I have been very fortunate that my family did not behave this way, but I’m aware that I am the exception. Here’s what to do before you tell your family and friends about your impending world travels.
In Australia we have a phenomenon called “tall Poppy syndrome” and I have since been told that in America the same concept is called “crabs in a barrel” due to the way that when crabs are trying to escape a bucket or cooking pot, the other crabs will pull it back in. A Poppy is a type of flower that grows in the grass and the term is in reference to the fact that the Poppy which reaches the highest, will get it’s head cut off to match the height of the others. It’s rather depressing when you think about it.
Judging by the fact that most countries seem to have a name for it, we can assume that we all know the type of behaviour, but why on earth would the people who love us behave in this way? Let’s take a look.
They’re Being Assholes but They do Actually Love You
Home schooling is a good place to start if you’ve ever witnessed the strange behaviour between two sets of parents. Often it starts with one set of parents casually mentioning that they homeschool their children, followed by the other parents getting angry for no apparent reason. When you analyse what’s happened however, you can see that by mentioning that their children are homeschooled, the first set of parents are letting on that they must think homeschooling is better than regular schooling or else they wouldn’t bother. This challenges the fact that the second set of parents provide their children with what has now unintentionally been described as inferior education, and few things make people angrier than insinuating that they are bad parents.
Now of course the problem here is with the second set of parents because they should know how to control their emotions and know that every situation and child is different and what works for one, might not work the other. I’m not arguing for or against home schooling at all, but I have seen this exact scenario at least 5 times and I believe it is the same behaviour that can lead your family and friends to behave in an unkind way when you finally share your huge, happy, life changing news with them and they tear you down instead of supporting you.
If we remember that what people perceive from our communication is often quite different from what we intend to convey, you can see how saying “I’ve quit my job, I’m going travelling indefinitely and I’m going to come back a changed person” could be perceived as saying “I’m quitting my job because I believe that is superior to staying in the rat race like you, I’m going to live a more enriching life than you and I’m going to come back more enlightened than you”
I’m acutely aware that no one has actually ever used the line “I’ve quit my job, I’m going travelling indefinitely and I’m going to come back a changed person”, and I’m also very aware that people don’t translate your words into something else entirely, but I’ve seen how that is the feeling they get and they’re generally not even aware that’s how they feel. It’s an undefined feeling not put into words, but it causes the same results.
I believe this is half of the reason as to why the people who love us can behave in a selfish and destructive way, and that the other reason is simply that they feel left out.
It’s easy to see how they can misperceive the situation. Imagine that you and your brother have always wanted to go live on an island off the coast of Thailand and run a small bar there. You both have similar jobs with similar incomes, the same amount or lack of debt but you’re the one who has pulled the pin and decided to go. It’s very easy to see that you’re the one who prioritised travel above career progression and income stability, but he’s not privy to your thought process and can only draw upon all the times that the two of you have talked about your shared dream. Naturally with that limited perspective, it’s natural for him to assume that it was somehow easier for you to make the decision, when in reality it was just more important to you, and on top of him thinking that you’re luckier than he is, he feels abandoned because you’re living out “his dream” without him. If you happen to make more money than he does, this will compound the effect and that’s all he will focus on, thinking it was easy for you to afford it, but impossible for him. You lucky bastard.
How to Avoid Your Family Reacting Badly to You Becoming a Long Term Traveller
Thanks for reading this far, but unfortunately I don’t have any great tips or tricks.
The fact is that you’re family and friends will either react well or they won’t. How far along the process of making plans you are when you tell them, won’t affect their response by much. If you tell them about your plans when you’re still early in the planning stages and haven’t bought tickets, you run the risk of them talking you out of it, or behaving poorly enough that you get guilted out of living your dreams. If someone behaves this way, understand that it’s for the above reasons, but also understand that someone who won’t support your life’s goals, is not worth staying for, out of a misguided sense of loyalty or guilt.
My advice is to keep your plans close to your chest at least until you have booked yourself a non-refundable ticket and booked some accommodation. From there, know that they might react badly and take a weekend or even a week out of town, and tell them over the phone before conveniently losing reception to go hiking. I know this all sounds a bit grim, but the intention here is not to upset them, but rather to make sure your plans to live out your dreams do not get kiboshed. You’re family will probably react quite well but nothing is worth your dreams getting shot down, so don’t take the chance until you have booked your ticket and firmly committed to going. If they do react poorly, try not to take it personally and understand that it is a common thing. Don’t burn those bridges, but it might be prudent to develop a more encouraging circle of friends.
If you’re still at these early stages of planning your travels, why not check out How to go From Broke to Full Time Traveller in Less Than 8 Weeks or if you want to take a deeper look at the strange psychology of those who get envious by others travelling, you can read what happened to me with my early post: I’m Not Lucky, You’re Just an Idiot