Why you should worry less about the weather, especially when you travel

by on December 4, 2016 at 7:28 am in Philosophy, Travel, Uncategorized | Permalink

Here I am referring to your personal plans, not to climate change.  The weather can make your current circumstances seem more difficult or less pleasant.  But extreme weather also tends to make your memories of journeys stronger and more lasting (“…remember that time in Goa when the monsoon came earlier than anyone thought…”).  Since we overemphasize the maximization of current utility, and under-invest in the creation of significant memories, we worry too much about the weather.


1 Bill December 4, 2016 at 7:35 am

Well, perhaps we worry too much about short term weather, and not enough about long term weather. One is a short infrequent episode, and the other is….

The frog ultimately died in the pot of water whose temperature was slowly raised.

2 The Original Other Jim December 4, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Yes, but like man-made global warming, the frog is fictional.

3 Bill December 4, 2016 at 4:05 pm

Tell that to the frog.

Or, maybe its a Chinese frog.

4 Thomas December 4, 2016 at 6:57 pm

Why does it matter if the frog is Chinese? I am so tired of marginal Revolution racists.

5 Bill December 4, 2016 at 8:31 pm

It was a reference to a claim that global warming was a hoax perpetrated by China.

6 chuck martel December 4, 2016 at 7:45 am

The time to worry about weather is before getting into a small plane. Ultimately, we’re all responsible for our own safety. The overwhelming majority of small aircraft disasters are related to bad weather. If you find the conditions foreboding, don’t get in the plane. There’s always tomorrow.

7 Thiago Ribeiro December 4, 2016 at 8:03 am

“But extreme weather also tends to make your memories of journeys stronger and more lasting (‘…remember that time in Goa when the monsoon came earlier than anyone thought…’).”
And all had a good time during the Flood and spoke fondly of it afterwards.

8 Slocum December 4, 2016 at 9:17 am

There’s an old private pilot saying that goes something like, “90% of pilots killed in IFR conditions are buried on VFR days”

9 too hot for MR December 4, 2016 at 11:49 am

“Overwhelming majority”…come on man, this is flat false.

Part 91 operations for 2003-2007: total accident rate 6.7 per 100,000 hrs, weather-related 1.26.


10 chuck martel December 4, 2016 at 12:07 pm

The mountain slopes of Alaska and the Yukon are littered with wreckage of airplanes whose pilots couldn’t see where they were going or watched the ice build up on their wings. You can fly in bad weather but intelligent souls wait for the sun to come out.

11 too hot for MR December 4, 2016 at 12:11 pm

I agree with the sentiment. Though I will admit, to Tyler’s point, that my most amazing flying memories were most definitely related to bad decisions about weather.

12 Troll me December 4, 2016 at 1:59 pm

Interesting to think about, but my take was that he’s more thinking of a situation where you’re already on holiday, may or may not take some tour or visit a sign depending on weather.

He’s saying don’t let the weather stop you.

If it’s -20C and blizzarding and you’re thinking to fly 500 miles just to have a good ol’ chat with a friend while delivering some supplies that he needs some time in the next month or two … wait.

13 Noumenon72 December 4, 2016 at 7:38 pm

Aren’t you going to admit at all that he pwned your hyperbolic statistic?

14 Alan December 4, 2016 at 7:55 am

Remember that 2 couple holiday when it rained so much your wife was washed away by monsoon flooding? Oh, that sure was memorable; her screams as her fingers slipped through yours, the silence of a raging torrent as she went under. I know I’LL never for it, how about the you?

15 Tom T. December 4, 2016 at 7:07 pm

Ah, memories. For us what stands out is the food poisoning we got from the delightful little street vendor. I’m just glad I was able to shoot some video on my phone of my wife on the squat toilet; no one would believe me otherwise if I tried to describe the sounds she made.

16 Matt Flipago December 5, 2016 at 3:43 pm

Yeah, significant memories are not always good memories that you want.

17 Raimu December 4, 2016 at 7:57 am

Tell that to the Donner Party.

18 JWatts December 4, 2016 at 10:56 am

+48 ethnic cuisine

19 Thomas December 4, 2016 at 6:58 pm

.kek poT

20 Ray Lopez December 4, 2016 at 8:07 am

True, good post. I remember fondly being stuck in Moscow when it was during a record cold spell, and colder at the time than Siberia, and making giant steam clouds expelled by my lungs, the steam rising up about 20 feet and expanding. Or in Hong Kong this January when it was the coldest in 40 years. Or any August in Washington DC, especially (I hear) this year. As for the photo, it’s a routine rainstorm during the rainy season in southeast Asia (notice the tricycle at the far right, also known in Thailand as a “Tuk-Tuk”). And in the tropics, it’s *not* a ‘warm rain’. It’s freezing cold since your body becomes acclimated to hot weather.

21 rayward December 4, 2016 at 8:11 am

What Cowen is referring to is the human capacity for irrational fear of the future (soothsayers – and economists – have jobs because of the irrational fear of the future) while suffering from amnesia when it comes to actual experiences of the past.

22 Mr. Diggler December 4, 2016 at 12:19 pm

Why is your tangent now Tyler’s point of reference?

23 rayward December 4, 2016 at 12:36 pm

If Cowen could predict the future, he would not have written a book about the problem of complacency. For his sake (with all his travels), I hope he can predict the weather better than he can predict elections.

24 James December 4, 2016 at 8:20 am

I never take weather into account when deciding where to go (and when). Bad weather trips are often good trips–fewer crowds, off-season prices, unique experiences.

25 Troll me December 4, 2016 at 2:01 pm

There’s also the risk of being in an air-dry only country, in the wet season.

26 Thomas December 4, 2016 at 6:59 pm

Good one!!!!! Kill all white men. Rape Melania. I’m with her.

27 Jonathan December 4, 2016 at 8:39 am

“Conditional on surviving…” [Tyler’s post follows]

28 ladderff December 4, 2016 at 8:46 am

Yeah, climate change, definitely keep worrying about that.

29 The Original Other Jim December 4, 2016 at 3:09 pm

Yes. Don’t ever worry that your Dem candidate will lose the election. Worry more that your light bulb choice will cause monsoons.

[Get it? Hillary lost the election.]

[ I know you knew that, but I just really like typing it. ]

30 Thomas December 4, 2016 at 7:01 pm

Climate change is the most important thing ever. We will all die. Zero carbon nuclear energy is racist.

31 Cliff Asness December 4, 2016 at 9:05 am

But if we didn’t “over worry” then the experience wouldn’t be as poignant and the long term memory not as vital. We need to overdo the short term to create the long term.

Nobody ever says “remember that weather we were really calm, even blasé, about?”

Central planning loses again.

32 William Nowak December 4, 2016 at 4:24 pm


33 Thomas December 4, 2016 at 7:15 pm

We should forget all of our childhood memories because we had one or two adults doting over us, and we were never in serious Danger. Trust me a Harvard grad spent three seconds considering this idea.

34 Sol December 4, 2016 at 9:36 am

Every time I have driven to Toronto in the winter, an expressway has been closed down because of blizzard conditions while I was driving on it. While both white-knuckle driving experiences certainly were extremely memorable, I’m not sure those are the sort of memories I want to be creating? (Not to mention the risk involved, I must have passed 20+ cars in the ditch the first time it happened to me.)

35 Troll me December 4, 2016 at 2:10 pm

The expressways usually get almost immediate attention for salt trucks and plows.

It’s usually the smaller streets closer to the destination that are “closed” in such conditions, although you might not learn of this until 10 or 20 feet into the trap.

36 Chip December 4, 2016 at 9:56 am

I just spent some time living in a mountain chalet, where we had about two meters of snow in the last couple weeks. When you need to put on snow chains in the dark, fingers numb and blinded by a blizzard, you can get OCD when checking short term weather reports.

37 Not A Communist December 4, 2016 at 10:04 am

U=ln(w) or U=exp(w) or U=-w?

38 William Nowak December 4, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Perhaps U=- w^2?

39 William Nowak December 4, 2016 at 4:28 pm

err…rather, (w-c)^2.

That is, bad weather is memorable. Mediocre weather is mediocre. Good weather is good.

40 William Nowak December 4, 2016 at 4:29 pm

Actually…that’s a mistake.

How about U = (w-c)^2?

That is, bad weather is memorable. Mediocre weather is mediocre. Good weather is good.

41 dearieme December 4, 2016 at 10:40 am

Anyone who chooses to visit Queensland in “the wet” rather than the “dry” is off his head.

42 Ed December 4, 2016 at 11:18 am

Anybody know what this means?

“we overemphasize the maximization of current utility,”

43 Google translate December 4, 2016 at 12:08 pm

“I could say this in fewer words but this post is about signalling in various forms”

44 Ed December 4, 2016 at 12:17 pm


45 entirelyuseless December 4, 2016 at 1:16 pm

Tyler is pointing out that most of your happiness does not come from what is happening at the moment, but from your belief that your past and your future were and will be pretty good. Memory has a lot to do with this.

You could argue that this situation is absurd, and that your entire happiness should depend on the present moment and nothing else. But it isn’t that way, and more importantly, it wasn’t and won’t be.

46 Sam Haysom December 4, 2016 at 2:35 pm

No what Tyler is saying is that most of your happiness in life comes from post facto bragging. That’s a really unpleasant way to be, but is faily typical for nerdy libertarian types.

47 Thomas December 4, 2016 at 11:26 am

We worry about whether because it is a risk to our lives. Near-death experiences are probably quite memorable.

48 too hot for MR December 4, 2016 at 12:03 pm

This is more true if your idea of adventure is walking from adventurous eatery to adventurous eatery. Less true if you climb, hike, fly, sail.

49 Thomas December 4, 2016 at 12:09 pm


50 Sam Haysom December 4, 2016 at 2:36 pm

I don’t know those potholes in dingy strip malls can get pretty deep. When they fill with water look out.

51 Ace-K December 4, 2016 at 12:26 pm

When people worry about the weather on vacation, is “extreme” weather really what they worry about? You might not have trouble reminiscing about a monsoon, but who fondly reflects, “remember that time we were in Ireland and it drizzled for 14 days in a row?” “Remember when there was a heat wave in New Orleans and the air felt thick as tar?” “Remember that weekend in Nova Scotia when it was 45 degrees and windy the whole time?”

52 GoneWithTheWind December 4, 2016 at 12:52 pm

Many years ago when I was 19 a weather related event changed the way I look at travel or weather. Myself and two friends drove into Boston from the suburbs. We took two cars because I lived in a different city than the other two did. That night a blizzard hit and we decided to head for home. On the way home through the empty streets my car slid into a curb severely destroying the front suspension and I was only able to move it onto a side street and park it. Now I had to walk home, 18 miles, 1:30 in the Am and already six inches of snow with a cold wind and heavy snow falling. I had on a sports jacket slacks and penny loafers. I walked for a couple of miles and saw the first and only open business I would see that night, a gas station. I tried to get a cab, tried to get a tow truck but no one was going out in the blizzard. So I continued walking home. I saw no cars, trucks or busses in 18 miles until I reched the center of my little town. By then I was less than a mile from home and committed to now reach it on my own. At 7:30 I arrived home, two feet of snow by then, my shoes were frozen on my feet and my blue sports jacket was caked with white snow. I made it but I never left the house again without thinking about the weather and what I should wear or bring with me just in case. But you are right, it was memorable.

53 Sam Haysom December 4, 2016 at 1:00 pm

If you don’t organize your life around never ceasing efforts to out status your interlocutors (in other words if you got laid in high school) it’s best to just ignore Tyler’s advice. Basically this advice is completely ridiculous unless your only reason for travelling is the purported status points you’ll accrue from discussing your travels. Status content people don’t discuss trips they’ve been on years after they occurred.

There is affer all a reason that Tyler attracts so many low status hard left commenters. Tyler’s a life style guru for those types.

54 Troll me December 4, 2016 at 2:18 pm

Do you really buy into this status and signalling stuff that completely, or is it just a way for you to build in digs at whatever you don’t like but have no decent arguments against?

55 Troll me December 4, 2016 at 2:19 pm

Sorry for the troll.

I mean, it’s actually a real question.

I think you can tell which.

56 Ari December 4, 2016 at 1:11 pm

Someone should do a peer-reviewed paper on this!

57 Troll me December 4, 2016 at 2:23 pm

Tourism being one of the largest and most profitable industries on the planet, probably a hundred or thousand firms have already done so internally.

Why not have some quality points of reference on it in the public domain?

An obvious application: the “correct” surcharge for a refundable booking in case of inclement weather.

58 no joke is complete December 4, 2016 at 3:58 pm

without Nathan coming along to babble about it

59 Troll me December 4, 2016 at 4:01 pm

Did someone cut your time throwing sand at children in the sandbox at the neighbourhood park?

Must. Throw. Childish. Insults. At. Someone. Because I respect myself.

60 yeah sorry, that was mean December 4, 2016 at 4:20 pm

but still, if you could condense your remarks to your best two or three per day, that would be a massive favor to the rest of us

61 James McCammon December 4, 2016 at 2:37 pm

Reminds me of one of the questions they ask on the dating site OK Cupid, “Would you rather have good things or interesting things happen to you?”

62 Ricardo December 4, 2016 at 2:44 pm

Got to agree with “too hot for MR” on this. If your trip involves hiking a mountain, you definitely want to check on the weather situation first to avoid disappointment (if the park authorities close the trail right before you arrive) or a genuine danger. Likewise, if you are in a place like Indonesia or the Philippines and want to take a rickety boat out to one of the islands, you absolutely need to know the forecast for tropical storms. Even if you fly, your return flight might get cancelled and the ATM network may go offline during a severe storm, leaving you stranded and short of cash.

63 Steve Sailer December 4, 2016 at 5:55 pm

I played Pebble Beach Golf Links in a steady downpour in December 1973 and Spyglass Hill a couple of days later in beautiful sunshine. Even though Pebble is, objectively, a more spectacular course (Pebble had 8 holes on the ocean cliffs to none for Spyglass), I have more memories of playing Spyglass that week.

64 Steve Sailer December 4, 2016 at 6:01 pm

I would distinguish between spectacularly bad weather that can lead to amusing anecdotes and boringly bad weather that’s just depressing and forgettable. In the former category, I would put the time the CEO of my employer wanted me to play golf with him in a thunderstorm. On the fifth green, we were nearly killed by a near-miss lightning strike. That makes for a pretty good story, although I’d never want to do it again.

On the other hand, I could probably recall, if I tried really hard, dozens of rounds of golf that never got out of the clubhouse or ended after a few holes due to miserable conditions, but didn’t lead to any amusing anecdotes.

65 Steve Sailer December 4, 2016 at 6:15 pm

In northern latitudes, some kinds of spectacular bad weather, such as thunderstorms, occur mostly during the better weather months of the year, while during the worse weather months, most of the bad weather, other than the occasional massive blizzard, is just kind of boring.

66 Steve Sailer December 4, 2016 at 6:21 pm

I would advise tourists looking for primarily outdoor recreation to pay close attention to length of days. A trip in June in northern latitudes often gives you time to, say, sit out a thunderstorm and then get back outside before dark, because sunset comes very late. A trip in December in northern latitudes, in contrast, gives you only a short window of daylight each day, and thus a higher chance that the weather might be boringly miserable the whole trip.

67 chrisare December 4, 2016 at 11:14 pm

This would seem to hold for most continuous rarely lethal phenomenon.

Who could forget that mugging?! Only cost 200 bucks but left a lifetime of memories!

68 John Mansfield December 5, 2016 at 8:56 am

I’m reminded of the Conrad story Youth about sailing a shipload of coal to Bangkok. Which is a good memory, so this blog has increased my utility this morning. Or did it increase the utility of having read Youth years ago?

69 John December 5, 2016 at 9:10 am

I wonder if that “we” is more about the control freaks that think they need to be in control of all aspects of their lives and plan for all contingencies — but then maybe it’s about those who rely on statistical models and need to be sure they’ve controlled for all variables for the model to be meaningful.

Personally I’ve never worried about the weather — seldom check it — and largely accept it an adjust accordingly — _The Art of Racing in the Rain_ could be your guide here.

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