The Rainy Days of Long-Term Travel


I think we’ve all been there. Lots of small things are going wrong and then you knock your funny bone on the corner of the table and suddenly you’re sure that the world is collapsing around your ears. Personally, I prefer things to go spectacularly wrong because then, when it’s all said and done, you can sit back, down a beer (or two or three depending) and be thankful that you’re still alive and have all your extremities more or less intact. Plus, you get a great story (or, hypothetically, a blog post). Everyone loves reading about the narrowly averted disaster–the almost plane crash, for example, or the time the photocopy machine burst into flames at the worst possible moment.

However, no one likes reading about the time you poured sour milk into your coffee and lost your keys ALL IN THE SAME MORNING, which makes these kinds of problems even more upsetting. When something really minor goes wrong and I feel shitty about it, I find myself thinking “wow, it’s really lame that you feel shitty about this, no one is going to feel the least bit sorry for you” and then I feel even shittier. It’s a positive feedback loop of doom. Consequently, I have laughed off broken bones but dissolved into total hysterics over a broken spoon.

Here I am, with my broken spoon in Puerto Montt, Chile, after I got my shit together and stopped bawling (like, two days after breaking the spoon):


Basically, the past four days have been full of minor-in-the-whole-scheme-of-things problems and they are adding up and making me all GRRRRR. So, partially for your entertainment and partially for cathartic purposes, I’ve compiled a list.


  • I stalled the car just when I thought I was getting the hang of driving stick with my left hand.
  • It rained.
  • I bought a new brand of coffee and it tasted like dish detergent.
  • We were supposed to go swimming with dolphins but our tour was cancelled due to inclement weather. (Editor’s note: the author realizes how ridiculous it sounds to be complaining about this and hopes you forgive her.)
  • We didn’t know above tour was canceled and thus got up at 6am for no reason.
  • On multiple occasions, I failed to eat at appropriate times and became “hangry.”
  • It rained more.
  • It hailed and some of it got into our tent.
  • I shut the back door of the car and dumped water all over myself and my only pair of pants.
  • Every piece of warm clothing I owned became either damp or completely sopping.
  • It suddenly became winter.
  • We ate cold oatmeal for breakfast five days in a row.
Eating cold oatmeal in the shelter of some bushes. My life is awesome.

Eating cold oatmeal in the shelter of some bushes. My life is awesome.

  • The sun disappeared, presumably for the rest of eternity (or at least the rest of the week).
  • Our ferry to the North Island was delayed due to high winds.
  • Our ferry to the North Island proceeded in spite of high winds and forty-foot swells.
  • I vomited in front of 40 strangers and then spent the rest of the trip sitting on the deck in sub-freezing temperatures.
  • It continued to rain in Wellington and we couldn’t afford to stay in a hostel because hostels in New Zealand are actually hotels in disguise and that is super annoying because we both could really have used a hot shower.
  • My DSLR stopped working and apparently needs to be sent back to Canon for repairs and unfortunately that takes over a month in New Zealand so I will have to spend fuck-knows-how-much to ship it back to the states.
  • I spent 300 dollars on a waterproof point and shoot camera because a) the rain doesn’t seem like it is ever going to stop and b) I’m a blogger so I need a camera but did I mention I am feeling GRRRRRRR.
  • The gate to our free campground was locked at 8 pm and we arrived at 8:20 so we had to drag our sleeping bags and pads and tent over a fence in the dark and it was, you guessed it, POURING.
  • We left the lights on in our car for FIVE MINUTES and got yet another “flat battery.”
  • We tried to eat lunch in a picnic shelter but the rain was going sideways so we had to bail to the nearest available shelter, which happened to be a public toilet. (And if eating lunch in a park bathroom isn’t hitting rock bottom, I don’t know what is.)

Here is Macky making a sandwich in the toilet, and also, incidentally my first photo with the new camera. Thank goodness I got the waterproof version, RIGHT?!?!


So, there you go. That was my week. Not nearly as entertaining as a proper disaster, but realistically, most of the problems we face as long-term travelers are not proper disasters and they make lousy stories and even worse blog posts (forgive me for this one, okay?). Most of these problems are small and annoying and we feel bad complaining about them because we’re supposed to be living the life, right? And we ARE living the life–sometimes it just bears an annoying resemblance to normal life.

And it’s always a learning experience…

For example, I learned how to roll start a car and that I really shouldn’t waste nine dollars on homeopathic seasickness medicine and also that I must be dating the nicest man on earth because anyone else would have strangled me in my sleep three days ago and made it look like an accident. And, also on the bright side, I thought of a great joke while barfing my guts out on the ferry. It goes like this:

Q: “What did the seasick sailor say when asked how he was doing?”
A: “Knot swell.”

And now things are starting to look up–just as we were finishing our toilet lunch, a friend texted us to say he was home from work early because of the weather and he thought maybe we would want to come over and shower and do our laundry and, hey, why not just join them for dinner and sleep on their couch, because gee, you guys look pathetic. And for the record, this friend is getting married in six days and is still willing to accept unexpected and decidedly soggy guests. Have I mentioned that people are awesome?

How do you deal when things start to go wrong during long-term travel? Obviously, I need your suggestions!

Syd Schulz

Pro mountain biker.

Average human.

I write about bikes and life and trying to get better at both.

more here

20 thoughts on “The Rainy Days of Long-Term Travel

  1. Hahaha – HANGRY – perfect. What an Awfully good post. Turn that frown upside down and remember you are on a grand adventure that few get to experience. Just having a car to stall or food to get cold is more than some. Great Post – which is the real reasons we have crappy experiences…to write these great posts.

    • Haha thank you for this comment Greg, you are the best! And you’re totally right. I am very very lucky! And I recognize that most of the time…just….there are those times…

  2. Your story reminded me of my week – so many little things going wrong that I ended up in tears when my deodorant leaked in my desk drawer at work! Silly, but true. These things happen whether away (like you) or at home (like me), and I handle it the same way. I let myself sulk a little bit, then move on :)

    I hope things start going better for you

    • It’s true–definitely happens to me at home too. I would say sometimes even more often. The benefit of being home, of course, is that you aren’t usually soaking wet.

  3. Hi! New reader. :)

    I agree – we’ve absolutely all been there. There’s no shame in having all the little things add up into one craptastic day. It’s life! And it sounds like you certainly had a rough couple of days. Ah, the joys of travel ;)

    I find that going for a run helps me blow off steam when I’m feeling overwhelmed during travel. Or Skyping/emailing someone from home.

  4. Gosh rain really does ruin all the fun doesn’t it? Hey if my tour was cancelled and couldn’t see dolphins I’d be sad and a tad whiny too.. hope it starts drying up and things get better for you guys!

  5. Yarg, I hope you’re feeling better. I get what you mean tho’ at least when its one big thing its done and over, but when shitty things keep happening its still there– and that’s okay!
    If it were me I’d still book into any cheap or a campsite with decent showers and get a hot shower at least.

  6. Oh maaan, being hangry is the worst ever!! I got really hangry just yesterday and had to eat a massive white sweet bun cake the size of my head to compensate for it. It seems so silly, yet it just happens.. I totally understand all of these small problems that really burn you out when travelling.

  7. I guess you have to try and consciously change your mindset, otherwise you’re going to be miserable and reinforce all the bad things that are happening. Like, one of our low points was traipsing around Naples in the midday heat with our packs trying to find the place we were staying at. Ended up with things being thrown and breaking and there were very nearly tears… Sometimes you just gotta pivot I guess and do something different or if it’s near nighttime, call it a day and plan for a clean slate tomorrow.

    • That is so true. The logistics of travel can really get to you–you just have to remember to step back and see the remarkable place you’re in! Or, go to sleep and try again tomorrow. haha.

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