On my most recent visit home, my mom took me out for lunch and some much-needed mother-daughter time. As we splurged on expensive coffee, debated over what kind of sandwich to order, and ended up deciding to go “halfsies” to get the most variety, my mom sighed and stared into her cream and sugar concoction.
“Why did we have to raise such an independent daughter?” she asked sadly. “Why couldn’t you work a labour job in your hometown and live in your parents' basement for the rest of your life?"
Of course, she was mostly joking. She's the first person to sing my praises, showing off photos and passing on my adventures to friends and family at home. But the truth is, having a daughter who moved to Chile for an unknown amount of time probably wasn’t what my mom was imagining 23 years ago when I was born.
As bittersweet as it is for them, my parents are the two people I have to thank the most for getting me where I am today. So for any parents or future parents reading this post and hoping that their kids will stay close to home, uninspired, fully dependent, and with low life aspirations, here are the top three things not to do:
1. Don't read bedtime stories.
Ever since I can remember—and probably far before that—my Dad has shared his love of reading with me. When I was too young to recognize the words themselves, I would pick out a picture book from the large stack in my room and present it to my father to read for me. My favourites were quickly memorized, and I mouthed along with the words as he spoke them out loud, drawing my fingers over my favourite pictures and objecting when he announced that we didn’t have time for another one, it was time for bed.
From reading, I saw images of other countries and cities, different traditions, and people with ideas that I never could have begun to formulate on my own.
When I became a proficient reader and no longer needed him to be my orator, we often chose to read the same book so that we could talk about it, arguing over favourite characters and excitedly admiring surprise endings. Even now my Dad passes on suggestions of good books that he has come across, and he is the first one I call when I encounter a story too provocative to move on from without a good discussion.
Reading not only provides mental stimulation and supplements a good vocabulary, but it allows an individual to step outside of the framework of their own life and experience a taste of another. From reading, I saw images of other countries and cities, traditions far different from those held within my own family, and people with ideas that I never could have begun to formulate on my own.
And although reading wet my palate for a life of adventures—and made me salivate for everything that I hadn’t yet experienced—it didn’t come close to fulfilling those dreams. As inspiring as a good book can be, it can’t come anywhere near a real-life experience. Reading awakened my dissatisfaction with living a comfortable life in the confines of what was already familiar to me, and ignited the spark that had me researching plane ticket prices and visa forms.
2. Don't take family vacations.
For as long as I can remember my parents have done their best to open my eyes to other cultures around the world. They brought me to other countries, taught me the dos and don’ts of travel, and showed me that exploring another country was not only possible, but important in my growth as a human being. They taught me to be flexible when travelling, to seek out places off-the-beaten-path, and that things don’t always go as planned. And they gave me an arsenal of experience that made me confident enough to safely set out for some abroad adventures on my own.
3. Don't provide a stable and supportive home life.
Since I could talk, my parents have made sure that I knew I could do anything if I set my mind to it. They would support me in whatever endeavours I undertook, as long as I would be safe, could live comfortably, and was happy.
When the moment came that I was ready to take the plunge and set off on some independent adventures—as sad as it was to say tearful goodbyes and promise to send email updates—it would have been much harder to leave knowing that there was no one staying behind to receive those letters and phone calls. Knowing that I had someone at home worrying about me, someone I could call to tell my stories, cry about my misadventures, or ask for advice was vital in taking that first scary step into the void.
Having the privilege of knowing that if I got into some sort of trouble my parents would do anything to help—even if it meant getting on a plane and coming after me—made the risk of taking an unknown job, with bosses only introduced via Skype, in a never-before-seen-city (let alone country) slightly less formidable.
Finally, knowing that the life I had been creating in the United States for 23 years wouldn’t just be sucked up into a black hole of nothingness, but that my boxes of sentimental junk too big to carry would be saved in an attic and cared for, made the emotional decision to try to start a new life somewhere else less astronomical and panic-inducing. Knowing that I still have a home waiting for me with open arms (should I decide that the travelling lifestyle isn’t for me) was like the life-preserver that I belted on before I leapt off the cliff. I probably wouldn’t need it since I know how to swim, but knowing it was there gave me the security to make that final leap.
Of course not everyone who travels has the same inspirations and advantages that I was lucky enough to grow up with. But from my vantage point abroad, I know that this recipe of support, confidence, and exploration that shaped my up-bringing became the recipe that led me to where I am now; living in another country, learning a new language, and pushing my boundaries.
In other words, my parents were doomed from the beginning, and I can’t thank them enough for it.Add this article to your reading list