Laughing so hard at the “how would I find out how to use computers where they don’t speak English?!?”

      My first time in Japan, my only computer access had all the menus and commands in Japanese. At the time I knew all of 5 words in Japanese. I got by just fine by remembering where in the menu system a command was likely to live and guessing right often enough.

  42. LA said:

    oh, LW, this speaks to me! I live in the states and I have always dreamed of getting my advanced degree and then moving to Europe to do work there after a long complicated process of getting then transferring a license (my field of work don’t transfer internationally). It was daunting, going to take a decade, but I was willing to do it. Three weeks ago, I just got back from a month long trip in Spain where it spoke to my soul and when I came back I was depressed because I just wanted to be there NOW, but I couldn’t because of student loans and needing my salary to pay those loans. I was telling my friends this, who are Spanish, they they each asked me why not get my degree there instead of waiting? And that clicked. Fast forward to now, I am researching programs, networking, and making an aggressive saving plan to pay my debt and to set me up to move in a year or two.
    I share this because having a group of people in your life that will support you in this amazing dream can be a game changer and it provided me with the strength to endure the doubts of others and, at times, myself.

    In my experience, I have found the best way to meet these types of people have been through:

    1) Couchsurfing dot com has meet ups and events that are great way to find people, online and in person, who are currently traveling/living abroad or have done so. Everyone I met through this site have been very helpful and friendly.
    2) Depending on the size of the city where you live, there might be groups for international students or professionals that have events they attend, groups, meet ups, etc . Universities or schools/centers that teach another language would know of an local meet ups happening.
    3) forums as the captain said are also amazing places to find others.

    You’ve done the research. You’re ready. You are going to have an amazing adventure and I couldn’t be happier (or more jealous 🙂 for you!!!!

    • BetterInGreen said:

      I love, love, LOVE your plan, and I hope you get to make the move soon and that it brings the greatest joy to you! What a wonderful way to live your life the way that calls to you.

  43. Clarry said:

    You can USE your parents’ anxieties. Twist them to your own purposes. Most of their anxieties serve to control you, serve to make you bow down to the Great Anxiety God that they worship. (That Great Anxiety God has an acronym of GAG was an accident, I swear.) But you can also listen just enough to see real problems and prepare for them. It actually does make sense to know how health emergencies will be handled in different countries and how to contact the embassy, what to do in case of theft or accident, etc. I’m not talking about any more than you do your home country now, but here in the U.S., I know how to call 9-1-1, and when I travel, I learn how to do the equivalent.

    • The LW is 32 years old, has internet access, and has not given us any indication that she has particular difficulty planning for things or blind spots in her life.

      She can figure out likely problems without giving the toxic stew that her parents are coughing up any space at all.

  44. Lény said:

    I wish you such a nice, nice trip, full of discoveries and first loves and adventures! It will be long enough for you to not even notice how time flies, and short enough that if and when you settle down somewhere, you *will* realise how fast time flew by. And it will also be long enough for you to remember it, and cherish those memories. I wish you such a nice, nice trip.

  45. Friendly Hipposcriff said:

    LW, careless would be to spend your last money on a plane ticket and expect to sleep on the beach, somewhere. (I know someone who used to do this. She graduated to ‘come back to Britain, work hard for a couple of months, then go back and rent a cheap apartment with friends.Worked for her. She loved her life.)

    You’re saving up a significant sum of money, which will give you a lot of options above and beyond backpackers’ hostels, but I think you need to stop worrying and just GO. (And research whether and where you’d be allowed to work abroad; because that way, you can support yourself to some degree; you’ll also meet more people and have a purpose. I’m not sure how long I could stand pure travelling; I found that after ten weeks, I was ready to stop. If I’d been able to work (I was in Australia), I would have stayed longer.)

    You’ll make bad judgement calls, you’ll have lousy experiences, but that can just as well happen at home. They’re part of life; and you sound sensible enough to mitigate the worst. You will also have a marvellous time, have a lot of new experiences, learn so much about the world and yourself, and you’ll put aside a lot of guilt over what you should have done – because you’re doing it, right now.

    Go off. Live your life. Be fabulous, and have a fabulous time. And before you leave, sell or give away what you don’t need, put the rest in storage with a moving company, and once you’re back, have them send your belongings to wherever you WANT to live. Then be fabulous there… or plan your next trip.

    • slfisher said:

      I love backpackers hostels, just saying. I did them for 3 weeks in Iceland when I was lw’s age, and for a week in New Zealand when I was 55. They’re cheap, have wifi, you always have company, and are a great source for things to do.

      • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

        I love them, but having extra money in your pocket means that you have options, and every now and again, I like a BATH, or a room to myself etc. I think there *is* a difference between backpacking on a shoestring and, let’s call it backpacking with a credit card in your pocket. There are a lot of lousy experiences that can be mitigated by having the extra money at hand, so LW will not be stuck half as badly as someone with half their savings would be. (See: bus company changing their schedule while I was in middle-of-nowhere, Australia, and suddenly the advertised bus did not arrive and the only way I could get away was by buying a train ticket. Or truly dodgy accommodation. Or…)

        Sigh. Now I want to travel, and right now, I can’t.

  46. Oh this hit me in the feels. My dad and stepmom were king and queen of this kid of conditioning. The biggest issue was when I was in high school and wanted to go to college out of state. They did everything the Captain mentions above, from “expert in why place you want to go is bad” to berating me about money. It was a powder keg that could detonate on any given night at dinner. I learned to avoid the triggers but sometimes they would trigger themselves. “I just read an article about [college you like] and why it’s a waste of money. [BLAH BLAH BLAH TAGTEAM RANT.]”

    It got really ugly, especially since my mom supported me and that dredged up some grievances from my parents’ divorce. But even as an 18 year old kid, I just learned not to tell them plans, and I went to chosen my school anyway.

    Reader, my dad came for a visit the following year and wound up loving it.

    They also didn’t put up nearly as much resistance to me going on a grand Asia adventure trip my junior year, when before they had been rather against me going abroad on any school trip.

    So, basically I am just offering you solidarity, and the hope that even when it seems impossible, you can retrain your parents. In some ways it will be harder for you because you have been going along for longer, so it’s a more entrenched habit. But also you have the benefit of being a financially independent adult, and they can’t actually stop you. It will feel bad when you stand against them, but you will be so, SO glad you did it.

  47. The Captain has written some great scripts, but if you still find yourself shutting down and not saying anything when they get into intervention mode, well, that’s perfectly workable, too!

    • RabbitRabbit said:

      Yup. Go to your happy place thinking about your grand plans while you imagine their jabber as being like the adults in the Peanuts cartoons. Then walk out the door afterwards and go do what you’d intended to do.

  48. LW and commenters who come from similar backgrounds to us, one of the best and bravest and hardest things I ever did was answer “Yes” when a crying and angry parent accused me of being selfish and shouted “You’re just going to do what you want no matter what I say, aren’t you?”
    If they go as far as accusing you of never following their advice, of being selfish, of only thinking about yourself… Instead of defending yourself and changing your plans to “prove” they are wrong about you, you can agree. You can say “Yes”.

    • Biancasnoozes said:

      That’s the best, isn’t it? The “you don’t do what I want, therefore you are selfish!” line. I get this Every. Single. Time. I talk to my mother.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      This x1000.

  49. My parents have never quite crossed into controlling, but they have definitely been anxious, protective, and opinionated at times. Growing up there were plenty of things I was not allowed to do, and they still insisted on weighing in (essentially granting permission) as I got into adulthood. Things like late in my college years if I was home on summer break and wanted to go see a movie, they would insist on knowing where, what time, who all would be there, etc. This felt particularly grating as I had studied abroad in college and had done things like ride taxis through the streets of China without their knowledge, let alone their consent. It has taken me a while to fully retrain myself to feel confident that I am an adult and can do what I want whether they like it or not, and in this course I have learned a couple of ways of minimizing discussion regarding my decisions:

    Option 1: If it’s something I know will make one or both of my parents anxious no matter what, I just don’t tell them about it until the thing is already done. (ex. when I went bungee jumping)

    Option 2: If it’s something that I suspect they won’t like but may eventually come to accept is what’s happening regardless of how they feel about it, I’ll usually introduce the idea in terms of “I’m thinking about doing [x].” Then I sit through some of their protests in that moment, without saying whether I’m officially committing to the idea. And then I don’t mention it again until I’m already set to do it. (ex. when I told them my fiance and I wanted to elope for our wedding) Then at that point they know that they’ve already told me all the reasons they don’t like it but that it’s still definitely happening anyway.

    LW it sounds like you’ve pretty much done Option 2 and it isn’t working. I’d just switch to Option 1 at this point. Say not a word about your plans until you’re already gone on your trip, then send them some sort of note saying “Hey I’m on my trip! I’m in [place] right now and it’s great. I’ll write from time to time when I’m able.” And then just keep right on with your awesome travel plans.

    I’m excited for you! The trip sounds great!

  50. Adlib said:

    Captain, that Box sounds seriously amazing. What an awesome story!

    OP, Captain’s scripts are perfect. I am sorry your parents are dragging you down. Just offering my Team You encouragement from here. Traveling is so cool, and I hope your trip is as amazing as it sounds!

  51. Liza said:

    Oh god this hit home. The Captain is right – and from the perspective of a person who has had to go through the same thing, this advice WORKS.

    My parents would absolutely freak out about my choices to travel abroad. They would never say anything positive and they would continually tell me about all the bad stuff that would happen. I once went on a monthlong backpack trip to Iceland and when they found they couldn’t convince me out of it, they then tried to manipulate my schedule to see if it was possible to them to come along and we could do some of the trip together (i.e. my vulnerable young woman self would be protected).

    It enraged me to the point that sadly I stopped telling them about future trips until the tickets were booked, plans were made, and there was no going back. This was upsetting for them but it avoided months of all the things you describe and trying to convince me out of things. Once I even texted them from the airport.

    This is not a happy thing to have to do. I so wish I could talk to my parents about exciting adventures and have them be supportive. And I get that it’s hard as a parent to see your kid go off and do scary things in a scary world. The worries are real and valid. But the thing is, their fears shouldn’t become methods to control you. When that happens, it goes too far. Release yourself from the control and go have adventures. You’ll not regret it.

    And for what it’s worth, over time my parents have mellowed. I kept a travel blog, and my mom read it and said she was proud of me – of my courage to go and face the world, and for my love of it. It’s still not perfect – I still don’t discuss plans with them anymore – but it improves.

    Be strong, be brave, see this gorgeous world before too much time passes and you can’t. It’s the right thing to do — for you.

  52. The Green Door said:

    Best bit of life advice I ever read was this: When I’m an old lady, I don’t want to look back and say “I wish I would have…” I want to look back and say, “Remember when I…”

    And you, dear LW….when you’re a little old lady will it be more important to say you obeyed your parents, always or to tell your grandchildren fantastic tales of that year you spent abroad?

    As a mama of two little ones, I wholeheartedly urge you to listen to yourself. Kids DO change everything, including your ability to have wild adventures and spend ridiculous sums of money on yourself. My husband and I both had our wild adventures before we met and we have no regrets now that we’re “forced” to be homebodies with small children. You won’t regret it! Have yourself a plateful of escargot in a Paris cafe for me, OK?

  53. Nanani said:

    That was such a beautiful response.

    LW, take this to heart. Your parents haven’t been the boss of you in long time. Do the thing. Take the trip. Move away.
    You have SO MUCH MONEY saved up for this trip, you have planned it out, you got this actually, and none of your parent’s objections are actually real. They really are about control and shitting on a convenient shit target. Remove the target.

    Go, don’t contact them while gone unless *you* want to, and most importantly: HANG UP/CLOSE THE CHAT/ETC if they begin to be shitty to you when you do take the time to contact them. They will learn to be civil, or they will learn to not have you around.

  54. Frozen Northman said:

    De-lurking to say that Lois McMaster Bujold really does write some of the most wonderfully empowering statements in the Vorkosigan Saga.

    Embrace this trip, LW. You have been gifted with knowing your own heart on this matter.

  55. Roberta said:

    Hi LW!
    There are so many great comments here from people that have gone through this before. If I may offer my two cents as well…
    Have you thought about having your own Team You (I am borrowing that phrase forever, by the way) assembled? You have a supporting therapist, which is great. But something I didn’t see in the letter, whether because you chose not to mention it or not, is the support from non parental units. Are you planning on seeing a therapist in Berlin, or calling into your current one? Do you have friends that support your dream, who you can stay in contact with? Any relatives that will want you to succeed, who don’t agree with your parents? Any mentors who you would be comfortable emailing on a regular basis to check in and gain some emotional boost or wisdom?

    These would be important even if you have supporting parents. I am going for an 8 month internship soon, in a tiny town a 15 hour drive away from home. I am establishing support and contact info with all the supportive people in my life, otherwise I simply would be too terrified to do it. This is the time to assemble your Team You, who can both share in the joys and in the challenges of your journey. No one should have to do this alone!
    Good luck, LW, and have a great time!

  56. CB said:

    Wow I couldn’t have stumbled across this post/these comments at a better time. Similar to the LW, I’m just about to quit my long-term job, end my apartment lease, and go live in a far away country I’ve always loved for at least the next three months without any real plan, after a year of learning the language and socking money away. But up until now I have been swimming in guilt that I’m being selfish and self-indulgent for doing something many people don’t have an opportunity to do, or irresponsible for giving up the health insurance at my steady job, etc. Reading all these comments was an important reminder that a lot of the criticisms and doubts I have are in my own head (and definitely a product of how I was raised as well) and that my plan is something to be excited about and celebrated, as with the LW. The way I know it’s the right choice for me is that the thought of not taking this chance is unbearable and I know I’d live with a lifetime of regret. I’m feeling such relief and inspiration from all of the encouragement for the LW to take the plunge!

    • CoffeegirlKarin said:

      Do it! It will be great – I’m cheering for you!

  57. Jadelyn said:

    My favorite phrase for when my mother (who I have a really good relationship with for the most part, but sometimes she slips back into overbearing/worrying/controlling behaviors left over from my teen years) gets like this is: “This isn’t a debate. I’m not asking for permission. I’m telling you what I’m doing.” It’s hard to do when you’re used to performing Good Child behaviors like obedience, but it’s a really useful response sometimes.

  58. Meagen Voss said:

    I’m 33. Last year I decided to sublet my apartment and move into my car so I could roadtrip across the United States. My parents, especially my mother, were less than enthusiastic. Cue all the sexist reasons women shouldn’t travel alone…

    If you want to connect with a travel enthusiast your age and swap strategies for dealing with anxious parents, you can find me on Facebook under “Meagen Voss”. You can also find me on Instagram @fatladyinafit (the name refers to the Honda Fit I travel in).

    Definitely go! You will meet so many interesting folks, see so many cool things, and have a ZILLION pictures when you’re all done. You won’t regret it one bit.

    • winter said:

      Your instagram looks amazing. I hope you’re having as great a time as it looks 🙂

  59. Miaz said:

    When I was in my mid 20s, I applied to and was accepted to graduate school. I had saved up some money and thought…if I don’t do it now, when will I do it? Once I get a really professional-type job, I’ll be working 50 weeks a year until I retire. So, I bought a backpack, sewed a sleep sack, bought Let’s Go Europe, a couple of interchangeable dark colored outfits (that don’t show dirt as much), good walking shoes, a round trip plane ticket, a Eur-rail pass, and bummed around Europe for several months. I stayed in hostels, and sometimes to save money, took overnight trains to other countries, and then a few days later, took overnight trains back again. My trip was disjointed, but overnight train = not having to pay for a hostel. Hostels gave you bread and coffee/hot chocolate for breakfast. I’d take a second roll for lunch, and buy a piece of fruit and some cheese, and a gelato or two (I was walking a LOT), and then scrounge up a cheap dinner.

    This was well before emails or cell phones. I had to buy phone cards or hoard change to call my parents to let them know I was alive. I had no set itinerary, so they had no idea how to get in touch with me. I’m not sure how my mom survived that, but she did. Other than the plane ticket, the weekly 30 second international calls were my biggest expense of my trip. I don’t regret calling my mom, because despite her extreme anxiety about my safety, she also gave me the taste for travel, and was excited for me that I was able to have that experience.

    I took safety precautions. If a hostel looked too seedy, I’d find some place else to stay. If everything was booked because I showed up in a city that was hosting a sporting event, I’d get back on the train and try again another day. I befriended many people, but was extra careful when I was on someone’s home turf. I didn’t want to hang out with people who knew the terrain and the language and end up in trouble, so I tried to hang out in large international groups of other travelers. I’d pump them for info on their home towns, so I’d know where to score the best, least expensive food, and have the most authentic interesting surprising weird lovely silly times.

    It was the best experience of my life, and I regret nothing.

    So, dear Letter Writer, go forth and travel. Enjoy. follow your dreams and your bliss, and do the thing you want to do with the money you earned all by yourself.

    As for your parents, the Captain has great scripts (as always).

    Your parents are what I think of as boundary stompers. It will be very hard for you to erect boundaries. They will try to tear down any boundaries you try to set up. They aren’t used to you having boundaries, and have trained you (very well) to allow them to have veto power of your decisions.
    This will be a difficult process, but think of the benefits of being able to be your own person who gets to do what they want to when they want to all the time. That’s the whole point of being a grown up. It comes with bills and responsibilities, but the benefit is the autonomy.

    Have fun!

    • carbonel said:

      I did essentially the same thing between graduating college and commencing on real life — five months of backpacking and hosteling over two continents and a couple of dozen countries. I was very lucky in that my parents gave me a lot of advice (some I took, some I ignored), but always encouraged me to go on the adventure.

      I just sent a thank-you e-mail to my mother for that encouragement, because until I read all these comments, I hadn’t realized quite how lucky I was in my parents in this regard.

  60. Miaz said:

    Also…I never ever would have gone sky diving if I had told my family in advance. They got the call about it the minute I (gently) landed.

  61. attica said:

    LW, just keep holding onto the Berlin You in your heart when you take any of these steps. Berlin You is already courageous and strong; she’ll help Home You be the same!

  62. Miaz said:

    I don’t know what happened to my super long message, that I did not save before I hit post. Long story short: I backpacked for several months before grad school, by myself, before the age of cellphones or email, despite my mother’s anxiety. I regret nothing.

  63. As a parent, I’ve noticed I give my children remarkably bad advice when I’m scared, anxious, or trying to control for every potential bad thing that could happen. It is something I do that’s all about me & my worry and not really about my kids at all. I think your parents may be doing the same thing.

    My children are very good at bluntly calling out the odds of whatever I’m worried about and making up strategies of how they’re going to deal with whatever I am freaking about – “Yes Mom, in the one in a million chance there are rabid squirrels in the office complex I’m thinking about working in, I will make sure to shoot them with the Freeze Ray Gun and put them in a cooler for safekeeping.” That’s when they think I’m ridiculous – when I’m just wrong, they ignore my advice and do what they’re going to do and it all turns out just fine anyway.

    Maybe that will work for you. You should absolutely go on the trip. But please, please, please, look out for rabid squirrels in office buildings!

  64. just want to say at this stage don’t worry about your fertility. when I was your age i felt a lot like you, that it was never going to happen for me and i might be looking at donations or adoption somewhere down the line. five years later I had two children, not through donation or adoption at all. but the thing about fertility declining after 35 is a bit of a myth. it was based on old statistics about the age women were when they actually had children, based on figures from an era when having them younger was more common! Much more recent research on women aged 35-39 in denmark who were trying to conceive showed that there was not a significant difference between their fertility and that of the 30-35 age group. (it’s over 40 that fertility declines more dramatically). Not to say there’s anything wrong with donation or adoption but i can never resist a chance to bust a myth. Enjoy your travels while you can!

    • There’s a lot of truth in this, but remember everyone is different. I personally got very sick of people saying this to me when I said that conceiving at a later age would be risky FOR ME (for reasons I didn’t want to talk about but they always wanted to know) and also that I WANTED to have children earlier because that’s what fit with MY life plans. It got to the point where it would be quite upsetting when people would preach to me about why I shouldn’t worry about doing something *I didn’t even want to do*, i.e. have children in my late thirties rather than earlier.

      I’m not saying this is necessarily what’s going on for LW but we don’t know her, and if she says she wants to have children sooner rather than later then we should accept that’s what she wants.

      • It sucks when people think they get any say in your choices (and are nosy about personal stuff to boot!), sorry you went through that. The way the LW’s letter read to me, it seemed like she just assumed her fertility is tanking because she’s over 30 so I wanted to set the record straight.

  65. As her last gift to me she gave me back the world as I had told it to her.

    NnoOo, *shakily*
    YOU’RE crying

  66. like an angry apple tree said:

    ” I know they do this because they love me and they worry, but…”

    Hmm. I don’t want to tell you what to do (you’re getting enough of that already!), but. But. This is an assumption that you might want to unpack with your therapist. They may love you, worry AND think that salving their worry is your job. Or some other combination of good and boundary-stomping UGH.

    I was raised to obey without question too, though mine are underminer/smotherers, not pure smotherers. One gets the “how’s work” / “fine” level of info. The other gets nothing from me at all. They can’t be trusted to be adults with any more of a toehold than that. Somehow, though, the world keeps turning. They found other family members (sibs, cousins) to feed their dysfunction. I get to breathe.

  67. SeluciaV said:

    CA, a beautiful and thoughtful and empowering response as always. I have come to expect nothing less! That story about The Box was incredible….it gave me all the feels.

    LW, I turned 40 last fall and as a gift to myself, planned a three week cross-country journey. In my car. Alone. Now I’m lucky in that my parents were fine and normal and supportive about it – but I had A LOT of people in my life who had *FEELINGS* about this plan. My aunts. Co-workers. Friends. My grandmother (OH MY GOD SO MANY FEELINGS). One of the first family members I told (who is older and kind of maternal to me) about my trip went *ballistic* on me about how dangerous it was! And how I couldn’t possibly go! I would get mugged/murdered/kidnapped/assaulted! I would die!!! It was a terrible idea!! And my favorite “I can’t believe your mother is letting you do this!” (blah, blah, blah) I remember feeling that first gut reaction of wanting to be like a pouty, belligerent teenager and shout back “you aren’t the boss of me!” and respond to her high levels of emotion in equal measure. But a strange thing happened – at that moment when I would have responded, our waitress came over to ask if we needed anything and in that short pause while my aunt spoke with her and took her attention away from me, I was able to remember and own the fact that I was a completely independent, full-grown, fully-functioning adult. And I didn’t need anyone’s approval or permission to do this! That was a very liberating moment for me and it helped me respond to her – and every naysayer thereafter – in a calm and detached manner. “Thanks for your concern. I’m going anyway.” “That would suck if it happened. I’m going anyway.” “Hope that doesn’t happen to me. I’m going anyway.” It was my mantra and it served me well.

    I took my trip earlier this summer and it was the BEST thing I ever did for myself. I realize that my trip was so much shorter (and more local!) than your adventure, but it was an adventure I’d been longing to take since I was a teenager and never gave myself permission to do. Even that small journey gave me such a sense of freedom and peace and helped me find perspective on a number of things I’d been struggling with. Now I only wish I’d done it years ago instead of waiting so long to make it happen!

    CA’s scripts are all wonderful and hopefully will help give you the right words in the right moment to help you manage your parents and their feelings about this. But even if you can’t find peace with them right here and now, I hope you will go anyway. Go because you want to. Go because you can. Go because – as one of the other posters said – the world will not come to you, you have to go to it.

    JUST GO. Explore. Experience. Live. Breathe. Grow. Be. You got this.

    Jedi hugs and safe travels!!!

  68. clorinda said:

    Fly and be free, Nellie Bly. And if your parents’ naysaying gets you down, come back here and read all the comments for a boost of support.

  69. LW – I know you said you don’t have many friends to talk to about travel. But please, I am more than happy to be your friend to talk to about travel! Me and my partner (now fiance) saved up about $10k and traveled the world for a year. It was scary, his parents hated it – and offered us A HOUSE if we stayed — but we went, and the world kept turning. We taught English in Vietnam, saved up more money, blew it in Europe, and came home with our savings we had saved up (just like you! smart move!) and we are in an amazing spot now with jobs, security, and all that stuff everyone “what if’d” about. We regret nothing, except not continuing on for another year. Oh, and he proposed at the end of the trip in Croatia!

    I’m not sure if there’s some way for you to contact me, but I’d love to talk more. If we never get to connect, I want to say that your travelling plan sounds like more than enough safety and buffer room. As someone who did it, with much less cash saved up, we were always more than fine being savvy backpackers and also crazy spenders when it made sense.

    There’s also a Girls Who Love Travel Facebook group that is INCREDIBLY supportive and amazing and a huge community of women who want to help others. You can definitely meet some cool people on there to connect with — and maybe even visit abroad!

  70. LW I am so so glad you wrote in! I hope you’re reading comments, because I want you to know that I know you’re gonna go no matter what your parents say. You’ve got this, front back and center, and you are going to have SO much fun. Even when things go pear-shaped, it will shape you in marvelous ways. I also have a travel story, though not even close to yours, but I did it against my parents’ wishes and it was the Best. Thing. Ever. I’m completely convinced you’ll feel the same.

  71. Michelle said:

    Your trip sounds AMAZING! Give yourself this gift. You deserve it !! Safe travels!!

  72. Yay for your plans!

    My brother is a restless guy who never felt like he really fit in the 9-5 office world. He always worried that meant he was a slacker at heart, I can see how conscientious and passionate he is – just not about having a day job with a suit and tie.

    One day he decided to pay off his debts, get a second job, save up and go back packing across South America, a continent he had never been to. He went solo, as a dude from England who spoke no Spanish and only had one contact and a very rough plan of how far he’d get on his budget. As a family, we were really unsure how he’d fare.

    He did such an amazing job of handling being in another country. Disasters befell him (losing his credit card, getting in a love triangle, explosive tummy troubles, lying on a beach that two days later was rocked by an earthquake; what a panicky Skype call that was to find he had crossed the border and was safe!) But he coped. He made friends. He had the best time. He got six good months out of his budget.

    It was a joy to hear him tell me about sailing down the Amazon, partying in Colombia and meeting Quecha grannies. He came back a happier, healthier, more whole man and I am so proud of him.

    You should hold onto your pride in yourself and your dreams. By going to where you long for, your tribe will appear.

  73. Lois said:

    You are awesome and I hope to meet you on the road!

    Here is some advice from another solo-traveling 32-year-old woman:
    – Practice your resting bitch face. Practice your ability to neither hear nor see a man who wants you to see or hear him. In public, you can be absolutely 100% alone, and no one can break through your impenetrable invisible wall of privacy.
    – Practice your open friendly talk-to-me face. Practice identifying when strangers are open to chatting with you, and making yourself appear open to chats. In public, you never have to be alone. Learn this skill and the one above and toggle back and forth as needed, also adapting for norms in whatever city you’re in.
    – The quality of your fellow travelers will vary a lot by region and by time of year. Europe in the summer will have a lot of young kids, but in the hump seasons you should find yourself mostly surrounded by domestic and European travelers. South America will always have a lot of groups and couples, because of the vast distances involved in overland travel there, so even solo travelers tend to pair up for those 22 hour bus rides. You’ll find a lot of long-term solo travelers hanging out on the outskirts of the Schengen (eg Croatia and Turkey), biding their 90 days. Basically, just know that there ARE other women in their thirties backpacking alone, but you won’t find us everywhere at all times. You’ll also learn that 22-year-olds are often excellent company (especially the ones who are traveling alone) and that 50-year-old dudes who have been on the road for fifteen years are exactly what you’d expect. Do not patronize hostels that discriminate based on age, because fuck those places.
    – Have lots of affairs.
    – Being a woman on the road has its dangers, but it also has real perks. Be aware of the dangers, but make use of the perks to make it up for yourself! Old men will want to be your friend. Maybe in real life you’d ignore them as creeps? When you feel up for it, when you’re on the road, let the old men buy you lunch and tell you about their lives! Why not! Not just old men, too; men of all ages will want to show off their cities / cultures to a mysterious American woman, so (taking all usual safety precautions): let them. Don’t date men? Who cares! You aren’t dating these guys anyway (unless you want to), you’re just profiting from their dudely desire to show off.
    – Being a woman also puts you at a major advantage in using CouchSurfing! CouchSurfing has gone seriously downhill in the last few years, but the biggest major cities that are also touristic cities still have good communities (think Paris, Amsterdam, etc), and it can also still be really good in the middle of nowhere, but you may have trouble with anything in between. It’s still worth building a profile and acquiring references by going to events and making CS friends.
    – Also a lady benefit: Tinder is actually really useful for meeting people on the road, not just for sex/dating but just in general. I recommend putting your basic itinerary in your profile (“in town til the 25th, then heading south!), and having set questions for locals / other tourists (what’s your favorite hike around here? / stumble across any great secret spots I should know about?). If you want to shut off the possibility of it being a date thing, just put in your profile that you are only looking for friends, and take all usual precautions about meeting in public etc.
    – In the months leading up to your trip, pick up a hobby that exists globally and that is community driven. Dance is a great one. If you like salsa or swing or tango, you can find a dance community in basically every major city, and that means instant friends and community.

    As for your parents? Here’s a totally crazy idea that might not work for you at all, but it’s worth considering: invite them along for exactly one week. Like: “I’m going to be in Paris for Christmas, and I’d love to still spend Christmas with you guys. Would you come meet me in Paris for Christmas week?” I used this strategy to pacify my folks when I first started traveling alone, and it worked SO well. Ahead of time, they felt included and had their own vacation to get excited about. Once abroad together, they saw that travel-me was happy and healthy and confident. Consider if this might work for your folks!

  74. Thanksforallthefish said:

    Agree with everything here and the CA said. Go! Be awesome! Love your trip! Send CA a postcard so CA can show us!

    True Story:
    My mom recruited her church buddy the Sitting Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court (!!!!) to have dinner with me aka tell me all the reasons why going to India was a terrible idea and if I wanted to learn anything worth learning I should just go to Washington D.C.

    Telling them both no was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but luckily fear gave way to stubbornness and a wild hunger to travel. Best decision of my life!

  75. I feel like my mom is a scaled-down version of your parents. While I was in college she was always bugging me to email her. All the time. “Write to your mother!” on the guestbook on my Geocities page. That was when I was 19, though. I see your folks making you email them twice a day when you’re in Berlin and I’m all like “THIS SHIT IS NOT NORMAL OH FUCK NO.”

    In my second year, I had the idea of taking a long-weekend trip up to Toronto to meet some online friends. Mom sprayed her negativity on that idea and I gave it up. The following year, I decided to do the same trip. I put away a bit from each paycheck from my on-campus job, arranged transportation, and sent in a check for my participation in the meet-up. I told the parents when everything was arranged. Not looking for permission, just a heads-up. They said, well, okay then. I went on the trip and it was amazing. I did the same trip 4 years in a row. I did not need their money, I did not need their help, I just packed up and went.

    You’re 32, you’re supporting yourself, living on your own, and you do not need your parents’ permission to travel. I add to the advice to make yourself as economically independent of them as possible. Don’t leave any of your stuff with them. They can be left out of the loop altogether. Make the arrangements and go. You will email them as often as you want, and no more so. Limit their access to communicating with you while you’re traveling, if that’s what it takes to let you travel in peace. This is your trip, not theirs.

    Good luck and happy travels!

  76. ferdalangur said:

    LW, as someone who has had the privilege to travel and live abroad, I’m telling you, you have to go. Please go. You won’t regret it.

    My favourite scripts for any situation that basically fall under “concerned relative is concerned at me about things that do not concern me” are aphorisms. Try:

    It’ll sort itself out.
    I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
    Oh, really? You learn something new every day.
    C’est la vie.
    I’ll have to take that one with a grain of salt.

    … and so on and so forth. “It’ll sort itself out” is especially useful in your case – it’s a non-answer answer that nevertheless tends to stop people in their tracks. The most common attempted circumvention is with a “BUT HOW???” at which point I like to deploy a “Oh, you know, necessity is the mother of invention and all that.”

    My record is 17 “it’ll sort itself out’s” in one conversation. It was with my grandma, who meant well, but I was still five months out from what I was planning to do, and “it’ll sort itself out” was a valid life choice at the time.

    • ferdalangur said:

      And by the way, my username is in my mother tongue but it means “Traveler”. I cannot emphasize enough how absolutely enriching it is to go off – with or without a plan – to travel the world. I promise you: You will be better off for having done it.

      Another aphorism that is useful for traveling, and people who like to be in control of everything is “shit happens”. One of the reasons traveling is so enlightening is because until you’re stranded in the middle of the night on a dirt siding above a single train track, at what is nominally a station but you haven’t seen a train in 90 minutes, in a country where you don’t speak the language or read the script, you don’t know what you’ll do in that situation. Once you do, you know something about yourself.

      If only that you’ll sort it out. Somehow.

      • I’ve found that in those situations my mind tends to go Existential-Without-Leave, with a lot of variations on a theme of, “Who am I and what the hell am I doing here?” I invariably find this quite funny both at the time and afterwards.

        Then I found out it’s not just travel that does that — it happened several times in the course of a killer PhD program that washed people out in staggering numbers. I’d find myself thinking, “How on earth did I ever think this was a good idea?” Then I’d think why I’d made that choice and have a good laugh at the whole, “What the hell did I do this for?” sensation.

        I think that’s one of the reasons people say travel is good for your confidence — it throws you into the unfamiliar and yet forces you to handle problems that come up that are well out of your comfort zone. So when that happens later, you recognize that mental state as just a thing that happens. And have a good laugh.

  77. Milli said:

    My parents are the traveling bad asses that you will one day be, future bad ass single adoptive parent writer!

    Their stories and their bravery have been an inspiration to my nomadic life and they’re still my first source of support for travel plans (they, like me, remember where the good food is).

    Do the thing! You’re already a better parent than yours are, and you don’t even have a kid yet. Think about all the big wide world and amazing things you’ll be able to bring to them instead of the fear you were raised with 🙂

    Side note : I’ve run into this a lot and I’m from a supportive family and a big city so I imagine it’s even worse in places where people value the smallness of their lives; People often suck at being interested in your travel when you get back. People will interrupt your story about the transcendent joy of seeing different stars in the southern hemisphere with anecdotes about who got fat while you’re away. The travel friends you make are especially key when you get home and the world feels small again. Keep your travel buddies so you can commiserate about how much you miss that fruit you just can’t get back home.

  78. Emma9 said:

    My mother was (and to an extent still is) a master of the ‘how dare you FORCE ME to worry about you’ game.

    The first time I made a solo venture anywhere outside the boundaries of our local area, I was 21 and took a weekend bus trip to attend a concert. I did basically what the Captain suggested you do – dropped all talk of the trip (which she had been vehemently condemning), quietly made my plans, and went. She didn’t find out until I was on my way home.

    I expected the backlash to be horrible. It was. She called me on the bus and screamed until I was in tears (the notion of hanging up was even more terrifying). Kudos to my poor seatmate, who didn’t ask to have this kind of drama clouding up her air, but who comforted me as best a stranger can.

    But the next time I wanted to do something of the sort, I was armed with the awareness that I had already survived A) the trip and B) her reaction. She ended up throwing another fit, but not as bad.

    I was eventually able to transition into telling her about things in advance. This time the pushback was harder, because she still had the capacity to ‘stop’ me, but at least I had ‘handled X, Y, and Z without incident’ on my resume, and was able to go into the conversation from the standpoint of ‘I’m doing this’ as opposed to ‘may I do this’. Cue passive-aggressive sniping along the lines of ‘I guess you’re just going to do what you want anyway because you don’t care about me’ up until date of departure, which put a serious damper on my enjoyment of the trip planning and anticipation, but I stuck to my guns and went, and she behaved well enough during our pre-arranged ‘Nope, not dead yet’ calls.

    These days she’s mostly better about it, even to an extent graduating back into the ‘reasons are for reasonable people’ category; I can have ‘But what will you do if HORRIBLE THING happens?’/’I will fall back on X Contingency Plan.’/’…oh. I guess you do know what you’re doing.’ conversations with her without cringing.

    There’s nothing wrong with *hoping* eventually you’ll be able to get to a place with your parents where they’re your allies in planning and excitement rather than obstacles. But they’re not there yet. And if there was an easier way to get to that place than riding out the storm of projectile rage-vomit, I couldn’t find one, and don’t advise you to waste more of your time looking. You’ve already discovered that the longer these patterns persist, the harder it is to break them, so you might as well start now.

    Bon voyage!

    (Also: I’m getting the vibe that you might feel like after the big trip is over/when you adopt your kid(s), you’re obliged to plant your roots back in Nice-Enough Parentsville. That’s an assumption worth challenging too. Children can absolutely thrive in a busy metropolitan area, and having a happy, confident, culturally-stimulated parent will benefit them a lot more than being in convenient proximity to their grandparents’ micromanaging toxicity.)

  79. Sarah said:

    I just wanted to add — it sounds like you have this very well planned out, etc. BUT also, sometimes people decide to do things that are somewhat dangerous/crazy/etc. because they know that’s what they need to do to live a happy and fulfilled life, and that’s okay too! I mean, perhaps not well advised if you have young children depending on you for care or something like that but — you’re young, unattached, etc. right now. I think it’s the perfect time to do a trip like this EVEN IF there are risks involved that you can’t 100 percent plan for. A friend of mine with a pretty serious medical condition decided to bike across a fairly dangerous foreign country a few years ago. His parents were — I think legitimately — pretty worried about the situation, but ultimately doing this was extremely important to him and had an enormous positive impact on his life (everything turned out completely fine health/safety-wise). So sometimes it’s ok to say, yes, this has certain risks but it’s important enough that I need to do it anyway.

  80. Katie said:

    LW, I’m sure you have many budget friendly options for your trip, but as I’ve recently discovered, a cheap way to visit new places is to volunteer there. Workaway and WOOF are good websites to find interesting places to volunteer in return for room and board. Plus then you’ll have locals to show you the secret places 🙂 Next year I place on excepting workawayers to my own homestead, and I have friends in Spain who have been hosting volunteers for years!

  81. Laura said:

    You can do this and you will do this! I say this as someone who 10 years ago quit her job, sold most of her possessions, and spent 15 months traveling around the world (spending about $20,000 for the 15 months traveling on the cheap but not very dirt cheap) before moving to a new city across the country and starting graduate school to change careers. It will be difficult and sometimes scary, but you won’t regret it for a second.

    As for your parents, when I was studying abroad at 19 and my parents started to freak out about where I was going for a weekend trip, I gave them 3 options: I could tell them before I went, after I went, or not at all. When my mom answered “before you go” I told her that she had to do her freaking out when I wasn’t on the phone otherwise I’d switch to one of the other options. I’m bull-headed and stubborn and had a tendency to hide things like boyfriends from my parents so would have had no problem just not telling them where I was going and what I was doing. I also pulled the whole “do you trust that you raised me to make good decisions?” line on many occasions in my late teens and early twenties. This may not work for you if you’re not as stubborn as I am, but I’m sure you can find some variation that does.

    In your search for a community to support you before and during your travels, I have two suggestions: CouchSurfing and Girl Gone International. CouchSurfing isn’t as good of a community as it was 10 years ago, but in some cities there are still regular meetups (I know the meetups in Boston still happen every week – I used to go to those when I came back from my trip and was in grad school), and it can still be a good way to meet others with the travel bug and from other countries. You can also start hosting couch surfers and potentially meet people who live in some of the places you’ll eventually go visit. Be selective about who you host; depending on where you live you can get a lot of requests. I’ve met some close friends through CouchSurfing, some who I just met up with to hang out while I was in their city and we’ve kept in touch for years now. Girl Gone International is a group of international women in different cities. In the cities I’ve been part of it they’re primarily expats, but are open and welcoming to all women who want to join. See if your city is on the list: https://www.girlgoneinternational.com/find-your-ggi or check out their FB page: https://www.facebook.com/GirlGoneInternational

    You got this!

  82. canIwakeupfromthisnightmarenow? said:

    Ahhhhhhh I wish I could read this post to my 22 year old self. Amazing scripts!

  83. Laura said:

    You can do this and you will do this! I say this as someone who 10 years ago quit her job, sold most of her possessions, and spent 15 months traveling around the world (spending about $20,000 for the 15 months traveling on the cheap but not very dirt cheap) before moving to a new city across the country and starting graduate school to change careers. It will be difficult and sometimes scary, but you won’t regret it for a second.

    As for your parents, CA’s advice as usual is spot on. When I was studying abroad at 19 and my parents started to freak out about where I was going for a weekend trip, I gave them 3 options: I could tell them before I went, after I went, or not at all. When my mom answered “before you go” I told her that she had to do her freaking out when I wasn’t on the phone otherwise I’d switch to one of the other options. I’m bull-headed and stubborn and had a tendency to hide things like boyfriends from my parents so would have had no problem just not telling them where I was going and what I was doing. I also pulled the whole “do you trust that you raised me to make good decisions?” line on many occasions in my late teens and early twenties. This may not work for you if you’re not as stubborn as I am, but I’m sure you can find some variation that does.

    In your search for a community to support you before and during your travels, I have two suggestions: CouchSurfing and Girl Gone International. CouchSurfing isn’t as good of a community as it was 10 years ago, but in some cities there are still regular meetups (I know the meetups in Boston still happen every week – I used to go to those when I came back from my trip and was in grad school), and it can still be a good way to meet others with the travel bug and from other countries. You can also start hosting couch surfers and potentially meet people who live in some of the places you’ll eventually go visit. Be selective about who you host; depending on where you live you can get a lot of requests. I’ve met some close friends through CouchSurfing, some who I just met up with to hang out while I was in their city and we’ve kept in touch for years now. Girl Gone International is a group of international women in different cities. In the cities I’ve been part of it they’re primarily expats, but are open and welcoming to all women who want to join. See if your city is on the list: https://www.girlgoneinternational.com/find-your-ggi or check out their FB page: https://www.facebook.com/GirlGoneInternational

    You got this!

  84. Rushing to comment before I read all the repiles, because I just HAD to jump in to say I’ve been there.

    I was always the “good girl” who excelled at stuff and complied with my parents, etc. So I was completely blindsided at the age of 25, when I told them about an upcoming life change I was excited about, and they basically condemned every choice I’d ever made to that point. I was devastated…and then absolutely furious. And I told them they would no longer be privy to my plans if they disagreed with my choices that strongly.

    I didn’t have the benefit of the Good Captain back then, and I was only just starting to achieve some level of “Wokeness,” so I didn’t have good scripts, and I’m pretty sure I ugly-cried the entire time, but I still got the message across. I told them that I became precisely the person they raised me to be, but if they couldn’t see that, it was on them, not me. And I said my choices were not up for debate, and that we would not be having this discussion again.

    That was a decade ago. I have better scripts, boundaries and confidence now, but I find that they get tested less frequently. We really have not had that discussion again, because my family knows I won’t stand for it. My parents are still the last to know of any of my plans, and they complain about that (to others, not me…triangulation!), but I am okay with that. I get to proceed with my plans unhindered, and I get to choose who gets let into that inner circle of early plan-floating. It is so much better this way, hard as it was to get here.

    You’ll get there too, LW. Listen to the Captain—her advice is spot-on. And take that trip! You will be so, so happy you did. We’re behind you all the way.

  85. Jessica said:

    LW,

    “I have an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas and land on barbarous coasts.” – Ishmael (from Moby Dick)

    I also took a year off from work to travel (with an ex). DO IT!!!! I’m mostly commenting to add encouragement.

    The most common reaction we got while planning was some form of “OMG, that’s the coolest idea ever, I’m super jelly.”
    Frequently followed by: “…but I could never save enough for that” (which, more often than not, really translated as “I would never prioritize that”)

    We had plenty of naysayers. Some mix of “this isn’t the right time” (former boss’s boss who had just been promoted and felt entitled to weigh in on life decisions), “maybe you could just ask for three months off” (my boss, who thought that it was unlikely that I’d be allowed to take a year off; the approval was three bosses up and her response was basically, “yeah, that’s no big deal”).

    One of the strangest reactions was questioning how we could feel entitled to do this. This was from people who had absolutely no reliance on us for anything, it was just a general resentful attitude that we weren’t following the rules, like we were stepping out of line by rejecting our assigned path of college, profession, marry, have 2.3 kids, get huge mortgage, give up on any dreams of your own, send kids to college, eventually die.

    But we did it. We took a year off and we went around the world. We had adventures and met people who were amazing. We had ups and downs on the road (food poisoning and a bus accident stand out prominently), but it was worth it. It was so much more worth it than staying would have been.

    So GO!!!!

    You’ve done your research. You have your plan. $10,000 is a large financial cushion. You got this.

    I saved something comparable for both me and my ex to travel and to live on when we got back AND we had a mortgage the entire time. We sold both of our cars before we left, downsized basically everything, got a roommate, and cooked at home; and we still did all of that when we got back. My job did let me come back to the same position, but I was willing to quit (we’d agreed we’d sell the house if I had to quit). Because there are jobs everywhere and you’ll find one somewhere else after a year and how are you supposed to have a job set up for a year in the future anyway? Life is uncertain, don’t let that hold you back.

    Travel forums are a great place for inspiration/validation/encouragement. Lonely planet used to run a forum called Thorntree; I’m not sure if it’s still up. Anyway, you’ve got a plan, I’m sure you got this and are already wanderlusting your way through internet searches.

    When (if) you come “home” you may be surprised how little things changed. When we got back, people had spent the year having barbeques and neighborhood parties and life went on surprisingly undisturbed by our absence; and while there was space to slip back into that same routine of work and beers in the backyard, it didn’t quite fit right anymore. You may be surprised (as Milli mentioned above) that a lot of people aren’t interested in your travel stories. My ex’s mother and sister made us a beautiful scrapbook with one page for each month of our trip. It was literally 12 pages and didn’t take long to go through. We were on month two (somewhere around Chile) when his Aunt interrupted us to tell us about the ski trip my ex’s cousins were planning for Switzerland; and then proceeded to talk about how beautiful it is and how great (western) Europe is (and it is great, but we had visited mostly non-white countries).

    On the other hand, there will be new spaces which feel right. And you’ll be surprised by who lights up and is enthralled by your travel stories. My then 6 year-old nephew spent probably a solid hour poring over our scrapbook (his older brother looked at it for a hot minute before wandering away quietly) asking us questions about Egypt and Turkey.

    So, Go.

  86. More best wishes for a fantastic journey!

    And a little tip when you return. If you return. I used to commute to a remote work location for months at a time. When I’d return to home area, I was besieged by well wishing friends and relatives and it was hard to take. So, as much as I try to never lie, I learned to tell those that inquired that I’d be back on a date at least 3 days after I actually arrived. This allowed me to chill out, regroup, and unwind. I got caught red handed once, but it was still a necessary system.

    • I do that, too. I travel two or three months out of the year, and always add a small buffer zone of at least a day or two to *both* ends of every trip I take. That way I can finish packing/planning in peace, and have a bit of breathing room when I get back. Only my spouse and one or two other close friends get a copy of my actual itinerary, and sanity is preserved!

  87. maggiebea said:

    I was 40 when I finally realized that my mother was always going to pooh-pooh any idea I had, any decision I made, no matter how logical and responsible I thought it was (or even, I thought SHE would think it was).

    Somehow, late one night, I asked her why she could never be happy for me, never join in my excitement about some plan, even a promotion at work. Her answer was “I don’t want you to be disappointed.” When we unpacked that together (because it was the middle of the night, on a long drive, where both of us are paradoxically at our best), her logic went something like “I shouldn’t be enthusiastic about this, because what if it goes wrong? Then my daughter will blame me for agreeing.”

    Much, much later I realized this was a lot like people who try to make someone stop crying by reassuring them that whatever it is, it isn’t really as bad as that. You know, “he’s in a better place” or “you’ll find a new boyfriend” or whatever. Because it makes them feel bad to see your pain. They don’t actually care that you’re in pain, they just don’t want to have to watch.

    Take the trip. Enjoy the ride.

    • Spider Hero said:

      Oh gosh yes. Really well put- they just don’t want to see it.

  88. slfisher said:

    My parents planned to travel when they retired. Then when my mom was 60 and my dad 64 she got metastatic bladder cancer and died at 62. They never got the travel they waited their whole lives to take. You’d better believe I travel every chance I get.

  89. Madison said:

    Since it sounds to me like your parents may also be trying to place their Anxiety Mouse on your doorstep, I just want to point out a way you can differentiate between healthy anxiety that comes from the concerns of someone who loves you, and toxic/damaging anxiety that people use to justify running/ruining your life while claiming it is love – because I know it took me way too long to figure it out. So maybe it can be helpful to you:

    There is a healthy kind of anxiety that perks up our awareness to help us be better PREpared, but it should never hinder our function so that we are IMpaired. Healthy concern wants to know that you have your bases covered, and will help you problem-solve contingency plans to make sure that they are. Toxic anxiety will tell you that you shouldn’t play the game, no matter the condition of the bases. For me personally, reasonable worry reminds me to increase my following distance, and pay close attention while I’m driving, because I know that a crash is a possibility if I do not. Unreasonable anxiety tries to fix the situation by telling me not to get into the car at all because it’s a deathtrap. Reasonable awareness of what could go wrong is what has led you to make out an awesome financial plan that includes a sizeable cushion to fall back on if necessary (and kudos for that, you are awesome!). The unhealthy kind of anxiety that your parents are pushing in your direction, though, says, “Stay at home; it’s safer here,” and makes a lot of excuses as to why this should be the final answer. The good kind of anxiety is productive, and it helps you to be more aware, and informed, and therefore more capable to go out and conquer The Thing. What your parents are doing is destructive, because they are trying to ensure that you are never ready, that you are never able, that The Thing remains an idea, and never becomes a reality.

    This probably won’t convince them at all to see their anxiety as the harmful kind. But hopefully what it will do is help you to reframe things for yourself when they start to dump all their unproductive and unreasonably worried questions onto you. If you feel like challenging them, “And what is your suggestion?” might be an even more revealing question to ask, because it will expose their true end goal. But stop and ask yourself: Is what they are saying meant to help facilitate my dreams and goals within the timeframe that I’ve set, or are they trying to impede and obstruct to the point that my dreams and goals crash and burn and remain forever out of reach? Are they trying to fix a real problem that has a reasonable possibility of occurring, or are they just trying to create and feed a fear? If they can’t offer an obtainable and workable-for-you solution to their ‘concern’ then it’s always the latter. (And calling twice a day just so that they don’t panic? That does not fit in the ‘workable-for-you’ category, nor does it fix a real problem – it’s their job to learn to self-soothe, not your job to take time out of your day, every day, twice a day, just to be a pacifier.) So, anytime it’s the latter, you can recognize it for what it is and just… let it go. That kind of worry is self-serving of them and not beneficial to you at all. This is still holding space for hearing any reasonable concerns, considering helpful suggestions, and taking in good advice that can make your trip even better. But you don’t have to hold any doors open whatsoever in your life for ‘advice’ that even hints at “maybe it’s better if you don’t”, just because it’s wearing the cloak of ‘for your own good’ or ‘because we love you’. That cloak is a disguise, and what’s hiding underneath is horrible.

    I hope your trip turns out to be every great thing you thought it would and even more. Go find your happiness LW!

    • Lurker in the light said:

      Just to give you an idea of what supportive problem solving looks like: when I was 25, I drove across the US by myself. My family got me a cell phone. Not so I could call them every day, but so I could call for a tow, if I broke down.

  90. I’m not in your situation, LW, but I wanted to echo the Not Telling Parents Things sentiment going around. My mom and I get along very well, but she responds to certain types of my decisions (who I date, who I’m friends with, where I move, etc., but interestingly NOT decisions like going into crippling debt for a PhD program, so…) with Reasons Why I Shouldn’t, and she responds to certain topics with passive aggressive sotto voce comments and quiet disappointment. My mom doesn’t get to hear about my religion or anything connected to it. She doesn’t get to know that I had an abortion (or that I will be actively trying to get pregnant as soon as my financial situation improves–that will be presented to her as fait accompli, and her first reaction will still be to tell me why it’s a bad idea). It kills me, because these are really important things in my life and I hate not telling her, but I’ve learned that it’s just not worth having to explain or defend myself all the time.

    You’ve grown up with this dynamic with your parents, I’m sure, and I’m also sure that they’ve actively cultivated it. So I know it won’t be as easy as just snapping your fingers. But please know that it’s NORMAL not to run things by your parents all the time, and you’re not ungrateful or a bad child or a failure if you don’t. It’s normal to curate what they know about your life. Even if you got along great with them, they wouldn’t be your friends, they’d be your parents.

  91. As somebody who has never traveled, and may not get the chance for another 20 years (if at all) – please go! You want to, you have means and opportunity – go!

    And if you decide to visit Australia and make the trek to Perth, please hit me up for a place to crash/free laundry/home-cooked meal 🙂

  92. Part-time Jedi said:

    LW, there are a lot of people who are making the assumption that your parents are intentionally weaponizing their disapproval in an attempt to keep you hostage. And they may very well be correct. Your parents might know exactly what they’re doing, in which case the only response is to limit your communication with them as relates to this trip, and Go Do The Thing.

    It’s also possible that your parent’s anxiety comes from a genuine place of love and fear. It is, after all, totally reasonable to be concerned for your child’s well being, even once they become an adult. It’s reasonable to be concerned about their safety. It’s reasonable to be concerned about their life prospects. But what is NOT reasonable is for them to keep making their anxiety your problem. They need to learn to manage those brain weasels for themselves. And the best thing that will help them do that is… limit your communication with them as it relates to this trip, and Go Do The Thing.

    My mother is an Anxious Mother. But fortunately, it was tempered with an understanding of the importance of raising strong, independent, and competent daughters. So my sister and I would ask to go on Adventures. And she would say yes, and worry the whole damn time we were gone, and then we would come home just fine, and over time she learned to stop being so anxious.

    I wanted to go to overnight camp, so she signed me up for a 5 day course. She sent me a letter every day; I answered none of them. I came home, she was worried because I hadn’t answered her letters, I told her I was busy having fun, and all was well.

    I wanted to go to overnight camp for longer. So she signed me up for an 11 day course. She sent me a couple of letters; I answered none of them. I came home, she was worried because I hadn’t answered her letters, I told her I was busy having fun, and all was well. Wash, rinse, repeat x3, and by the third time, she didn’t even bother sending letters, and had no expectation of one from me.

    By the time my little sister went to camp, she was totally desensitized to the anxiety. She knew her kids would come back safe and happy. We went on to do high adventure camps, go to college and live in other cities/countries, travel the world, and at every new step, my mother would go through the same process; she’d get anxious, we’d do the thing anyways, we’d come back fine, she’d stop being so anxious. Over time, she’s come to treasure the adventures we’ve had, because it means that she succeeded as a parent.

    Maybe your parents are intentionally trying to use their “anxiety” to keep you in your place, (in which case, screw them, and have a fabulous trip.) But even if their anxiety is genuine, even if they do have your best interests at heart, you should still go and have a fabulous trip, and maybe, just maybe, if they are willing to receive it, they will get the gift of letting go of that anxiety about you, and instead realizing that they raised an independent and competent child who was ready to go out into the world and have adventures.

  93. gemmaem said:

    Just to add to the Lois McMaster Bujold book suggestions, I’d like to make a hearty recommendation of Paladin of Souls to anyone who is discovering the power to make their own decisions later in life. The central character in that book is a ways older than even you, LW, but for reasons of gender and illness she’s never had the power to make her own decisions. She, too, wants to travel, and I hope that, like her, you’ll find your own way to say goodbye to the people sputtering that you can’t do this without satisfying them first that your reasons are good enough, and set out on the road to see what you find.

    My own separation from my parents was a difficult one. My mother had a similar tendency to play up her own feelings and tell me I was selfish for “making her worry” if ever I wanted to do something with risks attached. My father is a generally lovely man, but not about to disagree with my mother on a question of parenting, and when pressed as a parent he falls back on his own parents’ technique of plain and simple mockery. So I’d have my mother saying “How can you do this to me?” and my father saying “Hahaha she thinks she’s grown up!” I got a scholarship to spend a year at a university halfway around the world and somehow, still, halfway around the world, I was having arguments with them about how much control they got to have over my life.

    We had a rocky patch of several years. I stopped telling them things. I made my own decisions. I paid my own rent. And they learned to get used to it.

    I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. My mother never lied when she said she cared about me. When she saw that I was an adult, and happy, she adjusted. She decided that, hey, maybe raising a happy daughter who makes her own decisions isn’t something to be too worried about having done. My Dad saw there wasn’t any conflict any more and stopped making jokes that had ends pointed at me in an effort to “lighten the mood” by reminding me of my place. Sometimes there are still things I don’t tell them. I can set boundaries when I have to. But we have a loving adult relationship, now, and I’m glad I get to have that with my parents.

    I hope your parents will adjust, someday, too. But whether they do or whether they don’t, you don’t have to wait for them to grow. You have the power to do what you want to do with your life. Go do it. Let them react however they react. And I hope that when the dust settles, they’ll adjust and realise, hey, you were an adult all along, and going travelling at this time of your life was an awesome idea.

  94. Flora said:

    My parents were not abusive, but still very over-protective and anxious when I was growing up. I went travelling overseas for a year at age 19, largely to escape them. It was amazing and life changing. GO!

    Consider having strategies for how to deal with attempts to guilt trip you after you are gone. Assess all channels of contact.

    1. EMAIL.
    On my travels, I suddenly felt like a better version of myself and so happy. Joyous. But one vicious, guilt-tripping email from my mother would send me on a downward spiral, leave me a sobbing wreck in the Internet cafe, the guilt and anxiety I’d felt dealing with my parents at home came flooding back in. Friends I’d made were kinda baffled like, why don’t you just tell you family to back off? Why let it bother you? But it’s so true that you cannot undo all your childhood grooming overnight!

    If your parents’ emails are going to be terrible, just cut off that form of contact altogether and only do one-way postcards. If you do want to have any email contact, maybe make a special new travelling email for your parents and only check it once a month, make your boundaries around limited contact clear and stick to them!

    2. PHONE CALLS.
    My mom would call me every day and not really want to hear a single thing about me or my trip, just offloading ALL HER FEELINGS. Again I would be left a crying wreck. Thankfully as I was travelling to different places I stopped giving her contact phone numbers.

    3. POSTAL ADDRESS.
    I got sick (nothing serious) and I knew my parents could easily send some meds that were cheap and accessible in my home country but not available where I was travelling. I thought the meds were worth the risk of interacting with my parents and asked them to send JUST the meds to a postal address. I specified that I was backpacking and moving town to town, and might not receive the meds if they did not arrive by a certain time, because of the unreliable postage system… I had caved in a moment of sickness and thought the meds were worth a shot.

    Mistake. My mom no longer had regular phone contact so doubled down with snail mail guilting, and also sent a massive, expensive care package of stuff I didn’t want, need or ask for… food, handmade gifts from my siblings… and from her point of view she was only being genuinely caring and loving. But when I didn’t get the package (delayed in postal system) she used that as proof of what a terrible and ungrateful daughter I was and now I had made my younger siblings so heartbroken after they put so much time and effort into making me gifts (later found out they didn’t care), and it was just guilt guilt guilt.

    The care package sounds like not a big deal now, but at that time in my life (pre-therapy), any guilt from my parents really unravelled me. I later learned to set boundaries through lots of therapy and practice, and actually have a good adult relationship with my parents now. The year living away from them was the beginning of resetting our relationship.

    You are allowed to limit or cut off contact if you want to. Have a fabulous trip! 💕

  95. Heather said:

    Go! All the gos!!! I took an extended holiday at your age and wound up meeting my husband, finding an awesome job and an awesome new home abroad. 9 years later and I still have all three! Travelling, and most important, in my experience, travelling alone are the best experiences. People who don’t have the travel bug will never get it, so do not waste time explaining. You will meet other travellers as you go along, and they will be able to enthuse with you over your sure to be awesome trip. In fact, my only real question for you is, what is your itinerary? And OMG, soooo jealous! Squee!!!

  96. Pitbull said:

    It is awesome that you saved so much money for your travels and return! You seem to have a good handle on your timeline and what you want to do. The plan you have made and carried out so responsibly seems well-matched to what you want and have enjoyed.

    So, go. Send postcards every few days. Fill up your days and time with where you are. And when you return, if you decide to return, you’ll have a good start to a more enjoyable life, in a fun place, making friends, letting the useless stuff roll off. Honest.

  97. Greg M. said:

    it sucks not having someone be on your side in this stage locally, because believe me it’s so easy to geek out on trip planning and it’s fun to do that with someone.

    Here’s my advice for when you’re on the trip, social network the heck out of it, pics, vlogs, videos, everything. You’ll have a record and some people might be encouraging.

    As for the job situation. it may take time but you can find one after. You’ll have a cool interview anecdote for the rest of your life. You’ll find a way to make it work.

  98. Clare said:

    I hate travelling myself, but reading your description of how it makes you feel made me almost want to jump on a plane myself! It sounds thrilling and wonderful. And when I read your budget and savings plan I was filled with admiration for how prudent and practical you are. I also think you’re very lucky to be able to save 30k. LW, you MUST go on this trip. It’s clearly what you want and need and I believe that you can do it.
    Also, you didn’t ‘feebly’ tell them what your therapist told you. You very bravely stood up for yourself against a long history of being controlled and undermined. Your parents behaviour is not reasonable; I’m only 23 and I’d be spitting mad if my parents told me when and how I had to contact them.
    This internet stranger believes in you! You can do the thing and it will be amazing.

  99. QoB said:

    LW, I resurrected a long-dormant WordPress account just so I could comment here for the first time – um, hi, I feel strongly about this.

    [content note: sexual violence]

    The first time I went to eastern Europe my mother insisted on having me picked up from the airport by colleagues of hers. Then I went to live in a forest for a few weeks where the only way of phoning home was to walk half an hour to the local village, go to the post office, have them place a call for you and be prepared for them to listen in. So even if she’d wanted more contact, it wasn’t possible – she just had to deal with it. I recommend that method (but perhaps not the pit toilets I had to use while camping).

    She still has some controlling/anxious tendencies but is a good bit better now.
    She got through it, and so will your parents.

    When I was in my early twenties, I lived and travelled abroad for a year (not that unusual for people where I’m from): partly working and partly travelling, both with friends and alone.

    It was amazing. I’ve wanted to do a long trip like that again ever since: the places I saw, the experiences I had, the stories I can tell now… and that includes the difficult stuff, like how travelling with my best friend and another friend was unexpectedly very tense and damaged our relationships… but we had the tough conversations and we got through it. Or how I’m pretty sure I was raped in a hostel after meeting some guys there and letting them buy me drinks (it’s hard to say, I have very little memory of it). I took the morning-after pill my sister had given me, I showered, I cried, and I kept on with my trip because fuck them.

    I still had an amazing, interesting, wonderful year, and if I had an all-or-nothing choice, I would do it again.

    TLDR version: **when** you go, it won’t all be amazingly positive. It will suck, at times.
    All you can do is take whatever safety precautions seem reasonable to you, plan what you can, and say “yes” as much as possible.

    Practical recommendation: I love the NeverEndingVoyage blog both for practical tips (like how they’ve travelled for years with carry-on luggage only) and travel inspiration.

    You’ve got this, LW. I am cheering you on!

  100. LW, as a woman of around the same age as you with a parent who continually worries and frets about what my brother and I are doing (read: wants to stay in control of us) I’m pleased that the advice Captain gave you is pretty much exactly what I would have said myself, because it worked for me (except the Captain’s scripts are always so much better than mine!)

    The only thing I’d suggest changing is the weekly email whilst away, because they can reply to that and give you all sorts of crap you don’t need while you’re trying to relax and enjoy yourself. This is a a break you are taking from your normal life, including your parents! Unless you really want to hear from them, why not send a postcard instead? As Captain has demonstrated, they’re lovely to receive and keep and the real beauty of them is that you can maintain one-way conversation without being disturbed by replies. If they NEED to contact you, they still have your email address.

    Putting them on an “information diet” is a really useful tool. The fewer details they know, the fewer things they can fret over about What can Go Wrong. “How much money have you saved for this?” “Oh definitely enough, I’ve done loads of research!” sort of response tends to work for me. Another useful technique that my therapist taught me is just to bat all their irrational worries and attempts at control back at them rather than engaging with them.

    Them: “Oh no, [terrible thing] will happen to you in [place]!”
    You: “You think [terrible thing] will happen in [place]? Okay, that’s what you think.”
    “But what if it HAPPENS?”
    “You think [terrible thing] will happen. You’re entitled to your opinion.” [SUBJECT CHANGE]

    Giving your own opinion back about why you think that’s nonsense can be tempting, but not engaging is far more powerful. Acknowledging that’s an opinion and they’re entitled to it can really throw people off in this sort of situation.

  101. Have you read any biographies about Nellie Bly? Very interesting woman. I highly recommend learning more about her, if only so you can channel some of her badass-ness on days when you’re having trouble picturing the trip ever happening.

    Remember: She went undercover into a mental hospital to expose the horrific treatment of people with mental health issues. Maybe you could go undercover in your own life, i.e., silently planning your trip while nodding and saying “huh” and changing the subject as your parents try to control you. Then take off and have the time of your life.

    I’d like to make an offer: I’ve written a couple of books about making the best use out of the money you have, either to get through a crisis/low-pay situation OR to do what I call “live lean to realize a dream.” I would like to offer you free e-copies of both, if you’re interested. Maybe you already do all the frugal hacks, but maybe the books will contain some tidbit that will help you squirrel away the travel budget plus the safety net for when (or IF) you return.

    No strings attached, and I won’t put you on a mailing list or sell your info or anything dastardly like that. It’s just that I’ve been in the position of wanting to get out from a stultifying situation (in my case, an abusive marriage), and well do I understand the feeling of being unable to break free. It *does* look odd from the outside. But when you’re in the thick of it, it feels impossible.

    Should you think the books would be helpful, perhaps the good Captain or her second-in-command would be able to put you in touch with me so I can e-mail you the books….? (And if that’s a giant overreach, Cap’n, I apologize.)

    If you already have your funding-the-trip plan down cold, ignore this.

    And I hope you come back to CA in a year and give an update on (a) where you’ve been and (b) where you are at that time. Safe and delightful travels to you!

  102. H. said:

    LW. Have a wonderful, wonderful trip.

    I’ve travelled around the world – but didn’t give myself as much time to do it. It was great, I wish I’d taken longer. I envy you your trip!

    Whether your $20,000 budget is enough will totally depend on where you want to go & what you want to do.

    It seems supremely obvious, but be aware that typical touristy activities can be outrageously expensive — but often (not always) they are touristy precisely because they are fun. (I’m thinking of one day I spent several hundred to go on a spelunking expedition in an area with great caves, stalagmites, glowworms & inner-tubing through a cave that was pitch black except for glow worms all around me & reflected in the water I was floating through – totally magical, totally worth it, totally expensive). There are lots & lots of fun things to do that are cheap as well, but I’d suggest consider budgeting for the occasional expensive one as well.

    Also be aware that some ways of travelling cheaply can be pretty obnoxious to the locals. (For instance, in the country I live, there is a bit of a problem with tourists, hiring cars & sleeping in them – it sounds benign enough – but if it means that the tourists then s*** on the locals lawns/parks or into rivers/sea in the morning it gets obnoxious very fast – and I have actually sent a (male) tourist parked harbourside p***ing one morning into the sea – I was swimming in the sea at the time ). Obnoxious behaviour also includes going into wilderness areas under-prepared & then expecting locals to rescue you; or trying to avoid paying the standard fees to get into/stay in wilderness areas (yes, it’s fairly easy to do – but someone has to pay for the track/facility upkeep etc, and if the area/state/country has decided to do it by taxing tourists/users/whoever, it’s pretty obnoxious for someone from a higher-income country to try to avoid doing so – either pay up or don’t go there).

    I’m not (of course) saying that you’d do any of the things I’ve mentioned above (or similar), but the people who were saying how cheaply they could travel might have been – All this stuff adds to the rock bottom cost that might be boasted about on the web, but really is just the rock bottom cost of ethical travel. Likewise if you’re spending time in a small place (especially if camping etc) try to buy something from the local shops to keep the economy going – it’ll probably be more expensive than food you’ve carried in from a big town, but if the area is worth visiting then it’s worth supporting surely?

    Lots of great ways of doing things cheaply of course – WOOF (which has the benefit of often meeting locals); staying in hostels; getting a working -holiday rather than a tourist visa & taking on real work etc.

  103. IrishEm said:

    I really needed this post last year. Right after my Dad died 5 years ago, my mum turned to use me as her co-dependent crutch which was fine while we were both grieving the sudden loss, but when I pulled out of the Pit of Grief I realised that my dream life was getting a PhD in Italy. My Mum? Freaked the eff out and used all the controlling tools in her Unhealthy-Relationship-Toolbox. Not, I hasten to add, out of malice, but because she was sad and lonely and grieving and afraid, and well, you know how they say Misery Loves Company? Her Misery loved my company in particular. I eventually got so fed up of her manipulation tactics that I sat her down (appropriately enough in an Italian restaurant) and explained that I needed to live my life and not be beholden to or subjugated by her. I still don’t know if her brother, my Uncle in whom I had also confided my dreams had a word with her to add to the Let IrishEm go live her life, not yours argument, but I got her to come around to the idea that me going to Italy for a PhD was not The Worst Case Scenario. Sadly, right after she accepted the thought of my leaving, and just before I sent off my application to the relevant PhD course she got a serious bleed on the brain that almost killed her, left her paralyzed on the left side and unable to come home. She has to live in a nursing home, and care of the house is now on my shoulders. And now that our situation is stable, I have made a few noises about applying to the PhD programme that I want and she reverted to freaking the eff out. So I’m either stuck here playing the Good Child until she dies (and the women in her family live until their 90s, she is in her 60s – stupidly young for the type of stroke she had *sigh*) or I leave and let her freak the eff out in the nursing home and be the Bad Child and Awful Person. So there will be no Italian PhD for IrishEm. I have to nanny my mother who is in the nursing home. *sigh*

    The point of my rambling is this, LW, go and do the thing as soon as you can, do not let negotiations take up all your time and energy like I did, you never know what’s going to get in your way if you don’t make the leap. I wish you good luck following your dream, and look me up if you make your way to Ireland!

    • Jarissa said:

      IrishEm, I feel you. Boy oh boy do I feel you on the obligation to take care of family.

      But I wish you would go to Italy anyhow.

      I come from a family of heavy-responsibility-carriers. I made choices for my husband’s mother’s sake that pretty much burned up my Happily Ever After over the many years it took Janie to go from “on the verge of dying any week now” to “gone”. I did it because what kind of horribad person would I be if I refused?

      I should have refused. Janie would have had to find her own peace no matter where her son lived.

      Mum is going to be miserable if you’re there and she’s in the nursing home. She’s going to be miserable if you are NOT there and she’s in the nursing home. You cannot, cannot, cannot sacrifice yourself enough to grant Mum peace. You can talk to Hospice or somebody and find some sort of an advocate, someone who works for you and checks on her.

      If you watched the show The West Wing you might remember the character C.J. Cregg had a parent who had to have full-time caretakers as the series went on. Even though it sometimes hurt, C.J. made the choice to live her own life as fully as she could. For me, that was the most important idea that the entire show ever presented: I can be a Good Person even if I am not living according to someone else’s needs.

      I wish you would go to Italy. Apply to the PhD programme. Pack up the house and hire a property manager to rent it out, or sell it. Hire some sort of a professional nanny to check up on Mum’s condition and treatment, whether that’s a legal professional or something else. Be a whole person. Change the course of human history. Create a legacy of joy.

      • IrishEm said:

        Thank you, Jarissa. I really needed to see this today.

        I need to save for now (nursing home fees are eating our money and I’m unemployed) but hopefully next year I will be applying for the PhD. Whether I get in to the programme or not is another thing entirely, but I will be working towards my dream.

        Thank you.

  104. OP, your comment made my mouth dry, my stomach was in knots – i was re-living my Indian parents, with the additional tack-on of physical abuse that was okayed by society. I moved the first chance I got to halfway across the world, and is now very limited contact with my parents – and life has never been better.

    Come to Berlin. But when you do, make sure that you leave your parental baggage behind – if not all, then as much as possible. A large part of your unhappiness is how they treat you, and learn to put them on timeouts, mute notifications of texts or messages on your messaging services, redirect their emails to a folder which you will check once in a while when you feel like it.

    Prepare. Check out berlinstartupjobs.com to see if you can already start interviewing for a job in Berlin. See if your skills from current job are transferrable. Look into what else you can start working on. Sign up to Duolingo or dw.de to learn a bit of German so you can go beyond Danke in your interactions. This also has the added advantages of keeping you busy and distracted from your parents. Do research into how you can get your German work visa (if you need it) and be ready for it because it may take months to get it approved. Research room rents and costs, and see how much you can save up or what you can find online that you can afford. Join all the facebook groups for free advice, sell stuff, free your stuff etc.

    Also realise that Berlin may not always be the magical place that you have thought it to be, but that’s okay because by then you would have made it your home.

    Not sure of how the Captain works re. passing on emails or site links etc, but feel free to reach out to me if you have further questions.

    All the love, and hope you come across you in Berlin one day.

  105. ...Kat... said:

    There are blogs about travel ( including solo travel and solo female travel) to foreign countries. Check them out! They are full of great adventures and advice. Please send us an update from Berlin.

  106. ladybear said:

    Your trip sounds amazing and you have saved up so much money for it – you are clearly fully capable of doing this and your parents are way off base. Nth-ing everyone’s advice about prioritising what you want. You don’t need their permission. You were trying to be nice by including them and they have not repaid your faith in them.

    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned yet, as far as I see. I don’t want to be a downer. You are clearly a super capable person. But a thought occurs – if this is how they react to your travel plans, I think your parents are going to be very hard work when you have a kid. Especially if you have a kid on your own.

    You are adventurous, have insight into your needs and emotions, you’re a hard worker, a saver, and you reach out for help when you need it. That sounds like a fantastic person, and parent, to me. Now, before the upheaval and vulnerability of new parenthood, is the time to travel the world, assert your adulthood and salt your field of fucks.

  107. Cyberwulf said:

    LW, you are 32 years old. You are organised, you’ve done your research and you are not afraid to take risks. It’s your money and your life and you can do what you want with both. Just some validation for you 🙂

    Something that’s worked for me when someone is spewing negativity and bringing me down is to state what you think they mean. Ex. (Mother complaining angrily that sister has a cold again, what a difficult child she is) “Do you think she gets sick on purpose or something?” Result: Mother takes offence but also shuts her mouth on the topic for a few days.

    In your case, since your parents seem fixated on money/job, you could try

    “What do you think will happen, I’ll run out of money in a week and you’ll have to fly me home? I’ll be broke when I get back and you’ll have to support me?”

    This should be said in a tone that suggests they’re being ridiculous.

    It’s worked for me when deployed against people who are usually reasonable but enjoy working themselves into a lather about how other people are just out to make their lives difficult. The goal is to shame/offend them into stopping their nonsense. Only you know if this will work and if you’ll be able to actually say it.

    One last thing – for the love of all that’s holy and unholy do not tell them you’re adopting until the kid is on the point of moving in. Expect panicky dances about you being a single mother and would you not find yourself a man and have a baby for MONTHS if you do.

  108. Cam said:

    Your parents might be right. You might not save enough for a year of travel. Does it mean you failed if you only travel for eight months instead of twelve? Was the trip not worth it if you don’t make it to every city you planned? Will you regret everything if you need to make some side money while traveling to support the rest of your travels? Of course not! It will still be worth it.

  109. LW, I find you to be a very impressive person! This trip seems amazingly well-thought out and prepared for. I don’t have additional scripts of helpful advice, but just wanted to say that: you sound about as well prepared as anyone I’ve ever heard planning a trip. Not only can you do this, you are already doing it!
    I love this letter and it gave me some motivation to start working on goals.

  110. Rachel Laban said:

    I basically just want to say “go go go go!” especially with your dreams of being a parent. Stuff changes, either because of kids or because of other stuff, and in a few years you may have other commitments that make this kind of a trip less practical or appealing. I traveled a lot in my early 20s, thought I would always travel a lot, and now I…don’t. I am very comfortable with that, but I am also very happy that I’m not looking back and thinking, “I wish I’d gone to ____.”

    I have a sneaking suspicion that your parents will pull this same kind of controlling stuff when you start talking serious about adoption, or about being a single parent. And I also wonder if there are other things in your life they have discouraged you from, directly or indirectly. The overall picture that you paint of your life and how you’re feeling just makes me want so much better for you. I hope that you do the trip, and that it provides a reset where you can make fresh decisions about where you live, your support system, career, and everything. Good luck, we are all rooting for you!

  111. gallistar said:

    I think you are incredible and wise to want to do this, LW. You know your parents best and you might have some idea about how they’re likely to respond to your going ahead with this amazing adventure. Are they likely to sulk at you? To make threats? Are you worried they’ll try another ‘intervention?’
    Be prepared that you might be faced with some extinction bursts of controlling behaviour as they try to get you back in line. Thinking about that may help you decide exactly when to tell them to keep yourself safe – maybe three days in advance, maybe two weeks, maybe not till you’re actually on the plane and about to take off and there is absolutely nothing they can do.

    If you’re worried they’ll try to talk you out of your plans, one thing you could try is to make a kind of mental (or real!) bingo board to note down the attempts at manipulation. Somehow thinking of the tactics in advance, writing them down, and then checking them off as they come up helps to create some distance between their behaviour and the effect it has on you. ‘Turned up at my workplace to berate me? Check! Got my favourite sibling/cousin to call and ‘reason’ with me? Check? Brought up all the other times I have ever failed at anything? Check! Bingo!’

    In the meantime, try and make sure they have as little to threaten you with as possible. If you’re dependent on them for any money, if they water your plants or care for your pets, if they hold a spare key to your apartment and you’re planning to rent it while you’re gone, now is a great time to make other arrangements.

    Gute Reise! We’re all rooting for you!

  112. mm said:

    How fabulous, LW, that you have found something you love and made a plan to have it in big helpings, and soon. Yeah you!

    I want to suggest that you check out the website called Couch Surfing. There you will find people who travel all over the world and stay at each other’s places, generally for free. People look for places to stay (or not), offer places to stay (or not), connect with travelers and locals, and sometimes do stuff together. I’ve come to enjoy the aspect where travelers can write questions about an area and then local people can answer them. There’s not a whole lot of this sort of Q&A, I’d enjoy more, anyway it is interesting. I find it fun when things I know can be useful to people to whom what is super obvious to me is novel and even exotic to them. The site may or may not be your cup of tea, of course….. But since it is wildly pro-travel I think you might find people with whom you resonate on this grand undertaking. Thus I think it may be worth your time to take a look.

    Also how fabulous that you have the gumption for a year of travel. I don’t think I’ve ever in my life had that sort of confidence! Yeah you!

  113. Allie said:

    LW, are you me? Did I secretly write this letter in my sleep, then see it in my feed reader, and read the advice that I desperately need to hear?

    I got a working holiday visa to New Zealand. It’s sitting there online, waiting for me to use it. I applied at the literal last possible second: you have to be 30, and I applied 1 week before I turned 31. I still have 7 months before it expires. I have plenty of money saved. I talk to my therapist constantly about traveling, about how I feel that I could gain so much confidence by doing things on my own.

    I’m not 100% financially independent, and I still live with my parents; I very much recognize in myself the “groomed to seek their approval and fear their anxiety and disappointment” that the Captain mentioned in her comment above. I finally (FINALLY) graduated last year. It is what has kept me under my parents’ thumbs: I had to graduate, I had to have my degree, and I finally (FINALLY) managed to white-knuckle my way through it. (Yay, endless battles with depression and anxiety! Endless failing of classes and dragging myself back through them!) I’m not satisfied with my life as it is now: I have a good job, as in it is good for me and I enjoy it, not that it pays quite enough to live on. I have my little group of friends on Team Me that I get together with every week. But I have made my life small based on my own fears/anxieties, and tiptoeing around those of my parents. I’m not exactly sure what I want to do next with my life, so this would be the perfect time to travel and have some space for myself.

    When I went to South Korea in 2014 to visit my best friend, who was teaching there, telling my parents about my plan was a nightmare. This would be my first big trip without some kind of supervised structure (e.g. my first international trip: eight days in Germany with a college class). They screamed at me when I told them what I wanted to do, they listed everything that could go wrong, warned me against human trafficking. And what happened? I ended up having a wonderful time. It was a blast, I spent every weekend in Seoul watching Korean indie bands, we went to Busan and got caught in the tail end of a typhoon, watched Guardians of the Galaxy in a theatre full of Koreans and were the only ones laughing, ate amazing Korean food every day. And, on the very last day, I went shopping by myself in Seoul. I took the subway to Insadong, and spent a couple of hours wandering around and shopping for souvenirs. It took me some time to strike out on my own without my friend’s guidance, but something as simple as that felt very empowering.

    Go, and have a wonderful trip. I hope I can gather up the courage to leave too. Maybe we could run into each other on the road. 🙂

    • slfisher said:

      New Zealand is a wonderful place. go, go, go.

      • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

        Seconded.

  114. Jackalope said:

    I would like to recommend the book “Go Girl! The Black Woman’s Guide to Travel and Adventure”, edited by Elaine Lee. As the title indicates, it is primarily directed towards black women traveling, but the stories are wonderful for anyone to read. The bit that would make this book most helpful in your case (in my opinion) is that the author spent a year traveling around the world, and the last part of the book is her advice on how to make that a practical reality. She gives a list of helpful steps on everything from a timeline of things to do beforehand, to how to make sure any bills at home are still paid, to thoughts on what to put in your suitcase to maximize space. I found it a wonderful resource for long trips and think you might as well.

    As far as travel reading to give you ideas on places to go, or to get your imagination fired up even more, I love the Traveler’s Tales series. Unlike regular guide books, they provide essays from people who have traveled to different places and give you an idea of what it’s like to go to those places. Originally they did books on specific countries (France, Thailand, Spain, etc.); they’ve moved more in the direction of types of travel (women’s travel, men’s travel, spiritual travel, mishaps while traveling, and so on). I’ve loved every book I read in that series, and it’s given me ideas about what to do when I go other places. I also love Dervla Murphy, who is an Irish author who decided she wanted to go to random destinations where most tourists don’t visit. Her books are mostly worth it for getting to read about said countries, but she also drops ideas along the way about things like how to stay safe or what to bring.

    Anyway, I hope that is helpful for the LW or for anyone else who wants to try this sort of traveling. Go, go, go!

  115. Fishmongers' Daughters said:

    Oh man did this letter speak to me. LW, breaking away from the stifling life my narcissistic parents lived and was the only one they could imagine for me is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. It was 15 years ago and I can trace every good thing that’s happened to me since back to that decision.

    And, not for nothing, that includes the fact that I’ve jumped class, which is getting harder and harder to do in the US. I grew up in a tiny little impoverished rural white community, and nobody in my family had ever gone to college. My high school bestie and I started our first jobs at McDonalds on the same day… and she still works there. When I first visited Philadelphia in my early twenties (a city 30 minutes and a world away), it made me feel like such an “interesting, capable, and sexy person” that I gave up my neat, clean subsidized apartment to live in filth with a total slumlord in an artist colony where I could look out my bedroom window at 7am and see a bunch of artists drinking box wine and painting a nude model in the outdoor gallery that was my backyard. It was surreal and mind-boggling.

    And then I met a group of educated, driven women. Artists! Tenured college professors! Women’s Studies theorists! And I fit in. And my world expanded again.

    And then I started college at the age of 30. I learned Arabic and studied Islam and got paid summer internships and scholarships and traveled to Oman, and my life kept expanding. And then I graduated with honors and 5-year funding offer at University of Minnesota. And met my loving and brilliant husband and then traveled last year to India to meet his parents and this year to national parks all around the US and maybe next year to Iceland if we can work it out.

    If my parents had had their way, I’d be living a mile away from them, trying to work my way up at that McDonalds or *maybe* starting an entry level white collar job if one could be found and trying to do the same there. For 15 years. I’d marry a farmer if I was lucky, maybe that boy from our church my mother hoped I’d someday marry – the one who now believes the earth is flat, Pokemon Go is a demonic invasion, and blacks are trying to start a race war. I’d sing at a local Pentecostal chuch – my mother’s highest ambition for me! – and raise kids and try to keep them away from the methamphetamine epidemic currently sweeping through my home town.

    Get the fuck out of there, dearest LW, is what I’m saying. Your life will change. Your world will expand. You do not fit the box they’re trying to squeeze you into. You are large, you contain multitudes, and so should the life you choose.

  116. Lionheart26 said:

    Captain I so very badly needed to read this! Wonderful caring committed partner of 2.5 years and I are getting married next week!!!! İt’s not quite the time we wanted to do it, but circumstances and visa issues have got in our way. We figured that seeing as we want to get married eventually anyway, it was no big deal to move the official registration forward and have the big party sometime later.
    Oh boy my parents did not see things the same way. When I told them a few months ago that this might happen, it was basically the THE WORST decision I could make in my 34 years.

    So……. I didn’t tell them. And we never mentioned it again. And now I’m planning on getting married in secret and just not telling them at all. (when we eventually get around to having a proper wedding, we might just skip the ceremony and perhaps tell everyone then that we’ve already been there and done that!)

    I feel TERRİBLE. Especially the closer we get to the big day. But I know that if I included them they would have tried to talk me out of it. My friend told me that sometimes I have to protect my parents by filtering what I tell them. This reminds me that it’s also protecting myself…….

  117. Clarry said:

    More examples of how parents can take anxiety-shits on adult children’s dreams: I once mentioned in passing that I’d never taken higher math in high school or college and how it would be nice to know calculus, maybe take a community college course in it. Nothing in my work or everyday life requires calculus, but I always thought it would be cool to know, along the lines of how you don’t have to have designs to make money as a professional musician to want to learn to play a musical instrument. When I said this to my mother, she began with how I couldn’t do it, okay, maybe I was capable, but it would be hard, but, and then the fears came out … of taking a course that didn’t even count for credit that would go on a transcript! That may have been the first time I realized how deeply entwined my failures were supposed to be with my mother’s. She’s no good at math so she had to make sure I wasn’t either, and she was dead set on that. Aaach! She wants to take a scary calculus class! Aaach! Help! Stop her!

  118. And I predict that the best part of it all, LW, is that when you get back from your trip, after having navigated ALL THE THINGS, your parents will try to run their trip on you and—you’ll blink, look at them, see that they are mere mortal human beings and no long The Parents—and you’ll respond to them as such.

    And they’ll blink, and not really understand what happened. But now you can set about renegotiating your relationship with them as fellow citizens.

    See, this is what they’re really afraid of: losing their grip on you.

  119. LW, I just want to point out that anyone who has $X thousand in the bank instead of $X thousand in debt has done an awesome job at life so far.

    Go forth and jaunt!

  120. LW, I can only say one thing to you:

    GO.

    If you loved Berlin as much as it sounds like–like you found a new you in a new place that showed you life could be so much *more* than you ever dreamed–then, even if everything goes horribly and you lose your passport and run out of money and have to crash on people’s couches and take a crappy job until you have the money for a flight…..

    …You still won’t regret it.

    I know. I’ve been in a similar situation, and hindsight being 20/20, if I’d known four years ago what I know now, I’d be living near Munich.

    My parents weren’t nearly as bad as yours, but they instilled enough bad habits, ways of thinking, & perfectionism in me that, while I was waiting for everything to be ‘right’ to tackle an overseas move, I completely wasted any reasonable opportunity to do it. Now I’m stuck in a place I’ve learned to hate, around people I don’t generally like and certainly don’t understand, and spend too much time thinking ‘if only’.

    Do it.

    You’re 32. That means you are a grown adult, and (barring the illegal) you can do whatever the hell you want, and your parents can disapprove all they want, but they can’t stop you.

    Go. Get away. Find that new you that you discovered in Berlin, and do your dangdest to make the change permanent.

    And if you’re ever in Munich, I recommend the Viktualienmarkt for snacks. 🙂

  121. Katie said:

    “Make room in your plans for the gods to find you.” — Phil Cousineau, travel writer

    I’m 49, a school teacher, so I get to plan trips WAY out ahead. I’ve been to 26 so far. In almost 20 years of travel, I’ve had three mildly unpleasant situations happen where I was never in physical danger. One, a deranged homeless man was looking for a verbal fight, and at that time in my life, I was a morbidly obese American woman. Target found. Thank God for a handsome young French man who stepped off the train, and physically put himself between me and homeless dude, as I stepped onto the train and made an escape. One other time in Paris, a man yelled at me incomprehensibly (I speak some tourist French). I can’t run, so I just sat down where I was, put my head down, and “sat” my ground. He gave up and left. One other time, I had a snarky comment from some young skinny dude about my weight, and I snarked right back at him. He turned around and saw one BIG, pissed off American woman who was ready to take the fight to him, right then and there. He turned and walked off, muttering.

    So seriously, no problem. I’ve always traveled solo, and am quiet (my nature as an introvert), polite, and I ALWAYS know how to say yes, no, please, thank you, sorry, how much, and toilet in EVERY language. You can’t go far wrong. If you can say more, you’re golden, and people do notice and will appreciate it, because you have made an effort to learn. Stay in hostels, talk to people, ask people at the front desk for ideas, and make an effort to chat people up at lunch and dinner when it feels right. Take LOTS of pictures. Bring a notebook or start a blog. I blog every day where there’s internet access. On the Camino de Santiago (I did 100 miles, 20% of the whole thing), I documented most of my journey on Facebook.

    Do what feels right. Trust your gut. Don’t take stupid chances. Upgrade every once in a while from grungy hostel to nice hotel room and take a proper bath, and let the wind blow you where it will. You will NOT EVER regret this.

  122. Bonnie Anne said:

    Go to Facebook and join the following groups: Girls Love Travel, Girls Love Travel 35+, Solo Travel Society, and Solo Women Travelers. There are so.many.women.like.you. SO MANY, LW. You are not alone, or unique in wanting to travel single — and deal with The Parents. Seriously… go. Don’t wait. 🙂

  123. Jjar said:

    Lw please go on the trip! When you have kids, you can figure out other ways to travel with them and have vey different adventures. I wish i had traveled a little more before having kids because one of them has medical issues that make it harder to manage.

    • JenniferP said:

      I’m watching the photos with joy as my college best friend (and #1 study abroad travel buddy) travels through Argentina and Chile with her kids (a first grader and a toddler) and it’s delightful.

      • Jjar said:

        That sounds so fun! My toddler has a bunch of food allergies so traveling places where I’m not fluent in the language isn’t an option right now, and travel in general is stressful, but I think in a few years it won’t really be an issue. I’m really looking forward to taking them different places!

  124. LW, please watch the Carey Grant/Katherine Hepburn movie “Holiday.” It just seems incredibly apropos right now.

    Good luck standing up to your parents for your own dreams. You’ll need that practice for when you need to stand up to them on behalf of your children, because believe me, if you have this trouble now, then it will just become worse when you have children, BUT, you can put a stop to it. Hard as it is now, it is still easier than it will be once kids join the mix.

    I wish you happy travels, strong boundaries, and a joyful future, even if it takes the most unexpected direction.

    Serendipity, for the win!

  125. mercury said:

    LW I want to wish you a great trip. I find this quote really helpful when I am thinking of doing something “awesome scary”.
    “What folly it is to dread the thought of throwing away life at once, and yet have no regard to throwing it away by parcel and piecemeal.” Basically the time I am spending on this earth should have some joy in it for me. So forget about your parents for a moment and imagine looking out of an airplane window at a new city. Imagine exploring and doing whatever you want to do. That will make you strong enough to reach out and do it.

  126. Jane said:

    Hey LW! I took off eight months last year to travel in Europe, so I obviously have a big bias in favor of your plan. At this point I’ve done a fair amount of travel, and I regard it as part of a slow project to make my heart bigger, more receptive and sensitive to beauty, more delighted in kindness and existence in general. I can’t promise you that it will change your life in the way that you want it to, but I feel safe wagering that the joy you experience will outweigh the risk you take.

    I am 100% behind putting your parents on an information diet. For the last seven or so years, I have made a habit of giving my parents no information about my upcoming travels until the tickets were purchased — I am extremely sensitive, and my dad is judgmental, so it just seemed like a route to sadness for all of us. Now I feel more sure of myself and tell them a bit more (though my dad does occasionally try to tell me about Islamic! terrorism! in! France! whatever, Dad.)

    I honestly am close-mouthed about my travel plans with pretty much everyone who hasn’t proven to me that they’re cool with traveling and have some concept of what long-term travel means, because I find the emotional work required to soothe other people’s fears about speaking a language other than English, staying with strangers, taking public transport, moving through the world as a single woman, navigating big cities, etc. to be really discouraging.

    I’m going to repeat what a lot of other posters have said — if you want to have a little bit more support for your trip and spend a little less money, I would definitely look into WWOOFing. I know lots of people have had good experiences with Workaway and HelpX too, but farming is where my heart’s at, so I’m pushing WWOOF. I personally find travel to be more fun and less overwhelming when I have a home base in a lovely place that I can venture out from, and I also found that I met a lot of great people that way.

    Go well, LW, and be brave in the world.

  127. Anisoptera said:

    Hi LW, just throwing this comment aaaalll the way down here at the bottom of this huge comment section because while I was reading your letter I kept thinking “agh you’re 32 and financially independent why are your parent’s so able to ruin your plans?” while also nodding because *I know why*. I was about 30 when I worked this stuff out myself. 🙂

    Hopefully you read this far!

    I just want to say this. If you’re anything like me the core of your problem is that your parents’ emotional reactions feel like The Worst Thing In The World. They are not. You feel that way because as a child you were totally at their mercy and managing their feelings became this unconscious automatic thing you did to survive. Actually, their anger or disappointment or whatever is upsetting, but it’s not The Worst Thing In The World and you can survive it. It feels weird at first, to just tell them no and feel like you’re deliberately upsetting them. It’s really hard to do it effectively without letting them wheedle their way back into a negotiation (usually because you justified and explained too much). Difficult people often force you into an explicit confrontation too – you know, asking you direct questions forcefully over your repeated attempts to change the subject, explicitly calling out the subject change. They make it impossible to do anything but comply or have an actual blow out where you have to escalate to being really direct and assertive about whatever it is. It’s OK to eventually directly say “I will not talk to you about this” and then leave, even though they’re having a total melt down and saying all sorts of bad stuff.

    It’s also best to not get drawn into their “negging” where they say bad stuff about you to draw you into a debate where you try to defend yourself and they tear you down. I love the Captain’s advice of just cheerfully agreeing – “yes I am very stubborn.”+subject change is so much better than a horrible debate about your personal qualities. Keep in mind that when they call you stubborn or argumentative or ungrateful they’re hoping you’ll do what they want to prove them wrong. I also like “wow, what a horrible thing to say” + subject change if I feel like expressing that whatever it was was not OK.

    Anyway, I can’t unpack this completely in a comment, but I’ve definitely found being comfortable with their negative feelings and displeasure is the key to independence. You can still care, just, also, learn that it’s not the end of the world if they freak out.

    Additional pro tip – this becomes helpful in all sorts of non-parent situations too. I used to absolutely *feak out* and go into a doom spiral of self justification and defensiveness whenever anyone got even a little bit upset. Turns out that’s wildly unhelpful and if you can just sit with the discomfort of conflict situations you can be a lot more constructive, more kind, more attentive, and a better advocate for yourself, all at the same time.

  128. NellieBlyWannabe said:

    LW here. Thank you all for your wonderful comments! I’ve been trying to read every one of them. I had a moment of dread when I sent this letter because I was convinced that I came across as a brat, because I was very angry when I wrote it. Pre-Berlin me would have been wracked with doubt and believing that her parents have a point. Pre-Berlin me was very worried that I wouldn’t be capable of handling all the little practicalities around traveling. And my therapist said, “Well, if the practicalities are what’s holding you back, why don’t you take a little practice trip?” So I did. Post-Berlin me knows that she can handle the traveling and is just pissed that her parents would suggest otherwise. So…progress.

    I plan to leave in about 10 months. I was waiting on my best friend for a while, because while I was starting to plan she let me know that she was going to get engaged. I am not missing her wedding for the world, so I waited until she could give me the date. She gave me her wedding date recently, so the plan is to go to her wedding and then take off for my trip from there. I think that’s why my parents waited until now to say something even though I’ve been mentioning this for a while, it became less of a nebulous idea and more of a concrete thing.

    They definitely noticed how pissed off I was, so they’ve been giving me space all week. I’m planning on sending them both an email listing some boundaries for future interactions, and then temporarily pulling away from them somewhat. We’ll see how that goes. In the meantime I’ve got countries to research, belongings to sell, dreams to dream…so much to do in 10 months!

    • QoB said:

      This is awesome news!!! 10 months is loads of time to plan 🙂

    • Yay! Have an awesome trip, and an awesome 10 months of preparing for and looking forward to the trip.

  129. hhhhhh said:

    “They can be anxious about your safety, but their anxiety does not define the borders of your world for you.” man though as a disabled person that gets coddled to death to the point I’m 24 and lacking in basic life skills (“don’t go outside past x time/don’t fry at night” ??? is the wok going to come alive and explode or) I feel this a lot

  130. Sugar of lead said:

    Man, this reminds me so much of my dad threatening to develop a heroin habit if I moved out because the anxiety and worry would be too much for him. I now live a thousand miles away and he is dealing with it like a champ, no illegal substances involved. Your parents have the emotional skills to deal with you traveling the world, and if they don’t, it’s a perfect opportunity for them to learn. Tune out the guilt trips and have a great time!

  131. April said:

    Traveling around the world, at 32-3, was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. My mom tried to talk me out of it, too, for the same reasons. Do it! It’s scary sometimes, and lonely sometimes, and amazing oftentimes, and you will never regret it!

  132. Katastrophreak said:

    When my husband and I ended up moving halfway across the country with our young children in our mid 20s, his mom was more supportive than mine. My discussions with my mom basically began at the top of CA’s scripts and ended at the bottom, stated loudly and firmly on my lunch break in a common court yard. I got some glares and also some almost -pity glances.

    Within 3 months, I received an apology from my mom. She was projecting het fears on to me (i already knew that) and she didn’t want to lose contact with me. I reiterated – again – that I didn’t move to gey away from her, that we moved for the job opportunity and that we would be back. We visited twice a year, for six years, plus occasional funerals/weddings.

  133. Just chiming in to say: GO! go and have an amazing time. It will change your life.
    I promise you that you will come back with the resilience and strength to set your life back up the way you want it when you return. Your budget is absolutely do-able, and your buffer amount is absolutely substantial to soften your land back home. You are GOOD to to go.

    Story time: I have a lovely friend who I worked with at a very unfulfilling job this time last year. She had an unfulfilling relationship fall apart, which caused her housing situation to fall apart, and our work was pretty fucking lame, so things were getting all shaken up for her. She looked at going back to study, but wasn’t really passionate about anything, and then met a girl. And they dated for three months and got along really well and it was nice. So they decided to plan a big trip – like a quit our jobs and sell everything and go for a year big trip. It was honestly a huge gamble, because they started booking things and making plans and any of their logic brained friends and family could (and some did) make a great case for why they shouldn’t go; they hadn’t known each other for long, they could break up, travelling is make-or-break for a new relationship…and what will you do when you get back etc etc. All valid, but honestly, my friend was approaching this like “so what?” – so what if things fall apart before we leave? or halfway through? or we come back broke? or, or or. If it happens we’ll deal with it.

    I just checked instagram and the pair of them are I think 4 months into their trip, they’re currently in Santorini in a tiny, cramped air bnb apartment with an insane view over a tiny fishing town. They’ve crashed a four wheel bike driving around the scottish highlands, camped in an airstream in the backyard of an Irish relative, danced all night in an underground gay club in Krakow, eaten thai food at a bunny cafe, kissed on the Ponte Vecchio in Venice and lugged bags of baguettes and cheese up six flights of stairs to a tiny Parisian apartment for dinner.

    These things are WORTH the risk, LW.

    Tell your parents “I know you’re worried, thats your job. but I *have* to do this”. Find a novel, low stress way to communicate with them when you’re away, and in the meantime try to tap into the big wide world of travelers who will relish your idea and help you plan and be excited for you. I’m excited for you! If Australia is making the cut on your trip list, hit me up on instagram and I will take you to all of Sydney’s best secret beaches – runawayrosie_

    Bon Voyage!

  134. Caraval said:

    LW, you are handling things the best way possible. You’ve decided on a thing you want (travelling), researched it, and it sounds like done every check and plan any good adult would do. Heck, a lot of adults do a much poorer job planning important things like international trips (let me tell you about my school trip to Germany sometime ~facepalm~).

    I’m sorry your parents are being, at best, pearl-clutching motherhens or, at worst (which is more likely given what you’ve told us), manipulative jerks, about this. But good news! You’re an adult. This is your life, and they don’t actually get a say.

    My sister’s done a bunch of travelling, including in areas other people pull out the ‘oh are you sure?’s about, and she’s always had a great time. The best advice I can give you is have fun. Oh, and eat lots of bread in Germany, your mouth will thank you. And the dulce de leche in South America is awesome.

  135. Convallaria majalis said:

    Oh boy am I late with my answer to you, dear LW, but still, I want to answer you, just to cheer you on.

    Your plan of travelling the world rocks! Berlin is lovely, but the best thing about the world is that there are so many fantastic places everywhere. Please, hold on to your dream and fulfill it. Sounds like you already have good plans and you have searched for information and probably will search for more. Allow the dream and fulfilling it to change you.

    Your parents sound a lot like my mother. She did kind of have a good reason for her worries and preventing me from fulfilling my dreams but the price is terrible. Luckily I still have got time to fulfill my dreams and I also intend to – and am already in a process of building towards fulfilling them.

    Your letter reminded me of a memory from my childhood, a memory which nowadays always reminds me of two things: 1) that no-one but yourself knows what you really want and 2) obedience is often not a good thing, even though your parent is asking you something and we are culturally thaught that obeying one’s parent is a virtue. I was perhaps 5 or 6 years old when I asked my mother for a doll. As a child I was not into dolls; I loved animals and plush animals and small plastic ones were the thing for me, but one of my friends back then wanted to have a doll party and I was invited and since I wanted to go I needed a doll. Many people in my country are blond haired and blue-eyed but not me: I have dark brown hair and almost black eyes, which back then was often considered unusual. When we went to shop the doll I found one I really liked: a doll like me, with dark brown hair and brown eyes. The doll had a plain brown dress, but I did not care. Alas, this is not a story about that doll for my mother had found another one: a doll with blond hair and blue eyes and a dress with flowers. “Is this not much prettier?” my mother asked and since I was tought to be obedient I gave up and we bought the blond doll.

    Did I ever play with it? No. Even my daughter shied from it. Today the doll sits on the attic in my grandfather’s house, abandoned. I should probably give it away, to someone who would actually like it.

    Please, do not let your parents take away the shine from your dreams and replace them with their thoughts. Your dreams are yours for a reason and whether or not it makes sense to them does not matter. Do not let them give you their version of the blond doll. At this point I quote an author from my country, Minna Canth: “Anything but half dead, unlived life.”

    We also have a song about the theme, obeying one’s parents and losing one’s dreams in the process. It tells about two 16 year old boys, wanting to become seamen. The other leaves with the ship but the other stays behind because his parents tell him to. He lives his life following their instructions but becomes truly miserable, going back to the day he made his choice over and over, regretting it.

    Once again, The Captain gave wonderful advice. It is so very hard to keep one’s mind when it comes to one’s parents, but you will get through it.

    Lots and lots of strength for you!

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