What if I told you that the Eiffel Tower ruined Paris for me?
That I spent 2 weeks in Ladakh but didn’t venture out to Pangong Lake?
That I went against my gut to Petra and it was Jordan’s lowlight for me?
When we travel, we often find ourselves gripped by the desire to see everything a country has to offer, checking off lists created by past travelers and marketing teams, packing our days with must-dos, because how can you leave France without seeing the Eiffel Tower or the US without seeing Times Square or Guatemala without seeing the Tikal ruins or…
I know I was constantly plagued by FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out, when I started traveling. It’s why I chose the Eiffel Tower over an invite to spend the evening with Parisians in a local neighborhood cafe. It’s why I chose to spend my last day in Saxon Switzerland hiking up the hill to a must-see castle over joining in the local Sunday tradition of beers by the Elbe river. That was my first trip to Europe, my first month-long adventure anywhere, and the beginning of my transition to JOMO – Joy Of Missing Out.
I’ll let The Oatmeal explain in simpler terms:
When I reminisce about my travels over the years, my fondest memories are not those of rushing from one sight to another or trying to appreciate a popular spot with thousands of other tourists. My fondest memories are of the times I slowed down: that lazy Sunday brunch with an Italian family in Umbria, those slow days walking in the Caucasus mountains of Georgia, solitary jungle walks in the mountains of the Dominican Republic.
I’ve come to realize that traveling is about opening up your mind to new feelings and experiences, not about validating the opinions of past travellers.
Also read: Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying
I often receive emails from fellow travelers seeking advice on how to make the best of a trip, but what they are really asking is how to pack in three European countries in one week, or the whole of Northeast India in five days. I know that we don’t always have the luxury of time, but even with a limited amount of days, the transition to JOMO can change the way you experience a place. Ditch things that don’t interest you (seriously, I know only a handful of people who genuinely enjoy museums; if you are not one of them, don’t spend all your time running from one museum to the next), go deeper into things that do (if it’s food, travel far and wide to find local culinary traditions; if it’s natural beauty, hit the countryside; if it’s people, find an Airbnb or chat up locals in a neighborhood cafe), and seek the essence of a region in ways that speak straight to your heart.
You’re missing the point of travel if you stay within your comfort zone, hang out with other tourists, have a checklist on your back and seek the familiarities of your home in a foreign setting.
Also read: The Joy of Slow Travel
As for me, I’m still learning. Just recently, at the end of the most incredible trip through the olive-covered mountains and stark wadis of Jordan, I gave in – against my gut – to go to Petra. With tourism at an all time low, the people in Petra only seemed to be after our money, the food at most small restos was downright bad and nothing like what we ate in traditional Jordanian homes, and the place well, didn’t live up to its hype. And my gut knew that going in, but FOMO won.
In that ghost town-like ambiance of Petra, I wrote for myself: Travel choices are like a plate of fruit; when you know you enjoy the mangoes, why fear losing out on the oranges?