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Leaving parents behind to travel; Am I selfish? (dealing with the feelings of guilt)



What do you do when you are born with a spirit of adventure, a restlessness attitude, an untamed and rebellious heart that is drastically incompatible with the life your parents have envisioned for you even long before you learnt how to walk?

How do you deal with a conflict of interests, a disagreement on how to live your life but mostly, how do you survive an abysmal generational gap of ideas and expectations between your parents and yourself when you know that your life will not develop the way they have always imagined it?

As you are reading these lines, you already know if you are part of the club of people who has been born with a wanderlust gene. Recently scientists even provided an explanation why some of us we find remaining still in just one place almost unbearable, while others are happy to holidaying and even happier to return home after a deserved break.

You could try explaining your parents that they haven’t failed raising you but instead, is all down to a gene called DRD4-7R and that is linked to qualities of restlessness and curiosity many avid travellers possess. I’m not sure that would go down well as an explanation for leaving the securities and comforts of your live behind but if anything, is a less romantic concept that saying you were born with a the travel bug or a wanderlust gene and rationally would more sense to them?


It is not anyone’s fault that (if real) this gene is embedded in our DNA but what is very much real is a serious conflicts with parents that can only understand life as a series of organized events that follows some sort of stablished boring order (school, university, boyfriend/girlfriend, car, mortgage, children, etc..) I’m not really sure what would the right order because I have never intended to go through those life stages myself and never will.

I always knew I would be different in my own way and long before I knew I would travel around the world with a backpack, I spoke about it in the shape of dreams to achieve in my adult life to my school friends. Looking back, I would not have had it any other way. Was this always  easy to accomplished? No, it required lots of convincing that it was the right way of life for me.

Undoubtedly it would be literally impossible going through each potential family situation that every traveller had or may have to face prior leaving for a long trip but there are common traits that will always arise when the time comes that need to be confronted, discussed and understood by all parties involved; 95% of the times that would be your parents and yourself.

I’m sure many of us, travellers, we can relate with a feeling of guilt leaving our parents behind, especially if the circumstances at home are not the best. Many of us we have older parents, some have sick parents, some parents they rely on their children for emotional support, some others for financial support or sometimes, for all of them together. It is an immense conflict of real interests when making a dream come true means an unsettling feeling of lost from both parts.

When a lack of understanding strucks post trip conversation with your parents about your intentions to go travelling for a long period of time to places that they may not even be able to locate on a map, there is little to do except for reassuring them that you’ll be fine and be strong on your determination to live your life the way you want it, not how they want you to live it.

Luckily for everyone, we live in the era of technology and we are just as far away as a text message. Educate your parents, install them Skype on their laptop, teach them how to use it, practise recording videos and sending them via WhatsApp. Force them to be technology friendly but do not give up on your dreams.

I’m not a parent myself but I’m a daughter, a traveller and an independent woman. I had to break many boundaries before I could set free.


I have dealt with many periods of guilt and I still do and I don’t think they will ever go away completely. As all of us grow old but it seems to us that more so do parents, it never gets easier to go and leave them behind. They rely on you more, they’re more frightened because nowadays the world seems a horrible place full of danger and they want things to remain the same; no one likes unsettling feelings.

But more than anything, I believe it’s paramount to be selfish and to live our lives in our own terms. We’re not abandoning them, we have to thank them that they’ve raised us to be brave, strong and determined. Sometimes we need to fight in order to gain, some other times we just have to act in our best interests and hope that people will understand.

If you are dealing with this situation right now I can only tell you that it gets easier eventually for a parent. They may never understand why you’ve chosen to live your life like this but they will learn to love the person you have become and to love less the person that they wanted you to be.

At the end of the day, every parent in the wold shares a common desire; to see their child happy.


Reader Interactions


    • I’m aware that being a parent is much tougher and any decision involves a lot of thinking but I would say that if your children are grown up and financially independent, then what’s stopping you? In my travels I came across parents backpacking with small children and it was always a beautiful sight. I can only say that if you can then you should, at the end of the day, whatever you want to do and don’t, it will become a regret and who wants to live with those?? x

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