In my last few months of high school, one of my favourite teachers asked me the dreaded “so what are you doing next year?” question. My response, as always, included the name of my prospective University, followed by a filler phrase like “yeah, it should be pretty exciting”.
“That will be great!” he replied, “it will be the best four years of your life… and if it isn’t, then you did something wrong!”.
His response crippled me with fear and sparked this immense pressure to make the most out of every… single… second… of my time at University. Pressure to be the friendly, adventurous guy who spent his days at the campus coffee shop, making witty jokes with newly-minted friends, and spent his nights playing drinking games at exotic-themed parties or joining quirky campus clubs— all the while, getting A’s in every class. (This was a fantasy I regularly indulged, but rarely lived.)
Putting this pressure on myself regularly resulted in me spending the better part of my freshman year metaphorically throwing my hands up in frustration going “when does this start becoming the best part of my life?”.
It was only after I let go of this dumb-ass idea that University was supposed to be the best time of my life (sorry, fav teacher… it was dumb) that I was finally able to start enjoying it.
For me, travelling is the same thing. I’m 22 and have 6 months in Southeast Asia. I have nothing holding me back. This is the time when I should be climbing volcanoes, swimming with sharks, and partying till 3 am with strangers in crappy hostels. This is the time to make memories I will cherish till my dying days. But sometimes, dare I say often, I don’t feel like it. Instead, I feel like coming home and having an unmemorable nap or re-watching an unmemorable Youtube video. Of course, with every nap I take, and every weekend I don’t spend in a new exhilarating destination, there is an underlying anxiety that I will regret my sluggish decision. “What am I doing?” I’ll think to myself, “why am I not seizing this once-in-a-life time opportunity?”.
Once in a while I force myself to be adventurous by riding someone else’s coat tails. If they portray themselves as a trip-planner—even in the slightest— I jump at the opportunity to tag along. This is a travel ProTip if you’re someone who doesn’t mind going with the flow, but needs someone else to kickstart “the flow”.
I did this with a fellow intern for my first weekend in Indonesia, and stumbled across this cool looking waterfall.
I also did this when my sister and her boyfriend came to visit me, and I actually did end up climbing a volcano…
7 thoughts on “Entry 2 – The Bad: Travel Anxiety”
Love the honesty Evan – so refreshing from the ‘my life is always wonderful’ Facebook illusion!
These just keep getting better, Ev. So many good insights into the tyranny of other’s expectations and exhortations. This is such a problem for so many people yet so few recognize it for what it is. Of course it has always been there but it seems so much more difficult to escape in this era of social media. You’ll be glad to know that, somewhere around age 70, you will reach the stage where you no longer – as we used to say in Winnipeg – give a shit (hopefully sooner than that in your case).
Can hardly wait for “the thought provoking” entry.
Thanks so much for the feedback Grandps! I think social media is definitely a catalyst for increasing the expectations that one puts on themselves. Personally, I have found that I am not always conscious of social media’s impact in this respect. So when I have a period of high frequency “oh god, I have not done enough yet” thoughts, it is often only in retrospect that I realize this period may have been caused by the hour I spent perusing Facebook prior.
Great read Evan! Even my 50 yr old plus friends go thru this on trips with the feeling of FOMO – fear of missing out. However we have been enjoying the leisurely naps back at the hotel/ camp/ tent in the afternoon and having longer transition periods between the activities doing cross word puzzles and having long drinks of tea and coffee. Thanks for your great honesty and reflections. Looking forward to your next posts! Xox Dave
Thanks for reading Dave! I like your insight. I have always thought of FOMO as something tied exclusively to social events, ie. a fear of missing out on something that will be enjoyed by other people you know. But there is no reason that the term could not also be applied to what I described in the post, because the two are quite similar!
This really hit home for me Evan, great post!
Thanks so much Muhamed! I am glad it resonated with you 🙂