I read an article in Outside magazine the other day about the “new generation of workers enabled by the gig and sharing economics to ditch the cubicle and earn a living while traveling the world” (50). These people are called “digital nomads” who often self-describe as “‘location independent’” (50). Writer Alice Gregory observes them for a week and closes the article with reflections on her own career with lots of travel that have stayed with me:
Getting paid to see the world is a great privilege, but it has also become a compulsion for me -- a way of life I don’t really enjoy but engage in out of an abstract sense that, as a woman who wants children one day, I’d be crazy not to travel while I still can. It’s easy to convince myself that all the lost luggage and jet lag and missed birthday parties are a small price to pay for a future that doesn’t include at least this one very specific form of regret.
By the end of my week in Bali, though, I wanted to come home more desperately than I have from anywhere on earth. I missed my husband, who I met only because we lived in New York and shared mutual friends, and my dog, who I could never cart around the world, and my friends, who feel like the opposite of incidental. I’m 30, which isn’t old but isn’t terribly young either, and when I think about the past 12 years, which constitute my adult life, I have the tendency to think of it passively, as a mantle of experiences that have happened to me. But that’s not true. I have chosen so many things: where I live, what I write about, who I love. Home, for me, is the nexus of all the choices I typically refuse to think of as such. (53)
The first thing that struck me about this is that Gregory is one of the only people I’ve seen who have admitted that they don’t actually like traveling constantly but do so out of, essentially, FOMO (that’s fear of missing out). I’ve talked about my own struggles with FOMO once I have kids previously. In that post, I mostly rebutted the FOMO by questioning the premise that your life ends once you have kids. That’s a good thing to realize, but I found one phrase coming from a different line of reasoning that I think is just as important, because it gets at the idea that you don’t have to do things just because you feel like you should: “[I]t [was] mostly about catering to other people’s expectations.” So often our FOMO comes from things that other people have told us we should be afraid to miss out on.
For Gregory and me, and for a lot of people, traveling is one of those things. I’ve wondered if the fact that Dave and I haven’t traveled as extensively or just done as many “wild and crazy” things as some people we know, partially because of my health issues, partly because of our personalities, is a bad thing and if I should just suck it up and do more before it’s “too late.” Most recently, I felt somewhat guilty for not going to Minneapolis during Super Bowl week this year, just to see what it was like. I knew the chances of Minneapolis hosting a Super Bowl again anytime soon was close to zero and so this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but I just couldn’t get past the crowds and the particularly freezing cold, all to see a spectacle I didn’t even know if I would enjoy. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’m glad we didn’t go, because if we had, it really would have only been because we felt like we should, and not because we wanted to.
Which brings me to the second notable thing about Gregory’s thoughts: the contrast between the “compulsion” that drives her to travel versus the “chosen” nature of the things she really enjoys -- the elements of home -- even though she hasn’t always acknowledged them as choices. To me, this highlights perfectly the difference between FOMO and JOMO, or the joy of missing out, a concept I just heard about from the Slow Home podcast. In the blog post corresponding with their episode about FOMO, host Brooke McAlary defines JOMO as “the antidote to FOMO” and “the utter delight that is saying no and doing less and choosing to not compete in the Busy Olympics.” In addition, “JOMO comes from a place of abundance (everything, right now, is enough) while FOMO comes from a place of scarcity (I’m scared that this will never be enough).” Anna has written before about how living with a scarcity mindset instead of an abundance mindset leads to doing things you don’t really want to do -- it’s hard to be joyful in that context. To me, the fact that Gregory describes her traveling as a “compulsion” that she doesn’t really like shows that it comes from a fear and scarcity mindset, but fortunately, it does seem like she’s experiencing some JOMO in her choices about her home.
Of course, in order to feel like your choices are enough, it helps to “know your why,” or know your reasons for your choices, another Slow Home podcast idea I’ve written about previously. Once you know why you want to do the things that you do, it’s a lot easier to own your choices and be “all in,” not wavering about whether or not you did the right thing, as the hosts said on the podcast. Maybe the reason Gregory never realized her choices were actually choices is because she never really thought through why she made them. This isn’t always bad -- following your gut can be a really good thing. But it is easier to not feel regret or second-guess yourself if you’re more intentional. And of course, it’s much easier to feel joy in your choices that way, too.
So here’s to less FOMO and more JOMO. And I hope both Gregory and I feel better about staying home when that’s what we want to do.
Gregory, Alice. “Re-think Your Commute.” Outside. March 2018:48-53. Print.