Travel has a wide variety of benefits and can help people of all ages to learn more about themselves, the world and its inhabitants. In particular, overseas trips can be fantastic learning opportunities for teenagers.
While overseas, teens can build new skills, discover what they want out of life, make new connections with people and much more. However, there are also risks involved in teens traveling abroad solo. To help prepare them for their first international trip without you, read on for some tips to follow.
Help Your Teen Choose an Appropriate Program
It’s likely you’re encouraging your teen to go overseas as part of an exchange of some sort or by way of a group mission or other organized international program. This can be good since it means you know there will be adults helping them to get settled, take care of themselves and see the country safely.
However, these days there is a wide variety of programs to choose from, so it’s important to help your teenager find the one to suit them best. A lot of this will come down to the destination they want to go to – e.g. whether they’re keen on Puerto Rico trips to learn Spanish or on trips to Australia to see more exotic wildlife, amongst others. Take the time to carefully consider the pros and cons of each program, based on your teen’s preferences and the format you think might suit them best.
Once you’ve decided on a destination, it’s important to spend plenty of time researching the location so that when your child arrives overseas, they’re not too shocked by what they find. For instance, learn about the culture and things like food, clothing customs, different legalities, religious differences and so on.
As well, look into things like how easily your child will have access to the internet, if the service is reliable (this isn’t a given, after all) and the other costs of living. Look into how far your teen will need to travel to school, grocery stores and other places, and learn about medical facilities in the area where they will be based. All of this will help not just them but also you feel more comfortable.
Encourage Them to Learn the Language
If your child is planning to travel to a place where a different language is spoken, it’s wise for them to learn as much as they can of this language before they leave home. While young people can certainly pick up languages quite quickly, things will be a lot more challenging for them if they don’t already know at least the basics when they arrive.
Encourage them to enroll in a short language course before their trip or to study books, audio programs or apps like Duolingo.
Have Deep Discussions
Before the time comes for your teen to leave, sit down and have some deep, in-depth discussions with them. These may cover numerous topics. For example, chat about what their goals are for their experience and how they might be able to take proactive steps to achieve these things. Assure them it’s okay to be feeling nervous, excited and a whole bunch of other emotions, and remind them that you’ll only be a phone call, email, social media message or video chat away.
Talk about the various challenges they may face and some ways in which they can make informed, conscious decisions and get themselves out of trouble (or avoid it) when needed. Peer pressure and general safety issues should be addressed in particular.
Another subject to talk about is respecting the culture and environment where they will be traveling. They should consider the communities they’ll visit and how their presence can impact, for better and worse, the people there as well as the region’s environment and animals.
Connect Them With Experienced Travelers
Another way to help your child get ready for their first solo international trip is to connect them, before they leave, with experienced travelers who have been to their destination of choice and/or who have traveled solo regularly. By speaking to other people who have been in their shoes and getting tips from them, they will learn useful things and have a better understanding of what the experience will be like. Even if the expert traveler doesn’t provide any info you haven’t already offered, your teen will benefit by getting advice from a non-parent.
Put Together a Checklist
A checklist is also vital for pre-travel preparations. Help your child put together a list covering all the things they’ll need to pack for their journey plus details of their plane trips and accommodation, health insurance, credit cards and other finance-related items, copies of passports and other documents and any necessary medication prescriptions. The checklist should cover tech items too and details of contacts such as an airline escort if applicable, people picking them up from the airport, accommodation hosts and more.