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Living Abroad Made Me Appreciate My Parents

[ 6 ] June 9, 2011 |

Living abroad and travelling has changed me in so many ways, it has changed how I deal with people, how I live my life, how I view the world, it has also made me more appreciative of all the things I’m lucky enough to have including my parents. Before I travelled, before I lived abroad I must admit I wasn’t very appreciative of my parents.  I was young, my parents had just always been there and that’s what was normal, I didn’t appreciate them for just how encouraging and supportive they were of my somewhat unconventional dreams and aspirations.

Now don’t get me wrong my parents weren’t always so happy about my travelling/living abroad dreams.  In fact on my first trip my Mum was not at all happy about me going away for two months, I mistook her concerns for negativity and all that did was anger me, “why did she want to hold me back!”  When I said the next year that I was going to Asia of all places not only did I get the reaction of “you’re leaving again, WHY!” but additionally I had to put up with hearing all the so called “bad” things in Asia: it’s dangerous, you’ll get sick, the foods bad, you’ll loose you’re passport, you’ll get mugged etc. On top of that, my planned trip was just after the red shirt protests that ended up in violence, all this did was set any fear or anxiety my parents already had in concrete!  They even tried to make me cancel my trip out of concern for my safety but I wasn’t going to let some protests that happened a month earlier stop me let alone parents telling me I shouldn’t go!

After my Asia trip just a few months later at the end of 2009 I dropped another bombshell, I was moving to China.  My Mum was horrified to say the least. At first she wasn’t at all supportive, she seemed to think I was crazy, “China of all place, really!” She kept suggesting well paying jobs I could get in my home city of Canberra that would ultimately keep me at home and stop me from travelling, but money wasn’t a temptation, travel was.  She finally gave up when she realised I was going to do what ever I damn well pleased,  she gave in and kept her mouth closed.

Since then, since the bickering I’ve grown a little older, I’ve matured. I also spent much of my time with the most adorable, lovable children that bring out my nurturing instinct the instinct that helps me understand where my parents were coming from. Finally I can understand.  What parent would be happy to see their first born leave the nest and out of their day to day lives, not just out of the house but out of the country entirely!  I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of seeing your baby leave after you spent 21 years of your life raising them, dedicating your life to making sure they have the best possible life, taking the day off work to take them to the Doctor and nurse them back to health when they’re sick. I haven’t even yet got to all the times my Dad picked me up from the city at 3am on a late night out on the town.  And to think all these years how ungrateful I’ve been!

Me as a baby with Mum and Dad

When I dropped the China bombshell my Mum very clearly didn’t want me to go, my Dad although outwardly very supportive I could see that deep down it tore him up to think of the day I’d leave them to live in another country far from their reach.  But they knew they couldn’t stop me and once they began to come to terms with me leaving they tried as much as they could to show their support.  My Mum spoke to a colleague at work who’s daughter had spent time studying Mandarin in China, it seemed to ease her mind at least a little bit. In the lead up to my departure my family all sat down together to watch documentaries about China.  My Dad even read all the books I was reading about China so he could get versed in all things Chinese culture.  They even bought a 2010 calendar with pictures of China.  They did all they could to support me, they did all they could to help themselves come to terms with the decisions I had made for my life at that point in time.

One of the most moving moments I will ever remember was when I called up home in tears just 3 weeks into my time in China.  I had just arrived at my new school in Keqiao rural Zhejiang province, dumped in my freezing, damp, musty apartment with a squat toilet. It was that moment I came to the realisation that I was going to be alone for the next 5 months, well so I thought.  I was miserable, devastated and on the verge of wanting to go back home.  My Mum listened as I cried and whined about how badly everything had turned out, this wasn’t meant to be my China experience!  What she could have said was “book a flight and come back home” but she didn’t. Instead she said “Sash, it’s only the first day, give it time and if you still want to come home, well we can talk about that if it comes to that.” That was the best advice she could have given me, it was advice I passed onto my friends when they struggled with culture shock and ultimately it is this that encouraged me to slog it out and now over a year later I’m still here (sorry Mum I know you don’t want to read that you might have actually played a part in me staying away from home).

Just a few months later and I was travelling around South-Western China with my Dad.  His raw enthusiasm was both inspiring, encouraging and gave me reason to love him and appreciate him even more.  He was patient and eager to learn about Chinese culture, more importantly he was eager to learn about what I loved so much.  By travelling with me he was showing more support then I could ever imagine a parent could.

Me and my Dad in Kunming, China

When I first came to China I neglected speaking to my family, but over time I realised that the life of travelling and living abroad, this Life I had chosen was not a life of constants. But my family they would always be constant, they would always be there, they would always try and support what ever dreams I had even if those dreams kept me away from them.  How selfless they must be to support me in such an endeavor.

Living away from my family has not only made me truly understand what they must have gone through to have me leave but it also makes me appreciate them more for how much they have supported me, how much they’ve given me.  I feel I’m closer to them now then ever before, I feel like I can talk to them about more things than ever before, I love them more than ever before.  Without travel, without living abroad I wouldn’t be the person I am today but without my parents I wouldn’t have been the confident, curious girl who had the courage to leave here comfortable life at 21 and headed to live in a unique and shocking country that is China.  Travel is what made me truly appreciate my Amazing parents.  I’m just so sorry that I can’t say I’ll be living back home soon, I know that would make them so happy!

Mum and Dad, I love you so much, thanks for being truly the most amazing and supporting parents! You helped me realise my dreams, your support is what gives me the motivation to slug it out and do what I love.  I truly am thankful and grateful for everything you’ve given me!

How did your parents react when you shared your travelling or living abroad aspirations?

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Category: Expat Stories, personal

About onurwaytravel: Colin has been travelling the world with his young family for the past 2 and half years. He runs a couple of websites all revolve around travel, family travel and digital nomadism. His websites include http://ourtravellifestyle.com, http://vagabondfamily.org, http://nunomad.com and now http://on-our-way-travel.com. View author profile.

Comments (6)

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  1. This was such a powerful post, really elegantly written! I had the same “battle” with my parents!!!

  2. Sasha says:

    Thanks for the lovely comment Andi! :) I think it’s a battle many of us face who choose this life and maybe I’ll be battling from the other side the day when I have kids of my own!

  3. Melissa Shannon says:

    Great article hun , does make u think of how we all treated our parents , and im hoping my kids will be like u and travel and take hold of great oppurtinties , and i just hope i can let them go like ur family did
    love mel

  4. Sasha says:

    Thanks for the comment Mel, I appreciate it! So sweet you said you want your kids to be like me and travel, if you’re already thinking that then when the time comes and they want to travel maybe it won’t be so hard to let go. It’s one way to get them to appreciate you of they’re being right little blighters especially at the 18-20 stage!

  5. Vivi says:

    I love this article !

    My first travel was decided by my parents themselves. It was my 20th birthday gift. They were absolutely not worried, and everyone kept asking my mom “is it okay to let your daughter go alone in Asia ?”. She told me later that she didn’t realize what was really happening, and neither did I. It was just 5 weeks abroad, but it was my first time away from home.

    When I left for 6 months last year, she kept sending me emails to say that she missed me. But my parents have never tried to stop me.

  6. Sasha says:

    That’s great you got travel as a birthday gift, what a cool idea, it’s a good way to get your 20 year old to mature pretty quickly! I know travelling at 19 really made me grow up pretty quickly and I think my parents were pretty grateful for that! It’s really great that your parents are so supportive! :) I know a lot of travellers aren’t so lucky with their parents!

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