Should you let your Teen Travel Overseas

I can tell you from personal experience that my daughter traveling to another country with her school was one of the most memorable experiences of her life and looking back now, we would have been very wrong had we tried to convince her NOT to go.

When my daughter first came to me and told me that there was an opportunity with her school to travel to Austria … well, first came panic, then the question ultimately followed of “how are we ever going to afford this?”

I had to first remember that the first gut instinct of panic was MINE. I don’t like to fly – and here my daughter is asking me to put her on a 747 and let her fly over the big blue ocean to a completely foreign place … WITHOUT ME! What are you crazy? Then I asked her the cost. I’ve forgotten exact numbers here now but it was in the range of about $1500 which included everything – for 16 days. That’s pretty inexpensive if you think about it. Well, we don’t have extra money for things like that so we had to get a bit creative. We did fund-raisers as a group, and on our own as well. We spoke to friends and relatives and asked them if they would be willing to make a small donation to send a student on a trip through the foreign exchange program at school. We collected cans and bottles. My daughter also worked a good part-time job so she had been saving funds which she was willing to use. I took care of her passport cost, the purchase of new luggage, and all odds and ends for the trip. She put approximately half of the cost of the $1500 in on her own from her job savings and the rest came from donations & fund-raising. We attended meeting after meeting and after getting to know the teachers that were going to be chaperoning this trip, I felt much more at ease.

The old who, what, when, where, why and how applies in a big way. So #1 on whether or not they should travel would be WHERE? Now, had my daughter told me that she wanted to go to what we could consider a rather unsafe country, my decision would have been very different I’m sure. However, we were talking about Austria. They’re pretty much like Switzerland – neutral. I wasn’t too concerned about excessive dangers there. The second is WHO? Who are we talking about? Do you have a mature child who could handle a trip overseas, without you, living with host families who are virtual strangers, who are the chaperones that will be going? The third is WHAT is required for the trip as far as funds needed, what’s included and you want to make sure there are no surprises. The next is WHEN? How long is this trip going to be and what time of year are you planning on traveling? My daughter was gone for 16 days and part of that was over Thanksgiving, and during a major surgery I was going to be having. Missing her over Thanksgiving was hard, because I had never been without her. During my surgery was tough because my feeling was not that I wanted her to miss a trip for it, but that God forbid if anything should happen to me during it, she would be thousands of miles away and alone. I was fine, obviously, so there were no issues there, thankfully. However, she called me the night before I had my operation and it helped me tremendously to hear her beautiful voice. WHY? What is the purpose of this trip? What types of things are they hoping to accomplish there, what is their motivation, what are they going to come away with from this experience? And finally HOW? How are we going to make this work? This is a lot of money for most folks so how can we all pull together to make this happen?

If you or your child ever have the opportunity to take advantage of a program like this please make sure you do it. We live in a tiny town. She saw what to her was a completely different world. This was the most wonderful experience of her life. After they returned they gave a big thank you party to all of their wonderful sponsors with a talk about the trip, a slide show, a meal and dessert and we all walked away with a wonderful feeling. Our children learned volumes about a different country, different cultures, what it’s like to live with other families (though they did get a bit homesick at times – and I would have been sad if she didn’t because I missed her something terrible!), and they all learned a great deal about themselves. It’s an incredible opportunity and one you should grab hold of if you are ever made the offer! Bon Voyage!