Why You're Really Feeling Travel Jealousy, And The Best Way To Deal With It

With the state of travel now nearly at its pre-pandemic levels, so is the resurgence of travel envy. Wait — say, what now?

Picture this: you're doom scrolling through Instagram and TikTok as you normally do, and you come across photos of your pal traversing through Sicily. And before you even think about hitting the like button, a thought pops into your head: "Weren't they just in Barcelona a couple of months ago?!" So you forego liking the picture altogether and begin sleuthing for more information about your friend's trip. You then start feeling pangs of jealousy because, well, why are you stuck at home, and your friend is living it up thousands of miles across the world? What do they have that you don't? How can they even afford it? And how on earth did they manage to take time off work?

That, my friends, is a classic case of travel envy, and it's a real, valid feeling — and phenomenon. Lots of other people also roll their eyes at their family, friends, and colleagues when they see them going on fun vacations while they're stuck at work, hacking away at a job they wish could pay them enough for a lengthy time off at some tropical island. Social media has a way of turning us into sad, jealous monsters, especially when it comes to travel and life achievements. But as with all things (and feelings), there's a way to manage your occasional bouts of travel jealousy.

Travel envy is basically just FOMO

Travel envy, at its core, is technically just a form of FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out. Per a study published on the Computers in Human Behavior, FOMO is defined as "the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you're missing out – that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you." And apparently, just because you have FOMO, it doesn't mean that you're already a bad person. FOMO, in whichever form it manifests in you, is an entirely human feeling, with psychologist Aarti Gupta telling NPR that it's rooted in humans being innately social. We all "rely on each other to survive," she said, "and being left out or not being in the know could have, once upon a time, been a matter of life or death."

Being struck with feelings of FOMO is even easier now that technology and social media exist. Everyone with an online presence is accessible, so you can keep tabs on what your peers are doing and achieving. Giving into the feeling, though, is dangerous, as it can affect your mental health and make you feel depressed and anxious. When that happens, it's time to re-evaluate and manage your feelings.

How to get over travel jealousy

Since travel envy or travel FOMO is technically just a form of jealousy, you manage your feelings similarly to how you would with "normal" envy. For starters, you may want to focus on yourself rather than other people and their experiences. "Focus on your unique strengths, skills, abilities, experiences, and dreams," Amber Trueblood, a licensed marriage and family therapist, told Real Simple. "Chances are, you don't truly want exactly what someone else has. Uncover your dreams and build on your own unique skillsets, because no two people have the same composition of qualities and gifts." You may also want to remind yourself that you have traveled somewhere amazing sometime in the past and can do it again when you get the chance to do so. Plus, you never really know what goes on behind the scenes of a person's Instagram Story. 

Remember that they're posting highlights, which may not necessarily reflect their actual travel experience. "Especially in the age of social media, it's important to remind ourselves that other people's lives aren't as exciting or perfect as they may seem," Dr. Erin Vogel, a social psychologist, shared with Forbes Health. It's also worth trying perhaps the oldest trick in the book — limiting your social media use. There's merit to the saying "out of sight, out of mind," after all. If you do less scrolling, you may find that you'll also experience less travel envy-ing.