An Open Letter to Indian Parents: Let Your “Kids” Travel.

Dear Parent,

On a pristine beach in Baja California Sur, Mexico, I watched in admiration as hundreds of newborn turtles crawled towards the roaring Pacific Ocean. About two months ago, their mothers laid nests on the beach and a team of conservationists protected them from dogs, coyotes and poachers. Two hours ago, several babies hatched, and in the golden light of the setting sun, rather fearlessly made their way into the big waves.

baja california sur, turtle release mexico, turtle release todos santos
Releasing a baby turtle in Baja California.

My heart broke for them at first.

The waves looked fierce and unforgiving. And whether each turtle felt ready or not, it got swept away into the ocean. They are on their own now. No one to teach them how to keep afloat, where to find food or how to save themselves from becoming food.

turtle release mexico, turtle conservation mexico, todos santos
Newborn turtles heading into the Pacific Ocean!

Then it struck me that this is nature at its wildest. That even though only 1 in 100 turtles are estimated to survive, the ones who do will live up to 50 years, return to this very beach to lay their own eggs, and continue this natural way of parenting.

In the human world, we have it much easier. Most of us don’t have to look for food or struggle to survive from the moment we arrive on earth. Most of us reading this, have had a somewhat cushy childhood, pampered by you. You spent your precious time, affection and money educating us, and didn’t shove us into the deep end to fend for ourselves. And we are deeply grateful for that.

Lake atitlan guatemala, san marcos la laguna, indian travellers
Jumping into the deep end: Lake Atitlan, Guatemala!

But something perplexes me very much.

Ever since I started travel blogging over 5 years ago, there’s a question that repeatedly pops up in my inbox. It is some version of this: “How do I convince my parents to let me travel?”

Very often, this question comes from young Indians like myself – financially independent, capable of making their own decisions, wanting to discover the world. Whether the individual is female or male, 28 or 48, living independently or not, the question remains. “How can I convince my parents to let me travel?”

I recognize that strong family bonds are deeply ingrained in us in India. I’ve travelled to countries like Ecuador and Italy, where families are equally closely knit. I’ve seen adults weep inconsolably at the bus station in Turkey when a “kid” leaves home to go to work in a town two hours away! I’ve felt that bond in many homes around the world, from Guatemala to Georgia. But there is one thing that sets us, Indians, apart. Nowhere else in the world have I seen, or heard of, parents making decisions for their children after they turn 18, or atleast after they start making a living.

Jordan culture, Jordan people, life in Jordan
Fond memories: With my host family in Jordan.

And there is an intrinsic problem with that, especially when it comes to the way you view travel.

I know there was a time when travel was considered a luxury, an escape from everyday life; it was expensive, borders were closed, visas were difficult. But times have changed and how!

In this world that seems to be fearful of “foreigners”, where all that we read about in the media breeds fear and hatred, it is more important now than ever to travel. Because a school textbook can’t describe the heartwarming hospitality of a traditional Muslim family in Jordan, or the proud and light-hearted spirit of Ethiopians, or the egalitarian way of life in Central America. Fancy degrees might sound good to your friends, but real learning happens when you’re stranded in a country you know nothing about, not even the language, and a kind stranger goes far out of his way to help you. Even death – or the fear of it – acquires new perspective on the road.

simien mountains ethiopia, hiking ethiopia, ethiopia travel blogs
Hiking in the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia.

No, travel is not a break from life. It is education in its truest, purest form. We need now, more than ever, for people to travel out of their comfort zones, to discover life beyond the cities and cubicles, to open up their world, to chase their dreams. We need less bankers and engineers, and more artists, musicians, writers, travellers, entrepreneurs, sportspeople, dreamers.

Luckily for our generation, there are many opportunities to stray away from the conventional path – opportunities that can open doors for your “kids” only if you let them spend more time on the football field, or in the dance hall, or dreaming up stories, or doing the things they love… time away from their cram-and-regurgitate school work.

I found the inspiration to pen this open letter when Lufthansa reached out to me about one such opportunity – to support India’s young footballers. In partnership with Paul Breitner, the German football legend, they invited school kids for a unique football masterclass. Following this, Bayern Munich will run an under-16 football tournament, and Lufthansa will fly 10 of the best players to play at the FC Bayern Youth Cup world finals in Munich in 2017! Imagine what doors this can open for a budding sportsperson.

Lufthansa football masterclass, FC bayern cup india, lufthansa india
Football masterclass with Paul Breitner. Photo: Lufthansa.

And although I speak of travel and sports here, I can’t help but extrapolate my plea to life itself.

Let their happiness, over how much they earn, where they work, and who they end up with, define yours. Let your “kids”, whether 28 or 48, choose their own paths and find their bliss; don’t try to fulfil your dreams through them, encourage them to be dreamers instead. Let them make their mistakes and learn from them. Let them wade into the ocean, learn to float on their own, and find adventures that make life a little bit more fulfilling. This one life is not meant to be spent in the captivity of a job or a partner they don’t truly love.

At 28 years old and having built a (financially-sustainable) life I genuinely love, I can tell you that it wasn’t homework, scoring 90% in school, making it to a decent college or anything in between that helped me chart this path. It was putting myself out there, using whatever money I could save to travel, taking risks, and believing in myself even when no one else did. It involved a fair few battles at home which I believe were worth fighting. But my inbox is testimony that not everyone wants to fight for the independence that is a given in most countries outside of India.

Set your kids free, dear parent. Let them spread their wings, let the wind carry them to lands far away. Because when they come home, I promise you, you’ll be proud of the people they’ve become.

Update Sept 2018: After 7 years of travelling the world – 5 of those without a home or permanent address – I’ve written a book about my journey! “The Shooting Star” charts my battles, triumphs and adventures from the cubicle to the road and from small-town India to remote corners of the globe. Published by Penguin, it has been ranked as the #1 bestseller in travel writing on Amazon India. Order your copy on Amazon or Flipkart, or get it at a bookstore near you.

Guatemala photos, lake atitlan travel blogs, indian travellers
Feeling free…

Do you aspire to pursue an unconventional path in life? What’s stopping you?

I wrote this post in collaboration with Lufthansa. Opinions on this blog, as you can tell, are always my own.

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Advice for the Young and Penniless Who Want to Travel

Dealing with Travel-Wary Parents

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Quit My Job to Travel

The Shooting Star Academy

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  1. Very motivating post, Shivya! I think it very important to emphasize how easy and safe travel has become over time. Connectivity is an added bonus as well. So, I also feel that if safety is the issue, parents should chill a bit more and let “kids” find their own way and learn their own lessons. But I also understand that the problem here is more than just safety concerns. It is more than the fear of unknowns. I know from personal experiences that our parent generation feels travel is useless and just waste of money, a luxury that we can never afford. I know people are changing but it might still be a while before everyone gets comfortable with the idea of sending away their “kids” for traveling (or any other big decision, whatsoever!). I am still trying to figure out what can be done to make this shift faster.

  2. I am truly overwhelmed Shivya. Only you could’ve written such breathtaking letter. You are the best shooting star, EVER – putting in all your efforts to make our wishes come true. Thank you!

  3. Dear Shivya,

    As always loved reading your thoughts. I as a parent along with my partner agree to what you have said here and that was precisely our inspiration to start our family travel blog which is like a canvas for all four of us (my family) to paint after each of our travels together. Though not always but we try and travel together as much as we can and believe me I have seen before my eyes how and what travel does to kids. They are growing to be independent thinking individuals and at the same time know how to respect others’ point of view.

  4. Wonderful, Shivya. I am glad you found the strength and courage to follow your bliss. With your passion for life and travel, others will break free and follow:)

  5. I must say I am very lucky regarding this. My mother always encouraged me to do something different since childhood and my father always supported what I wanted to do. First engineering and now blogging. He just wants me to be independent but close to family. 🙂

  6. shaji a.k says:

    dear friend, shivya , i am so glad to read ur email or travel blogs all so wonderful i am so encouraged just because of you dear really no jokes a girl can travel around the world where i am??????? pls keep in touch , can u reply how to get the visit visa to cz republic ???

  7. Nicely penned post. This concern I believe has haunted every Indian traveller from time to time. Travelling since a decade, I overcame many personal fear, apprehensions, mental or cultural blocks but still only concern remains to contact home in time, which 95% case I meet, but the 5% beyond my control, gives me sweat about “by this time, my parents have started to think about all unfortunate things must have happened to me” . Though it is the love and bonding of our parents that is unique and cherishing but still our society needs to be stronger to make their children weathered to the realities/uncertainties of the world.

  8. Being an Indian “kid” (one is qualified as a kid for the parents irrespective of the age group you belong to!), the idea of seeking permission from parents for every little thing is so very relatable! My school of though does not say that this is a bad practice per se, it is just that the fact that it needs to happen necessarily can be troublesome for some grown-ups! Very well written! 🙂 Keep inspiring your readers.

  9. Reblogged this on Infinte Thirteen and commented:
    Beautifully written. 🙂

  10. Karan chaudhary (@twittykaran) says:

    Hi, I am Karan and I am just 20 years old. Thank you for this blog. I even think that there is a big problem in our indian culture that every parents want to ‘settle’ their children and the one word ‘settle’ that i hate most. So i want to say them that let their children freedom to choose what they love, to believe what they believe in and to take risks in their life. Money is not the destination of our life, ‘Happiness’ is true meaning of our life.

  11. Nice family

    On Sun, Dec 4, 2016 at 8:02 PM, The Shooting Star wrote:

    > Shivya Nath posted: “Dear Parent, On a pristine beach in Baja California > Sur, Mexico, I watched in admiration as hundreds of newborn turtles > crawled towards the roaring Pacific Ocean. About two months ago, their > mothers laid nests on the beach and a team of conservationist” >

  12. You are an inspiration!!

  13. Very well written. Indian parents need to change their mindset quite a bit. Not an easy job though (I speak as a travel-loving parent myself) when one ‘imagines’ how your son or daughter will fare all alone in distant unknown lands.

    That said, younger gen is smarter these days, have better access to facilities, stay connected etc. These kind of exposures will help them to become better persons – improved knowledge, understanding cultures, facing tough situations independently, etc. etc. There may be some ups and downs but overall the benefits could be more…

  14. iamgsquarrr says:

    You’re truly awesome, Shivya Nath!
    Such a lovely blog. Beautifully done and way inspiring. Way to go.
    Cheers. g.:)

  15. indiabackpackmotorbike says:

    I couldn’t agree with you any more Shivya! Indian parents really need to let kids figure things out for themselves.

    At the same time I believe even the younger generation needs to be a lot more open about life and not get bogged down by parental (or peer) pressure. Rebel, if they must, to achieve what they want. Be it travel or any other interest area. Unfortunately, I’ve also noticed the younger generation (or mine, I’m an 80s kid) as much as they appreciate other people doing crazy things don’t stop making excuses about why they can’t even think of doing it. So I think kids also need to think beyond malls and multiplex phenomenon

  16. mravinash says:

    Beautiful portrayal of the fear to convince parents on what we need in life. I had the same situation where I took the courage to make them understand what I want to do and leave my studies and pursue what I love to do and not just do something I never like. Which worked in my case I earn my bread no pizza😀 with whatever I love doing. So guys talk to them if you want to do something different a 10mins chat is all its needed and then just do it.🙂

  17. Very well written. Especially in these times when the urge to travel,style,cook, or just any sort of activity which was not taken seriously until now is spreading like wildfire among youngsters, it has become even more important for parents to understand our desires. But to think of it on their part, it is not something they are used to and have been taught to live like. So, it will take time, or perhaps when our generation grows up we will be able to give the next generation the freedom they deserve. 🙂

  18. Wonderful Shivya.Nicely written and great thoughts.
    We are sure that after going through this post the parents of many will encourage them to travel.

  19. Kirti Daga says:

    Hello shivya

    I have read many of your blogs and I must say that your work is truly inspiring. Like you, l also dream of travelling the world alone. I’m 18 now. And I am a MBBS student. I think would be financially independent by 27. So I would start my journey after that only. Travelling world alone is my only dream. I want to learn. I want to grow. I want to help people. And I think being a doctor would ease my getting in touch with the locals. But I haven’t told anyone about this. I don’t know how my parents are going to react to this. Although they are very supportive and understanding but… I think you do know about the “INDIAN SOCIETY”. They are going kill me. They will question my parents teaching, ask questions like “why your daughter isn’t married yet?” It’s not that I am against marriage or something it’s just I do want my partner to understand me. I want him to respect my dream. And it’s hard to find someone like that. I know married couples do travel places. But I don’t want that kind of fun, going to 2,3 places, clicking pictures, posting it on fb, staying in expensive hotels. I don’t want this. I don’t know how to convince my parents. And even if they get convinced what about relatives and all.😞😞 Huh😑 I wanted to know what was your parents reaction on your dream? Do reply me whenever you are free,please. It would help me a lot.

    Thanks Keerthi😃

  20. Rohan Sharma says:

    It does’t matter from where we come…in the end all that matters is ..Who We Become!!

    Great Piece Shivya.

    May I humbly suggest to all, If U liked what U read …Just Act On It !

  21. Having travelled many places across Europe over a span of 3 months, I have realized that truly there is no better way of learning than travelling. It widens your vision and opens up a world you never thought existed. Thank you for this letter, much needed. 🙂

  22. You’ve outdone yourself in this one, Shivya!
    Food for thought for parents and adults who will remain ‘kids to their parents’.

  23. Dhaval shukla (crazy physics guy) says:

    hey girl, you this is just pretty good and the way you people lives is amazing but one day I’ll also left this country and enter my world
    have a good luck and amazing life

  24. Shivya…..I do not have any questions to ask. Because all mu questions are answered here. If something is preventing myself from doing anything it is just me. Thanks for a wonderful and insightful post.

  25. “No, travel is not a break from life. It is education in its truest, purest form.”, couldn’t agree more 🙂

  26. This is like the best article of your’s ever! It is so much needed for today, and you have given words to many people’s thoughts. Travelling is one thing, freedom is another. Your article portrays both. *Respect*

  27. What a lovely post Shivya, and so so inspirational. I too really wish Indian parents would let their kids be. Then again, we’ll have to see for ourselves what it feels like to be parents.

  28. This is so true! People should be exposed to travel and different cultures and experiences at all ages. It always perplexes me when parents are so opposed to it – especially because of the lasting impact it has on their children.

  29. archdetriumph says:

    This is one of the best articles ever! Its just so amazing! I am a boy from India who has a dream to travel the world but ending up being an “engineer”. I literally cried while reading this.But still I didn’t gave up on my dreams yet and one day or the other, I’ll make my dreams come true. THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR SHOWING THE RIGHT PATH. That’s all I can say -Manthan

  30. Beautifully written and conveyed. Fortunately my parents has never taken any decision in life for me. I am so grateful for them unfortunately i do not have enough money at times to travel but I try to travel as much as i can.

  31. Shikha Malhotra Arora says:

    Wonderfully written Shivya! I stumbled upon one of your tweets couple of days back. So glad that I read it, cause I have been reading more and more of your write ups since then. Whatever mood I am in , reading your blog /article brightens up the moment and brings a smile on my face. hooked on to your blog !

  32. Wow, Your writing is great!! Enjoyed reading this. You made a lot of great points. For me, I could have begun traveling solo when you did, but I had no idea what it was like. I had no excuse or any responsibilities. I brushed the idea of. Oh well, at least I’m doing it now.

  33. Though I am a wanderer and my parent never stopped me from travel but ya most of my friends have this issue. I have to go them request and then we get few of our plan successful. ;). You wrote on a valid and most common issue with us. ha ha

  34. Very true Shivya! My work has taken me to more than 30 countries…..and I attribute my current thinking to only that. My daughters therefore will travel and I will make sure they do. Only this will broaden their horizons!

  35. Jinu kurian says:

    Nice write motivation to travel and explore more than our daily life and usual seens…as some one said world is huge book and we are only reading only one page if not travelling

  36. Shailja Tiwari says:

    Amazing !! Wonderful!! Truly inspiring .
    Please pickup your pen and write another blog “An open letter to Indian Men : Let your mother’s/wives/sisters and daughters travel . “
    I’m 53 years old . Want to travel like you …. till eternity.. I know I’ve to cross many barriers for being a free spirit. But trying my best.
    You are a true inspiration. Thanks .

  37. kash 7 saal pehle ye post likhte to 4 saal enginner ban ne ke liye khraab nahi krne padte …

  38. Anushka Dabhade says:

    Your words leave a hard wound on our souls and hearts. Some of your sentences and so good that I just want to meet you and see your aura.

  39. You inspire me every day Shivya! I am one of those who is still trying to convince her parents to let her step out of her comfort zone and try new things. Hoping that one day I get to write a post like this to all parents who are afraid of letting their kids travel.
    Thank you! <3

  40. Fardeen Khan says:

    Nice ma’am .And most of the parents are stick to their thoughts and beliefs its very hard to convince them.its like Abba nhi mananenge from 3 idiots.

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