I don’t know if it’s a cure, but it has been a remedy.
As I have mentioned a few times here before, for many years, I might as well have been living under a rock. All my years of wanting to travel were not only blocked with my own personal hesitation, but decisions that were made at home, meant that we would never have enough money to go abroad.
This year, in case you haven’t been following along, I took my first international trip. (Other than a night in Canadia in 1993).
In the nearly five years that I have been on my own, I have had grand aspirations to travel. Divorce is nearly as expensive as a bad marriage, however, so my dreams of doing what I wanted to do all those years ago have been on hold. Until now.
In that time, I have been jealous of those in my life who have gotten to travel. I’ll admit it. I’m not proud of it. Living vicariously was no longer enough. I wanted to go, but somehow, I still couldn’t get it together. There was always something to come up that would stop me. Someone once told me, “I don’t know that you actually want to travel, or else you would have done it by now.” That stung. When other people were building a legacy while they were married, mine left me with two bankruptcies, drained bank accounts, and almost nothing to my name.
They just didn’t understand. What’s worse, for a moment, I believed them. I was comparing myself to them.
This year’s trip almost didn’t happen. Due to changes in child support, half of my tax return was claimed by the State. But by then, I had already bought the tickets and all that needed to be done was to pay for the AirBnB. I had just enough to do it, in spite of concerns about my budget. Fewer day trips. No Chunnel train. Sacrifices.
My writing gigs supplemented the rest. Putting in some extra work was well worth it. Those fives and tens add up when you let them.
My destination: London and wherever my whims took me. I was no longer experiencing the Fear Of Missing Out. I was finally getting to do what I had wanted to do for the last 25 years. I was immersing myself in a foreign city. Jumping into the deep end to teach myself how to swim.
I don’t want to sound like I’m crowing about my accomplishments, but considering how far I’ve come in five years, I crow a little bit.
One day on the trip was a little difficult, I must admit. It came about when I was having a little bit of trip burn out. All the walking, museums, shops, etc. started to blur together. I watched young couples sitting on benches in the park, about my age when the travel bug first bit me. The summer of my seventeenth year. I was those young couples, in love, sitting on park benches, seeing the world. This day, however, my legs hurt. I felt like I hadn’t done enough. Like I had wasted a day. The FOMO was beginning to bubble up.
That evening, I messaged a friend back who asked if I was going to go to any clubs. I was tired. In pain. Burned out, and a little bluesy. I said I wouldn’t even know where to find a club. The conversation went to how to find a club. I started to feel bad, like I wasn’t trying hard enough. Like I needed to get out there and get my flirt on.
I’ll be honest, I really don’t like clubs all that much. I’ve tried them, and for the most part I find myself shouting into someone’s ear half the night and pretending I’m not as deaf as I am while trying to read their lips. Lots of nodding and smiling.
I’m not the kind of guy who goes cruising for hookups either, which a lot of that is what clubs are for. I like to dance, but there is a difference. And flying solo as I was, I just wasn’t feeling it. But, I started to feel that FOMO raising its ugly head. I didn’t want to go to a club, but shouldn’t I?
So, I went on a walk that night. I hopped on a double decker bus that took me on a Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. I write about it here too. It was a challenge I needed to overcome.
By the time I got home, I was happy again. Even though I had a few moments of FOMO, I broke through it all and realized it was MY trip. I wasn’t there for the clubs, or hookups, or any of that. I wasn’t there to live someone else’s vacation. I was on a journey of my own discovery. And that is what I did. It was a low point of the trip, but I bought a souvenir to commemorate it. A coffee mug from the place where I realized how ridiculous I was being.
I was tested, and I felt something fall away from myself. Changed by the experience. In all honesty, I think had I taken the trip with another person, it would have changed the nature of the whole experience.
I was comfortable in my own skin, accepting of my faults, my mistakes, my regrets. My aging body that wasn’t handling uneven streets the way it would have in 1993. I wasn’t there to chase women. I wasn’t there to prove anything to anyone. I was there to be present in the moment. To drink it all in.
I used to think the expression “Wherever you go, there you are,” just meant you couldn’t run away from yourself. Really, what I discovered was at some point you are always going to be you. So, you might as well enjoy their company, because it is some pretty good company. Wherever you go, you will be content if you can just be comfortable in your own skin, whether you run and see all the sights of a distant city, or if you are at home watching a movie on Netflix with your son. You can’t run away from your demons (you have to face them at some point), but you shouldn’t run from your joy either.
I wasn’t missing out on anything. Even all those years I lost when I was married couldn’t make me feel like I was missing out on my own life anymore. I was living it. I was right there, in that moment, doing exactly what I wanted to do.
I didn’t have FOMO. I wasn’t missing out on anything. Even today, I’m not missing out. I”m right here. In good company.
“The pathway to salvation is as narrow and as difficult to walk as a razor’s edge.” Sometimes I walk it, and sometimes I fall. From great heights. On fire. Into a pool of piranhas. But, I do get back up and try to walk it again.