High Stakes Travel and FOMO Abroad
With the exception of one hop over the border to buy a piñata in Mexico when I was four years old, I started traveling internationally shortly after my 25th birthday. Growing up, my family didnt have the disposable income to travel and certainly didn’t have the resources to travel internationally.
At the same time, Disney movies inspired me to be curious about worlds I hadn’t seen yet and they started building wanderlust deep inside of me. Still, the first 25 years of my life were spent craving international travel. It was just out of reach. For a quarter of a century, my travel dreams were impossible.
I slowly chipped away at ”impossible” starting with a move out of Montana, then a move across the country to Philadelphia, and finally leaping towards my dream during a summer in India.
There I was, in the middle of an Asian mega-city. Everything was a new and unfamiliar experience (the more I travel the more I believe the communities of the world have more commonalities than differences). Alas, as a wide-eyed Montana boy stepping into New Delhi for my very first international adventure, I was beyond excited.
Then came the FOMO.
No matter how excited I was, for the duration of that trip (and the dozen or so international adventures I have had in the three years since) I found it impossible to forget about the first quarter century of my life when my dreams of travel were flooded by practicality. This was the experience I had dreamed of my entire life and every day had to be perfect from morning through night. This has seriously changed the way I travel.
For the past three years, I have traveled internationally more than most people do in their entire life and my travel schedule shows no signs of slowing down. Yet, the moment I book a trip I start to think about optimizing my time from sun up to sun down. The voice in my head continues to convince me travel is a luxury that I don't necessarily deserve and a luxury that can be taken away at any time.
While it is certainly true that any number of circumstances can reduce my ability to travel, I am now choosing to acknowledge and silence that FOMO driven voice in my head. It creates high-stakes travel environments that make it nearly impossible to fully enjoy my current adventure.
It’s not an easy shift, but there are three changes I am making to my travel mindset that help me appreciate the reality of my adventure instead of yearning for the ever illusive “perfect” adventure.
Spontaneity without expectation. For me, travel is filled with expectations. From what my coffee should taste like to the conversations I have with my cab drivers. As a serial planner, I become obsessed with building experiences. However, some of my favorite adventure experiences are the ones I stumbled upon. So I make room on every adventure to wander through a new neighborhood, choose a restaurant without reading reviews on three sites, pick an attraction to visit without scrolling for hours through Instagram photos. Sometimes, these experiences are total flops, but when they succeed they are reminders that building the perfect itinerary is not the only way to have a life changing experience.
Mindfulness. While it seems like a bit if a cliche at this point, being mindful of the moment I'm living in right now helps me appreciate the small moments of travel that 12-year-old Morgan used to dream of. Sure, visiting the Taj Mahal changed my life, but that doesn’t mean that sitting at a cafe on the side of the street in Ethiopia wasn’t a special experience.
Look Forward. This one is a bit controversial and I don’t know how many people will find this helpful. For me, I make a conscious effort to know what my next adventure will be even if it is as small as a weekend trip down the California Coast. That helps me remember that the current adventure is not the last and the stakes are not as high as the landlocked child that lives inside of me is trying to convince me. For me, I am privileged to know that there will be another adventure around the corner for the rest of my life. Sleeping in fire towers in the Rocky Mountains, hiking the Himalayas, eating at wet markets in Indonesia, camping in the Redwoods. Looking forward helps my fight through the pressures that come with the feeling that every adventure is high stakes.
Slowly but surely, I am chipping away at the voice in my head that is building the stakes to a crushing height. I’m loving travel again, I’m appreciating the small moments I have with strangers around the world again, and I am much more forgiving of myself when I feel like spending the evening in my hotel instead of chasing the hottest culinary craze in the city of the day.
Before I dismount this soapbox, it is also worth giving a shout out to the adventures that did come as a result of my practically obsessive planning. Without that planning, I wouldn't have had many of the experiences that have changed my life. My commitment to travel in the new decade: finding a balance between the planned and the spontaneous.