Timing is a thing both simple and complex. In travel, we simultaneously look at the scope of the entire world as well as the individual traveling. Both of these factors must be understood in order to begin to understand rhythm and timing as it applies to travel. The understanding of rhythm may be the most difficult and most important concept to grasp in all arts. For example, there are a limited amount of musical notes, but perhaps an infinite amount of ways to play them. Claude Debussy said that music was the space between the notes. An understanding of this may have been the primary thing that separated Salieri from Mozart. It may have been what separated Muhammad Ali from Ernie Terrell. It could be what separates your dream vacation from your nightmare experience overseas.
First, let’s consider the aspect of when to go. In both hemispheres, generally speaking, winter and summer dictate the prices to travel to destinations. The seasons also, to an extent, dictate your range of experiences when you get there. Most often, winter is cheaper than summer, yet winter usually limits the ability to travel and what there is to do once you are there. If only it was as simple as that. Already though, we begin to see how the world moves on an axis that has a predictable rhythm like a heart beat or a single, long breath. Let’s take the breath comparison for example and apply it to time. Over a year, you breathe all the way in like the summer solstice and then all the way out like the winter solstice. You also can’t forget that we have two hemispheres where this is acting in just the opposite way. Look more closely and you’ll realize it gets even more complex.
Towards the equatorial center of the earth, there are vast regions that vary just from hot and wet to hot and dry. Let’s not forget the monsoon/hurricane/typhoon season the worst of which in Australia runs from December to early March and in the Caribbean from July to October. It seems to sweep across all of Asia starting in India in June and pounding all the way through to Japan to hit the peak of Typhoon season in mid-September. We are still talking vast expanses of geography though. I was once in Jamaica for the second half of May and it rained a lot. I could not figure it out. I kept saying to the locals that I thought it wasn’t supposed to rain until September. I got laughed at. A lot. I guess May and June are the months when Jamaica gets most of its rain. Then there’s Vietnam. Ever see ‘Forest Gump‘? If so, remember when Forest was in Vietnam and “one day it started to rain and it didn’t quit for four months?” I’m not sure which four months Mr. Gump was talking about, but I’m pretty sure that September and October were two of them. It seems to me, that Southeast Asia starts later and ends later than the rest of Asia in terms of its Monsoon season. Of course, I also remember Mr Gump said, “Sometimes it would stop raining long enough for the stars to come out… and then it was nice.” Even the worst seasons will almost always have their good days.
For some places, the worst time to go is the best time to go. Here, in Colorado, your best odds of having the weather shut down the Airport is December and January. Yet, after a storm in these months is when the skiing and boarding is sweetest. Sultry Japan tends to dry out starting in mid-winter making it not such a bad time to go there at all. March and September will give you the best odds of seeing the northern lights in Alaska.
I’m sure you can see where this is going. The scope gets smaller and smaller; from the whole world and every one in it, to wherever you are going at what specific time. All of these things have to be considered. I remember a friend of mine telling me about wandering through Carcasonne, the walled, medieval city in France, in November with almost no one around. My own experience in Carcasonne was in summer waking up at dawn and it seemed magical at first. Then the tour buses rolled in, it got crowded and it seemed like a tourist trap. My friend, who went on a day that was drab, dull and cold in November got to wander around all day and was even able to see King Clovis standing above the walls with a sea of barbarian warriors at his gates. It’s not that hard to see this sight when the place is quiet, but in the summer when it’s crawling with tourists? Not so easy.
All of these aforementioned examples simply demonstrate how timing can affect your trip. If you are journeying somewhere, consider why you are going and take a minute to figure out what the best general time to go is; not only in terms of season and climate, but also in terms of what you want to do and see. To understand timing in regards to when to go, you must examine yourself and also examine carefully your destination. The Ryokoudoka may walk out a front door with no plan, but being ready for anything is more advanced for most people. In my opinion, it is a good idea to study your destination carefully before deciding when to go.
IMAGE VIA: justaslice on Flickr