In defense of rainy days -- why drizzle shouldn’t ruin travel
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that rain ruins holidays.
Not the prancing, pouting Korean pop phenomenon. Though no doubt he too has wrecked a road trip or three.
I mean lower-case rain, the water that falls from the sky and turns normal people into whimpering abjections cowering under their umbrellas as if frizzy hair is a sign that you a) are ugly, b) have a bad boyfriend who won’t buy you the US$45 rainproof hairspray and c) can’t afford a taxi.
Shock. Horror. Shudder.
Granted, getting wet when you would prefer to stay dry can be a nuisance.
So as I type this watching the fog roll into Hong Kong, listening to the rain spatter against the window, seeing the multi-colored hexagons 33 floors down bumping and spinning across the road, I understand why people hate it.
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And when shoppers run for cover as if every drop that falls upon their Gucci bags means a Hello Kitty line of merchandise dies, I'm only half serious when I hope to God they slip over and writhe around in a puddle for an age because their heels are too high for easy standing. And that's just the men.
But travelers have no excuse.
Rain is not a reason to run
Too often people returning from holiday lament: “The first few days were great, but then it rained."
As if the ruins of Machu Picchu or the swathes of verdant paddy in Bali or the architecture of Paris is suddenly unexceptional because of a little drizzle.
It's time to overturn this defeatist, mollycoddled belief.
Rain isn't a bore. It isn't a reason to sit around the hotel room watching “Baywatch” in Portuguese.
Rain is great. Rain is invigorating. Rain gives us scenes like these.
The people of Mawsynram in northeast India don’t mope about all day despite being subjected to the highest level of rainfall in the world.
“Going to Extremes” author Nick Middleton described the sound of the rain hitting the village huts in Mawsynram like golf balls cascading onto corrugated iron.
I may get trench foot, and a little tinnitus, but that’s something I’d love to hear.
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Where would we be if Raleigh, Columbus, Scott et al had stayed home because of inclement conditions?
OK, backtrack -- Scott probably could have done with a better weatherman.
But I’m not talking about hurricanes or floods or other destructive forces.
I'm talking about regular rain, the everyday stuff, the scattered showers and light sprinkles that feed flowers, create waterfalls and produce that amazing smell from the soil, yet have gained a reputation as vacation killers.
The most maligned weather phenomenon
Perhaps I can blame Woody Allen.
I recall him on a chat show years ago enthusing how rain was his favorite weather.
It matched his permanently dismal mood, he said. He found comfort in its grayness; was soothed by its all-enveloping bleakness.
And Hollywood in turn has vilified rain by casting it as the backdrop to every scene that’s misanthropic (that river scene in “Cape Fear”), or menacing (Roy Batty’s final words in “Blade Runner”), or unwatchably embarrassing (that “I do” scene in “Four weddings and a Funeral”).
Even Gene Kelly is singing despite the rain. Why can’t he sing because of the rain?
At the very least, this "California dew" is no reason to cancel plans.
Because if that’s what you do every time the heavens open, you’ll miss out on:
-- Goa during monsoon, when the place becomes lush with leaves, the trees glow green having been washed of a year’s worth of dust and the waves crash against the rocky coast as if in a painting.
-- The Lake District in England, where scraping the mud from your boots and shaking the water from your sodden head make that pint of ale by the fireside in the village pub all the more warming.
-- Mt. Waialeale on Kauai in Hawaii, which, despite Hawaii’s beach-and-surf rep, is one of the wettest places in the world.
Rainy places are worthy of your tourist dollars too.
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Returning to Jane Austen, who wrote the first six words of this article -- she would agree with psychologists who say it’s perfectly natural to feel less bouncy when it rains.
More than once rain forces Austen’s characters into shelter, recoiling from the elements as if it would melt the buckles from their breeches.
And no doubt there is something about a rainy day that will make even the most ebullient extrovert look inwards for a few moments.
But I say there’s room for fun when it rains that doesn’t involve DVDs or playing cards or latex.
There is room for that childish sense of joy and discovery you get splashing around in a puddle, that, ultimately, is what travel is all about.
After all, it's only water.
Rain -- love or hate? Tell us about your rainy-day thoughts in the comments below.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of James Durston