Once a parent, always a parent – and included in the lifetime commitment of good parenting is the fundamental prerequisite of worrying about your children. Couple that with your child being in a far away land, and it’s a recipe to expedite the aging process.
I am here to tell you why you could save yourself one or two grey hairs.
- Advanced medical care exists outside the U.S.: When I started traveling, I was introduced to the wonderful world of universal health care. I feel blessed to be a native speaker of the international language that enables me to travel the world, and also happens to be the language that doctors must have some competence in. In many remote corners of the Earth, I’ve felt well taken care of by English speaking doctors at a fraction of the price. Although the astonishment never dies walking out the door with five prescriptions for a measly $6, consider purchasing an extra safety net of travel insurance through a company like World Nomads for coverage all over the world at a relatively low price.
- We aren’t alone! Wherever you are in the world, be it working or studying abroad, or even independent travel, you are never alone. I may have thought I was being sneaky by skipping out on the ‘€œAmerican Dream,’€ but it turns out, millions of people had the same idea. Luckily, travelers tend to be open-minded and sociable, and it is these people you meet along the way that define your travel experience. As I am about to embark on some extended solo travel, I hope that my mom can remember I am never really alone. Although I haven’t met them yet, I know there are friends out there waiting to be made in every back alley of this world.
- Give your child some credit: Perhaps the most unsettling concern is your child being robbed or harmed in any way and assistance being out of your control. While they will experience some form of difficulty while abroad, try to remember that this may be just as likely to happen in the comforts of our own country. All we ask, as your children, is to have a little faith in us. It takes a somewhat sharp-witted head on one’s shoulders to get abroad, so try to avoid worrying about what is out of your control, and trust in our ability to make the right decisions. Although unexpected and upsetting situations surely will arise, step back and allow us to learn and grow from these frustrations.
- Parents are everywhere: Genuinely decent-hearted people whose inherent nature is to take care of others are everywhere. Even in places with a reputation for unfriendly citizens, I have been approached and offered help when my poor sense of direction fails me. I have had a street vendor give me her shoes when my flip flop broke in Thailand; I was fed by a local stranger in Vietnam when I lost my money; I witnessed my friend’s lost camera returned to her in an airport; and I’ve been personally escorted to my destination by a Czech woman in Prague. Turns out, these good-natured people are usually parents like you. They know we are somebody’s child and they make an effort to make sure we are okay ‘€“ even in that one moment ‘€“ and leave us with a lasting impression of their country.
- Home will always be home: I think my mom worries if I’ll ever come home. Or, when I do come home, if I will be satisfied with life in America after such an exhilarating life abroad. For anyone that has spent an extended time internationally, I think it’s safe to say that there is a unanimous lesson to be learned: home is home is home. It might have taken me a while to realize it, but America is my home. Although I may go other places temporarily, there is only one place in the world I will continue to go back to repeatedly and permanently, and that is home.
Chances are, you’ll only be proud of how much an international experience forces your child into a mature adulthood. For both of our sakes, don’t stress so much. When you worry, we worry, and neither of us want our time abroad to be spent worrying about you worrying about us.
Andrea Eisinberg is a recent Ithaca College graduate who has spent the last 10 months living in Thailand teaching English in an attempt to nurture and fund her travel disease. You can read more of her stories at StoriesFromTheEast.blogspot.com.