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Comforting worried family back home

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Comforting worried family back home

What do you say to the people back home who are nervous for you? I can't be the only one who's family is really REALLY worried about my cycling adventures. They aren't outdoorsy types or risk-takers, and they worry themselves into a frenzy about me doing even a 3-day solo trip. They're having a really hard time comprehending the big cross-country trip I'm currently planning, and every time I see them I get a big guilt trip about how much anxiety I'm causing them and how much anxiety it would cause the extended family if they knew and blah blah blah. So far nothing I can say seems to help them relax. What's crazy is that I haven't lived in the same city as my parents in a decade, and don't talk to them daily. Except for a phone call once or twice a week they normally have no idea where I am or what I'm doing (though they do know I bike almost every day), and this seems to be fine for them, but for some reason the idea of me on a bike in a different town or camping makes them completely bananas. I don't want to cut them out of my life or my plans but I don't know how to handle their anxiety.

So, for anyone else who's dealt with overly-anxious folks, what do YOU say to convince them that bike touring is not going to be the death of you? Is there a resource somewhere to help with this sort of thing? A book? A brochure? Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!

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Anxious family

Refer them to Encourage them to read some of the journals, especially the ones by women. For serious cases, invest in a tracking device so they can follow your progress on the web. Call home as frequently as demanded. Be aware when you'll be out of cp service areas, and warn them.

My wife: "Bye. How long you going to be gone?" I do make a habit of calling once/day. Once even enlisted a stranger to call for me when they got in cp range. They did.

When you start your trek, make sure all's clear at home(no emotional baggage,) and try to avoid tight deadlines like motel and airline reservations. Makes for a much better tour.

Then just do it.

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Comforting family back home

I assume they are motor vehicle users. Ask them to look up mortality rates of motor vehicle users in their home jurisdiction (which I assume is Ontario, like mine). Not just pretend look them up, but to actually look them up and absorb that information and see if they are comfortable with their own choices. It is likely so normative at this point that they have just come to accept their situation. It usually comes down to an emotional reaction about what is foreign or unknown to you. I love this graph:

I live in Ottawa and ride a recumbent tricycle just about everywhere and have done a lot of long distance touring. I recently spent two months riding it in New Delhi, India. At first I was terrified to try before my trike had arrived, but once I got my trike and tried it, I found it a whole lot of fun and potentially safer since most of the vehicles on the road there are closer to my (a) size (b) weight (c) speed and they are (d) paying attention and I've encountered a lot fewer (e) entitled drivers. These five factors have made a big difference in my experience.

I can't recommend enough this book:

This whole point is about perceived vs. actual risk. Here are some other resources to get people thinking:,9171,1562978-7,00.html

Have fun reading. I hope there are some ideas and nuggets you can find useful to share and help clarify your situation and perspective.

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I think the best thing you

I think the best thing you can do is to go on your trip and come home safe and sound. Trying to convince the average "non-independent traveller" with logic and statistics has not worked in my experience. But doing trip after trip and coming back safe and happier than before has silenced the worriers in my life. I come home from my trips and endlessly gush about the friendly and helpful people I've met along the way ...mostly even friendlier and more helpful than Canadians. The proof is in the pudding. The average person is prehistorically wired to worry about that which is strange and foreign my opinion, anyway. Once they see you coming home safe and happy trip after trip, their brains may become slightly rewired and they may no longer perceive it as quite as "dangerous" as they thought it would be.

Worry, fear and stress kills more people annually than motor vehicle/cyclist collisions as far as I'm concerned :-)

Count your blessings that you seem to have shed the mantle of fear from your family and enjoy your trip.


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I discussed this with Patti

I discussed this with Patti and she suggests that you also let your family know what particular safety precautions you take while travelling. I do agree with that as well.

Oh, and don't do as I do. Don't gush excitedly about how you almost kicked the bucket after being grazed by an RV near Thunder Bay or something like that :-) Be somewhat selective in how you report back to your family.


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re: Comforting worried family back home

Hello Jess,
groundwork for my reply:
I have not had to deal with this myself. I am a guy & my family always encourages my bicycling pursuits.

My response:
a person's response to an event is their choice. It is comforting to know your family cares about you. This sounds like the family members you have spoken with have not yet really seen you. They now do not know what your interests are.
Their reaction is their issue, NOT yours. So, take a calming breath, do not interrupt the flow of words directed your way, do not get attached to any of the words directed your way, and when this person is done maybe say something like, "Thank you for sharing your concern with me. I want you to know I'll be perfectly fine during this trip. You and I disagree on this point."
You acknowledge receiving their communication, you share your truth, and you present your point of view that there is a disagreement about the reality of your situation, and that (the disagreement) is OK. I do not recommend attempting to convince anyone to change their mind.

And DO the tour! Have a blast ;-))

Gerhardt in Portland

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Thank you!

Thank you everyone for your thoughtful replies! Thanks especially for the crazyguyonabike suggestion - I'd perused the site before, and I don't know if those journals will convince my wound-up relatives any more than hard logic will (which is not much) BUT reading more, I've discovered other women who encountered the same resistance from their families, went for it anyway, and had a blast without causing a major rift. Very reassuring! I think ultimately I'll be taking hints from everyone - explaining real vs imagined risks, familiarizing my folks with other people's journeys, planning my trip with the usual safety precautions - and then just going for it and coming home in one piece with lots of great stories to tell. Cheers!

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I agree with getting them to

I agree with getting them to read crazyguy journals. I have written one there and am a lone female cyclist who has done india twice, france, various in australia and in the not too distant future heading off to Kenya even.

One book i know which they might enjoy reading is by Anne Mustoe, A bike Ride. Buy it for them. Its a very reassuring book written by an older sensible woman. She rode around the world. Of course eventually she died on the road but from an infection which could happen just about anywhere. so don't tell them about that bit but for your info, she made many more trips between her first and her last before dying.

I would not suggest getting into the habit of contacting them on demand. I cannot think of anything worse for yourself. Besides when you find you can't make the phone date, you will be worrying too and it will ruin your trip.

To some extent, people who worry like it. they have a habit of it. Don't buy into their bad habits. Don't take it on yourself. Although you do sound like a very caring child and that is nice but really, people worry too much and its unhealthy. People have to live and kids have to make their own life and takes the risks they feel necessary.

People who die whilst travelling are just generally unlucky. I don't think travelling in itself is a particularly risky activity but as mentioned you won't be able to reason with them so i don't think you should try to. Just tell them less about your travels. Tell them only the good things.

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Update - Good News

I still won't be leaving for another few months but for anyone else having the same difficulty as me: My family has been coming around and yours will too! Here's what's working:

1) Being invested - making it clear that this trip isn't an idea, it's a reality, it's happening. I don't bring it up constantly but mentioning big purchases I've made toward the trip like a new bike, new tent, etc demonstrate that they're not going to convince me to not go. Same goes for letting them know about the hosts I've lined up, the website I've created, etc.

2) Letting them help. Even though I left "the nest" many years ago, my kind folks are always ready to lend a hand, and accepting their help is win-win. My dad has gone from not wanting to talk about the trip at all to getting me some gear for Christmas and planning to drive me to the airport. He initially wanted to drive me all the way to Newfoundland but I was able to talk him down, haha.

3) Focussing on the fun stuff - excitedly gushing about the amazing things I'm going to see. I knew I'd eventually get my mum on board when she said wistfully, "Oh you're going to see so many lighthouses..." She loves lighthouses. Now she's thoroughly googled the entire Maritimes and her fear is starting to be replaced with excitement.

So really what's working is talking about it! Not about their fears or anxieties and how to mitigate them (which wasn't helpful), but talking about the trip and my preparations and how excellent it's all going to be. Consistently steering the conversation in that direction leaves no room for anxiety. My mum's now told me that she's no longer worried at all about the eastern half of my cross-country trip, just the western half. I responded with "Well, by the time I get to the midway point, you'll have enough confidence in me that you won't be worried anymore. Hey, did I tell you about these two great parks I'm going to visit in Saskatchewan and Alberta? They're really neat because... etc etc.... Here's where you can look at pictures of them..." :)

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That's an excellent outcome.

That's an excellent outcome. Soon they'll be wanting to go travelling themselves. Or even coming to visit you while you are away - if you are going for a very long time. ACtually that can be a great thing to have happen if you are going on a really long tour. Good for you and them.

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Being invested certainly

Being invested certainly helps you take your mind off the worriers and helps focus them on the preparations at hand. I've had exactly this happen with family who were concerned but then ended up interested. And the way you speak makes it sound like it is parents concerned about relatively young adults, but in my (our) case, we're still curious adventurers even now that we have kids and we just bring our kids with us on our adventures. Back when I was doing my cross-Canada bicycle trip, my dad, based in Ottawa drove up to northern Ontario to meet me with his tent trailer and leap-frogged us providing support along the way that was helpful not certainly not necessary. I think he was just living our adventure vicariously. A year later he ended up joining me by bicycle for a more modest bicycle trip over 200km/3days and ended up "discovering" a cute little artisan village with some history (Merrickville) and retiring there 7 years later. Years later he played leapfrog with us from there on a canoe trip we did with our two young children back to Ottawa, meeting us several places in between for picnics. My dad always insists on driving us to the airport or helping how he can to be partly wrapped up in our adventures. We're now adventuring in India and sending news home, which gets spread around and shared with the rest of the family. My dad's wife is trying to convince him to come and visit us in India, since she is eager to visit. :-)

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I can relate

My parents were not behind my first trip (San Francisco to LA), or my first 2 cross country adventures (LA to Boston). I hated calling home as I did not want to hear the "Are you done yet? You have been gone long enough" lectures. I had to accept that they just did not understand. Years later, when I was 32 and on my third cross country trip, I called home and my mother answered, "Are you wet?" I had cycled in the rain in Washington State all morning. Her question told me that she was finally onboard; had been following the weather along my travels and had given up trying to control me. I replied to my mother, "Yes! I am soaked! And thank you so much for finally getting this!"

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