Dear Savvy Traveller: I don’t get a lot of time off from work so I always go back to the same places I love. I might be missing out on new places that could be amazing but I don’t want to risk my time off. Should I take the plunge?
This is my eternal struggle with ice cream. Should I stick with the favorite, which I know I’ll love (that’s mint chocolate chip for anyone looking to buy me ice cream…), or try something new that sounds cool but could be awful? I know you’re already yelling, “but travel is a much greater investment than ice cream!” and you’re right, but I contend that my ice cream dilemma is a tougher decision to make. If my ice cream is gross, it’s going to be awful from start to finish—a total wash. Travel is almost never like this.
When you travel, something will go wrong. You’ll miss your train stop, the color of the sea won’t look like it did on Instagram, or your dinner at a top-rated restaurant will just not live up to the hype. This is almost a guarantee. But, unlike, ice cream, every day of travel is different (each hour can be different), so one bad restaurant, rainy day, noisy hotel neighbor, or ugly beach doesn’t ruin the entire trip unless you let it. As always, attitude is nearly everything.
From the way you’ve phrased your question, Lydia, it sounds like you have both FOMO (fear of missing out), and fear of letdowns (let’s call this FOLD, even though no one else does). Neither of these is worth your time, so step one is to move past them. Let’s take a look at each.
FOMO. In my opinion, this is the somewhat lesser of the two evils. At the very least, it can inspire you to get outside of your routine and go somewhere new, and for that I’m grateful. But everything else related to FOMO is bad news, and you’re feeling some of that when you tell me there are probably awesome places out there that you’re missing out on. I’ll agree that there are places you haven’t seen, but not that you’re “missing out.” That implies your life isn’t as complete as it should be, and one critical thing to remember about travel, or anything in life, is that you should find fulfillment and wholeness right where you are, in every typical day. That should come from you, and if you never see a new place, try a new food, or buy a new pair of shoes again, your life shouldn’t feel less fulfilled because of what isn’t. So yes, there are cool things out there, and if you have a drive to see them, go. But be focused on finding yourself more than that secluded beach when you get there. That’s where you’ll find the value in your trip, and why you’ll come to love a place. Not because of its spectacular vistas.
Let’s take a time out, because right now, you may be thinking “wow, okay . . . that’s great, but I’m really just looking to relax and have some drinks by the pool in a great setting for a few days. I’m not talking about a soul-mission in Nepal.” Fair enough, but in this case, I’d wonder why you’re asking this question at all. If you’re just looking for a fun holiday, you don’t need to agonize at all, and my advice is simple: it depends on who you are. If you’re someone who gets annoyed easily, go to the place you already love. You don’t want to waste your days being irritated that the food isn’t as good, the pool is too noisy, or the local beaches aren’t as pristine. But since you asked about this, I sense that you’re anxious to see something new and battling with those nagging annoyances that tend to get in your way of enjoyment. My advice for any of those annoyances, large or small, is simple: Get over it.
FOLD. The fear of letdowns is what keeps us stuck doing the same thing every day even though we see alternatives all around us, and know they might be better. The risk is that they might be worse, so we don’t change anything. Yes, alternatives might be better and might be worse, but all that really matters it that they will be different. Some differences will be annoying, frustrating, or a letdown, but those feelings should be temporary. Even when disaster strikes, it’s your choice to consider your entire trip ruined. I recently stayed at a Mexican resort when a river overflowed and flooded the entire property hours after I arrived. Brown water came through my door, across my floors, and out my patio doors. Then it overtook the resort’s pools before making a river of the property, gushing down into the ocean. I didn’t get to lounge by the pools or use the private beach the entire time I was there, but I still had a great vacation because, after I changed my room, I changed my focus and took advantage of other things Mexico and this resort had to offer. My point is that even when major upsets occur, it’s your choice to feel ruined. Events don’t typically have the power to ruin you; that’s a power that, in most cases, only you posses.
Where you go on vacation is rarely as important as how you go. There are great reasons to return to a favorite spot, like diving deeper into local culture, discovering a new aspect of a neighborhood, visiting old friends, or even just nostalgia. But if you’re returning repeatedly because you’re afraid of being let down by a new place, you’re wasting your time. Don’t hop from place to place because of FOMO, endlessly searching for meaning in the photo-friendly spots you see online, because meaning comes from within, but don’t remain stagnant because of FOLD. I think you personally are interesting in seeing new places, so I suggest working on your general perspective and coming to a place where you no longer identify changes as letdowns, but opportunities. When you get there, get out and see the world. And if you’re halfway there already, then get out into the world now, and let travel help you get further in your personal journey.