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When we first left on our long trip (now 18 months and counting), one of the things in the forefront of our mind was the weather. In the UK, where it is more often than not, wet and cold, including during summer. When blue sky days are few and far between, getting away to the sun is a lot of people’s obsessions. I think a yearly trip abroad to sunnier climes literally keeps some folk sane. I know I was one. I have shunned more interesting locations simply to try to ensure some bright days and the sun’s rays.
Everything always seems better when it’s sunny. While I don’t deny that some things are improved, I also think we have a slightly rose tinted view of hot weather because we can generally relate it to positive things – being on holiday where you’re not working and so are relaxed, with people you love and generally treating yourself. On those rare sunny days at home that fall on a weekend, generally the world is a happy place – everyone gets outside if they can – to the beach, to the park or in the backgarden for a barbecue. You get together with friends, you relax and have a jolly old time. Ergo, sun = fun.
Now, firstly, let me tell you, from harsh experience, there is no such thing as guaranteed sun, no matter what the glossy holiday brochures tell you. We travelled to New Zealand and Australia during their summer months and the majority of those months we spent either cold, wet or both. The worst summer they’d had in a 100 years or something. How unfair is that?
Well, that’s what I kept trying to talk myself out of thinking. Apart from the fact it was just plain disappointing, it also majorly affected our plans. We couldn’t live in the tiny camper we’d booked because we couldn’t live half outdoors when the rain is pelting down outside. The campsites were always a fair distance from anything so you’d either have to get drenched or get taxis. We opted for the getting drenched to cut costs. Not one Aussie barbie was had. The outdoorsy lifestyle just doesn’t work in the rain. Unlike most things in life, however, it’s pretty impossible to blame anyone or anything for bad weather. You have to just let that one go.
Aside from our antipodean climate misfortune, we also have found negative sides to travelling when we have been blessed with a blazing sun. It goes back to that perfect holiday scenario. A blazing sun is divine when you are sat by a pool or the sea, with a cool drink and can pop back to your beautifully air conditioned room once all the lazing around gets too much for you. A blazing sun is not so much fun if you are in a small guesthouse room with either a faulty air-con, none at all or worst of all, during a power cut. Nor is it fun when you have to walk a mile up the road to the nearest shop just to stock up on water to keep you alive. In terms of being a digital nomad, that idyllic lifestyle, well it can be quite tough to maintain your brain in full working order in extreme heat. The heat can make you tired and lethargic, so it’s difficult to keep on top of your game and certainly to keep up with enthusiasm and fresh ideas.
I’m by no means moaning about the fact that I am having such a terrible time travelling around the world – I know, especially if you’re in a cold climate right now, that you’d likely be wanting to throw something at me if I was. I’m merely talking about this, because these experiences have made me realise something about sunny weather and our constant quest for it.
It’s not so much the sun itself that brings the joy. Yes, that vitamin D does us the world of good and anywhere and anything lit up in sunlight becomes more attractive and colourful. But I think the thing that really makes us most happy is the things we do when the weather is good.
Think back to my description of the holiday and the sunny weekend day. There are two key factors that occur:
1. We go outside
It is healthy to go outside – all that fresh air and you’re generally being more physical than you would be sat on your sofa inside the house. Playing games, turning the sausages on the barbecue, having a water fight, or maybe just reaching over to the cooler to get another beer. There is nature around you, even if you just have a bit of dry lawn and a half dead plant in a pot, there’ll be things buzzing and chirping. Being outside is just, well, dead nice.
2. We spend time with our friends and family.
Indoors, we often end up doing separate activities. Someone’s at the table writing, someone’s on the sofa watching TV, the kids are in their bedrooms. In the good weather you’re more likely to go outside together. OK, a the teenager might take a little coaxing out of their room, but the smell of the barbecue usually does it. Friends become like magnets in the good weather – people you might not have seen for ages appear and every pub or restaurant garden becomes full to the brim. You can even stumble on other friends from other groups as well as making new ones.
Chores or tasks that may have seemed important before, get oh so easily dropped in favour of getting out and making the most of it. I’m sure this is true all over, but it is especially true in countries dominated by bad weather as you really do have a sense of ‘this might be your only chance this year’ – even if it’s June. For any doubters from sunnier climates – I’m really not kidding here – I once missed a sunny two weeks in April and kicked myself forever more, when we didn’t get another decent day until September.
So, my point (yes I do have one) is that I’ve realised that yes, the sun is always lovely, but actually those happy feelings we associate so strongly with a sunny day, are often linked to what we do on that day. We make the effort. We get outside with people we love and have fun. So, maybe a lesson from this is that we can’t plan the perfect sunny day and rain can often put a dampener (literally) on things, but maybe we should get out more together. A grey day may feel a bit un-inspiring but if you get together with people and have a catch up and a laugh, you won’t even notice it. I don’t know why in autumn it’s only Halloween or Fireworks that get us outside in the evenings. The abundance of cheap patio heaters is revolutionary! Add some fairy-lights, mulled wine and a warming stew and you can have a magical time.
Visit that park in your town that you’ve never explored. I love to visit the parks in the places we go on our trip, but know that there’s some in my home town that I’ve never bothered to ventured out to. The reason I like these parks when travelling is that they are often a hub of people having a good time – the same is true at home so the more the merrier. People have been having picnics for centuries – long before all the clever camping equipment and gazebos were invented to make it all the more practical and comfortable. There was less at home to distract them of course, but the idea of going out for a picnic, a mini adventure, or even just to sit out in the back garden for a while seems to have waned in modern society. People plan these things when there’s a bank/public holiday and all the weight of expectation falls onto it not raining that day. Perhaps, especially in a country with unreliable weather, we should be more spontaneous. Let’s have a little outdoor fun on a monday night – I can hear the shocked, sharp intake of breath. You might feel tired but take your dinner outside and eat it on the lawn or the balcony – I bet after a little while of fresh air and chatter you’ll feel quite rejuvenated. I have realised that I used to blame so much on the weather but actually, it’s silly to wait for a perfect day to go outside and do something, do it anyway. Get old skool, get outside and have some fun!