Malaysian JOMO

FOMO is a common term used by frequent travelers. Many travelers suffer from it. It can be brutal. It hits you mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. What is FOMO you ask? No, it’s not a disease or God-forbid another virus to cause a worldwide pandemic. FOMO is the Fear of Missing Out.

The more I have traveled the more I find I am leaning into JOMO rather than FOMO…the Joy of Missing Out. This term was first introduced to me in Cape Town by one of the amazing guides I met there. JOMO can be as challenging as FOMO. The difference is JOMO entails a bit of honoring yourself, your body, your mental wellness, and your spirit. NOT taking part in an experience can be just as rewarding as the experience itself. I found in Malaysia that JOMO was going to be a crucial practice I needed to master to travel the world for the next year.

To set the stage for you as to why this is such an important practice for me, I need to let you in on a little secret. For the last two years, not only have I been questioning every part of my life, from my relationships to my career (and everything in between!), but many of these stressors felt the need to manifest physically for me. Mostly in my extremities. In the last two years, my left foot had to be completely reconstructed which left me unable to walk for a few months. Then, my right knee got jealous because of all the attention the left side of my body was receiving and I tore my medial meniscus and had to have yet another surgery. For those of you who travel, you know traveling usually entails quite a bit of walking, which has been a struggle for me since my knee surgery in April. Being a person who does not let little things get in their way (like, ya know, walking!), I decided to practice what a friend of mine calls “radical acceptance”. I radically accepted that my knee was going to hurt at times and that it may limit some activities I wanted to participate in on my travels. This mindset shifts your thinking from resisting what is, to accepting what is. Everything starts in your mind!

So, with my new attitude of radical acceptance, I headed out for the first leg of my trip…Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This was a group trip organized by my friend Fliss who owns Odyssey World (  Our motley crew consisted of a blend of British, Canadian, Dutch, Australian, New Zealanders, Swedish, Italian, Malaysian, and me holding up the one and only American flag! Since this was a culinary tour, we started by touring the Chow Kit Market which is the most amazing farm market I have ever been to in my life (puts Pike Place Market in Seattle to shame!).

Chow Kit Market

Besides having a roasted chestnut explode in my face, I learned about all of the amazing foods of Malaysia…mangosteen, dukong, and the infamous durian (the horribly tasting and smelling fruit).  I drank mapa kucing (cat eye) and teh tarik (sweet tea)! I also quickly realized that Malaysian cooking uses palm sugar…and I mean A LOT of it! Talk about sweet. A favorite dessert of the locals is DoDo. Just look at the picture here and tell me if you thought I liked it (big NO!).

The infamous DoDo dessert.

Our journey then took us to the top of the Petronas Towers (the second-tallest building in the world),

Petronas Towers

the Batu Caves,

Batu Caves

and the amazing island of Pangkor Laut. In Pangkor Laut, we stayed at the most beautiful resort with bungalows on stilts in the water, which sat by the “bat tree.” No, this is not where batman lives…but where almost 1000 bats dwell during the day.

Be sure to zoom in to see the bats!

We visited an amazing tropical spice garden where I learned that ground cinnamon and powdered turmeric are actually bad for you (the raw versions are extremely good for you!).

Tropical Spice Garden tour.

We learned how to cook amazing Malaysian dishes from our travel companion and famous chef, Norman Musa (check out the episode of Top Chef he was on a few years ago, and be sure to follow him on Instagram @chefnormanmusa!).

Chef Norman Musa and I.

We ended our trip in the town of Penang where Norman’s family invited us all to their house for an array of deliciously cooked Malaysian dishes. As if things couldn’t get any better, I swear I met Tatoo from Fantasy Island (those of you too young to know what Fantasy Island is or who Tatoo is, Google the TV show “Fantasy Island”)!

Me and my new friend (Tatoo’s twin!)

There were many amazing group walking tours where I had to use my JOMO pass because of my knee… I couldn’t walk up the 272 steps to the top of the Batu Caves, I could not take part in a couple of the city walking tours, nor could I stand for long periods of time without my knee giving out. My JOMO moments allowed me to reflect on my journey in Malaysia and become aware of what I was feeling and why. As much as I love to be included, I have realized over the years that being included, but not being present, in mind and spirit because of aches, pains, or something on my mind, actually takes away from the experience and sometimes even drips into my attitude the following day.

As I continue my journey alone, I continue to use the practice of JOMO even with myself. I do not feel the need to see and do everything. Rather, I allow my spirit to guide me to the things and experiences that resonate with me that day and guide me to the exact places I need to be in that moment. Pure bliss!  And a great practice for everyday life! 🙂

See you in Bali!

Dr. Chris