It is said we should not judge a book by its cover, nor a day by its weather. Well whoever said that never spent a week in Fiji during a tropical monsoon. Bad weather blows. It kills a romantic walk on the beach, it cancels once-in-a-lifetime adventures, but worst of all, it infects you with the “if only’s”. If only it wasn’t raining, we’d go boating to those the islands. If only it wasn’t hailing, we’d be able to spend the day at the beach. And my most frequent, and personal favourite “if only it wasn’t a washed-out mudpit, this outdoor music festival might actually rock.” On a recent trip to New Zealand, bad weather cancelled four straight days of adventure, including hot air ballooning, heli-hiking, canyoning, and a scenic flight through the Siberia Valley. I will never get the chance to do them again. Kick and scream all you want about disasters with hotels and airlines, but bad weather has no customer service line. You can't blame a celestial travel agent. Fortunately, there is a way out, a pill that makes it easier to swallow.
Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling Upon Happiness, talks about perceived happiness vs. actual happiness. Scientifically, your brain cannot tell the difference between actual happiness, and when you tell yourself that you are in fact, happy. Self help gurus throughout the ages got it right when they advised that being positive has a powerful effect on our reality. Everyone knows that weather is out of our control. How we choose to deal with it is not. My own mantra is: Wherever you are, is where you’re supposed to be. I’m not to the first nut to crack that open, but the message applies particularly to travel. So many decisions, so many roads to choose, so little time to choose them in. The best bet is to make a decision, shrug off that which you have no control over, and move forward. Looking back, as the Bible so graphically illustrates, turns people into salt.
If the weather sucks, and you’re in a city, fear not. If you have time, play with your itinerary, so that day for shopping at the end moves up. Most cities have excellent museums, restaurants or pubs you’ve never heard, or wouldn’t think about visiting. Bad weather is an excuse to ask locals what they would do. I was once washed out in the Malaysian city of Khota Baru. The beaches were a no go. When life deals you rain, wear a raincoat. I explored the streets, wet as they were, and discovered hole-in-the-wall eateries serving some of the best food I’ve ever had. I remember the frustration of that day, walking around looking for salvation, and finding it in a bowl of saucy nasi kander. I wonder if I would remember a typical day on the beach as much as I remember finding that meal, and chatting with the friendly locals who served it.
Rained out on a beach is not as simple. No museums, limited shopping and restaurants. Take a breath. Travel is a go-go-go affair, but it also coincides with something we call a holiday. Relax. Recharge. Sleep in, guilt free. Read a book, take an afternoon nap. Rained in for a few days in Goa, I managed to find a little shack selling DVD’s. I watched the Godfather trilogy start to finish, read a book about Hinduism, ate at the closest fish shack. Emerging from my shell, I felt happier, wiser, and eager to connect with other travellers. Bad weather might keep you from the beach, but it has a habit of bringing people together.
Life is not a tourist brochure. It was never supposed to be one. Very often, the best moments of a journey are not planned, falling outside the lines and beyond the borders of our expectations. Wherever your journey takes you, acknowledge that each day is a gift, and can be opened up to reveal something special. Rain or shine.
Please come in. Mahalo for removing your shoes.
After many years running a behemoth of a blog called Modern Gonzo, I've decided to a: publish a book or eight, and b: make my stories more digestible, relevant, and deserving of your battered attention.
Here you will find some of my adventures to over 100 countries, travel tips and advice, rantings, ravings, commentary, observations and ongoing adventures.