Rain gets a bad rap when it comes to vacations. Yet rain has resulted in some of my favorite travel experiences. From a rained out beach weekend where I found unexpected pleasure in staying in bed and watching old movies, to another rained out beach weekend where I discovered a local arcade and spent an entire day playing skee-ball, I can thank the rain for some great memories:
……My trip to Machu Picchu could have been a disaster after massive rains flooded and destroyed access to the site just before my trip, and the government closed it until repairs were completed. But I went anyway and enjoyed exploring Cusco and the Sacred Valley with just a fraction of the tourists that would normally be there. And because of one rainy afternoon, I found myself at a cafe enjoying a cup of coffee with a llama.
……On a trip to London, my mother, sister, and I took a train to Stonehenge on a sunny day. But just after we arrived, the skies opened up and a deluge of cold rain and wind left us struggling to maintain control of our shared umbrella as the ground turned to mud and the earth seemed to want to swallow our shoes. Unable to hear the guide any longer, we turned to each other and burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of our situation. To this day, any mention of Stonehenge cracks us up.
……Ironically, my trips to Scotland were not as rainy as expected. However, while on a group tour there was one heavy rain that began just after we pulled over to enjoy a spectacular mountain view on the Isle of Skye. Most of the group quickly got back into the van, but three young men who had wandered off before the rain intensified did not return. They were gone for a long time, and our guide eventually left in search of them. I was sure something bad had happened, but a little while later all four returned, completely drenched and laughing. It was a memorable experience that resulted in beers and bonding by the end of the day.
……The forecast for a weekend visit to New York City called for sunshine the whole time. And yet I found myself navigating the streets in the middle of a downpour. I ducked into the first shop I saw selling umbrellas, and quickly purchased a clear umbrella with an “I LOVE NY” icon on it. I spent the rest of the day feeling very stylish with my umbrella as I popped in and out of shops and sights. It wasn’t until weeks later, back home and meeting a friend for lunch on a rainy day, that I realized that the umbrella actually said “NY LOVES ME”. My friend thought it was hilarious. I was embarrassed and annoyed that I had been misled by the display umbrella. But now I’ve come to laugh about it too, and truly hope that New York does indeed love me.
Of course, if all my trips were impacted by rain, maybe I wouldn’t find these experiences so amusing. But I don’t believe that rain ruins a trip. It often forces you to change plans, but this can lead to unexpected discoveries. It can create unplanned downtime, but this can be healthy. On a rainy trip to Napa, I found myself sleeping ten hours a night for four days straight. I didn’t realize how tired I had been until that point.
Rain causes us to recalculate, to reset, to reflect. It can be a conversation starter, a bonding experience, and yes, an absolute pain. But of all the trips I’ve taken where everything goes according to plan, it’s the ones where the plan goes awry that I remember the most. And more often than not, I can thank the rain.