FOMO: A Year of Not Missing Out

By Lucy Leonelli

An A to Z of British subcultures

Humour | Travel
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Lucy has been asked to change the names of some of the people (or animals) she's met during her trip - so why not pledge to give them your name instead? We'll name a character after you, a loved one, or your dog/cat!

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Subculture (n): Subdivision of a national culture or an enclave within it with a distinct integrated network of behaviour, beliefs, and attitudes.

A few years ago, Lucy Leonelli was seemingly on top of the world. She was 28 and had already been made a partner in her headhunting firm. But like lots of people living the corporate life, she’d worked so hard and buried herself so deeply into one world that she was constantly worried she was missing out on life out there.

So Lucy did the only reasonable thing she could do: she hung up her suit to spend a year with people who were living their lives as the fullest, most authentic versions of themselves; the secret and little-understood communities of Great Britain.

FOMO charts an adventure in stepping outside of her comfort zone. Using the alphabet as the backbone to her journey, Lucy spent a year investigating 26 subcultures, from Aristocrats, Battle Re-enactors and Circus Performers to Xtreme Sport Fanatics, Yogis and 'Zeitgeist' Political Activists.

Over the course of the next year She lived with each group, immersing herself in their social rituals and customs and often finding herself in compromising situations; from swimming naked with lawyers and vets, to casting spells with teachers and IT consultants. Whether dressed in tight latex and drinking with self-proclaimed vampires or fighting the undead in an epic LARP battle, Lucy went deep into communities often heard about, but very seldom seen.

After 6 flights, 11 B&Bs, 6 hotels, 8500 road miles, 200 pints (probably more), 7 letters to the royal family, 13 carefully crafted costumes, 1 quadruple vodka shot (never again), 3 naked photos in the British Naturism Magazine, 1079 speculative emails, and countless pleading Facebook statuses ‘does anyone have any contacts in the ___ world?’, Lucy now has 26 ceremonious ticks on her whiteboard. An A – Z of British subcultures...and you get to read about all of them!

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  • Lucy Leonelli avatar

    Lucy Leonelli

    Lucy Leonelli is a Partner in the Global Executive Search Firm Wilton & Bain, where she leads the firms West Coast operations.

    Born in 1985, she spent her childhood in Bristol sitting on the ground and refusing to walk any further, on all fours as her alter ego 'Uffie' the dog, and playing the Double Bass, very, very badly. She has since lived in London, Northern Australia, Southern Portugal, Denver and California. Playing women's rugby and exercising racehorses while she was supposed to be studying, Lucy somehow holds a First Class Hons BA in Philosophy from the University of Exeter and Denver University combined. She is also a certified NLP Practitioner, a guest lecturer at Columbia University and a graduate of City University, London in Narrative Non-fiction Writing.

    Now an avid acapella singer and board game player, Lucy lives in San Francisco with her husband Mathieu and T-Rex the Corgi.

  • N is for… Naturism

    “Sometimes my willy pops over someone’s chair and hits them in the back when I am squeezing past. It’s inevitable.”

    I’m not being the first one out there,” my friend Tori declares as she scurries over to the peephole to scout the corridor for naked bodies. She squashes her nose against the door and glues her eye to the small bead of glass.

    “Oh my God,” she says, spinning her head around to beam at me, her face alive with tipsy excitement – “a willy!”

    And why, I hear you ask, was Tori so excited about seeing a willy?

    Rewind the scene an hour, and we are standing in the lobby of a famous water park in the North of England, our senses assaulted by the smell of chlorine and the glaring aquarium- themed wallpaper. I look around the room, trying to imagine the scene when ‘Clothing Optional’ commences in less than an hour. Oh God. Less than an hour. A feeling of dread washes over me and I seem to have forgotten how to breathe.

    “It’ll be fine,” Tori tries to reassure me in voice two octaves above her usual pitch, her blond hair framing an increasingly reddening face.

    I reach for Tori’s hand as we walk up to the welcome desk.

    “We’re here for the Naturist weekend,” I manage to squeak, convinced that the young, fully clothed reception workers are inwardly laughing at us. I feel an overwhelming urge to tell them all that we aren’t actual Naturists, but I had made Tori promise that we wouldn’t do that on the drive up. “No disclaimers,” we agreed. That would be cowardly.

    According to the British Naturist (BN) website, there are as many as four million naturists in the UK, 10,000 of whom are signed up as members of the national organisation. We will be spending the weekend with 420 of their most active members, here to enjoy an annual holiday of ‘fun, in a non-judgemental environment’.

    After check-in, we head straight for the bar, a novelty Caribbean-themed room with a warm stone floor, wicker furniture and fake palm trees. The air is sticky, and there is a buzz of anticipation in the air as people mingle from group to group, hugging and shaking hands. We order a bottle of wine to numb the awkwardness of our impending de-robing session and take it up to our room.

    15 minutes and four glasses of wine later, we both set to work lowering expectations before the big exposé, describing the intricate details of our anatomy to each other in preparation for what was about to be unveiled, like school kids sheepishly saying, “it’s not very good” before revealing their art projects. We take it in turns to remove one layer at a time, our nautical themed hotel room – complete with bunk beds and SpongeBob SquarePants welcome packs – providing a surreal backdrop for our platonic striptease.

    Once naked, we begin to fire panicked questions at each other: what do we do with our phones? Do we wear shoes? What if I have to bend down to pick something up? We wrestle with these questions as 6pm approaches.

    Cue the peephole ‘willy’ scene.

    By 6:03pm we are walking down the corridor, completely naked but for compulsory towels around our necks, our social norms shattered, and our dignity left somewhere in the discarded pile of clothes under our bunk beds.

    According to our research, the first rule of naturism is to always carry a towel, for hygiene reasons in case you want to sit down. We also discover, to our delight, that they make convenient boob covers for nervous first-timers.

    We walk past the cartoon fish wallpaper lining the corridor, trying to avoid looking at each other to maintain our poise. At the end of the hallway, we call the lift, which takes approximately four months to arrive, and bundle into it next to a couple who look to be in their 60’s. He wears nothing but a pair of Crocs, carrying his first-rule-of-naturism towel and a newspaper in his weathered hand. She wears a pearl necklace, her hair in a neat bun behind her head. They grin at us.

    “Hi,” I raise my voice to be heard over the blaring Captain Pugwash lift music.

    “Hello!” the ladies smile widens. “Lovely day isn’t it? I can’t remember the last time we had such a sunny November.”

    Read more...
  • 2nd October 2019 According to the Evening Standard, one-third of British adults 'still sleep with childhood teddy'

    There's lovely.

    ... and by some mad coincidence, FOMO is now one-third of the way up that steep ole’ crowdfunding mountain! Or, to put it another way, if each one of you lovely people who has supported the book so far were able to persuade 3 of your friends/ family/ long-lost acquaintances to support the book as well, FOMO would be at 100% funding, and all of the ridiculous rewards would be on…

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  • Richard Taylor
    Richard Taylor asked:

    If we pledge to support the ebook, will our names still be put in the back of the book?

    Lucy Leonelli
    Lucy Leonelli replied:

    Hi Richard, Thanks for the question. The ebook is the only pledge level that doesn't include your name in the back of the book as standard. The next level up, which is paperback, does offer this for an additional 5 GBP. If you would like your name in the back, but prefer the format of an ebook, please go ahead and pledge for the paperback, and message me at lucyleonelli@gmail.com and we can change your order to an ebook in the back end, whilst ensuring your name is also included. Many thanks for the question, and for considering pledging. Lucy