Convincing parents to let you travel alone is generally hard, but asking as a brown girl is even worse. I was triggered to write this post because my Pakistani/Muslim co-worker recently told me that her 19-year-old twin brother got to travel across Europe with his friends but she could never imagine her parents letting her out past 9 pm.
Generally, things are different in households that come from immigrant/conservative backgrounds. In a traditional South Asian family, the normal flow of life for a woman follows the study-graduate-work-in-a-good-company-marry-have-kids-and-then-retire course. When I first told my mom about going on a long-term trip to Brazil at 19, she was convinced I would get swept under the drug and prostitution wave of Rio. In short, she thought I was leaving our culture completely.
So if you’re in the same boat I was (and still am), I can understand your anxiety and want to try my best to help!
There are a number of reasons why any immigrant parent would refuse their daughter to travel. Some parents genuinely do not understand why you’d want to visit a place similar to what they left when you already live a comfortable life in the West.
Fortunately, no matter what culture, parental concerns seem to follow a universal pattern. With the help of this post, I’m sending you all the positive energy to initiate the conversation. Besides, if I could convince my “strict” mama, so can you.
- Convince yourself
Are you sure you want to go? Do you feel comfortable outside your comfort zone? If you’ve set your mind, then only can you move forward to the next steps.
- Do research on the country, culture, and communication
Before you even think about asking your parents, Google your way through every detail of the trip. Everything from places to stay, to things to do, to visa and insurance.
- Build your Responsibility Resume (RR)
Nothing says responsible more than having a plan to fund your own trip. Finance is also a parent’s major concern, so when you find a way to take care of it for yourself, it’s a big plus. Sell some stuff, cut down on all-you-can-eat sushi, and pick up a part-time job.
- Get a sibling/aunty on board
I think this is the most important advice I can give you. Before I asked my parents, I took it up with my older sister. My mom, as anticipated from the Pakistani dramas she watched, freaked out. But my sister was there to reinforce that I wasn’t a monster, and nor was she a bad mother because her daughter wanted to travel.
Have the Conversation
- Set the stage
Make some tea, put on some old school B-town music in the background, and make mama feel comfortable. We all have the “less strict” parent so it’s best to consolidate them first. Let them break it to the other or aid you to do it later.
- Let them know there is someone to look out for you
If you give them a name of a friend or a relative, or an organization (internships and studying abroad is best), they will be more prone to let you go knowing you’re in reliable hands. Side note: I advise that your first solo trip be in a place where you know someone. I don’t say this because I don’t think you can make it on your own, I say this because brown parents worry — a lot. When you’ve built the trust in your RR, then roam far and wide.
- Show them your WELL DETAILED plans
This is the time to whip out your research from the prior steps and rebuttal all their stereotypes with cold hard facts.
- Show examples of family remembers/role models who have done similar trips
Just like your mom raves about your goodie-two shoe cousin Mariam to you, show them the women that dared to do bigger things: whether it be your relatives, your friends, or people in your community.
Let it Sink In
- Be respectful
It’s in the parent manual to overreact and say no. Be prepared for that answer. Listen to them respectfully. I have a problem with getting really emotional and taking it extremely personally. Don’t be me. Being rude or defensive will discredit the RR you worked so hard to develop.
- Ask again
Persistence is the name of the game. You have to prove how much you want this. Ask why they feel this way and find a solution for it. Example: you can’t cook, what will you eat? Tell them you are willing to learn. Cook for them. Show them some restaurants in the area you’ll be staying in.
If they still say no, compromise. You wanted to go for three months, agree on six weeks. If they don’t feel you’re ready this year, agree on another time. Your parents will see how much you want this, and they’ll say yes eventually. Keep improving your RR until then. Spend better, get better grades, come home early, cook on weekends, etc.
- Promise to stay in touch
They just want to know you’re alive. Text them at every possible time you get wifi. It’s annoying but you have to. Trust me, you’ll miss them too. Send pictures, introduce your new friends on FaceTime, tell them about your routine and how much you’re learning. Let them feel relieved that they made the right decision to let you go.
Don’t be upset if your parents disagree. Nothing is impossible, even a brown parent’s no.
Okay, now go! Also, please don’t tell them you got this advice from me.
3 Comments Add yours
This is actually so useful! Thanks Zahra!
Thanks, Sheeza! Wouldn’t have written it without you.
This was so helpful! I love your honesty in saying to be prepared for “no” but yes persistence is definitely key!!