Afraid of having to spend some time alone with your own thoughts? Don’t! Try one or more of the following five methods to make your wide open summer break slightly less wide and slightly less open.
1. get a summer job
This option is by far the cheapest, it is even intended to earn you money. Isn’t that crazy?! As someone who has been steadily decreasing the balance of their bank account for the entire academic year, this is somewhat difficult for me to believe, but it is true. One thing I like about working on summer breaks is that it’s not that important which job I take, so I can pick anything that interests me. It’s like getting to try on clothes you would never otherwise wear for a whole summer. Today I did an interview to work in the cafe of the German historical museum. As a strictly STEM person I really don’t get to traipse around museums (any form of movement in a museum is traipsing) as much as I would like to. Last summer I worked in an Italian bakery and learned a lot more about olive oil than I ever thought I would. I also find that even if money is not a concern for you, working at least one service job in your life massively improves your empathy and understanding for others. Not to mention you will accrue endless insane customer stories.
2. create a reading list (and then read the books on that list)
Without fail the majority of my yearly reading gets done in summer. Good sunlight makes even Ernest Hemmingway readable for me (sorry Hemmingway fans). There are so many books sitting unread on my shelves and titles written down in my notebooks to remember. It seems like I’m constantly accumulating books to read without ever, you know, reading them. I make a “call me Ishmael” joke probably once a week and I’ve never even read Moby Dick. I own Moby Dick. It’s sitting on my shelf right now, judging me I’d assume. Put pen to paper and write some titles you’ve always wanted to read or even some books you’ve wanted to reread but haven’t gotten around to. You might not cross them all off this summer, but I believe it is also legal to read during fall.
3. start running
Running can be one of the best habits to form if you’re feeling out of touch with your body. I’ve often found that people who consider themselves more bookish or academic than athletic will reject the idea of exercise as something entirely not meant for them, but that’s not the case. I certainly don’t look like a runner or an athlete, but I don’t run to look like one. I run because I have two legs and it’s so fun to use them. Exercise is often framed as a way to combat certain physical traits. Frequently when I run or exercise I think of how I would look if I were to do it every day, and it can be hard to remember that that’s not what’s important to me. When I run and use my body regularly I feel more connected to it. I think summer can be a great time to get into the habit of trying a new exercise, though if you live in a hotter area it might be better to get it in during the morning hours. If running is not a possibility for you, biking or yoga are great alternatives.
4. plant your own garden
I love dirt! Love putting my hands in it, love sprinkling it, love patting it into place. Gardening is such a fun hobby and one you can make work for you. Whether you have a huge backyard and can plant enough tomatoes and cucumbers for your whole neighborhood, a window sill for your own herbs, or a community garden with open planting patches, gardening is a perfect way to get involved with your local DIRT. It’s also a sustainable way to get the freshest produce. Nothing tastes as good as food you grew yourself. I grew up helping my family garden, so it also carries a lot of nostalgia for me. Plus if you have any overactive crops, you can always just donate your extra produce. Read into growing seasons, pick up some seeds from your grocery store, and become the farmer your ancestors want you to be.
5. go on a road trip
Would I really be a born and bred American if I didn’t include road trips? Okay I wasn’t born in the US but still, I’ve played enough John Phillip Sousa in my life to qualify. Pick a city or small town you’ve never been two, nearby or hours away and get planning. You may be close with your friends, but you don’t truly know them until you’ve spent a week eating exclusively peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with them. That is the rawest human experience. It’s important to find friends whose idea of vacation and travel includes a similar budget to yours, though. Last year my friends and I went to Iceland together and pretty much agreed that we were going to eat exclusively nonperishable food items to avoid spending too much money. In the end we stayed on budget and got to see so much more of Iceland with our leftover money.
I hope these ideas help you a little bit with the lost feeling summer break can cause. Sometimes aimlessness is good, too, though. Enjoy the heat and the void!