There comes a point when you have to think to yourself: "Is this really a holiday? Have I really paid money to do this?"
It's around the time you're hiking through wind and sleet, icicles clinging to your hair, melting snow trickling down your back and chest in icy rivulets, the cold of a long day seeping deep into your bones. And I actually shelled out cash to do this?
It's around the time you're staring at grass-covered hills that should be laden with snow; when you're clinging to a boat tackling towering waves; when you're schlepping around a city that should be quite pleasant while covered in dust-caked sweat.
Weather: sometimes it just sucks. Sometimes despite all of your best-laid plans, mother nature strikes. Sometimes your holiday gets ruined, through no fault of your own, by rain or snow, by sun or wind. And there's nothing you can do about it.
I've always loved the Crowded House song Weather with You, not just because of the tune, but because of the sentiment: everywhere you go, always take the weather with you.
I'm sure there's some deeper, metaphorical meaning to Neil Finn's lyric, but to me, as a traveller, it's just about weather, about sunshine, about clouds, about rain. And everywhere I go, I want to take it with me. Good weather. Ideal weather. Perfect weather.
Of course, that doesn't always happen. It hasn't always happened. I've had plenty of trips affected by bad weather. These aren't so much natural disasters as natural annoyances: some have been minor, others have been complete write-offs, but it's the unavoidable aspect of meteorological happenings that ties them together.
I wouldn't go on a ski trip with me. I seem to have terrible luck when it comes to snow conditions: every mountain I go to, people are telling me about how amazing it was just last week, and how there's a blizzard predicted for the week after. Shame you won't be here.
I've ridden sticky slush in Whistler; I've skied through pouring rain in Austria. I turned up in Thredbo once and there just wasn't any snow. Nothing. It was a beautiful, grassy hill, with a whole lot of disappointed package-holiday ski bums hanging out at the base getting drunk.
And then I've been in Tekapo, in New Zealand, way outside of ski season, and been snowed in when a freak storm hit and buried the town in a couple of metres of powder. Three days I ended up stranded there, wading back and forth to the corner store each day to buy more pasta and wine.
I've had hiking holidays ruined, too. I've been in Peru when the weather has changed, when the sun has become dense cloud, when the cool mountain air has become needle-sharp sleet and hail. There's only so much your wet-weather gear can do in a situation like that. You just have to plough on, hoping to see the lodge around the next corner.
I've also taken multiple houseboat holidays that have gone wrong, when we've been hit with rain and storms, when unseasonable cold weather has turned dreams of sunbaking on the deck into the harsh reality of getting from A to B on a largely unseaworthy vessel in the pouring rain. I've run aground because I couldn't see anything. I've sat up on deck shivering through five layers of clothing as I've tried to steer.
As a traveller, there's almost nothing worse than when this sort of thing happens. You can't claim bad weather on insurance. You can't complain to the travel company to give you a refund. You can't try your trip again for free.
Your money is gone. Your holiday is gone. That's it. All you can do is roll with the punches, put it down to bad luck, decide that next time you travel you won't take a risk on a shoulder season, or you'll put more research into the likelihood of monsoonal storms, or you'll just hope that lightning, literally, doesn't strike twice.
You also have to enjoy what you have when bad weather hits. This is, after all, the perfect time to bond with your fellow travellers, to laugh at the ridiculousness of your situation, to establish camaraderie over your shared hardship.
I've made some great friends on doomed hiking trips; I've had plenty of good times on terrible snow days. You just stay inside. You drink. You have a laugh. You all ask each other, "Have we really paid to do this?"
Yep. This is your holiday. And there's nothing much you can do about it.
Have you had a holiday spoiled by bad weather? How did you deal with it?
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