Fear of Missing Out.

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.

Valle nuevo national park, Dominican republic mountains, villa pajon
Solitude in Valle Nuevo National Park in the DR.

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.

Wadi rum jordan, Jordan people, Jordan culture
The desert scapes of Wadi Rum.

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? 

Are you plagued by fear of missing out when you travel?

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  1. I enjoyed reading this and understand totally what you are saying. I like to know what’s in a place and from that I’ll decide what interests me and have a mental list of them but it’s flexible. Always flexible.

  2. I completely subscribe to your statement. I think most people just want to travel and not explore. both are completely different. A package tour enables you to travel and see things -in predefined and stipulated time and money! It’s not my style. At the same time, not everyone is inclined towards stepping off from Standard itinerary -they prefer the easier way!

    1. You’re right, and I think social media (and what kind of travellers people on your feed are) can be an enabler of both!

      1. I don’t know if social media influence is good or bad! But quite often, you kind of get lost with all the glamorous pictures you see on FB and forget what will actually make you happy…just a thought!

  3. Loved reading your article on FOMO and JOMO.. Reminds me of when I went to Paris and spent my days in cafes, people-watching, never once setting foot in the Louvres, or going to Malaga, Spain and spending an afternoon chatting up the house painter instead of going to the beach. Or when I go to Playa del Carmen and spend the day chatting up locals instead of visiting whatever (‘Don’t you want to see …?’) Er, I’d rather hang out in my hamac, thank you. You hit it right on, Shivya, thanks for a great read. Very insightful.

    1. You’ve nailed it! To tell you the truth, I hated Paris on that first trip, it felt like such a let down. But now when I look back, I realize I did it all wrong.

      Glad you liked reading it, and thanks for sharing your thoughts Sylvia!

  4. Ritika Girath says:

    An excellent piece of advice once again. I usually feel that while travelling with Family and Friends it’s usually their fear of missing out that clings on to you.

    1. Blame game much? :p But I hear you. That’s why it’s important to choose your travel company wisely, atleast someone who’s open to new perspectives.

  5. Connecting with people is the most important thing. If you can also see beautiful things, then that’s the cherry on top 🙂

    1. Agreed Sev. I’ve found my most beautiful times away from the popular spots, in some obscure part of the countryside.

      1. And then, how unique is that, compared to the same experience of the Eiffel Tower/Taj Mahal/Niagara falls that everybody goes to see? You must have so many good stories to tell!

  6. I totally get your point. I am not much of a traveler but with the limited travel, we maximise what we want to experience versus going everywhere. On my recent trip to Hong Kong, I did not go to Disney Land. It was last on my priority list and I am going through JOMO 🙂
    Great post Shivya!

  7. I have often had this feeling of the fear of missing out. May be because I am not a full-time traveller. So I have this urge in me to see all the places possible in the first visit itself.

    1. I hear you Ajish. But try to take a slow trip next time, let the road lead you to adventures without any rush. Then compare your trips and maybe you’ll find more joy in having missed out the must see places.

  8. This is lovely. I thoroughly enjoy slow travel. It’s like therapy for each pocket of our otherwise-occupied mind. And what is the purpose of it all, if we’re travelling with the same overcommitted selves? 🙂

    1. Love that thought, Amrita. “therapy for each pocket of our otherwise-occupied mind” – you nailed it, this is all there is to travel.

  9. This is really one of the nicest things I have read in a long time! Kind of reminds me about the fight Ranbir had with Deepika in Yeh Jawaani hai Deewani!
    Love your work! Thanks for inspiring me too!

    1. Thanks so much, glad to hear that 🙂 And haha, you’re not the first one to make that comparison. Think I need to rewatch the movie, though I HATED the end!

  10. totally associate with everything this post has to offer. very happy to read that you are so honest with your emotions 🙂

  11. I’m glad you wrote this post. I have no fear of missing out, because I’m clear on what I like. As you said, ‘if you’re not fond of museums, don’t spend all your time running from one museum to the next’, I also believe in doing selective things that would give me genuine joy. Travel is so much deeper than what people perceive it to be.

    1. That’s amazing Renuka, to be able to travel so sure without any doubts or fears. I’m still working on it, but glad to know I’m not the only thinking this way.

  12. Very apt and inspiring all the same. Hate the idea of a pretentious traveler. Travel is all about absorbing the sound, smells and taste around you and reveling in it, much like you do! 🙂

    1. I think it’s not always about being pretentious, but many don’t know better. After all, that’s the way of travel most guidebooks and past travellers advocate. But I’m glad we’re all slowly changing our way of exploring and reveling 🙂

  13. You have raised some really great points here. As we travel with children we have had to be really mindful of not spoiling the experience for them (and us!) by rushing from one ‘must see’ location to the next. No one enjoys being exhausted from standing in line all day just to get into those monuments that get the most attention. These days we have the luxury of time as full time travellers, but more time shouldn’t mean more monuments. Slowing down, spending an afternoon having a picnic beside the Seine – that’s where the best memories are created 🙂

  14. Great post and pertinent thoughts. I think it’s about time we Indians change from “ticking things off the must-see list” mindset to embracing doing things only we really enjoy, even if it means ignoring the most famous landmarks.

  15. A great post. I have tried covering up most locations in a short while making it hectic. But then, sorting out interests, missing a few and jomo is what counts 🙂 so agree 🙂

  16. You’re right, Shivya. It’s the conditioning that’s inherent in us. But it’s not all that bleak once the realisation and the zeal to change that overpowers us.
    I was afflicted by the something-must-happen disorder myself not too long ago. I’m learning to unlearn that.

    P.S.: Trust The Oatmeal to nail things down 😀

  17. I’m actually one of those who genuinely enjoy museums, and I know quite a few of us. That being said, I really enjoyed your post. I will keep this in mind when I plan my next out-of-Europe trip. 🙂

  18. In complete agreement Shivya, we’re are not obliged to scoot and be witness to all the places in a travel, be slow, fathom the culture, make merry with the locals, make love with the food and the purpose of exploring and be in love with the experience of traveling .

    So much with you on this !!

  19. Bang on!!! I never make a list…..so no fear of missing out…….I like to see on the go, take it as it comes, be it good or bad, I count the experience and joy…… and plan for the things to repeat or try which I could not do or see, when I return ……. I dislike the hundreds of people ruining a perfect shot and ambiance of a famous place ……but still watching the people and culture is also a nice addon.

  20. Completely agree with you!! I did that for my Goa trip… Just explored n did what i liked… I know Goa has so many hidden jewels, but there was no FOMO as I know I will come back again…

  21. I truly agree with your point. Even after reading your blog, I also analyzed and realized my fond memories during travelling were when I spent time with my wife in beach, enjoying the sunshine in a fort or doing nothing and just sitting idly. Times when I rush to complete the “things to do” or “must watch”, I was simply going to place and clicking pictures without enjoying in real sense. This was like the enlightenment to me that what needs to planned while traveling next time

  22. This sounds so familiar.. In my last trip to Singapore with family, I only remember rushing through all places just to tick the items off my checklist. How I wish I read this post earlier!!
    Great write up Shiva. I have enjoyed reading all of your posts.

  23. Gunjan Sharma says:

    Hi Shivya,
    Wow !
    What a beautiful article.
    Earlier, I was also suffering from FOMO. When I would plan my travels, I would try to squeeze in as many famous places, as possible.
    However, over time I have realized that, when I slow down and spend time in each location, I love my trip more.

    Thanks for the article.
    I totally agree with you

  24. The Traveloholic says:

    When I was in Gangtok last summer, i met a marwari couple with a kid who told us that for 3 days they had been eating at a restaurant that served marwari food. And they sounded happy about it. What is the point of going to a different corner of the country if you are eating what you have been eating your whole life? And there are a lot of vegetarian options in sikkim. A lot.

  25. Pingback: Fear Of Missing Out – The post that led to this post – Maps-Stamps-Memories
  26. Nice one.. That goes out for all the new gen ‘selfie travelers’. For most, travel means more about reaching a landmark and place oneself in front of it in the picture, without even knowing why that landmark lies there at all. I think JOMO adds more meaning to planning your travel..

  27. Something similar happened to me when I told my family that I was going to France. “Wow that’s nice, you are going to see the Eiffel Tower” and I was like “No… I’m going to The Côte d’Azur in Nice, France”. They look at me like “What the …?”. I can’t blame them for create an image of a country based on a monument, sadly this happens to a lot of people.

  28. Bingo! Very well put. I also have hard time explaining people that I do not enjoy ticking out “tourist spots” on vacations. During planning a trip, I rather spend reading blogs written by travelers like you and get the vibes of the place than searching “things to do”. To each his own so it’s wrong of me to judge people who are tourists and not travelers. So, I would just like to emphasize that follow your heart and don’t worry about what people think of your way of traveling.

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