Opinion: Why you need to travel without your parents

By Claire Desmarais | October 15, 2017 3:50pm

Claire Desmarais
by Brennan Robinson / The Beacon

This last March, for spring break, I traveled for the first time without my parents to Ireland. Two family friends of mine, who were University of Portland seniors at the time, and myself hopped on a plane Saturday morning to fly 12 hours to Dublin, Ireland, to spend a week traveling the country and celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. 

As a freshman in college, adjusting to life on campus can be rough when a lot of us are used to having our parents, or some other guardian, take care of us while we’re at home. But coming to college and moving away from home gives us a little taste of the independence we’ll have for the rest of our lives. 

When I told my parents I wanted to go to Ireland with my two friends, they were nervous for me. They asked questions like: What if she gets lost? What if someone steals her wallet? What if she misses her planes? All these ‘what ifs’ were simply that though, just concerns preventing me from an opportunity to obtain freedom.

When we finally landed in Dublin Sunday morning, we ran to a train station and traveled to the Cliffs of Moher. And after 36 hours of traveling, we made it to our first destination in Galway, Ireland, Sunday night. Two days later, we rode on another train back to Dublin to spend the remaining time exploring the city and embracing the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations

All this time, I had to maneuver transportation (we missed a few trains and almost a plane), ensure my debit card companies didn’t freeze my cards, and keep pickpockets from stealing my purse. And even on the night of St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, we lost our apartment key and had to be resourceful and stay at a friend’s apartment who happened to be visiting while studying abroad. 

The entire time traveling, I had to be alert and take care of myself. Too easily can we rely on others, like our parents or supervisors, to ensure our safety. Traveling without my parents to a foreign country was one of the most difficult things I did in my freshman year of college, but it sparked within me a true sense of independence. 

And while studying abroad is a great opportunity for students at UP to explore the world and receive an education, having to navigate a foreign place alone forces you to do so much more. To fend for yourself outside a large group and learn the inner workings of another culture inspires courage.

I’m not saying you need to go to a foreign country and travel across the world. It’s expensive and unreasonable sometimes, but I do think that if at all possible, you should actually get on a plane and go somewhere new. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time, but when you accomplish something for the first time on your own, a new sense of confidence arises and you feel invincible.

Take a risk and fly someplace unfamiliar because you’ll never know what you could’ve gained by an experience like this if you never try. Find a friend, or anyone, and jump on a plane to a new place as soon as you can. You don’t have to go far, but it will be worth the money and time.