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Help! College Daughter Wants to Go to Berlin, Prague Alone. Very Worried!!!

I will start by saying that I am NOT a "helicopter parent." My 21-year-old daughter is doing a study abroad in England in June. After the course ends, she wants to go over to Europe and go to Berlin and Prague for a few weeks. Originally a friend was supposed to go with her, but that fell through. Now she doesn't have anyone to go with and is talking about doing this alone.

Her father and I love to travel, and we have traveled extensively with her over the years. I love the idea of her doing the study abroad. But when it comes to her being in Berlin and Prague alone, I'm mostly concerned about what happens to her at night. She wants to go to clubs and hear music. Of course she will probably get drunk to some extent. To me, a situation like that can be dangerous for a young woman traveling alone.

She plans to stay in hostels and says, "I'll meet people in the hostel and we'll go out together." I think it's foolish to rely on "luck" to stay safe in a foreign city where you don't speak the language.

I would appreciate some advice. I can't really stop her from going, and I want her to have experiences that broaden her. But on the same hand, I don't want to be at home getting ulcers from laying awake at night worrying about her.

Posted by
552 posts

This is a job for Laura's calming and reasonable perspective...

Posted by
3304 posts

Well...seeing that she's 21, if she wants to do this, she will!
That said, my rule of thumb is "if you would do it at home, then it's probably fine to do it abroad; if you wouldn't do it at home, then you shouldn't do it abroad either". Hopefully your daughter has a good head on her shoulders and would know better than to get drunk and rely on her hostel acquaintances to get her home at night.
My niece, also 21, just got back from a year abroad in Amsterdam. She is a big drinker and we were all worried - it turned out OK for her but she also had friends she made while there - quite a bit different from your daughter's situation.
If it were me, I would tell her that she should take friends along that she meets during her course in England. Other than that though, she's an adult and, at some point, you just have to trust that you raised her right and that she will make good decisions.
Unfortunately parenting is all about ulcers.

Posted by
35 posts

Yes, it's a duplicate post. But she is going to Berlin and also to Prague. So I wanted to hear from people who have experience (or are planning to visit) both countries.

Posted by
2019 posts

I won't duplicate my post, but will add that there is no effective difference between these two. The biggest downside I see is she has to worry about all the stuff she will have with her if she can't store it long term.

Posted by
12 posts

I'm 24 and I was travelling alone. Please don't be so scared about her. The first thing - language, most people in Berlin and Praque speak English, so it wouldn't be the problem. The second thing - herself, if she has her own mind (and I think so 'cause she study abroad and it means she's quite responsible and smart) she will never do bad things. And the third thing sure you shouldn't stop her. But you can ask her to tell you about her location via google or via Iphone applications you can follow her way so you'll always know where she is. But as I told i've travelled alone and never had any problems

Posted by
2081 posts


i dont have kids nor do i want them. But speaking as a former kid that worried my parents a lot, all i can tell you is sometimes you have to let them learn lifes lessons the hard way.

My parents tried to keep me safe and teach me their wisdom, but when youre young, sometimes youre stupid. No easy way to say it. It took me a while to figure out that my parents weren't being "unforgiving" or "hard nose" but just trying to keep me from making the same mistakes they did when they were my age. But you know what, sometimes i did make the same mistakes. its life and i was able to live through them and move on.

If your daughter likes to drink, then she will have to figure out her limits. I see college kids drinking all the time since i live a few blocks away from one of the local colleges. For many kids, its the first time they are "free" of their parents and will do all of the stupid things and that includes drinking, taking drugs and partying to all hours of the day and night.

If she's lucky the friends she meets in the hostels, will be able to look out for one another. It maybe better than none at all.

In the end, it she's an adult and for good or bad, theres not much you can do about it. All you can do is to trust her and how you raised her and to hope some common since has kicked in and she has did some growing up in school.

happy trails.

Posted by
4354 posts

If she's going to do all of those things in Berlin and Prague, she (1) will have already been doing these things in England, and (2) has been doing those things in the USA. Have you seen the news lately? It's certainly not any safer here, whether male or female.

Wherever she's doing this, she must never do it alone! She and her friends must agree beforehand that they will always leave together - preferably not drunk. Also, they should keep an eagle eye on their drinks at all times and ALWAYS buy their own.

Just 'make' her check in with you every day by text...

FWIW, lying awake and worrying has never helped anyone, nor changed one single outcome in the course of history. You might as well get some sleep. She's most likely going to be fine, this year and the following years ;-)

Posted by
5451 posts

Hi TravelMom,

When I was 19 I studied in Europe for six months. One thing that my dad did was find emergency references for me in the main countries I was visiting. These were work acquaintances, friend's family and others.

At first I went everywhere with friends. I planned a trip to Greece for the 3-week March break. I was to meet friends, but we were 19 and we messed up. So, I found myself in Greece on my own. At that point I decided to use the emergency reference, but they were out of town. But, it was fine. The concierge in the building took care of me. He called his daughter who spoke English, the found a room, they helped me search for my friends, and ultimately, I met up with the emergency contacts. But I toured on my own. I did send a postcard and when I got back to Germany, there was a message to call home, which I did. (The postcard could have been better worded! But I was only 19--your daughter has two years on me and at that age that is a lot! )

But then, I wanted to go to France and no one else did, so I planned my 10-day April mid spring term trip on my own. I stayed in hostels. I met other Americans and Canadians and Australians, and Irish etc. and made friends. I was fine. It was a fun time. I did not call home. I then took other trips on my own--Vienna and Rothenberg.

If she wants to go to clubs, she needs to stay in hostels and go with a group. And, she needs to watch the alcohol. If she will already have spent time in the UK and she has smarts, she will figure out how far she can push it. Would you be this worried if she were going to San Francisco clubbing? Is it the language concerns? So many of the people speak English. Prague is packed with young Brits. Of course, they are drinking. I don't think that she is relying on luck. If she is at all out-going she will meet people to clubbing with.

To help you sleep and to make this more like clubbing in SF, you might want to do is find some emergency contacts for her in Berlin and in Prague as well if you can. These can be friends of friends. You just need to tell them that you have confidence in your daughter, but that you are a parent and will sleep better if she has back up if needed. Then the question is your daughter's ability to judge what is an emergency. My emergency in Athens, could really have been solved by walking a few more blocks and using the American Express Card that my dad had also equipped me with. :) On the other hand you don't want her calling when she can't get a bus and has to pay for a taxi back to hostel. But if she is truly unsafe and a credit card and money won't get her out of it, then the emergency contact comes into play. That's when she would call you from San Francisco, right? :)


Posted by
5817 posts

I disagree with the advice to "make" your daughter check in everyday by text .
For one thing she is an adult! You have to show that you trust her at somepoint. We all coped when travelling when there were no mobile phones or Internet. Always on communication just adds to the stress of modern life.

More practically, putting a rigid plan in place is only going to lead to more worry if ( when!) it is not adhered to. Her phone dies, there is no signal, she forgets because she is having such a great time she isn't thinking about home, what are you going to do then? Maybe arrange a set time once or twice a week that she will call, or you call her.

It is also worth asking her to call if something "big" happens in the news in the country where she is. I always call my mum if something in London is bad enough to make the national news, eg 7/7, weather killing people(!) etc. I learnt that lesson after the Canary Wharf bomb when for a range of reasons ( pre mobile phones) she couldn't contact me for 36 hours. Basically she was convinced I was dead because I lived in Clapham which began with the letter C just like Canary Wharf! they are miles apart

Posted by
540 posts

I'm sorry to say I don't have much to make you feel better. I think the idea to try and find some emergency contacts is a good plan.

However, It's possible that she still may find someone to go with. If she's not going until June, she will probably make some new friends in England who may want to go with her.

Good Luck!

Posted by
2089 posts

Not a parent, but as a solo female traveller I wanted to chime in on the part about asking your daughter to check in via text every day--I am 50, an only child, and I've lived alone for many, many years, very responsible and all that, but it doesn't stop my parents from being worried sick when I go off to Europe for two weeks every year. I call them every couple of days for a brief chat and message with my aunt, or post something about my travels, daily--that way someone knows where I am and that I'm ok. This might bother some people but it works for me and my family.

Posted by
4354 posts

"Always on communication just adds to the stress of modern life."

I don't know many 21-year-olds that this applies to! Take away their devices? Now THAT'S stress!

Apparently my suggestion to 'make' your daughter do anything was grossly misinterpreted.

Christa, if your family could only realize that - if anything - they should be worrying about your life in Alameda, NOT Europe. But it is what it is.

People, Call Your Parents! They never stop worrying ;-)

Posted by
5283 posts

My daughter's first solo trip (her early 20's) was to Central Europe using a RS guidebook. She had a flight over and back and ... general plans in between. Luckily she was using the checking account I had opened for her in high school (with my name on it) so every time she made an ATM withdrawal I knew which city she was visiting... not enough to keep me from worrying, but better than nothing.

Posted by
5817 posts

I don't think anything was mis interpreted I just think trying to "make" an adult child do something, be it daily texting or something else, is a mistake. A little bit of trust goes a long way.
I don't see the benefit in a parent waiting for a mandatory daily text whilst a child works out when is best to send a daily text. A parent is always going to worry, why build in even more reasons for concern. It is about a parent learning to let go......

Posted by
1845 posts

Yeah, Emma. You are so right. I heard once that we raise our children to be independent and then don't really like it when they are. Letting go is really difficult but you have to do it......for them and for yourself, too.

Posted by
12088 posts

The analogy on using San Francisco is accurate. Different but from a guy's point of view, I never felt unsafe at 21 over there, be it then London, Berlin, etc, solo or with those I met at the hostel, day or night. I would not say the same about SF then or now....a lot more cause to worry in SF (clubbing ) than in Berlin.

Posted by
106 posts

I have never been to Berlin, but I have been to Prague as well as many other cities in Europe. In general, I find European cities to be much safer than most cities in the U.S. In addition, I find European "young people" to be much more responsible in general than their American counterparts. In Europe, beer and wine are very much a part of the culture from a young age, so you don't run into as much of the "go out to just get drunk" mentality. I've been to many bars and clubs while in Europe, and I find the crowds to be very well-mannered and acting in a very responsible way.

Having said that, you have to be smart. Pickpocketing is very common, especially in crowded tourist areas. When I was in Prague, I saw a couple talking with police after they had been pickpocketed in the main square. Of course, the gentleman had his wallet in his back pocket and was staring up at the clock tower, rather than paying attention to his surroundings. I'd estimate the couple to be in their late 60's. So, I don't think the concern is about age - it's more about being smart and being aware of your surroundings.