My head was spinning. My stomach was in knots and my mind felt out of control.
I don’t want to go on this trip.
It was towards the end of this past December and I was packing for my trip to Europe. I had a 5-country trek planned out through Norway, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, and Ireland. This was a trip I had planned for months — an epic backpacking spree to end 2014 with and kickstart a new year with a series of exciting travel adventures. I had poured research into this trip and had carefully saved up for it, plotted out all the details. The problem? I didn’t really want to go anymore. It was just hours before my flight would be taking off and the anxiety I was feeling was practically off the charts.
I don’t want to go on this trip.
Days before my flight, I had confided to some friends that a big part of me wished I hadn’t booked all this adventure months back. Between working overtime for the past two months and the added stress of the holidays, the only thing that sounded good to me at this point was holing up on some beautiful island by myself, eating delicious food, reading, watching movies, and getting lots of SLEEP.
Of course, in true Diana fashion, that was the exact opposite trip I had booked for myself. Three flights, two train rides, several different hostel stays to hang with other travelers… it was a trip that would have me pretty much going non-stop and it was absolutely the last thing I wanted to be doing. Everything was paid for though and 90% of it all was non-refundable at this point… what choice did I have but to follow through and go? Besides, this was my chance to have adventures, experience all things new, get out there and fully live… I didn’t want to blow this golden opportunity and miss out just because I wasn’t feeling up to it.
Do these conflicted thoughts sound familiar to you? If so, you might have experienced a pesky little cultural phenomenon known as FOMO – the fear of missing out. If not kept in check, this annoying bugger can drive you absolutely mad obsessing over all the interesting or more exciting things that you’re not doing.
Some ways in which the fear of missing out appears in our lives:
+ feeling the need to check your email or social media feeds often just in case anything new has been updated.
+ wanting to travel the world and do other exciting things because it seems like people are living better, amazing lives doing this stuff.
+ working harder and longer for fear of missing out on opportunities that others might get instead of you.
+ filling up your plate and saying yes to tons of invites and events so you can experience as much as possible.
+ researching a topic or pouring over news feeds endlessly in case there’s something more to be learned that you might have missed.
+ comparing your life to others and feeling bad because it seems as though everyone else is having more fun, or making more money, or getting more exposure, or better opportunities.
For me, FOMO seems to most often rear its ugly head when I travel. The freedom to do whatever you want combined with being surrounded by countless things to do and see and experience wherever you turn is a recipe for FOMO overdrive. You can wander through a bustling city, camp in the countryside, eat local cuisines, climb a mountain, hike through the jungle, check out art museums, join a tour, take a cooking class, see a show, visit a spa. You can climb the steps of a temple, go bird-watching, kayak in the sea, photograph a glacier, navigate flea markets & vintage shops, learn how to scuba-dive, practice a foreign language.
The world feels like your oyster when you travel and I just want to do it all.
Unfortunately, going through with my action-packed travel plans was just the first step of many that I took which entirely ignored my instincts. Here are some other ways I let FOMO take over:
+ Although I prefer traveling solo and had intended to do this trip on my own, when I met a fun group of guys on the flight and was invited out to travel through Oslo with them, I pushed myself to accept the invite. I felt like I’d be missing out on making new friends if I didn’t take this opportunity, even though I wasn’t feeling quite so social.
+ When the group expressed interest in seeing the city’s old buildings and famous historical sights, I forged along with them, even though these aren’t things I normally seek out or have much interest in whilst traveling. I pushed myself to continue with the group for fear of missing out on a potentially fun travel experience with these guys.
+ Finally, my fear of missing out led me to ignore clear signs of exhaustion — signs that were urging me to stop walking, go indoors, eat something, slow down. In my desire to experience and do as much as possible, I pushed myself far beyond my limits until I couldn’t go any further.
It’s no wonder that I ended up in the emergency clinic on just the second day of my trip, exhausted, sick to my stomach and upset that I had let things get so out of hand.
I hadn’t been listening to my instincts at all so my body stepped in and forced me to pay attention.
Feeling too sick and burned out to catch my flight to Germany, I had no choice but to forgo the remainder of my itinerary. I was in no condition to be trekking about. I’d have to remain in Norway until I got better.
As I laid in the hotel feeling various sorts of miserable about what happened, I realized that I had gotten so caught up in all my DOING that I had failed to ask myself if I was even having fun anymore. The events of this trip were a not-so-gentle illumination that I had strayed off the path. I felt confused and lost, like I had been chasing some dream only to realize that it’s not even my own.
And that’s the ironic thing about FOMO. Because while you’re busy looking outward for the next better thing and the next better thing after that, you miss out on enjoying what you have in the moment. The fear of missing out actually causes us to miss out. What I’m realizing more and more is that happiness requires us to remain in the present. We simply cannot do that if FOMO is running the show.
Once you realize that at its core, the fear of missing out is just a mind game, you can start to move past it. Here’s how I dealt with it:
1. Put things into perspective
Let’s face it – even if I had stuck with my original itinerary, there was no possible way I’d get to do and see everything. I very likely would have walked away from this journey still feeling like I could have or should have done more because the truth is, no matter how much we do, we will always be missing something. And yes, there are people out there doing more than you. There are always going to be people out there experiencing more, doing more, seeing more, making more, living more. Maybe that’s right for them. Maybe not. But what is most important to you? You are always going to be picking and choosing – there’s only so much time in a day and you can’t do it all. The best thing you can do is get clear on how you’d like to feel – this sets the tone for everything that follows. Which brings me to #2…
2. Set an intention for how you want to FEEL
When it comes down to it, what we’re all really seeking is NOT any sort of external achievement – it’s the feeling we hope we’ll FEEL when we have gotten what we want. When you know how you want to feel, you can more quickly and easily evaluate what situations and people fit and do not fit into the equation to better align your path.
Had I set my intention at the start of my trip, I would have quickly realized a disconnect between what my head wanted to do (what I had planned) VS what I felt called to do. Realizing this, I took out a piece of paper and wrote down 5 words to sum up how I wanted to feel at the moment. I discovered my intention words for this particular trip were: Rested. Relaxed. Peaceful. Calm. Nourished. That’s a whole lot different from what I was expecting and had lined up for myself!
3. Appreciate where you are now – the present moment
I realized I was so caught up in the feeling of lack and what I was missing out on after cancelling my plans that I wasn’t appreciating where I was now. And actually, although I had lost a lot of money in the process, I had not ended up in as awful of a situation as it seemed. Here I was in Scandinavia, one of my favourite regions of the world, in a country that I had dreamed about visiting since I was little. It was quiet and peaceful here – I had a cozy hotel room all to myself with a view of the Norwegian countryside. And the change of plans combined with the snowy weather outside gave me ample free time to chill out and relax. I had no itinerary – nowhere to be, no responsibilities, no plans, no phone beeping constantly with emails and messages from people who needed me. I was free. The gravity of these three delicious words hung like sweet nectar in the air, as I was reminded of the real reason I travel – to feel freedom. To feel limitless and unbounded. And at that moment I was reminded of a quote that I heard from many years back:
“If you feel bound, you are bound.
If you feel liberated, you are liberated.
Things outside neither bind nor liberate you; only your attitude toward them does that.”
— The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Wow. I needed this.
My whole outlook on the trip changed after that and I embraced this holiday for what it was – a relaxed, mellow, wintery retreat steeped in stillness, silence, and self-care. Oddly enough, it occurred to me that Norway gave me exactly what I had craved – peace and quiet and alone time. I watched a lot of movies, did a bunch of reading and writing, ate a ton of good food, took a few hiking day trips around the country, and got lots and lots of sleep and rest. I did everything and nothing on this trip and you know what? I feel better for it.
My last few travels had been so transformative and life-changing and I had fully expected the same thing to happen this time around as well. But what I discovered was this trip wasn’t about adventures or excitement or experiencing anything new. This wasn’t the energy I needed to feel. It was about self-care and acceptance. Learning to be comfortable with where I am. Letting go and fully allowing myself to step into the space of receiving. And that’s really enough.
I am enough.
We are enough.
Where we are right now is Enough.
Right now, can you be content with where you are, really and truly? I’d love to hear from you and if you have a struggle or story that involves the fear of missing out. How do you deal with FOMO? Share in the comments below, as our stories help to support each other. x