Since our (hopeful) departure date is rapidly approaching, and the RV remodel is underway (very, very... verrrrrry slowly), I wanted to cover something that never came up while I was scouring the internet for information about full-time travel. "Coming out" to your friends and family about your plan to ditch conventionalism and travel full-time doesn't seem like a big deal.. and if you were raised by a pack of hippies, it probably won't be. But if you're like me, and your parents are the conventional type who value job security and retirement funds - this conversation may not be the walk in the park you're expecting.
How Not to Tell Your Family About Your Full-Time Travel Plans
Honestly, I should have called this article “How not to tell your family about your full-time travel plans”.. because that’s how this conversation went down for me.Before I start, I should give ya'll some background on the way that I handle potentially difficult conversations. In a word, I’d say I handle them terribly. Even though I am an avid over-thinker and practice possible scenarios in my head before I start a conversation, once I open my mouth… all prior considerations seem to go out the window. I generally say exactly what I planned not to say, and convey the exact opposite of what I had intended.
I think the best way to describe it is that I bitchy word vomit allllll over almost every hard conversation. (Which sucks because my intention is always to be kind and respectful, but I’m a very emotionally driven person.. so this takes over as soon as I feel threatened in any way.)Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get back to the story. So, about 6 months ago… Tim and I had been kicking around the idea of taking a several-month-long trip around the country to see some sights, meet some people, and potentially find a new city to call home.
We’d actually done a pretty significant amount of planning by the time we decided to seriously consider looking for an RV to bring the dream to life.At this point, I should have kept my mouth shut and come up with a structured way to roll out this plan to my parents, so they wouldn’t freak out.
Instead, I called my dad and asked him to keep an eye out for any sweet old RVs he may come across because we planned to buy one and quit our jobs to travel for a few months.Guess how well that went? Spoiler alert: not well at all. He basically said HELL NO (minus the hell part, because my dad rarely says anything even close to a swear. But I could just feel the way that he was saying it) and we didn’t really speak for a few weeks.
My mom didn’t take it much better. And quite frankly, I met her resistance and concern with more bitchiness than I needed to. (Refer back to bitchy word vomit)The whole situation was so tense that I don’t think I even told them about Yoda until after we had her home in our driveway.During the following weeks/months - I was so stressed out about the fact that my parents did not support what I was about to do, that I had a hard time getting excited about actually having the guts to follow a dream.
When I got laid off, and would no longer have to quit my job in the pursuit of full-time travel.. things got a little lighter, but still weren’t exactly peachy.Until the whole travel thing came up, I never realized how much I still seek the approval of my parents, even though I’m technically an “adult” (whatever that means). I feel like, most of us just want someone to tell us we’re making the right decisions. And to have your parents be the ones endorsing those decisions almost feels like the ultimate green light to push forward into the unknown. If Mommy and Daddy say it’s alright, then they must be right… right???!
Things My Parents Don't Understand about Full-Time Travel & Why That's Okay
It’s been about 6 months since I first let the cat out of the bag, and the dust has settled. My parents have gotten cooler with the idea that we’re leaving. However, they definitely do not, and will probably never understand many things about our trip, such as:
Why we’d buy a 33-year-old RV that may very well break down in the middle of the desert leaving us stranded.
Why we can’t just save up our vacation time and go on short trips.
Do we really need to quit our jobs?
Why we can’t just wait until retirement.
Why we’d throw away the momentum we have in our careers.
And what about your health insurance!! WHAT ABOUT YOUR 401K!!!
….and the list goes on.At first, I was definitely mad, and couldn’t understand why they weren’t happy for me! But after really thinking about it for many months… I can see why they would be worried. They just spent 25 years raising me to be a pretty functional adult and don’t want me to throw away all I’ve worked for on a whim. Also, I have a bunch of student loans left to pay, which is pretty hard to do without a job. Those are both reasonable and valid points.Lucky for them, and me - I’m smart, resourceful and driven… and have considered the risks vs. rewards of going on this trip to great length. Over the next year, what I'll gain in character and understanding of the world, will outweigh the value of the money I’d make working another corporate job.In hindsight, however - I should have seen this coming and worked a little harder to present the plan to them in a more appealing way, to make it easier on all of us. I have a great relationship with my parents and would have loved to keep them from worrying if I could have, but I definitely dropped the ball on this one. (But realistically, if I had the chance to do it again.. I’d probably still screw it up and piss them off - I guess being difficult is just natural to me. Oh well… working on it!)
Some Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Nomads
Since I caused a lot of extra stress by handling this poorly - I wanted to share, so anyone out there thinking about diving into full-time travel can know what to expect when “coming out” to their friends and family.Not everyone is going to be happy for you.Not everyone is going to “get it.”And some of those people may actually take slight offense to the fact that you want to turn your back on the American dream. Almost as if you’re saying that their life sucks because you want to live your life differently. (Which obviously you’re not, but we’re all emotional creatures so… cut them a break. They just see the world differently. Or maybe they secretly want to do the same thing but don't know how!)Most people, however, will be stoked for you! I never realized the number of people who secretly long for an adventure like the one we’re taking until I started writing about it. So many people… both strangers and friends have reached out to express their excitement about our decision to check out of the rat race to travel America in our RV. Most of these messages are paired with, “I wish I could do something like that”, or “Do it while you’re young.”Regardless of the responses from the peanut gallery, if long-term travel is something you really want to pursue… if it’s something that feels right foryou: do not let the haters get you down!
One Last Thing For My Friends Interested in Full-Time Travel
If you’re even thinking about trying to make long-term travel happen in your life, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts.We were first introduced to this book last June by an AirBnB host when we stayed in Boston for a Dead & Company show. She was a Ph.D. student and world traveler and recommended that we read it if we were serious about figuring out how to travel full time. (Coincidence? Definitely not..)Well, we read it.. and 9 months later, we’re almost ready to hit the road!If we could make it happen, you (yes, you!!!) can too!
"Vagabonding is about refusing to exile travel to some other, seemingly more appropriate, time of your life. Vagabonding is about taking control of your circumstances instead of passively waiting for them to decide your fate." ~ Rolf Potts