I have FOMO. Do you?

Central Park, NYC - How can you not have FOMO in a city like this?

Central Park, NYC – How can you not have FOMO in a city like this?

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?

16 thoughts on “I have FOMO. Do you?

  1. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    Good for you for saying no! I know how hard it is to decline invites to activities, and it is true that generally life is more interesting when we say yes. But we cannot say yes all the time and the kind of self-care you’re describing here is really important, especially if you consider yourself to be an introvert. Sometimes I just really need time on my own to chill and read a book or just be stationary; I’m not saying I wouldn’t have a good time out with friends doing new things, but eventually I do just begin to feel burned out. I definitely think it’s possible to go too far in either direction (i.e., always saying no, or always saying yes); the key is to find the balance!

    1. Kendra Granniss Post author

      I agree about balance, Steph! Balance (in all things) is something I struggle with. I tend to go a little socially and physically overboard for a few weeks and then I spend a solid week refusing to get off the couch. I’m still learning! I think it’s good to take time to slow down and reflect. I don’t do it as much as I would like to, especially when I’m in New York and things are so fast paced.

  2. Amy

    I definitely think it’s important to say ‘no’ to some things while you travel and just allow yourself to rest. I totally burnt myself out during the first six months of our trip rushing around and trying to see absolutely everything. In the end I accepted that we just needed to stop in one place, rest and catch up on work so we rented an apartment in Chiang Mai for a month and felt much better for it. Don’t feel bad for having an early night, it sounds like you needed one!

    1. Kendra Granniss Post author

      That’s sounds like me, Amy. I try to do too much! I have a feeling I’m going to burn out during my first months of traveling and then have to take a couple of weeks to hole up somewhere. I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  3. Jo

    Good for you, for not letting that hostel owner make you feel bad! I’m not into drinking and partying, which makes travel really hard sometimes. I’ve met too many people like that hostel owner who give me a hard time for not ‘experiencing everything a country has to offer’ or ‘being antisocial’.

    I don’t really suffer from FOMO, but I’m definitely guilty of allowing people to take me to parties I don’t want to go to, or join clubs I’m not interested in. Sometimes you just have to accept that you know what’s important to you, and as long as you do those things, saying no isn’t something you should feel bad about, or get stressed over.

    1. Kendra Granniss Post author

      Hi, Jo! I try not to make myself feel guilty, and I really am starting to get better about it. I find that a lot of people I meet while traveling are everyday partiers. I’m just not like that. I can party some nights, but then I need a break!

  4. Tiana

    I have the opposite problem. I turn down a lot of plans because I am so comfortable doing “me” activities. Traveling is helping me break out of that and push myself to be more adventurous and outgoing.

    1. Kendra Granniss Post author

      When I get into “burn out” mode, I am the same way, Tiana. I go from saying yes to everything until I am exhausted to holing myself up in my room for days or weeks. I need to find a happy medium!

  5. Kim Dayman

    I have this same problem but with work! So many people right now are struggling to find work and my field is so small and so reliant on unstable funding I say yes to every job that comes along. I’ve been missing out on social time, me time and most of all travel time in the last 4 years working 6-7 days a week almost non-stop. I’m excited to be taking a couple months off for travelling but there is always that little voice that’s telling me I have to keep going never just content to rest. I’m hoping 2 months solo out of a big city and away from all my jobs I’ll finally be able to slow down and just be 🙂

    1. Kendra Granniss Post author

      I am never content to rest either! When I first moved to NYC, I worked 7 days a week. It was great, but I really did not do much socially. You deserve some time off without work. I’m happy you have a 2 month adventure ahead of you!

  6. Karyn @ Not Done Travelling

    Yep, I struggle with FOMO too!

    But for sure you definitely have to be able to say no when travelling! Saying yes to everything can mean you can’t properly enjoy the things you experience. And even if you were a millionaire you still wouldn’t be able to see everything because you’d run out of time. It’s a big wide world out there and we’ve gotta draw the line somewhere. It sucks but it’s true.

Comments are closed.