According to Wikipedia, “FOMO,” or “Fear of Missing Out,” is “the feeling of apprehension that one is either not in the know about or missing out on information, events, experience, or life decisions that could make one’s life better. FOMO is also associated with a fear of regret, which may lead to concerns that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, a memorable event or a profitable investment.”

Given that definition, FOMO is exactly what my friend Yumiko and I are feeling as we finish our dinner in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. Tourists come to this small town in western Thailand to see the nearby Bridge Over the River Kwai, made famous by the 1957 David Lean epic war movie. I would argue, however, that the reason to come to Kanchanaburi is for the coconut cake!

One of the great pleasures of a trip to Kanchanaburi is enjoying a dinner on a floating restaurant. Imagine consuming an inexpensive feast of pad thai, fresh rolls, and red curry in a brightly-lit outdoor restaurant, gently wafting on a tropical river. As Yumiko and I finish the last slurps of our super-sweet Thai ice teas, we notice a solitary canoe floating over to our side of the restaurant. Inside the craft is displayed every kind of sweet treat you can imagine: cakes, muffins, pies, mango with sticky ride, etc. Unable to resist, we lean over the railing and purchase a slice of tasty-looking coconut cake, which ends up being the best coconut cake we’ve ever had: moist, sweet, and exceedingly coconut-y, with a vein of honey running through the center. As the captain of the floating sweet cart waves goodbye and departs for another restaurant, a crashing wave of FOMO suddenly rolls over us.

Who knows if we’ll ever see this canoe again!
Why didn’t we buy the whole cake?
Why didn’t we purchase some of the other sweets?
We are missing out!!!

Yumiko and I stay in Kanchanaburi for another night or two, but we never see the sweets canoe again. Was it real? Was it just a mirage? I guess we’ll just never know. But I can image a day in the future when I return to Kanchanburi for a week and sit in the same seat, in the same restaurant, hoping that somehow I can recapture a genie in a bottle and taste just one more piece of that magical coconut cake.

(The temptation is to decry FOMO as a sign of a weak and greedy mind. Okay sure, in the realm of social media, FOMO can be counter-productive, ie. “It looks like everyone besides me is having a great time. I wish I was invited. I must be a loser.” But much of the time, FOMO just means “I really enjoyed that experience. I’d hate to miss out on similar experiences like that.” Like, kissing your partner at sunset. Or, taking your dog to the beach. Or, teaching your kid how to do something like ride a bike. FOMO can be a cue that this thing or that experience is precious to you, and that you should take efforts to make sure it’s repeatable. That coconut cake in Kanchanaburi sure was amazing; I better start saving for my next trip to Thailand!)