Long hot summer?
As the onslaught of exams begins and revision is in full swing, you may wonder how I can spare the time to look forward to the long summer break. It still seems miles away, over a hill of blood, sweat and library induced tears. However, it is something that has been playing on my mind over recent weeks.
When we were kids the idea of 6 weeks of no school was like a dream come true and July couldn’t come quick enough. However, now that I’ve tentatively put one foot into the real world, the thought of summer grips me with a sudden sense of panic; what am I going to do for three whole months?
For those among you who have a keen sense of organisation and have already planned trips around the world, found competitive work experience and set aside time off to relax and begin work for next year, I salute you.
For me, the summer is stretching out like a vast desert filled only with the sound of gently rolling tumbleweeds. There are of course many things that I could plan to fill my time this summer, as I’ve listed above. But what’s right for me? What can I afford? And how likely is it that any crazy plans I make will actually materialise?
Last summer, a friend and I planned a four week interrailing trip, covering countries from Germany to Slovenia, the Netherlands to Hungary. It was going to be the trip of a lifetime, one of those ‘at least we’ll have something to tell the grandkids’ experiences. Well, I will have something to tell the grandkids, that their grandmother (weird thought) is a travelling failure.
After two weeks, several dirty hostels, endless days wandering aimlessly through Europe and enough train journeys to put me off using public transport for life, we ended up (by yet another public transport mishap, this time bus related) at Venice airport. Needless to say, we came home. I was completely deflated and spent the next few weeks lamenting the loss of my once in a lifetime trip. Before I knew it, I had wasted the best part of the holiday moaning.
Part of me thinks I would be a fool not to attempt travelling again this summer. Who knows, I really could have a once in a lifetime experience this time around. But after the disaster that was last year, the thought of jetting off backpacking again fills me with apprehension. I like to think I’m at least vaguely adventurous, willing to try new things and experience new cultures, and there were elements of the trip that were great. But, I find myself wondering if I’m just too much of a coward to attempt it again.
Perhaps the answer lies in volunteering abroad. One of the most frustrating things about interrailing was the sense of purposeless it gave me. Yes we were seeing some beautiful European cities, exploring new cultures and meeting different people, but after eating in the tenth different MacDonald’s of the trip (my friend was pretty keen to keep the budget low and had a penchant for a Big Mac) I couldn’t help but feel that what we were doing was essentially pointless.
I know there will be many readers who will shake their heads at me for not appreciating the wonderful opportunity I had to travel, and they would be right to do so. Despite this, I think that if I ever take a long trip again, it needs to be one will a tangible goal. Doing an English degree can feel like the most pointless of exercises at times. But maybe, rather than looking at the summer as a vast empty space I should look at it as an opportunity to put some direction back into my life and make a difference to others.
After all, with three empty months effectively handed to me on a plate, I'll only have myself to blame if I don't make the most of it.