We all do it. Whether you are on your first study abroad trip or you are an experienced volunteer overseas with over five countries under your belt, lies, sometimes big, sometimes small, have been told. Long term or solo travelers are probably the biggest culprits, especially women who travel solo (and constantly get questioned about their safety, marital status, and sanity, etc.).
So, why do we lie to our parents?
It’s just plain easier. Try explaining to your mom that you met an elderly couple on a bus while studying in Sri Lanka and they invited you to their hometown, then hours later you met a Colombian man in a tuktuk traveling to that same town, and then minutes later you jumped on the back of the large yet crowded tuktuk, feet dangling above the pavement below, to travel to said hometown, and finally sat and broke bread with your new-found friends.
Instead of allowing her to create exaggerated images in her head of her college-aged child running wild in a faraway place, it’s much simpler to say, “I researched a cute nearby town to visit for the day and my friends and I took the bus there.”
A harmless bend-of-the-truth, right?
When you’re across continents, you don’t want to instill fear and doubt in your loved ones back home, especially when you know you are fine. Since they won’t understand, you are basically forced to fib a little here and there; at least that’s what we keep telling ourselves.
From one traveler to another, here’s some tips about 10 lies we (have to) tell our parents while traveling:
1. What you say: Of course I don’t go anywhere alone.
What you mean: Am I ever REALLY alone? There are other people on the streets, a driver in the taxi...and if we are being literal here, then I’m definitely not alone.
Every morning and evening you probably take the route to school/work/etc. by yourself. Whether it be by foot, bus, or taxi, you are getting to and from on your own, and you feel quite comfortable doing it. There’s no point in arguing about that detail with your parents. Just say you aren’t alone and keep the peace.
2. What you say: I’m staying with a friend this weekend.
What you mean: I read the profile of my host on the couchsurfing site and feel like we would make great friends. I’ll most likely hang out with them a bit anyway.
Regardless if it’s Airbnb, a hostel, or the bus station before catching your early morning trip (do stray dogs count as friends?), you trust these tried and true methods of budget travel. Since your parents have probably only read the horror stories, it’s best to not keep them up at night with these images. As long as you tell SOMEone where you’re staying, you’ll be fine.
3. What you say: We paid extra for a seat on the overnight train.
What you mean: We slept on top of the luggage cart and I pretty much faced death as the train sped around curves and sounded like it could break down at any second.
Sometimes, it’s getting on the overcrowded and muggy train for 8 hours or renting scooters to navigate the roads that really allow you to experience a different side of a country. Every country has their best (and cheap) modes of transportation. Don’t hold back because it might sound sketch to an outsider back home.
4. What you say: I’m making sure I get enough sleep.
What you mean: I sleep allll day Sunday to catch up on what I missed.
You can’t pass up moonlit hikes, midnight ghost tours, 24-hour diners, or simply talking till the sun comes up with your new flatmates. Sleep is important to make sure you don’t get sick (and miss out on the next weekend trip), but you also have to live a little. #YOLO, right?
5. What you say: This girl on my trip got a tattoo yesterday!
What you mean: There’s no way I’m telling you about my new tattoo/piercing yet, so I’m going to tell you about my friend’s instead.
You had a once-in-a-lifetime experience and you want to remember it. FOREVER. Maybe it’s a meaningful phrase in the local language you get permanently stamped on your wrist, or a nose piercing in India because everybody’s doing it. You didn’t get inked in a back alley like they will automatically think. Wait till it’s healed and you can assure them you don’t have any weird diseases, wait till they see it, or just never tell them. Your call!
6. What you say: I never talk to strangers unless I absolutely have to.
What you mean: I absolutely have to talk to strangers on the metro, at the store, walking in a park, etc…
Stranger danger is a thing when you are five, not when you are in your 20’s traveling abroad. Yes, you need to be cautious, but meeting different people as you travel is one of the best learning opportunities you can have.
7. What you say: Of course I’m being careful.
What you mean: Define careful?
You’ve figured out which street food vendors are “safe,” you carry around ibuprofen and aloe to handle any ailment, and you wash your hands (with hand sanitizer) after every stray dog or kitty you pet on the streets. If that’s not being careful, I don’t know what is! Plus, before you took the plunge and bungee jumped, you asked if anyone has gotten hurt there before. If they had said yes, you of course wouldn’t have done it. Momma should be proud.
8. What you say: My top priority is my studies.
What you mean: I could care less about my grades while I am here, I’m getting enough out of this travel experience in itself!
If taking classes were actually your main priority, you would have stayed in your home country. Student travel is about the entire package – cultural experiences, peer relationships, new settings – and you grow more from what happens outside the classroom than what happens inside. Of course our studies/internships/language programs are important, but if we only focus on that, we would miss out on important learning moments from the world around us.
9. What you say: I’m having a great time!
What you mean: I miss you a ton and wish you were here, but this opportunity is amazing so I’m trying to ignore it. Still, I’m having a great time!
It’s natural to both enjoy your freedom abroad and also want nothing more than to share your experiences with some of the most important people in your life (aka good ol’ mum and dad). Homesickness sets in from time to time, especially when phone calls and skype dates are limited. Telling your parents about your homesickness will just make them want you to come home. It’s better to get support from fellow travelers who will put it in perspective.
10. I can’t wait to come home.
What you mean: But does it have to be so soon? I’m finally feeling comfortable here and I don’t want to leave yet!
By the time your trip is over, you are ready to stay. Your family has been counting down the days till you are back, so you don’t want to disappoint them by telling them you actually aren’t ready to come home. Reverse culture shock is a thing, and our parents don’t always get that a difficult transition back home isn’t because we don’t want to see them. Be honest about how you feel with your parents so they understand “it’s not you, it’s me.”
To Parents – Don’t worry, not everyone lies while abroad. I’m sure this article isn’t about YOUR traveler…