How to Travel, Rain or Shine

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 Tofino during an atmospheric river. 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 amongst 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 mud pit, this outdoor music festival might actually rock.” I recall a trip to New Zealand where bad weather cancelled four straight days of adventure, including hot air ballooning, heli-hiking, canyoning, and flight-seeing. I will never get the chance to do them again, and I can’t blame a travel agent. Kick and scream all you want about disasters with hotels and airlines, but bad weather has no customer service line. Fortunately, there is a way out, or at least, a pill that makes it easier to swallow.

Harvard professor of psychology Dan Gilbert, author of the seminal Stumbling Upon Happiness, talks about perceived happiness versus 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. Mid-way through my year-long solo round the world adventure to 24 countries, I had the epiphany that 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. Switch around your itinerary, so that day for shopping at the end moves up and your day for exploring the parks moves to the end. 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, and anything that gives you an excuse to interact with locals suddenly becomes a very good thing. When life deals you rain, wear a raincoat. I’ve often explored the soaked streets of Canadian cities and towns and discovered weird attractions, or a hole-in-the-wall restaurant serving amazing food and wilder characters. Poor weather cancelled iceberg and whale watching trips when I got to Twillingate, Newfoundland. I wonder if I would remember a package boat tour as much as I remember meeting a local at the bar, getting invited for a ride on his boat, and heading out into a storm to make my bucket list iceberg cocktail.

Rained out on a beach vacation is not as simple. No museums, limited shopping and restaurants. Take a breath. Travel is a go-go-go affair, but it can coincides with something we call a holiday. Relax. Recharge. Sleep in, guilt free. Read a book, take an afternoon nap. I was once caught up in a monsoon in Goa, India. I managed to find a little shack selling knock-off DVD’s. I watched long epic trilogies, read a book about Hinduism, ate at the closest fish shack. Emerging from my shell, I felt happier, wiser, and ready to explore with new friends I’d met in a similar boat. 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 it can reveal something special. Rain or shine.

Great Canadian Bucket List