Yes, folks, there’s a typhoon headed our way…again. Da Nang, Vietnam is forecast to be rocked by Mother Nature in T-minus five hours. And I’m ready. A few weeks ago there was rumor of a typhoon (complete with much stocking up of canned goods and beer) only for it to fizzle into heavy rain by the time it reached the coast. For most people, this is a good thing, but I was disappointed. I had been looking forward to sending home harrowing stories of swimming through city streets.
Having never actually been in a typhoon I assume they are a fun excuse to cuddle up indoors for a few days and then awaken to a wonderful new world of romantic canals and impromptu gondolas. I imagine calling for a canoe to paddle me around town once the storm is over. There might even be a parasol involved. And all the while that I am living comfortably in my post-typhoon water world I will be earning bragging rights for surviving a natural disaster. It’s surely a win-win.
Truth is I have no idea about typhoons. Right now it’s great to have a gray sky excuse to stay in bed and eat hunks of cheese, but Senor Typhoon best be on his way by tonight when my Halloween party starts. And I’d appreciate a few hours of let-up so I can take a walk on the beach. This might be a fun experience, so long as it doesn’t inconvenience me in any way.
Amazingly, I’ve found I’m not the only traveler with this ridiculous attitude; I’m not the only one who wants to dazzle friends back home with horrifying tales of life in the third world (without actually experiencing any discomfort). I would secretly love to be a refugee for a few days…as long as I had my own tent and comfortable sleeping bag. I would love to contract some exotic disease, as long as I felt better after an hour or two. Disaster stories have become the new shiny souvenirs of world travelers. Tourists take home t-shirts; travelers take home shipwrecks and malaria. These encounters with the extreme leave us feeling rugged, interesting and generally cool.
It goes back to the whole competition of who can out travel who. Tourists go to resorts; travelers go to mud huts. They seek out hardships just to prove they are tougher, stronger more genuine travelers than anyone else. There is a hierarchy of travel destinations that gives bonus points to places that have no running water or roads. This snobby mentality associates roughing it with attaining a more authentic experience.
It is, of course, idiotic. Travel shouldn’t be about creating conversation starters for back home. It shouldn’t be about one upping other people. It definitely shouldn’t be about delighting in the natural disasters that cause actual problems for the people living there.
Alright, alright, I’ve changed my mind. I hope the typhoon doesn’t come. What might be an “experience” for me could be a serious obstacle for the people who stand to have damaged property and damaged infrastructure. So with a heavy heart I say, Rain, rain go away…
*New Note: Apparently this is a real, actual typhoon coming, no parasols. Bigger than what’s going on in the Caribbean. So despite my a-hole irony, let’s all hope this one isn’t too messy. It looks like it will miss Da Nang but head straight into Hanoi. Send good thoughts to Vietnam!