TRAVELS WITH NINA

is the online portfolio and journal of Australian travel writer Nina Karnikowski.

TRAVEL FOMO: SMH TRAVELLER

It’s not until I’m sitting here, suspended 100 metres above Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe in a six-seater chopper, that I realise just how much I don’t want to be doing this.

Don’t get me wrong, the “flight of the angels” undoubtedly offers the most stunning views I’ve seen in my life. Rainbows criss-crossing the world’s largest curtain of water as it drops out of a 1700-metre- wide chasm in the earth. Spray wisping all around like strands of white fairy floss. Livingstone Island teetering on the edge of the falls like a mossy pebble, a reminder of explorer David Livingstone’s famous quote on seeing the falls for the first time in 1855: “Scenes so lovely they must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”

But the fact is I don’t actually want to be anywhere near where angels have been, because I hate heights. I’m petrified of them. I’m the kind of girl who fights back tears at the top of the ferris wheel; who always cowers a good 10 metres back from the edge of any cliff just in case the urge to jump should overtake.

And yet, each time the opportunity to partake in some ridiculously death-defying activity such as this comes along (that single-seater chairlift in Anacapri, the Top of the Rock in New York, biking across a rickety suspension bridge over a Queenstown gorge and hiking to that vertiginous mountaintop in Nepal all come to mind), I jump at it. Nay, I even suggest it most of the time.

It’s not just because it seems like a good idea at the time. I know it’s not a good idea – before the time, at the time and after the time.

It’s because I suffer from an acute case of what I call traveller FOMO. Fear of Missing Out, that is – on something someone will undoubtedly tell me was the single most important/beautiful/life- changing experience in the country I’ve just visited when I arrive home. Traveller FOMO gives me an overwhelming feeling of “this is it”, that I’ll never get a chance to travel to this destination again and therefore must tick the boxes of every possible activity other people might ask me if I’ve done, regardless of whether said boxes contain fears and, most probably, tears, for yours truly.

When I flicked through the brochure for the helicopter flight, I could actually hear the ghosts of travel regrets future whispering: “You’ve just been to Africa? You would’ve done the ‘flight of the angels’ then, right? Totally life- changing!” And so, I find myself clinging, white-knuckled, to the poor South Korean tourist next to me as the chopper dips and whirrs, praying to a God I don’t believe in while trying not to lose my lunch, just so I can say “yes”.

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