Urban Dictionary defines FOMO as ‘a state of mental or emotional strain cause by the fear of missing out’. Now I know it’s not the most credible source but, in this case, the definition stands true. One of the harsh realities of living abroad is that at some point you are going to have to cope with FOMO. I don’t think anybody likes it, but it is one of the sacrifices you have to make.
It seems silly, while your social media is full of exotic beaches, concrete jungles and cultural experiences what could you be missing out on? Surely this is what everyone dreams of? But social media is still the place where only our best lives are on display. So yes, living abroad is a constant adventure, things are amazing and different but that doesn’t make your old life any less amazing. Those moments big or small that cannot be replicated from afar, those inside jokes, those catch ups and the routine that cannot be exactly as they were.
In the almost 6 months that I’ve in Indonesia, I’ve swum with sea turtles, got a sun tan in January and met some amazing people. But I’ve also missed my Grandad’s 85th birthday, missed my cousin having a baby and missed seeing my sister off to university. I only found out my friend had split up with her boyfriend a few months after the fact. I don’t want to miss these things, but I have no other choice. I can’t simply arrange a meetup with friends or go round and see people on my day off work. Those simple and everyday moments where people from home know every small detail of your life and it becomes just a highlights reel when you talk every few weeks.
FOMO abroad is not great to put it lightly but it becomes just another part of your new life. You accept it and cope with it because it is a small cost when weighed against the new life you get to live.
Along with the FOMO that may initially come to mind is the less talked about but still equally hard at times version of FOMO. Coming again to social media, sometimes looking at feeds of people, you would think their every weekend and free moment is packed with adventure and exploration. The truth is in fact very different. Unlike going on holiday, your time is not always your own. You are not free to do what you when you want, there are responsibilities; be it work, bills or anything else, sometimes you just want to have time to relax. Until you live abroad rather than just visit, it is something that might not even cross your mind but suddenly the questions about whether you are making the most of your time and seeing everything there is to see appear.
This form of FOMO is more the fear of missing what is already around you. But even if you do feel you are not making the most of your time, the everyday small things that you are doing allows you to see the reality of a place rather than the tourist traps and obvious things that visitors see. So yes, you won’t see everything, but no one ever does. People can live their whole lives in one place and still not know about that one restaurant with the great view, the obscure museum or new hangout spot, so why should you be expected to know all of these and more when you have only been somewhere for a few months? FOMO in this capacity exists, but the desire to stay at home for the day is just as valid as the desire to explore.
As with just about everything in life, there are positives, and there are negatives. One of the negatives for a lot of people is FOMO. But you must consider if the positives outweigh the negatives. In my opinion, the chance to explore this world, experience new cultures and live a more exciting life outweighs all the negatives, every time, without question.
Are you ready to explore the world?
Teach, travel and train with EF English First
Post by Emily Hudson, EF English First Indonesia
Emily is a native of the UK and a proud Yorkshire girl now teaching in Jakarta. She spends far too much time on Netflix, will go anywhere that she can swim and can be unashamedly pretentious about art. Find her on Instagram @emily.hudson.963 to be spammed with travel photos.