“Te Vas?!” 7 REAL Tips for Latinos Traveling on Programs Abroad

by Published

“Qué?”      (What?) 

“¿a dónde vas???”      (Where are you going?!)

“Estás locaaaa???”      (Are you crazy???)

 “Y quien te dio permiso????”      (And who gave you permission????)

To all my wanderlustin’ damas y caballeros wanting to make a lifestyle out of Latino travel: Welcome to the struggle of being Latinx with a penchant for adventure.

Large group of students in Florence, Italy

Feeling homesick? You’re bound to make new friends (that feel like family) on your program abroad! 

There are some pretty well known facts in this world 1) Selena will always live on 2) Hispanics are incredibly family oriented and 3) The face of exploration is often portrayed as white and male. Luckily, while two of those facts remain true (#Selena4Life), the third one has begun to change immensely.

Thanks to technology, social media, and inspiring Ted Talks, minorities—especially in the Latino community—have started to find more opportunities to travel. However, with great freedom comes an even greater evil disguised in the form of responsibility. Yup. You too will have to confront the judgments that will come from your immediate (and extended) Latin family. This includes (but not limited to): 

  • Your parents
  • Your tio’s and tia’s
  • Your great abuela 
  • Your second cousin twice removed
  • The local Pastor
  • Quite possibly even your neighbors (word travels fast)

No worries, once all prepping has taken place (and you haven’t given someone a heart attack), the rest will follow once you understand the craziness behind Latino values. Follow the suggested tips and research programs before traveling as a Latino abroad!

So why are our families un poco loco…?

Character from gif movie Coco acting shocked

Your families initial reaction when you tell them you’re leaving….

If you’ve seen Disney Pixar’s Coco, you must have some sort of understanding where our crazy emotions for one another come from. If you haven’t, grab a box of tissues and get ready to cry your heart out. The values depicted in Coco show the strong, protective bond between Latin families—which are essentially the underlying reasons Latino travel isn’t common in the first place. While other families may see “18” as the correct age for kids to leave the house, make their own decisions, and begin their life—it’s often very different for Latino families. We’re taught from the get-go that family is forever!

No matter what age, family should always be close by and have some sort of input in your life. Even when we’re married with kids, our parents will still be scolding us walking barefoot around the house. How will they know we’ve been walking barefoot? Because they moved in, duh! (Never mention a retirement home to older Latinos or you will be disowned!) 

Another reason Latino travel is often overlooked is because we come from families that have never traveled (unless it was to leave their country for a better life). There is a large fear of the unknown and stranger danger, which is why early-age travel like study abroad is rarely encouraged. Even further, money can be a huge obstacle. As children of housekeepers, construction workers, mechanics, etc., it’s just not possible to afford family vacations (let alone programs abroad). Rather than spend money on traveling, many Latin parents prefer to help out the rest of their families back in the developing worlds. Because of this mindset, many Latino children have grown up faster than normal. However, as the new generations continue to evolve, we are now learning that we can help our family achieve the American dream, while still being able to travel abroad (can I get a #SiSePuede?)!

7 muy importante things to keep in mind when you travel Latino

Cries in Spanish GIF

The feelz will be real when 10+ family members drop you off at the airport.

So why exactly do Latinos need their “own” tips? Well, since the majority of us come from families who don’t travel often, we don’t really have too many resources to utilize. I onced asked my mom for tips and she hit me with that “Y Quién Te Manda?” which roughly translated to a sassy way of saying “Girl, why are you going in the first place? Ain’t no one sending you over there but your damn self!” Thanks mom. 🙄 Alas, it’s okay. We’ve done the research and got you covered!

1. How to prepare for “The Talk”

It is no secret that when it comes to Latin families, raising a healthy family is the #1 priority—especially for the women (aka the future homemakers, caregivers, and recipients of the you-need-to settle-down-and-give-me-grandchildren-soon talks). How else will your abuela be able to pass down the legacy of her own name? As minorities, we already face a lot of struggles ahead of us, but convincing los padres and sometimes the older siblings of why traveling abroad is OK can be a little dreadful.

The truth of the matter is that there's no real way to break it down gently. There will be tears. There will be a series of questions. There may even be some chancla throwing involved. The best thing to do is PREPARE. Research your entire program, country, finance opportunities, and any other counter argument you can think of. Your family only worries because they care, especially since Latino travel is not very common. The more you know, the better it’ll show. Stay calm throughout your conversation and explain all of the benefits that come with traveling in order to ensure smooth sailing. 

2. ¿Y de dónde vas a sacar ese dinero? Where are you getting the money from? 

Growing up as a first-generation Latina, there were always limitations to what we could and couldn’t ask for. Wanted Mcdonald’s? Too bad, “Hay, comida en la casa.” Well, imagine asking for $5,000+ to study in Italy for a summer? For Latino parents, you’re basically asking for Elvis Crespo to sing Suavemente at your wedding—AKA, it’s not happening. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from our #savage parents, it’s that we MAKE our own opportunities. How did our parents drop their lives and migrate to the United States? Well there was a will… and they definitely found a way. 

Screenshot of WhatsApp conversation with family

Real life example of how your messages will probably look when you’re abroad. Pro tip: Try not to nap at odd hours— if you do, your family may send an army to look for you…. 

Lucky for us, there are many scholarships available to minorities and first-generation students. Programs are dying to give free money to diverse students, so use this to your advantage! Other ways to finance your program abroad include saving from part-time jobs (like a champ), asking friends & family through FundMyTravel, taking out federal loans, or even selling that old barbie collection you have in your closet! 

Don’t let financial limitations stop you from accomplishing your dream! As Latinos, sometimes we hold ourselves back from certain luxuries because we see the daily struggles our parents have to face. Luckily, with so much outside aid and support, we can lift the burden from our parents shoulders and turn our dream into reality. As the Spanish (and English) proverb goes “Todos los caminos conducen a roma.” All roads lead to Rome— which means there’s more than one way to reach your goal. #VivaLaVida

3. Te fuiste? With some WIFI—you’ll never be alone!

So you left for your life abroad (👏 👏 👏 ) and are finally free of those (loving) chains? Wrong. Expect daily phone calls, messages, Facetimes, and even smoke signals. You promised you would could keep in touch daily to let your family know you were alive so stick to it! The best way to do this is by downloading free applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Skype. These will allow you to stay well connected with your family and will even let you join any of the celebrations you’ll be missing! 

Communication is key if you don’t want international missing posters with your face going up all over the internet.  

4. Educate the masses on Latin culture #LaLuchaSigue

Being Latino can mean so many different things (with so many origins). Although we have the same language in common, there isn’t a single voice that can explain our individual experience, especially since Latino identity doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. People assume being “American” means to be “white,” so the fact that some of us speak Spanish, have parents from Latin America—yet still identify as American—may be confusing to the rest of the world. Dispel your own stereotypes with knowledge and education. Come across individuals who assume that we’re all great dancers and love tequila? Calmly educate and explain that every Latino is different. Take this time to brag your nationality #AlwaysReppin! If you grew up eating Spanish food, you’ll know there are multiple ways to cook rice, empanadas, and pastelitos. Either way, each is unique—yet all still taste just as good in the end. Don’t let them assume you’re Mexican when you’re actually from Puerto Rico! Traveling as a Latino will bring some challenges, but the benefits are worth it. 

Want others to learn more your culture? Well, learn theirs, too! For example, the famous kiss on the cheek greeting is not the standard for the world (or even for most Americans). Be sure to read up on cultural norms to make sure you don’t overstep any boundaries on your program abroad. It’s important to understand that experience is the key to life and learning from one another can create a lasting impact. The battle is far from over when it comes to overcoming cultural stereotypes, but la lucha sigue! 

Woman with hands up overlooking scenic view on mountain

Climb those mountains to create the best version of yourself! You’ll create endless opportunities for yourself and your family along the way. 🙌🏽

5. Oye, está todo bien? (Everything okay?) 

Once you’re a few weeks or months into your program abroad, it’s always important to ask yourself “Is everything okay?” Homesickness is real and you may soon find yourself missing those loud weekend mornings when your mom woke you up to help clean, while blasting romantic Spanish oldies throughout the house (S/O to José José). 

If you’re feeling homesick, sadly, the legend that rubbing VapoRub on yourself can fix anything is just a Latin myth. Unfortunately, it won’t heal you from yearning for your moms arroz con frijoles (I know because I’ve tried). So instead, watch our tips on how to stop feeling homesick

6. No te sientas culpable—Don’t feel guilty! 

Or maybe you’re having the time of your life, but you still feel a bit remorseful? Participating in a program abroad may make you feel guilty for choosing travel over family time—especially when you come from a family who spends every holiday together and accepts zero excuses for not visiting.

Extended family may be another reason feelings of guilt start to kick in. How can you post pictures of eating gnocchi in Italy when your family in Central America can only afford rice, beans, and tortillas every meal? Being abroad can bring in a wave of mix emotions—especially since most of our family members will never be able to experience another country. However, it’s important to remember that this journey abroad will help you build the best version of yourself. Once you’re the very best, you’ll be able to give your family a stronger sense of love, support, and maybe even wealth! 

4 Screenshots of Facebook posts where mom is posting daughters travel pictures

Like I said…. your newsfeed WILL be flooded with adoration (Gracias Mami❤️).

7. Brace yourself, a storm (of admiration) is coming

At the end of the day, when you send those fiy-ah photos to your family group chat, your loved ones will be IMMENSELY proud. YOU made this program happen. YOU got out of your comfort zone. YOU are representing the family name juuuust right by traveling as a Latino. Don’t even get me started on how many times your mom will share your travel photos to brag (sidenote: Facebook moms leave the NICEST comments in case you ever need a pick me up). 

Nevertheless, bragging rights are well entitled and will be used whenever your family has to one-up the neighbors kid. Oh, John bought a house? Well my daughter is studying at a world-renowned university on the other side of the world! (Suck it John.) If you thought your mom already loved you, just wait until you see your newsfeed swarmed with photos of you at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. 

*Note: We understand this may not be the case for all Latinos. Some family members just may never understand why you chose to freelance around the world instead of choosing a steady 9-5 job with health benefits. Whatever the case, it's important to accept this and not take it too personally. The solution to this is to find a network or "family" outside of your own! Friends, mentors, and other Latinx communities can help you feel right at home and will support your travel dreams. Sometimes you may be able to relate to your second family of first generation Latinos even more than you're own and that's OKAY. Find that support group and safe space in your daily life and watch the magic start to happen. 🌟

Four programs that are great for Latinx travel

If your passports ready to be stamped, but you aren’t tooooo ready to deviate from Latino culture completely, check out these programs that will make you feel right at home! 

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1. Journey to the land of world-class steaks and gauchos—study in Argentina with SOL Education Abroad 🇦🇷

Travel through a country with a culture and lifestyle that will mirror your own! Immerse yourself fully into the Spanish language through an affordable program while experiencing life in the home of the tango (mild climate year-round is included).

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2. Venture off to the OG Spanish speaking country—study or intern with Linguistic Horizon in Spain 🇪🇸

Get to know a different side of the Spanish language when you visit the land of tapas and paella. Experience delicious Galician food, incredible nightlife, and beautiful beaches! Perfect for those living on a student budget. 

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3. Brave off into a foodie’s paradise (lechon FTW) by studying with World Endeavor in the Philippines 🇵🇭

If anyone can uphold the same family values as Latinos, it’s definitely the Filipinos! Once colonized by Spain for centuries, the Philippines is a country filled with warm climate, lively people, and a passionate culture! Earn academic credit while continuing your studies on one of the most affordable study abroad programs yet! 

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4. Nacatamales are always on the menu when you teach abroad with Global Nomadic in Nicaragua 🇳🇮

Different from its neighbors in South America, teaching in Central America will reward you with a humble experience filled with welcoming locals. Work side by side with other volunteers, interns and local staff, while having a direct impact on the people of the local community! In return, Nicaragua will give you an infinite amount of internal rewards, while experiencing the kind transparency of the locals. 

Re-defining your American dream 

Girl sitting with mom in front of scenic view in Miami

At the end of the day, home is where your family is. They’ll be waiting to embrace you with open arms (and carne asada)! 💕

Congrats you Latin Globetrotters! Upon returning from your program abroad, you may have decided traveling isn’t for you or you’ve done a complete 360 and changed your major to tourism (like me)! Whatever the result, completing a program abroad definitely changes our perspective on life, relationships, and dreams.

But for many of us, it can be hard to decide whether traveling is in our future since we come from families who spent their lives immigrating, working, and sacrificing their needs in hopes for a conventional American success story. However, it’s important to realize that we are only able to have the opportunity to travel BECAUSE of their sweat and tears. Our families worked hard so that we could pursue interests that they may have never been able to do. Fortunately, traveling is the holy grail of these interests. So raise your chanclas to the sky and throw out some besos to your loved ones for all of their sacrifices. 

Not only will your program abroad give you a major confidence boost (both emotionally and on paper), but you will also return extraordinarily proud for traveling as a Latino. Representing both your nationalities across the world will truly make you feel one of a kind and will encourage you to inspire Latino travel to the rest of the community. We may have different flags, but put us all in a room together, and suddenly we’re one giant Latinx travel family.

[Quieres mas? Download our FREE E-Book for even more tips and tales on traveling abroad as a Latino]

Topic:  Culture