Remember those heady days of our youth when school would break up for the year and we’d have the whole summer stretched out before us like a sea of possibilities? Honestly, I had forgotten what that feeling was like.
Between my university years (when I’d spend the entire summer holidays either working or getting as many internships under my belt as I could), and adulthood (when years of being a type-A workaholic had tricked me into thinking I couldn’t possibly take a proper vacation or things would fall apart at work in my absence), summer had a habit of slipping by before I had even paused to take a moment to enjoy it. Other than a few lovely Sunday adventures and afternoon picnics in the park, too often I’d over-schedule my life to such a degree or feel so guilty taking any downtime just for me that ‘summer’ became something I merely admired from my office window at work (I must sound like a bundle of fun right about now…)
So this summer, rather than planning my weekends and evenings to within an inch of my life, I did precisely the opposite: with the exception of work, I have virtually cleared my diary for the entire duration of summer. My usual ‘bucket list’ (you can see last year’s list here, should you need a little inspiration for your own adventures) was this year replaced by just three simple goals:
1) when the weather is nice, get outside and enjoy it (instead of spending entire weekends doing battle with my inbox and life admin ‘to do’ list);
2) give yourself permission to take time away from work to travel and explore new places;
3) do things I enjoy when I feel like it with people I love.
And you know what happened? I’ve been having the very best summer of my life.
Because rather than carefully organising my free time to maximise the fun (there’s nothing that says ‘fun’ quite like military-level planning…) but then being horribly disappointed when it inevitably rained that day or friends had to cancel, I am learning to be truly impromptu and listen to what I need or feel like that week. When the stress of ‘Brexit‘ got all too much a couple of months ago, I escaped to Italy on a whim (I couldn’t seem to relax at home so joined my boyfriend in Bologna where he had a conference, and we turned it into a mini vacation); it was neither expensive or planned-out and yet it turned out to be one of the best trips of my life. The other day we saw the weather forecast looked good and found a great deal on a hotel, so booked a last-minute weekend in Brussels (and again had such a fun time).
Closer to home, having my evenings free has also meant saying ‘yes’ to things like punting on the river, impromptu dinner parties, or dates with friends (that I normally have to schedule months in advance because we’re all so busy). I found myself blowing off sunny Friday afternoons (which these days are ordinarily reserved for working on my blog) to get ice cream and sit by the river talking for hours on end with Caroline. The other day I met my dear friend Sasha for a last-minute trip to the theatre (after trying unsuccessfully to coordinate our schedules for about a year) and when we were having such a fun time that I literally missed my last train home, rather than suffering first-grade anxiety (as would be my usual response), I just went back to her place for a sleepover followed by brunch and a long walk through Regents Park the next morning.
And just today, when all my afternoon blog meetings were cancelled at the very last-minute, rather than getting stressed about the wasted time and journey to London, I met my friend Charlotte for a walk in St James’s Park (we were meant to go to an exhibition at the Tate but the weather was so glorious we both decided it would have been rude to be indoors and so changed our plans). When she had to dash off to get her train, I carried on lazing in the park beneath the shade of a an enormous fig tree to just watch the clouds float by and write this post (rather than racing home to work from my desk or having an internal meltdown that my post wasn’t up by lunchtime, as I usually would have done).
And so it was while sitting beneath this very tree, giving myself permission to just spend a couple of hours relaxing, that I realised I had accidentally struck upon that summer state of mind I spent years trying to find (or in my business, forgetting to even look for).
Whilst I still spend many a sunny day admiring the blue sky through the window at my office rather than on the beach, I’ve learned that the elusive goal of having ‘the best summer ever’ is not just about working through a ‘to do’ list of fun (or worse, being so busy I forget to make any time for fun at all).
But rather, as I have discovered this year, it’s about a state of mind: that vacation feeling of having a vague idea of what we want to see and do, but generally going where we like – at our own pace – when the mood strikes us. It’s saying ‘yes’ to new experiences when the opportunity presents itself, making new memories and exploring new places (or familiar places, from a new perspective, and playing tourist in our own city), having impromptu adventures whenever the sun is shining, or simply just spending the entire day lazing in the park if what we really feel like doing is nothing at all. In the first instance that means having the schedule that allows freedom (none of my usual type-A tendencies allowed, and of course it helps that we don’t have children to throw into the scheduling equation). But more inportantly, it is about giving ourselves the permission to just have fun and do as we please.
A concept I’d long-since forgotten from the days of my youth, but which I’m so happy to have rediscovered at last.
Here’s to the maintaining that vacation mindset, all summer long!
Wishing you all a wonderful weekend. And however you find yourself spending the rest of your summer, I hope it’s the best one yet!
Love, Miss B xx