I have FOMO–or Fear of Missing Out–and I have it bad. Even as a kid, I would wake up before anyone else in my house because I was afraid I would miss something interesting or fun if I slept in.
Throughout my whole life I’ve pushed myself to go to parties I didn’t want to go to, or join clubs I didn’t want to be a part of, or agree to trips I wasn’t really interested in. I was afraid that if I didn’t participate in everything I would miss out on something life changing.
Of course, no one can do everything. When I try too hard to say yes to everything, there is only a certain amount of time before I’m in for an emotional, mental, and physical collapse. Growing up in the suburbs, it wasn’t so hard to go to every event/class/party I wanted to go to. But in New York, seeing and doing everything I want to is impossible. It is impossible for me to be in 100 places at once. Although, for the first two years I really did try.
It’s only since I’ve lived in Astoria that I’ve started to getting better about saying no and rescheduling meeting with friends when I’m starting to feel worn out.
When I travel, I am slowly getting better as well.
I always feel the need to say yes to everything–often stretching myself too thin. Many travelers emphasize the need to say yes in life–saying yes opens doors and gives you opportunities you’d never dreamed of. It was because I said yes to traveling with a complete stranger last year in Berlin that I discovered the abandoned hospital and spy station, which ignited my love of abandoned travel. Saying yes is important, but deciding when to say no is equally important.
Because I have struggled with FOMO in the past, I have gotten burned out and physically sick while traveling. While studying abroad in Swansea, Wales, I got mono, and in Germany, I picked up strep throat. While traveling, I was so afraid to miss out on anything that I didn’t listen to what my own body was telling me. I needed to rest, but I wouldn’t let myself.
This past weekend, I was in Washington DC seeing my favorite musical, Sunday in the Park with George. I had left my house at 3:30am to travel by bus to D.C. I had spent the day walking (getting lost) around the city. It was hot and muggy. I traveled to Arlington’s Signature Theater, had a couple of glasses of wine, and sobbed my way through my favorite show ever.
I didn’t get back to my hostel until around midnight and–call me a party pooper–but I was beat. I got asked by no less than four of my hostelmates if I wanted to go out. I thought, I am exhausted and all I want to do is take a shower and go to bed. Then I thought, I should go out; I could make friends; it could be fun.
But, I surprised myself by saying no.
At first, I as lay in my top bunk, freshly showered and watching the people pass by on the street outside headed for a night out, I felt guilty. But why? I thought. Do you want to go out? I asked myself again. But I didn’t want to go out. I wanted to stay in bed. I wanted to sleep. And that’s what I did.
The next morning, I got asked by the hostel owner why I didn’t go out with them the night before. He told me how much fun they had at the bar down the street. This is where I usually try to make some excuse, but this time I didn’t.
“I didn’t want to,” I told him.
He gave me a hard time, of course, but I wouldn’t let myself feel bad. I am strangely proud of myself for this.
Saying no is something I’m going to have to get used to while I’m traveling. I have to sleep sometime. I’m glad I’m slowly getting better about overcoming my FOMO, but I have a feeling that it will never be fully gone. After all, isn’t FOMO a big part of what makes us want to travel? Maybe a little bit of FOMO is good.
Do you have FOMO? How do you overcome the fear that you are missing out?