International Guide to FOMO: 10 Things You Might Miss Out On if You Don't Study or Travel Abroad

FOMO stands for ‘Fear of Missing Out’, and if you have any social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram… the list goes on) then you’ve probably experienced this feeling at some point. You almost certainly spend at least some of your time scrolling through your newsfeed on your phone or computer, being bombarded with pictures of {everyone you know} gallivanting around the globe, having grand, picture-perfect adventures. You might be sitting at home, at work, at school, or on the bus between home and work or school….and as you scroll further down the list, that weird, impatient, achy feeling that you're missing out on all the fun – that sense that everyone you know is doing something cooler than you – sets in. That anxious gut-feeling is your call to adventure.

We spend so much of our lives watching other people take leaps and talking ourselves out of doing the same, and then we miss opportunities to follow our own dreams. If you've ever thought ‘Wow I would love to study in/travel to country X, but actually, no, I can’t because Y, Z, ϵ.’ then it’s time to cut those apprehensions loose, and GO! You may be thinking ‘I have crazy FOMO, how can I overcome it?’ and the answer is simple – start your own epic journey! Here are 10 very good reasons to support that feeling of FOMO and encourage you to travel. 

1. You'll Get a Fresh Perspective

We all have a tendency to think of ourselves as ‘normal’ and take the way that we interact with other people from our home country for granted. Once you step out of your comfort zone and into a place where you're in the minority, you get the opportunity to see your destination, your home, and yourself from a fresh perspective. When you study or live abroad you get an immersive experience that's otherwise unattainable. A slower pace or a longer stay will give you insights into a destination that are deep, real, and lasting.

Studying/living abroad is not about sightseeing, it’s about living a new way of life governed by different ideas and values. Learning a language, particularly in a region where that language is spoken, is not only the most effective way to learn, it will also help you think about the world differently. It's only when we see parts of the world that we know in contrast to ones which we do not that we can truly begin to appreciate it. 

2. You'll Increase Your Cool-Factor

Increase your cool factor – No matter how much we might tell ourselves ‘I don’t need to be cool’ sometimes everyone likes to be that fascinating person who dazzles a room just by speaking. Whether it be over cocktails, dinner, or during a chance encounter, we all like to feel interesting. Here a few of the ways that your travel abroad experiences will increase your ‘cool-factor’:

Conversation Starters: You get to tell stories that start with some variation of “During my summer abroad in {wherever}” which will make people immediately see you as more worldly and interesting.

Bonus: You'll also be that much more tolerant of other people telling you about their global                                    escapades because now you have your own stories to share!

Games: When you come back from your trip you can impress and entertain your friends, family, and acquaintances with all the new foreign card games, sports, and drinking games you've learned abroad!

Your Swag: Even if you aren’t a shopper, you'll probably buy a few cool things abroad, and these are likely going to be things that none of your friends have. So, next time someone comments on your outfit or that interesting bowl on your coffee table you can say some variation of “Oh yes, I picked it up at a shop in {some exotic land}.” Your friends and family may also catch you watching foreign movies without subtitles or reading in a foreign language – Superbly Cool.

Your Accent: I've already mentioned a few things that will increase your cool-factor at home, but your abroad experiences will make you cool in all sorts of places. If you learn a language abroad you'll certainly pick up the regional accent and some of the slang from your destination. Imagine learning Spanish in Madrid, then visiting Malaga and having someone ask you “Are you from Madrid?” – trust me, it’s an extremely satisfying feeling. If you spend enough time in your destination, locals may even start to think you’re a native! All of these things are sure to give you a tremendous confidence boost.

3. Test Yourself

I’m not saying that if you don’t travel you'll never become independent, but it really does work like a crash course in self-reliance. You'll find yourself doing a lot more things on your own, away from your usual support network. You'll likely find that your study abroad adventure helps you develop practical skills (adjusting to new systems of public transport, customs, etc.) but it will also help you grow as an essential human being. It’s a cliché but it still has a ring of truth: travelling gives you ‘perspective’. Your abroad experience may also help you become less materialistic; when you have to live off of what you can fit in your suitcase you become more conscious of the difference between needs and wants.

4. Become More ‘International’

This is the more practical side of the ‘cool-factor’ discussed earlier. ‘International’ is one of those words with multiple meanings, but simply put, your travel experiences will open up more opportunities for you.

The friends you meet abroad are likely to be the first piece of a meaningful global network which may help you with employment later on, and that whole ‘perspective’ thing discussed earlier will allow you to be more innovative in the workplace and in your own endeavours. Study abroad experiences, and even travel, also look great on a resume – they show that you know how to be independent and take charge of a situation, and suggest that you have something original to bring to the table. In a world where good jobs are becoming increasingly rare, travel experiences can give you an edge and help you to stand out.

5. Learn to Laugh at Yourself!

It’s easy to feel ridiculous abroad. You might forget to get toilet paper on your way into a Turkish toilet (yeah, it’s not in the stall), get lost way more times than you care to admit in a day because you can’t understand the directions people are giving you, unintentionally order tripe soup thinking it’s beef stew…and eat it because you don’t want to be rude…the list goes on. As the saying goes, you're likely to feel like ‘a fish out of water’ at first, except that you’re more like a tadpole that will sprout legs and be fully confident on land and sea in no time! Land and sea represent home and your abroad destination in this somewhat mixed metaphor…

The point is, if you stay in your comfort zone forever you may never learn to laugh at yourself.  This is one of the most liberating feelings, some (myself included) might even go as far as to call it a skill. Being able to make mistakes, look foolish on occasion, laugh it off and keep going will help keep you relaxed throughout your life. Having a sense of humour makes life easier.

6. Feast on Foreign Foods!

Sure, thanks to globalization you can sample foods from all over the world in your home city, but it’s never the same. Pizza is always better in Italy, macaroons & brioche will always taste more special in Paris, and spicy grilled fish is never as delicious as it is when eaten on the beach by the sea where it was caught. Since eating is one of the greatest and most fundamental joys of living I encourage you to feast your way through a foreign land. Trust me, the food in your {dream destination} is amazing!

7. Make a ‘Home Away from Home’

Home has many definitions, but ultimately, it's a place where you're comfortable, relaxed, have somewhere to stay, have people who are important to you, and where you really care about local affairs. When you think of ‘Home’ like this, you'll see how your destination can become a ‘Home away from Home’. Your abroad experience will help you develop a vested, personal interest in International affairs. Even once you've left, youll still have lots of friends who live in your ‘Home away from Home’ and, naturally, you'll care about their lives and well-being. Also, now you have friends and free places to stay all over the world thanks to your international classmates/friends – and you have the confidence to go stay with them!

8. Casual Country Hopping

If you’re from Australia or the Americas you’re not used to being able to hop on an afternoon train or overnight bus and end up in a completely different country. One of the best parts of travelling (particularly in Europe and parts of Asia) is that you get to go casual country hopping. There’s so much of the world to see, so when you’re spending an extended period of time in a place, take advantage of the situation and see even more of it!

9. Have a Foreign Fling

The more life marches on, the more experience and wisdom accrues and the harder it is to fall in love like it’s the first time – wholly and with abandon. But travelling provides the perfect setting for just this experience! It’s one of those rare situations in love that you know will most likely be temporary, but you do it anyway. Not only is this kind of whirlwind romance exciting on its own, it can actually benefit your learning experience in other ways. A foreign boyfriend or girlfriend can be like a private tutor of sorts, helping you grasp the language, mannerisms, accent, culture, and traditions of your destination.

Your abroad experience, however it unfolds, is sure to be the adventure of a lifetime. It’s not just a memory, it becomes a part of you that you can always go back to. Many of my travelling experiences are like a mental oasis, where I can go to reflect and recharge. They represent experiences which have helped me to continue growing long after the events themselves have ended.

Your early adventures will also help start you on the glorious cycle of travelling by making you more comfortable, capable, and confident. Abroad experiences have tremendous value, whether you're looking backward or forward; you've made wonderful memories and now you’re in that much better of a position to make new ones!

FOMO is a very real source of anxiety for many of us and for all that people might suggest that you simply ‘unplug’ I think that it is better to do more than less. Don’t let yourself be sad or jealous of other people’s experiences, let them push you to go on your own adventure! The irony of it all is that the more you are afraid of missing out, the more you will actually miss.