Tag Archives: long-term travel

What Changes While You’re Away? The Inevitability of Missing Out When Travelling or Living Abroad

‘Never heard of Fomo?’ asked a Guardian newspaper headline of its readers, ‘You’re so missing out.’ So common is this Gen-Y social condition that the acronym FOMO – fear of missing out – was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. Their definition states:

Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website

The latter part bothers me less. I accept that social media can help travellers and expats to stay connected with friends and family back home. But the first bit? Yes. I admit, I have occasionally felt guilt, sadness, frustration and longing for events that I have been unable to witness or attend due to travelling and living overseas.

Logo stating FOMO in red and definition below, which is fear of missing out

©thesilverpen.com

And yet it’s not to do with me not having a fun/special/interesting/englightening time, or even worrying that others are doing funner, cooler, more ambitious things than me. Nope. It’s more along the lines of I am not there to share those special moments with them. I am away.

Having first left the UK in 2011 to travel through South America and the Pacific, I had just left it all behind, again. As I flew back to Australia, I digested all the many meet-ups of a six-week whirlwind catch up tour.

Some things really had changed beyond recognition. Some things I had truly missed out on. But all those things, I realised, had common threads weaving through them.

  • The first thing apparent was changes in relationships. Weddings, break-ups and new loves. A lot can happen in a two-year cycle, apparently. Friends who were separated when I left were now married, singletons were engaged, and those who were solid and steady were ramping up for parenthood, life’s next adventure. Having already missed the wedding of one of my dearest friends in Devon, I planned my UK trip to coincide with a university friend’s marriage to a woman who neither my swot crew nor I had previously met. She was fortunately quite the kind bride, and I saw that her husband – my friend – had grown and adapted his outlook from me to us. As we sat around a music themed table, I looked at my group and realised that we were all moving on, in our relationships and life.
  • The next thing that struck me was the talk of birth and the arrival of babies. Lots of them. Everywhere. My trip back to the UK had been planned to coincide with my nephew’s first smiles, but once back on British soil I realised it was not just my sister who had flung herself into the all things motherhood. Some friends had become fluent in baby talk, others waddled around with uncomfortable lumps protruding, and others questioned my future baby plans. Not many seemed keen for all night partying. It was a strange yet somewhat expected shift.
  • Ageing, in all of its facets, was another area where changes were apparent. Sure, the relationship and baby changes are to be expected within friendship groups once you hit your 30s, but there were moments when I looked around and saw the sensibilities and concerns of adulthood creeping up on my friends, where I noticed the shrinking of my elders, where I chatted as an equal with those whom I had babysat when I was barely a teenager. And yet, despite some changes being glaringly obvious, when it came to my mum’s newly embraced grey, I only saw my mum. Some changes are just surface.
  • Other changes, however, were more shocking, as with ageing comes illness and stress. Stress was trying its hardest to become my father’s new best friend as everything he’d worked for – volunteered his life for – had become a battleground between human sensibilities and institutional red tape, and he was a frontline warrior, searching for ways to make the truth prevail. Same family, different generation and my grandmother – oma –suffered a heart attack that she and I assumed would mean we’d never meet again. With the oomph that I’ve come to expect of my oma, she did pull through those moments, a little shook up but recogniseable underneath the change.
  • Unfortunately, though, the same cannot be said for my other grandmother who died ten days before my flight home to the UK. The prospect of a death amongst our nearest and dearest is one of those events that has the potential to paralyse us from travelling or living abroad. I was unable to make it to the funeral. I would have wished to have been there to say goodbye to my grandmother, or at least to listen to relatives telling stories of her happier days. Instead I visited her grave and planted forget-me-nots a few feet above where her head lay. I grieved for the sadness in her life, and for my mother who had now lost her mother.

Some things were still the same, some familiarity, some recognition. I care massively about my friends and their lives, and I drew comfort from knowing that our connections are still intact, despite separate life paths.

Now, leaving again, I wonder what will change between now and the next time I’m again in the UK. Life happens, whether you’re there to see it or not. I get that.

My FOMO suffering is far less influenced by Facebook than by knowing I’m missing key moments in the lives of those who have helped to shape my life, but maybe it’s time to let go of the missing out stuff and appreciate the bits I do get to be part of instead?

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Filed under culture, expat life, health, long term travel, reflection, relationships

What do you miss when you’re on the road?

www.travelola.orgThe American travel writer William Least Heat-Moon said

When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then.

I can identify. On the road, you are what you are, in your thoughts, feelings, in your person. You are in the present moment. You are the present moment.

When I travel, I’m totally in that moment; I’m busy meeting new people and having new adventures, my senses are being stimulated with fresh sights and smells and sounds, and there isn’t time to miss anything or anyone.

Really?

Often, yes. Busy-busy keeps the brain distracted.

But every new experience and person encountered along one’s travels is sub-consciously referenced to your old life – the past – and I regularly make links between travel people, events and moments to the people, events and moments in my lesser travelled life:

Such-and-such would love this!
I remember when I did something similar with Ms. X or
That’s exactly the same way that who’s it does it!

 You get the picture.

And so now, after nearly two years away from the UK, every now and then I have reflective moments, moments where beautiful past memories come floating to the foreground and I feel that little twinge in my chest that tells me maybe, maybe you do miss a few things after all.

So what is it I miss about England? Some things include:

  1. Cosy country pubs and open mic nights with my friends sitting around a blazing fire and listening to a mix of musicians including the multi-instrumental-acoustic-folk-mash-up of the quirky creative talents of Woodford Green.
  2. Devon cream teas. Hot tea and fluffy, warm scones. Clotted cream, then jam, of course. Why would you do it differently? (Cornish cream teas, I agree, differ, but let’s save that for another discussion).
  3. Wild weather weekends. Getting rugged up and braving the elements, marching along a blown-out beach or hiking cliff tops as the rain comes in, followed by gathering around a roaring fire and hugging a hot mug of tea. Too many days like this, no thanks, but occasionally, absolutely.
  4. Van trips with friends in Devon and Cornwall. Surfboards, beanies, sleeping bags, one-pot dinners, makeshift fires, guitars and bongos and all the other clichés. Because it works. Absolutely.
  5. Snow. Crisp, early morning snow undisturbed, save for a few cat paw punctures and some light bird footprints. And whilst we’re on about snow, you just can’t beat a white Christmas with the family. Warm Christmases on the other side of the world just feel strange to me.
  6. Spring. The marked change in seasons is something I treasure about the UK, but spring is my absolute favourite time of the year with its signs of new life, lambs bouncing about in freshly green fields and daffodils setting the land alight with a blaze of yellow.
  7. Cooking for and with friends. So many good, hearty times. Love, love, love. And family cook-ups too, with parents and sister and grandparents and godmothers and aunties and uncles and cousins and houses of chaos and chat. Ah, just writing this makes me want to pack my bags and book a ticket, homeward bound.
  8. Christmas catch-ups with my Masters crew. Short and sweet, this is usually a day in December in the North East of England where we eat well, stretch our legs for a crisp, winter walk and chat the last year before disappearing off to different parts of the globe once again.
  9. Summer BBQs and camping by the beach. Waking up to an early morning knock on the van door, jumping into a wetsuit and greeting the day with a daybreak sunshine surf. Lazy time spent between van and beach and water, barbeque and beers in the evenings. Friends and children and smiles; surrounded by fun and good, good people.
  10. Multi-culturalism. Whilst there’s often talk about population problems in the UK, I love the fact that you can have access to a multitude of cultural events, foods, and so forth in any of the major cities. I’ve not witnessed this level of diversity and acceptance of differences anywhere else on my travels.

And what am I glad to be away from? I definitely don’t miss months of blustery wind and rain, the low morale brought on by the recession and our damaged economy, the threat of redundancy that hangs over everyone, the bleak job prospects for my previous students, the bureaucracy and bulls**t of what could otherwise be the beautiful profession of teaching.

What do you miss when you’re on the road?

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