Why I am a solo traveler at 16

15 Sep

I’ll just say it straight right now: I do lots of traveling alone despite being sixteen years old. At my age right now I go places only where my family knows friends who I could call in case of an issue, but the rest is all on my own. The flights. The hostels. Figuring out about local buses. Sightseeing. Yes, I do this all on my own at 16. I doubt there’s many 16 year olds who would go to a foreign country and do all of that this day and age. Today’s 12 year olds don’t have nearly as much freedom to roam around their area as their grandparents did at 12. Today’s kids are more supervised. This cultural change in parenting and being a child is not actually because the world is a more dangerous place. The world, including once-dangerous US cities, if you believe statistics, is actually a safer place now than ever before. But parents are more exposed to news stories about children being taken away and stuff like that, so they are more wary. But some people I talk to don’t think that. Some really insist the world was a safer place 30 years ago. It’s just not true. Today, especially with GPS maps, smartphones, and the internet making safety information being readily available, a sixteen year old is safer traveling alone in than any other time in history. New York, like many US cities, used to be much less safe. Then came the 90’s when crime went way down.

Eastern Europe (including the more westernized countries like Poland) is another example of a place where many parents would never let their teen backpack alone. Eastern Europe, like New York, is actually much safer than it used to be, but some people I meet still have images in their heads of Eastern Europe being an ugly place full of soviet concrete buildings, neo nazi gangs in the streets, graffiti, crumbling infrastructure, and dirty, potholed roads. While it certainly is more like this than Western Europe, the fact is that it is now a much more developed and safe place than when it had just come out of the soviet era.

I am very thankful that my parents let me travel alone at 16. I’m glad they realize that 1) the world is not very scary, and 2) I am very capable of traveling.

So why do I want to travel alone at a young age? Can’t I wait until college when most young people backpack Europe? While, let me put it this way: I have yearned for travel all my life and traveling alone has given me a lot of opportunities to travel when we wouldn’t have had enough money for the whole family to go. I also love the sense of unfamiliarity and seeing new places. It is also a test, a rite of passage in a way.

I’m so glad that back last year, I was looking at the computer looking for a cheap way to travel, and then I realized maybe my parents would let me travel alone if I persuaded them. So I worked on it a little bit and now that I’ve shown them I can do it, I am a solo traveler at 16.







One Response to “Why I am a solo traveler at 16”

  1. Michael Forbes Wilcox September 16, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    Great essay! in which you display the intelligence and maturity that justifies your parents’s faith in you.

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