There is a new epidemic in town. Its symptoms include crushing depression, paralysing indecision, extreme anxiety and social media addiction.
Thanks to social media, FOMO has infiltrated every area of our lives. It effects how we dress, what we do, how much we spend and what we choose to buy. It causes us to go out three nights in a row after work even though we are exhausted and have a big presentation on Friday rather than go to bed early with a Pukka tea and a good book.
FOMO stands for fear of missing out and who can genuinely say hand on heart that they never suffer from it? Although FOMO has insidiously crept into every corner of our lives, I’m going to focus specifically on Travel FOMO.
If you’ve ever felt that life is passing you by and you’ve been nowhere whilst your friends are always on vacation, building schools in Africa or trekking through the Amazon, this blog is for you. Here’s what we can all do to counteract the monster in all of our lives that is…FOMO.
Learn to love your own path
One of the issues that FOMO highlights to me is that we are all a little afraid of following our own path. FOMO is focusing on what others are doing instead of what you are doing, it’s counting the blessings of others rather than your own. It’s the modern version of the old adage ‘the grass is greener on the other side.’ It’s how we ‘keep up with the Jones’s.’
The truth is, at any given moment in time, someone is doing something more fun than you are. Someone else is also doing something more boring. Whilst you are working on your essay, someone else is on a yacht in Cannes. Whilst you are at the dentist, someone else is snorkelling with whale sharks in Mexico. Likewise, whilst you are having a family dinner, someone else is trying to tighten up a stressful work project or is stuck in traffic.
Our lives are all running on different tracks. Sometimes they run into each other and other time’s they don’t. If we all have the confidence to focus on our own paths, rather than on someone else’s, we would realise that it’s okay to be doing something dull whilst others are doing something fun. That’s just how it is for now, not forever.
Find out what’s wrong in your own life
FOMO, envy, insecurity, jealousy…these are pretty natural but they also can come to the fore if you feel unhappy in an area of your life.
If you are jealous of a happy couple, it might mean that you want a loving relationship. If you are insecure about your body, it might be that you need to find a sport, activity or workout regime that helps you build confidence in what your body can do and how it can look. If you feel envy whenever your friend talks about their travel experiences, it may be that you’ve neglected something that is a want of yours for a long time.
Sometimes FOMO can highlight deficiencies in our own lives. It might make us realise that we are in a job we don’t like, or a dead-end relationship or that we’ve let our health slide. In that sense, we can use FOMO to motivate us to make changes and make different choices.
Intentionally slow down
The way that FOMO manifests for me is that it makes me feel restless and so I speed up. I rush. Sometimes, it helps me to intentionally slow down. Instead of running for the train, I walk. Is it really so bad if I miss that train and get home a bit later? Often, we can think we are missing out on more than we actually are. I am the same way with deals. When it comes to booking a trip, I start to worry about missing the best deal and begin to rush. This one takes a lot of practice for me but it does help.
Outsource your decisions
If you struggle to make decisions you can live with, try outsourcing them. This is easy to do if you travel with friends or if you travel with a tour company. It’s hard to feel FOMO when you are travelling in a group. You are enjoying the same experience together.
On the opposite side of the coin, once you make a decision, simply stick with it. Take responsibility for it. You chose this and you must have done so for a reason. You do not need anyone else’s validation in order to feel good about your choice.
Just don’t look
In life, what we look at, we give power to. Think of the news. The media understands that negativity and outrage sell at the moment and so that’s what they give us. What we don’t look at diminishes in power. If you can’t travel because you are saving money or finishing university for example, hide profiles or posts on social media that make you feel bad. Unfollow the humble bragger or the arrogant friend who always flaunts their life in your face. Follow friends and blogs that make you feel positive about travel. The travel industry can be set up to make people feel like they are missing out if they don’t go overseas inducing a feeling of panic and emptiness that makes people quickly buy a ticket. Not all organisations and companies work this way, but it is a manipulative media trick and it’s targeted at millennials.
Don’t look at things that make you feel bad. Look at those that make you feel good. It’s as simple as that.
Take action now
Sometimes FOMO can be triggered by seeing someone doing now what you can’t do yet. That’s not a nice feeling.
With travel, you can’t always do it right now, depending on your circumstances. In these situations, the best way to tackle FOMO is to use the now to make a plan for the future. If you want to save up for an amazing safari, put all of your focus on that. Don’t stress about the fact that someone else is doing it now. You will be doing it yourself later but you can take action in the present to make it real later on.
Play around with ‘what if’s…’
FOMO is a type of anxiety. It’s our minds telling us, ‘what if someone is having more fun than me?’
It’s a fear of regretting making the incorrect choice. We are bombarded by so many choices, it can be hard to narrow down our options. It’s called paralysis by analysis.
‘Oh, the one time I didn’t go to the weekly girl’s lunch, Leonardo DiCpario happened to be there!’
Why do we always assume that the ‘what if’s’ are great if we don’t go and terrible if we do?
What if we chose to play around with the ‘what if’s?’
‘What if I stay at my hostel tonight instead of going to the party? I’m feeling jetlagged and ill and if I rest tonight I’ll feel better for the excursion tomorrow morning.’
Make a plan
FOMO can be quenched by a certain degree of pre-planning. I’ve always wanted to go to New Orleans but if I flew to New Orleans tomorrow, I might freak out that I’d be wasting my time there. What would I do? By doing a bit of research and planning, I might decide to head to Mardis Gras or to the house that novelist Anne Rice lived in or to do a voodoo sightseeing tour. Then I can successfully tick off the things that I felt most compelled to do whilst still factoring in time for some spontaneity.
Don’t check social media whilst you travel
I think social media should only be used for one thing when you’re travelling, keeping in touch with loved ones. Otherwise, what’s the point? Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are great in many ways but they can also be destructive. I’ve seen so many travellers sitting with their heads in their phones in all kinds of places. They could be in the most beautiful place in the world and rather than letting the reality sink in, they spend their time scrolling through their Facebook feed. What is the point of travelling if you are going to do that? Even in paradise, social media can trigger FOMO if you see a picture of your friends or family doing something without you. Better to sign out and savour the moment.
Go back to somewhere you’ve been
When I went to Las Vegas for the first time, I didn’t know what to do there. I read a guide and made some decisions and I did end up loving it. If I were to go back next week, I’d have a better idea of what to do. I’d probably stay at Caesars Palace or the Venetian, as these were my favourite casinos, I’d see more shows and I’d spend more time downtown. Going back to somewhere you’ve been lends a lovely sense of familiarity and gives you the freedom to go off the grid.
Factor in ‘experimental’ time
If you’re a Type A person who likes to know what’s going on at all times, factor in some ‘experimental time.’ Pick a day or a couple of days where you completely wing it. Pick a restaurant at random. Go for a wander down quaint streets and see what you come across. You often find things that don’t appear in guides or on websites and there’s a real sense of delight when you find something unexpected. This is what travel is all about.
Although FOMO is uncomfortable, it isn’t always bad. It’s a way of trying to live life to the fullest and to make the most of your travel experience. That said, when FOMO strikes, we can defeat it!
What tricks do you use to beat FOMO and what kinds of experiences trigger FOMO for you?
All my love