Thursday 21 September 2017

A lesson in travel for school leavers

Gemma O'Doherty

It's that time of year again when Irish teenagers pack up their rucksacks and go on the rampage abroad, as parents brace themselves for a fortnight of sleepless nights and anxious days.

The litany of tragic stories involving booze-fuelled youngsters pouring in from around the globe these days is shameful -- and terrifying for any mother or father saying goodbye to their youngsters for the first time.

Watch a group of Spanish or Italian teens socialising in Ireland and they'll probably be drinking tap water. But when our young people travel abroad in packs, even the A students among them have a nasty habit of turning into feral children with no respect for anyone.

Post-exam holidays have become a rite of passage for many school-leavers and college kids today. It's only natural when you're 18 to want to spread your wings and grab a taste of freedom after the pressure of the points race.

But parents have no one but themselves to blame for funding these dangerous trips in drink-soaked resorts.

Ibiza, Majorca, Salou and anywhere with little more to offer than sunburn, sangria and high-rise balconies are the sort of places that should scream risk.

If you're footing the bill, remind them that nightclubs are the same all over the world and suggest somewhere less tacky, such as Paris, Rome or Berlin -- cities which are sure to give them a life-long love of travel, the right way.

Encourage a more challenging itinerary such as inter-railing across Europe or hiking in the Alps, rather than bingeing with the beer-belly brigade on the Costas.

Once you've got your way on the destination, there are some other ground rules that can be laid down to improve their chances of coming home in one piece.

Find out how many are travelling in the group. If it's a large gang, there's more likely to be drunken antics that get out of control. Work with other parents to try to reduce the numbers down to a group of about three or four.

And make sure you are all in agreement about how they should behave while abroad. Remind your young traveller they are representing Ireland abroad.

Images of tricolour-carrying fans intoxicated at the Euros in Poland and inebriated emigrants who have become the scourge of many Australian cities do wonders for reinforcing the stereotype of the drunken Irish.

Tell your child they have an opportunity to undo some of the damage and behave responsibly so that other nationalities do not automatically link Ireland with alcohol quite so easily.

Once the tickets have been bought, there's no turning back. But before you wave them off, establish a contact schedule about when and how they will stay in touch.

Make copies of all important documents such as passports, credit cards, EHIC health insurance card and other forms of ID.

If you're really desperate, you could download an app such as Glympse on your mobile, which allows you to follow your child's movements night and day through GPS. They might not like you for it, though.

And once they're gone, get on with your summer and revel in a fortnight without hormones and heaps of laundry. Worrying is futile.

And either way, they'll be on the phone soon enough when they've run out of cash.

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