Is 17 too young to travel alone?

Old May 22nd, 2009, 05:58 AM
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treble, from your original post there's no mention if your son wants to go just that you'd like to send him. If your son really wants to do this then I think it's a great idea.

I wouldn't propose this trip as a gift that hasn't been requested though.

Two weeks sounds fine.
sassy_cat is offline  
Old May 22nd, 2009, 06:01 AM
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Too young? No way!

At 17 I drove alone from San Diego to Cleveland, within an hour of arriving in Cleveland, I was beat up by a gang of Italians in Little Italy.

My car broke down outside of Mt. Sterling, Illinois and without the assistance of the very kind people in town I might never have made it home.

A very rare Southern California tropical storm washed out highway 8 into San Diego but I fortunately ran into a group from my college and shared some floor space in their hotel room in Yuma, Arizona.

I arrived home a couple of weeks later with a turtle I found on the freeway in New Mexico, about 50 cents to my name and 1/4 tank of gas (and couldn't chew well for a couple of weeks).

Why would anyone think 17 is too young to travel alone?
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 07:52 AM
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I'm early 50s now and went to Europe at 17. I'm female. I stayed with a family, outside of Copenhagen the first time, for two months, as I was the selected exchange student from my high school. However, the next year, at 18, and all years after that, I went on my own and had my own accommodations along with revisiting the family I'd originally stayed with. We are still very close to this day. My Danish "sister" was just here visiting me 4 years ago.

What I did was rented a room, in a kollegium, in Copenhagen. A kollegium is sort of like a dorm, but it's not connected to any one university. But young, university-aged people live in it. Back then I paid $122. a month, for a room with a bathroom and then there was a kitchen on each of the 10 floors that we all shared and even prepared and ate some meals together. I lived in my kollegium building for 10 years of the 20 years of summers I spent in Copenhagen. I could have stayed in that building longer, but since I was older I felt like moving out after 10 years. For the next 10 years, I stayed with friends.

I, to this day, still have friends who originally lived in that building. They were like family. We became very close knit. Wonderful experiences. They would even invite me to their family's summer houses and even take me along on family trips. I was the only American in the building of over 300 young people and back then they were really excited and wanted to practice their English and all.

Many of the students leave during the summer, but still have to pay the rent. So, they rent out their rooms. I was in Copenhagen for usually 11 weeks straight. The rentals were usually until around the last week of August when students would start coming back. I'd then move out and move in with some friends for about a week, at the end of summer. I would usually fly back to L.A. in September. My parents would always say that they didn't mind me going out and exploring the world, but to just be home before UCLA started up, around mid-September, as they had paid my tuition , and I absolutely HAD to be back for the first day of class. The other rule was to stay out of trouble, which I did.

The kollegium rooms were also rented out for shorter stays as there were a few young people there, from mostly EU countries, staying for shorter amounts of time.

I would use my kollegium residence as my base. I couldn't imagine being, on the road, non-stop. I'd throw most of my stuff in my room and then take a smaller suitcase and go out, using my 3-month Eurail pass, and then return back to the kollegium. I'd take several short trips away from Copenhagen every summer.

So, if your son could find a kollegium, then maybe he could stay a month. I also enrolled myself into Danish-language courses, back then, as I had 11 weeks away at a time. I took intensive Danish language courses that rotated about every 3 weeks. So, after one 3-week course, I could take off and travel a bit, and then return and start up another 3-week course if I wanted to. I became quite fluent over the summers which helped greatly in communicating with older people and small children who usually couldn't speak English.

I think it's great letting your son go off to Europe, at 17. I'm glad I had such liberal parents. And I first went off in the early 70s, so some folks thought my parents were a bit off. But, we had friends who had been traveling off to places like Nigeria and Ghana since the 60s, so it seemed pretty normal to us. Smiles.

My sisters and I were brought up with the saying, "There's more going on out there in the world than what's happening in our backyard". One of my sisters even went off to Nigeria, for 6 weeks, alone to explore. That was a rough trip, but she lived to tell the story and is still in contact with a family that took her in when she got stranded. They even moved here to L.A. several years ago. She was in her 20s when she went on that solo journey.

So, it's been a great 30-plus years of roaming around the world alone and on all continents many times over as I'm usually gone 1-3 times a year. Having the experience of traveling and alone and having to plan all of my own vacations really taught some great life skills and has developed me into the person I am today along with viewing the world in a differnt way that many others view it.

I know your son will have some great experiences along with some bad ones, but that's part of life. My mom always said it's about how one handles the bad experiences that gets one through them. Happy Travels!
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 08:13 AM
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PS...And remember my sister and I were doing these travels/journeys long before cell phones/ computers/ ATM machines, etc came along, and we came out fine. I've been in Africa 4 times, but 2 of those times were long before cells phones and computers. We just had to think on our toes more and do our own problem solving as we couldn't so easily just call home to the when I was nearly out of money at the end of a trip and had to fly back to L.A. from Brussels. I had taken the train from Copenhagen back to Brussels, but had to arrive the day before I was to fly back to L.A, due to the train scheduling.

There wasn't enough money left for a hotel, so I remembered a monastery I had visited, with a Belgian friend of mine. He had introduced me to the head monk/Father(?) there. So, I called the head monk/Father from the Brussels train station and he told me to take a cab to the monastery and that he'd pay for it. I was then put up for a night at the monastery. That way I didn't have to sleep at the airport. It was a GREAT experience at the monastery. I had a huge room and a nice bathroom. The monk/Father gave up his room to me.

I stood in the so-called food line, with the monks, and got my food and ate at the long tables with the them. After dinner, we sat in a sitting room and discussed all types of topics and I had soda and they had Stella Artois. I still smile when I think about the great time spent there. Happy Travels!
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 08:20 AM
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Depends on the kid, and only you and he know what he can handle. My daughter was perfectly fine traveling around Europe n her own at 16 and 17. My son, not.
StCirq is offline  
Old Jun 2nd, 2009, 06:18 AM
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THanks to all who responded, I think we will wait til next summer to avoid any age issues, and let him mature a bit more. He is going to a couple college camps (music)in the states, so he will be able to get away... And we will still have time to do a family trip as well, before long those will be passe'! If he begged I would let him go, but since he is not...maybe he is not ready...anyway if parents watch the movie "Taken" you would never send your child over!
treble is offline  
Old Jun 2nd, 2009, 07:02 AM
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I also graduated high school at 17 and was certainly capable of traveling Europe at that age, but if he's traveling with a lot of other 18-year-olds and won't be able to get into a lot of places, I really would wait. Being unable to get into certain places or be allowed certain things for age just sucks. You sound confident that he has the maturity to travel and I totally believe you, but when others don't because of a mere date, it'll be hard on him anyways.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2009, 07:08 AM
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I really find some presumptive values going on here -- that if someone doesn't want to travel around Europe alone, there is something wrong with them. Some people NEVER will be "ready" for this as they simply prefer to travel with others. It isn't simply that the kid is defective and too young, some people never will want to do that. It appears this was really the parents idea, though, and I think a music camp is preferable myself, I would have loved to go to a music camp (like Interlaken). I still would, actually, and know some for adults. Some people just are more sociable or want to experience things with others, or have others for company.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2009, 05:04 AM
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Well sorry to be the party pooper here but I do think 17 is still a bit too young to travel in a foreign country or throughout our own country alone. I agree that many 17-year-olds are mature and and can certainly travel around their own hometown or nearby alone but I think they still somewhat lack the maturity and judgement to set off on their own plus as others said, better to wait till they're a little older so they can get in places.
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