I am feeling very ambivalent at the moment and I am looking an opinion about the topic of travel. Would it be alright for me to travel to a foreign country alone?

Just to give more details about my situation: I am a female and I am 20 years old. I would be paying for my own plane ticket etc. so as to not burden my parents. But, my parents have basically said, “There is no way we will let you go” (I am going to try to reason with them… but I don’t know if I will be able to do so). On the one hand, I feel I am old enough to be able to go wherever and do whatever I want (within reason of course) because I am technically an adult, but on the other hand I know that my parents are worried and are trying to protect me and keep me safe because they would be devastated if they were to lose me. I just don’t know if my parents are right and if their concerns are justified or if they are just reacting out of fear and paranoia. I have been pretty sheltered for most of my life, and I have only visited two states (with my parents) in the United States and have not been anywhere else.

Aside from this, I would be visiting either Germany or Poland (not sure which country yet) and would be meeting someone at an airport. The person who I would be visiting has visited me during the summer for a little over a week, and I have been talking to this person online for nine months. But…I have some trust issues… and while I care for the person very deeply and don’t think he would hurt me, I am still worried about what could happen since I have only met him in real life for one week. He hasn’t really given me any reason not to trust him, but I still worry anyway (something happened in my past that has lead me to not trust people easily). We are both asexual (which means that we do not want to engage in sexual activity) so I am not worried that he would try to rape me or anything like that, but I am worried for a reason that I will describe below in more detail.

I suggested to the person who I would be visiting that I bring a friend with me, but he thinks that she would just be an annoyance and would be an irritating “third wheel.” I understand what he means, and I agree that it might be awkward, but I would probably feel safer if she or someone else were to come along with me. I think that he is against her coming with me because, when he visited me, my parents were somewhat overbearing, so he thinks that my friend will be as well. I told him that I thought “my parents would let me go if I brought a friend” because I was afraid to admit my insecurity about the issue, and his response was that bringing her would be “out of the question” based on the “principle that your parents would be getting exactly what they want.”

I just don’t know though if his intention is to get me in a position where I am alone (for a potentially bad reason)… or if he just wants to be with me without anyone bothering us. I mentioned to him that my friend has family in Germany and that she would probably be with them while we hang out, and his response was that it might not be realistic for us to hang out in his home country because he doesn’t have much space in his apartment and his mom is ashamed of where they live. He said that his mom would probably take us to Poland instead (where she grew up and where her family lives), which made me feel a little bit better since there would be an adult going with us. But, again, when he said this he brought up the friend issue by saying, “And your friend couldn’t come with us. I doubt she has family in Poland anyway.”

He also thinks that I should be more independent and just come alone because that is what he did when he came to visit me, but I think it is different because he is a male and I am a female. (Yes, I know gender equality and all that… but, once again, I worry)

I also don’t have any family, relatives, etc. in either country, and I do not speak either of the country’s languages. I don’t know if it would be okay for me to travel alone or if I would be in danger. If I were to go to Poland with him I would have to take a plane there by myself, and it is not even the country where he lives.

I feel torn because I really want to go and I think it would be an amazing adventure, but I am also afraid that by going I might be opening up a “pandora’s box” full of horrors. What is your opinion and your advice?

A: I think you really have two issues: One is the advisability of travel; the other is what to do about your friend. The simple answer to your question is that of course it’s safe for young women to travel on their own, especially in the countries you’ve mentioned. In the larger cities, you can easily find people who speak at least some English. But – and this is a big but – you don’t sound to me like someone who is ready for such a big adventure on your own.

If this situation is your way to try your wings, there are much less stressful ways to do it. Start by going for a short time with a friend or two. Consider starting with an English-speaking country or going on a school-sponsored study trip. There’s lots to figure out when in another country that can be a bit daunting to the uninitiated. Negotiating different money, staying within a budget, managing different modes of transportation, figuring out where to sleep and what to eat, etc. are part of every day. There are few things as growth-producing as mastering taking care of yourself but it can be challenging.

The other issue is this young man. I think you should trust your instincts on this one. In the name of helping you be “independent,” he’s insisting on a situation where you would be dependent on him. Not good. You are also giving him far too much say in where you will go and what you will do. Furthermore, it doesn’t sound like the two of you have the same idea about what this trip is to accomplish. I worry that he has more romantic intentions in mind than you sound ready for. If things go bad, you’ll be without supports and dependent on him to get you home. I think you see that potential and you are rightfully concerned.

If you are still interested in seeing where this relationship might go, I suggest you meet him on neutral ground. Plan to spend a couple of weeks traveling with your girlfriend to somewhere like London or Munich (or wherever your friend has family). Have him meet you there for a few days. Save spending extended time with him for your next trip, when you are more confident in your travel skills. I have a guess your parents would be far more supportive of such a plan and you would feel safer.

One more thing: Please do spend some time learning at least a little of the language of the country you’ll visit. Knowing basic courtesies, like “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” as well as how to ask for directions, order a simple meal, and ask about accommodations will help you feel more confident. It’s not hard and it means a lot to people when you make the effort.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Oct 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). Is It Safe to Travel Alone As A Woman To A Foreign Country?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/10/13/is-it-safe-to-travel-alone-as-a-woman-to-a-foreign-country/

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