When my 18-year-old daughter first told me she wanted to go solo backpacking around Australia and delay going to university, I doubted it would actually happen.
I was completely wrong about that and she is now a few months into the second year of her travels.
I really hadn’t been aware of how popular taking a gap year (or two) was and then discovered it is a normal path for many in their late teens and early twenties to take.
I also found there are plenty of useful websites and guidebooks bursting with information for the prospective young traveller but few readily available guides to help and comfort parents through what can be an extremely worrying time.
So here are a few of my basic survival tips for the parents of young backpackers.
The iPad I bought her as a leaving present means I can regularly have long chats with my daughter via Facetime or Skype and at no cost. In fact I probably have lengthier conversations with her than if she was at home!
The iPad purchase has been worth its weight in gold and she also bought an international sim card and cheap bundle of minutes, which is an important back up.
You can remotely track your offspring’s movements by placing an app on their smart phone or tablet; however, my daughter firmly and bluntly rejected my very kind offer to do this!
Backpacking hostels are safer than I had imagined but with six to eight young people in a room they can get extremely messy. Important documents and items can easily be lost and of course thefts do occur.
So consider scanning in to your home computer copies of passports, driving licences, bank cards and other similar documents, so you can e-mail copies if they go astray.
Ensure they have decent travel insurance and keep details of their foreign bank account close at hand. It takes over 24 hours to transfer money abroad from a UK account and there may be times when you need to do this urgently.
Don’t read the Daily Mail, which tends to report all the shark and crocodile attacks that happen in Australia!
Finally, your son or daughter will forget about the 11-hour time difference and call you at 3am to tell you about their day. Keep the phone at the side of your bed and get used to hearing the phrase ‘Oh….were you sleeping?’