Telling the Parents

Dave and I have been talking about taking a RTW trip since we met a year and a half ago. We never had a set time-frame, but we always knew it was something we were going to do. As I’ve mentioned before, originally, we were planning to just take a 4-5 month trip around the world. We devised our plan for RTW 1.0 (as we like to call it) in October while we were on a trip to Texas. After speaking to Dave’s old roommate about a trip that he was taking similar to our RTW 1.0, he gave us the moving and teaching idea when he was telling us about his itinerary and about a friend he was staying with in Thailand who did just that.

Since October, our new plan has been a big secret. There were a million times where I almost spilled the beans to my parents, but ultimately, I wanted to wait to tell them for several reasons:

  1. I wanted to make sure that we were definitely going through with the plan. I didn’t want to go through all the drama of freaking my parents out with this news before I knew that it was definitely happening.
  2. I work with my brother. I thought that telling him 6 months in advance would give him plenty of time to find someone to replace me and get all of his ducks in a row before I left. 10 months in advance would have been a little much and I didn’t want to put my parents in a position where they were keeping a secret from him that would affect him greatly.

So, I waited… and waited, and waited and waited. Finally, once we had nailed down our definite plans and timing, Dave and I booked a flight home and I had been nervously anticipating the trip ever since. My parents are awesome and they’ve pretty much never deterred me from doing anything I wanted to do in my life. So, why was I so nervous? Well, I was going home to drop pretty much every bomb imaginable on them. Dave and I had just gotten engaged so they thought we were coming home to discuss the wedding. Little did they know we were planning to skip town and move half way across the world for a year and a half. As cool as they are, that’s big news for anyone to handle.

I practiced the speech I was going to give them about a hundred times. I practiced to myself, I practiced to Dave, and I practiced to myself some more. My plan was to give them the whole schpeel and not really let anyone else talk until I was completely finished. I kept telling myself over and over, “You’re not asking for permission, you’re just telling them your plan. You’re not asking for permission, you’re just telling them your plan.”

For some reason I was expecting the worst. When I finally told them (and yes, I gave them the whole speech before allowing anyone to say anything), I was met at first by their silence and a look on their faces like I’ve never seen before. Complete and utter shock and disbelief. My mom even started crying a little (which is not so surprising, us Parks women are very emotional). I waited, and waited, and waited for what seemed like forever, and then they just said, “Wow, ok.”

They couldn’t believe it but at the same time they agreed that if this is something that we’re passionate about, there’s really no better time in our lives to do it. We’re young, we have money saved, and we’re not tied down to anything but each other. Why not. They even liked our plan to hike to Everest Base Camp, which I thought they would be not so crazy about.

The only part of the “plan” they didn’t love was us waiting until we get back to get married. This is something that Dave and I had talked about before, and felt that there definitely would be some benefits to being married when we go away (ie. one of us getting stuck at customs, one of us losing or not finding a job and not having a visa to stay in thailand, one of us getting hurt or injured). Obviously, being married and being engaged are two very different things and my parents felt very strongly that we should be married before we left. After Dave and I discussed at length, we decided that we agreed and we’ll be getting married before we leave. On May 19th, to be exact!

The whole conversation and weekend really went much better than I expected. I realized (probably for about the millionth time in my life), that I don’t give my parents enough credit. They were very cool and supportive about everything. But, no matter who you are and who your parents are, it’s a very nerve-wrecking situation. So, my best advice is:

  1. Before you tell your parents, make sure you have all of your plans nailed down. You want to go into the conversation having all of the information and being able to answer any of their questions. This will put them at ease because they’ll feel like you’ve done your homework and you’ve thought your decision through.
  2. Practice what you’re going to say. There are definitely certain points you’ll want to make sure you get across during the conversation. I’m sure that everyone’s are different, but make sure you practice them or write them down so you don’t miss anything.
  3. Don’t get defensive. Your parents may not think your plan to travel is as amazingly great a you do. Listen to what they have to say and try to take their advice to heart. They’ve been around for longer than you, have some of their own experiences, and most of all, they love you and just want you to be safe and want the best for you.
  4. Give them some time to come around. If your parents don’t immediately take to your idea, just realize that they may not have been expecting it at all. They may just be shocked and be reacting to that shock. Give them some time to get used to the idea and I bet it will grow on them.
  5. Get them excited! Immediately after talking to my parents, I ordered the Lonely Planet Thailand book for them so they could learn all about where I’ll be living and start to think about planning a trip to come visit me.

It was scary and stressful, but now that I’ve told my parents about everything I feel like such a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It’s a pretty big relief and now I love talking to them about all of my plans.

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