How to Satisfy Teenage Desire to Travel in the Age of the Pandemic

Writer Ellen Himelfarb and her daughter Camilla near their home in London.

Justin Griffiths-Williams / The Globe and Mail

When my teenage daughters and I talk – which is rare these days – we often fantasize about the trip. I say fantasize because, well, COVID-19. But also because their wish list is almost impossible: Paris with friends? Not while you’re still a minor. Australia? Good luck man. Japan? Call me when you win the lottery.

After a period of inhuman isolation, many adolescents aim high. However, when you remove the long-term ambitions inspired by shows such as Gossip Girl, Emilie in Paris Where Midnight dinner, they just want a little freedom in the company of friends. Until we let that happen, they’ll be happy with us.

“Freedom” could mean a number of things for those of us who are suddenly faced with “normal times” as parents of teenagers. To that end, I started researching and asking friends with slightly older teens what I can expect from my restless and recently unlocked girls and how others might travel with and without theirs to the world. over the next few years.

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What I’ve learned is that no matter where they grow up, a lot of teens are like mine – they think big. But when school is over, will they really want to get out of bed? It is debatable. I could start off easy and send them to a local music festival: an affordable, loosely supervised toe-dipping exercise that, in my entourage at least, is considered teenage nirvana. Ultimately, however, my instinct has always been to aim beyond our backyard, for sometimes unpredictable situations, where the program isn’t sorted like the laundry on the bed.

We all know that traveling can be a balm for anxious teens. According to the United States National Institutes of Health, nearly one in three adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 will suffer from an anxiety disorder. So anything that gets them out of their bedroom, a claustrophobic friendship group or their parent’s control improves balance, teaches responsibility, gives them an element of control. Even a weekend in Halifax or Victoria can seem as far away as Japan to a novice.

Family travel writer Alyson Long says escaping their comfort zone has done wonders for her two teenage sons, helping them develop a worldview independent of what teachers or newspapers tell them. “And I think it’s good that kids know more than they’re told,” says Long, who is the founder of the World Travel Family blog.

Claudia Laroye, a Vancouver writer who chronicles her travels on Claudia Travels, says her two sons, now in their twenties, got their first tastes of freedom on school trips. Then, at age 14, each son went on a “skip-gen” trip with his in-laws. Her eldest chose Peru, hiked part of the Inca Trail solo while her grandparents took the train, and looked after her grandfather who succumbed to altitude sickness in Cusco.

“He must have stepped up more than expected,” says Laroye. “But he has grown to appreciate it – to bond with this generation without interference from his parents.”

The boys graduated from AirBnbs in Whistler, BC and Portland, Oregon. One of them almost missed Christmas when his car broke down in Kamloops, British Columbia. “These things happen,” says Laroye. “From a parental point of view, you let go. But you could also say that things can happen when they are in the store.

True. Now what if your child doesn’t get out of bed in the first place? Start involving them at the planning level.

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Laroye targets apathy with the sharing of power. “It’s important to sit down with the family and plan the trip,” she says. “What are we absolutely going to do together? When do you wake up early and when can you sleep? Give them an interest in where you are going and what you are doing.

Brenna Holeman of Winnipeg, a solo traveler since her teens and author of This Battered Suitcase blog, suggests fighting boredom with the outdoors.

“The hashtag #vanlife really contributed to this desire to escape into nature,” she says. And while capturing that zest for life on Instagram or TikTok might be half the fun, “the kids I’ve talked to are turning away from social media, leaving their phones. They don’t want to film all the time, ”says Holeman.

Parents could see them at a local beach to camp, swim and cook outside, then let them build a hotel in the nearby town, she said.

“You go through a natural change by only driving 100 kilometers,” adds Holeman. “In Canada, we have some of the best scenery in the world, amazing campsites, yurts, cabins for rent. We have more cities than Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, more nature than Banff and Jasper.

Some of us have needed this trapped time on our side of the border to realize it.

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I find this especially heartwarming, as I can imagine the day when my children will decide that the further away they are from home, the better.

Long knows the feeling, “It’s going to be horrible because I’m probably going to lose them,” she said. “Like I did with my mother.”

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