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

And So It Begins…
Sunset at the Pangkor Laut Resort in Malaysia

It all started about 6 months ago…March of 2022 to be exact. I was living a blessed life. I had a very nice apartment in Scottsdale, Arizona, I lived right by my only grandson and got to see him anytime I pleased, I had a thriving business and was an overall healthy 52-year-old woman (minus the menopause!). There was just one problem…I was bored. I know that may sound trite given that I just said I was living a blessed life. But it’s true…I was bored.

Since the pandemic, I spent most of my time in my apartment alone. I had friends, of course, that I saw occasionally for dinner or a drink but I was beginning to feel as if I did not even vibe with my friends anymore. I know this may sound mean, but everyone seemed to be getting on my nerves.

I tried many things to remedy this ailment of mine. I signed up for a co-working space that I could work from just to get out of my apartment a couple of times per week, I began taking Tai Chi, and I even took a few road trips with friends. I was trying to fill what I call a “soul void.” A soul void is when you feel as if something is missing from your life but you cannot quite put your finger on what it is. The only thing that made me feel somewhat satisfied and a bit “fuller” was when I traveled.

Traveling has always been my jam! When I travel everything seems to flow so much easier. I meet the exact people I need to meet who have the information or knowledge I have been seeking, my soul feels as if it is alive again, and the nagging fears that seem to plague me when I sleep do not seem as scary.

It’s funny how when you look back at events in your life after they have happened that you realize how those exact events were preparing you for something about to happen in your life in the future. At the end of 2021, I decided I wanted to try and work remotely from another country to see if it was doable for not only my business but for my psyche. I signed up with a company that manages trips such as these for remote workers and booked two trips…one to Cape Town in November and one to Colombia in December.

Cape Town, South Africa waterfront (the view from my apartment window).

My time in Cape Town was interesting, to say the least. Although I realized I indeed could work from another country successfully, different time zone and all, I ended up having a roommate that let’s just say I didn’t jive with so much. The situation with this roommate was so toxic that by the time I got to Colombia in December, I was spent emotionally and mentally. I ended up only staying in Colombia for a week and cut my trip short and came home. This situation I experienced was so toxic, I became frightened to travel again. Now I felt like the one thing that usually brought me solace was taken away from me. The song by Alanis Morsette “Ironic” seems to sum up perfectly how I was feeling.

Fast forward to June of 2022 when I am in the car with my younger daughter driving back from Flagstaff. I began telling her how I felt as if I was in a rut that I could not get myself out of and she said something at that moment that changed everything. She said, “Mom, you are always your best self when you are traveling. Why don’t you just put your stuff in storage and travel around for a little bit… Maybe then you will find whatever it is you are looking for.” Now, my first reaction to this was terror. Mainly because a friend I had met in Cape Town told me the same thing back in November and it sent waves of fear up my spine. I remember thinking, “I am a 52-year-old woman who has an established career. I can’t just make myself homeless and travel around the world. Who does that!” Well, despite the fear, this time the thought stuck. You know when that happens…someone says something to you and then you cannot get it out of your mind. Once you finally do get it out of you mind, you hear something on TV or overhear a conversation and it is there all over again. I interpret events like that as signs from the Universe, nudging you in a direction that is for your highest good.

The contents of my suitcase before leaving on my journey.

Speaking of signs, while all of this was transpiring in my head, a friend of mine that owns a travel agency in England called me up one day and asked me if I wanted to go on a two-week culinary adventure in September to Malaysia. My first response was no. When you have an aversion to spicy food, a culinary trip to Malaysia where everything is spicy and cooked with chilies is not usually on the top of your list. And then I began to think…in all of my travels I had never been to Southeast Asia. I had heard great things about Kuala Lumpur too. Then the thought that changed everything hit me. What if I go on that trip and then just stay out there for a while? What if that is the beginning of my trip around the world…my “journey back to self” tour?

Being bumped to first class on the second leg of my flight to Malaysia is not a bad sign! 🙂

So, I thought I would play with the idea. I decided that the two main obstacles for me to actually do this were my apartment and my car. My lease on my apartment did not run out until January and it was now June. Breaking a lease is never easy nor is it cheap. My car was the other challenge. I had just leased a brand-new Honda CRV the year before and did not want my car to just sit for a year while I made monthly payments on it. That felt like a waste. This prompted me to make a couple of phone calls. Come to find out the cost to break the lease on my apartment was less than a month’s rent payment. Considering my rent had been raised 23% the year before and was slotted to be raised another 15% when my lease was renewed, this was a no-brainer. My car was a bit more challenging. It would cost $10,000 to get out of my lease, which was not happening. Then I had a thought. My daughter who lived near me in Arizona did a lot of driving taking my grandson to and from school and she could use a nicer vehicle. I asked her if she would be willing to sell her car and take over my car payments while I was gone. After doing some research and finding out that Carvana would give her $15,000 for her car, that was a no-brainer as well.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Now I had to make a decision. The two main obstacles had solutions. So now what? I don’t know if it’s because I am a Ph.D. and prone to research things endlessly or it was just me procrastinating making a decision…maybe a little bit of both. I kept doing research. I researched places I wanted to go, I read blogs and social media posts written by people who were crazy enough to do what I was thinking about doing, I researched storage units, and other places I could live if I decided not to go. You name it, I researched it. Then something happened. I began to get excited. I have studied self-development long enough to know that feelings are everything. Our feelings are the signpost that let us know if we are on the right path. The path that is in alignment with our highest good. The better the feelings, the more in alignment we are. My feelings were beginning to change.

Usually, when I am stuck making a decision, I use a tactic I call “the death bed test.” Sounds morbid, I know. The death bed test is simply this. I pretend that I am laying on my death bed about to die and ask myself this question, “When I am taking my last breath and I think about taking a trip around the world and if I decide not to do it, will I regret it”? If the answer is yes, regardless of the fear, I do it. If the answer is no, simple. It is either not meant for me or it is not time. The answer this time was a quick and resounding YES!

My friend Kati and I at one of our cooking classes in Malaysia.

In July 2022, I signed the papers to break the lease on my apartment. I had a plan. Movers were coming to pack up all of my belongings and put them in storage on September 17 and on September 20 I was leaving for Malaysia. After Malaysia, I would drive to Singapore for a couple of days with my friend and from there begin my journey back to self in Bali.

As I sit here in a Starbucks, of all places, in Bali looking out at 1000 scooters on the street and a diverse array of travelers, I find myself still feeling a bit lost but at least on a path. I have no idea where this path will lead and if I will even last a year, but what I do know is that I am here. Moving forward, putting one foot in front of another, and taking an active part in living my life to the fullest. In the end, I will at least know I gave it a shot.

Stay tuned for more adventures and lessons from my journey back to self!

Salamat tinggal for now!