“Don’t tell Mom” or “Don’t tell Dad” is the default reactionary response any time many of us are about to do something stupid or life threatening. You tell this to your siblings, your friends, and even your more lenient aunts and uncles. It also happens to be something that travelers say after they finish booking their trip to a riskier region of the world and brag to their friends.
Walking that uncomfortable line between wanting to share your travel plans with your loved ones, and heaving them into a puddle of perpetual worry, or leaving them in the dark, and having to keep track of your lies, can get exhausting.
You can choose either path, of course, but telling those who love you where you’re going before you get on a plane to travel to a potentially dangerous location can also be a gift.
Starting with a little research goes a long way to allaying their fears. The fact that you know the risks, often helps them realize you’ve put some thought into this travel plan and it’s not just on a whim. See our 5 Tips for Traveling to Dangerous Countries for some preparation hints that you can use when they ask.
7 Steps to Breaking the News
Let’s start with the steps that are necessary to break the news gently while respecting their fear for your safety.
- Pick an appropriate time, i.e., when they’re not distracted by other things or too busy – a bribe of delicious food or drink works well here. Have them sit down (somewhere devoid of sharp objects is always a good place).
- Consider adding a little perspective – tell them you are traveling somewhere even more dangerous, let that sink in, then tell them where you’re really going (this step gets mixed reviews).
- Let them vent – this is an important part of the process, so be prepared for it. They want to express their concern and expressing irritation here is not worth your effort – wait it out.
- Buy travel insurance ahead of time and give them a copy of the plan document. This shows you’re responsible and thinking ahead about potential problems; plus, if they’re the beneficiary of your accident coverage or the one who will travel to your bedside should you be hospitalized, they’ll need it anyway.
- Listen to their advice – heck, it could be good! If they offer to buy a powerful alarm or pepper spray to stick in your pocket, take it and learn to use it. After all, they care about you and they’ve been keeping an eye on you for years now, so they might know a thing or two about your habits and how to keep you safe.
- Compromise – if they make crazy demands of you: checking in daily, wearing a bullet-proof vest, hiring a security detail – compromise. You’ll be happy to text often, wear a money belt, and go only where it’s safe, for example.
If you get a lot of grief, it’s good to have one card in your back pocket – if you can get it. Talk to other relatives. You know, the ones who are older than those giving you resistance – and dig up the stupid things they did when they were younger. You may have to dig around in the family tree or ask long-time friends for details, but if you work at it you may find your loved ones did some crazy things of their own.
Even if you never share that knowledge with them, it will help you endure their resistance with understanding. Throwing that knowledge on the table could turn things ugly. Use your gift wisely.
What You Must Not Do on this Dangerous Trip
When you’re traveling somewhere that your loved ones consider dangerous, you must not do the following or you’ll just make it worse the next time:
- Do not go incommunicado – you’re not an international spy and you can’t go without communicating or you’ll give them a heart attack. Check in once in awhile. If you have an agreed-upon schedule, great – stick to that. Otherwise, try for every couple of days or so and certainly check in the minute something scary happens and it’s broadcast on their local media. (See 3 Ways Travelers can Avoid the Slam of the Smartphone to save money on checking in.)
- Do not leave their gifts of safety devices in your apartment. Especially if they have a key and are coming to water the plants and feed the cat. They’ll look for them, you know they will. If they bought you a fancy alarm or bear spray or one of those snazzy urban warfare protection jackets, take it with you (or hide it at a friend’s if you really can’t fit it in your luggage).
- Do not leave your travel medical kit behind. A travel medical kit customized for where you’re traveling can do a world of good when something happens. Having it means you’re better prepared to take care of yourself. See What’s in your Travel Medical Kit for a list of things to put in it.
- Do not call in a panic if something happens. You’re big enough to get yourself into this mess and you’re big enough to get yourself out of it. Run into a demonstration-turned-violent-mob? Get the heck out of there and don’t look back. Cut your foot and land in the hospital getting stitches? Hope it heals before you get home (and, you have your travel medical to cover the hospital costs, so no big deal). Read the 7 Deadly Travel Sins and avoid committing them.
Minimize any dangerous encounters you did have while on this trip or it will be harder for them to let you go next time – plus, no one likes to hear ‘I told you so.’ Be sure to send photos and stories of all the great things that happened on your trip! This will help them get used to it before you pick your next destination.