Everyone is grounded so the anxiety has subsided.
As someone who used to travel for leisure as many as four times a year, our current state of pandemic flux has eased a distinct emotional struggle I’ve lived with for years.
Fear of missing out.
You know when you’re scrolling through social media and you see a friend post a countdown to their next vacation? Or when you see them “check in” at the airport on Facebook?
Your heart sinks a little because you wish it was you.
For me, the feeling isn’t necessarily fear. It’s more like a mild dose of imaginary competition. I’m not actually competing with anyone, but if others are traveling and I’m not, it gives me anxiety. I feel like they’re ahead of the game somehow.
For those of us who are travel writers and wanderlusters at heart, our pattern goes a little something like this:
Take off. Experience. Tell stories. Repeat.
We live in a constant, restless state of “Where can I go next and when?” On impulse, our trigger fingers buy tickets now and figure the rest out later.
But now, as a result of worldwide travel restrictions, one unexpected bonus of being grounded is a light feeling of serenity. While I crave the freedom of being able to travel, I’m actually at peace with the fact that no one can travel right now.
I’m not the only one sitting around missing out on things that others may be experiencing. We are all experiencing nothing except our living rooms in our native countries right now and that gives me comfort.
A second blessing in this unfortunate situation is the money aspect. With no future travels pending I’m stockpiling money that would have otherwise been spent without hesitation.
A relentless traveler rarely stockpiles. We work, build a travel fund, and then blow it all on the next jaunt. Then we repeat the process because travel is the only thing we’re likely working towards.
Forget “down the road someday.” We’ve got places to see and stories to write and we’re willing to sacrifice today for the privilege of travel tomorrow.
But not in the near future, and that leaves me feeling content.
In doing a little research as to whether FOMO is a legitimate condition, the results were intriguing. The fear of missing out on something is said to be a pervasive mental state that can lead to real-world physical and psychological behaviors.
I believe it because I can relate to the feeling of being depressed when others are embarking on a journey. Especially if they’re going somewhere I’ve been before. It gives me an overwhelming feeling of needing to escape.
It’s not surprising that the fear of missing out is brought on largely by social media. As if we need another mental condition caused by our addictions to the screen.
FOMO leads us to become apprehensive when we see others engaging in fulfilling experiences that we aren’t taking part in. It can lead to regret, bitterness, and discomfort over missing out on opportunities.
All those negative feelings are ones I experience when someone is on the run and I’m not. I can be happy and excited for them but sad for myself at the same time.
I admit I have an addiction to travel. I’d even go as far as saying I’m not fulfilled by life in general if I don’t have travel plans on the horizon. I don’t need to know about other people’s travels in order to feel restless, but their travels definitely exacerbate my emotions.
During normal times, if I see or hear a plane above and I’m not on it, my heart feels heavy. I wonder where it’s going and who’s on it.
Lately, when I sit outside on my balcony I rarely see or hear an airplane above. Living in a major Canadian city, this is an eerie sensation. But when I do hear one overhead I know it’s a short-haul flight going somewhere I don’t wish to be, so I’m okay with it.
While the world is at a standstill, my FOMO has been replaced with a simple longing that’s easy to cope with. I still crave travel but the anxiety caused by others traveling is no longer an issue.
In a sick way, it makes me feel good to know that nearly everyone in my travel writing circles is dying to take off again. I feel less alone when it’s a universal sadness and not just my own problem.
Until the skies open up again, I’ll just be over here stockpiling and fantasizing over my next journey just like everyone else is.
Take comfort in knowing that we’re all missing out right now because when the race is back on, it’s every man for himself.