When your child announces that he/she is going backpacking, take a deep breath and a puff or two of ventolin . When your breathing is more regular and your hands stop trembling, google “backpacking” and that will take you to several sites, as this is indeed a very popular mode of seeing the world amongst youngsters, especially those who refuse to tag along with their parents and want to avoid the well trodden path of visiting relatives and museums and familiar places that Tourism Malaysia has on offer.
Most sites will have keywords, such as “unlimited level of flexibility with travel itinerary”, “cheap accommodations” and “cheaper means of travelling”. That alone should be enough to tell you that you DO NOT call up friends and relatives in places where your offspring plans to be. If you had unwittingly called friends, or friends of friends and relatives or relatives of friends or friends of relatives, then apologise profusely to child in question and say that you only wanted her/him to call them once he/she is there to convey your salam. Then, take more puffs of the ventolin.
And when child in question announces that he/she is backpacking in Thailand, attach inhaler permanently to your nostrils and at the same time, trembling hands permitting, go through 25 ways to calm your nerves here.
Several other tried and tested tactics are also recommended. (Success rate not guaranteed)
Bribery: Go to Bangkok BUT only on transit and offer to pay for the rest of the holiday in Malaysia.
Blackmail: You go to Thailand and I promise you I will NOT sleep and eat, until you come back. (add "breathe " if you are really desperate.)
Eleventh Hour Emotional Blackmail at departure lounge: Compose your face suitably as you hug him/her at the departure lounge. Quivering lips accompanied by endless flow of tears and loud blowing of the nose is recommended.
If all of the above fail – doa. Lots of doa.
PERSONAL NOTE: Called up travel agent friend and scolded her for issuing the ticket and not lying and say that tickets not available or too expensive.
Preparation: Ask not just once or twice about travel arrangements, travel companions, parents and background of travel companions. Get phone numbers of travel companions, and that of their parents and grandparents.
Backpack and contents: Go through contents of clothes and essentials to make sure the child does not carry anything you or customs on both sides of the immigration table don’t want he/she to carry.
PERSONAL NOTE: Got at least five padlocks for each pocket available on backpack. Not satisfied with padlocks, get backpack to be cling-wrapped twenty times over at the airport. With backpack looking more like nangka bungkus, child relented for backpack to be checked in, rather than carried on back.
MANTRA PRE DEPARTURE: Don’t talk to any strangers. (But seeing that everyone will inevitably be strangers…) don’t talk to suspicious looking strangers. (Googled images of suspicious looking strangers…couldn’t find any). Don’t accept anything from anyone, keep drinks close to you. Go in groups, do not wander off by yourself.
SMS every move you make.
PERSONAL TRACKER: In the absence of trackers such as GPS, have page permanently displaying TIME NOW IN BANGKOK as screen saver. Google every place mentioned by child, such as “backpackers hostel”, koh samui, th khao san, ferry to Koh samui. Click on images of the above and then more puffs of ventolin.
Place handphone, cheap international call cards nearby. Template added in handphone messages: Where are you? Where exactly are you?
On hearing loud music and atmosphere of fun and laughter, take more puffs of the ventolin.