Summertime State of Mind (True Story)

By Erica S.

It's amazing how the memory of a great summer seems to stand the test of time. I suppose it's because it's a moment in life that stands for so much more than just a day or an experience. A good summer can come to represent a certain time in your life of freedom, happiness, youth, love or all of the above.

The thought of my greatest summer experience literally always brings a smile to my face. I figured a European trip abroad right after finishing my senior year in college would be the best graduation gift that I could give myself. I saved up for a year, convinced a friend to go with me, quit my stressful job and bought a ticket to London Heathrow airport for the first day of July with no return date in sight. I was so proud that I had worked extremely hard to make this trip happen, so even getting on the plane was an accomplishment that made me smile like a kid at Disneyland.

Needless to say, I looked like an excited tourist. It was the perfect time to go. The start of summer meant beautiful beach locations and wonderful weather. Since school was over, the stress of life seemed to dissipate. Not to mention that the reality of life and the struggles after college had not yet been given the leeway to sink in, so my thoughts were consumed with the idea of all the amazing things I'd see and people I'd meet. My friend and I boarded the plane and had 11 hours to sit and think about what was to come.

My friend couldn't help but laugh when, me being the planner that I am, pulled out sheets, lists and travel books pin pointing how long we would stay in London and what time spam was designated before we then would head off to our next location. I was so excited that I had done the research and planned our trip to a precise and perfect tee. When we touched down, we stayed in London and took in all that it had to offer. It's funny how when traveling, normal things that are done on a daily basis become exciting. Taking public transportation, for example, when set against a different backdrop, seems like a great adventure.

After our London excursion, we traveled next to our scheduled stop in a small English town where we had blocked out about a week to stay. After two days, we realized that although quaint and charming, one week was too much time to spend in this particular area. I begin to get nervous as I looked at the schedule that would have to be altered and what that meant for finding transportation and what stops had to be moved around in order to fulfill the newly opened time slot. We made a decision on a location and packed up all of our things and headed to the train station to catch the train to take us to our newly decided stop. When we got to the station, we were informed that we had just missed the train and that the next one would not leave for that particular destination until the following day.

The stress began to steadily rise. However just as quickly, I realized something that made the stress completely evaporate altogether. It finally dawned on me that I was a 23 year old woman, lucky enough to be abroad with my best friend and no responsibilities. I quite literally had an "open ticket" to live in the moment. It was at that second that I realized that the schedule was completely unnecessary in every possible way. I understood that by holding myself to a time frame, decided locations meant no time or space to find something new and to achieve the spontaneous and exciting experience I had worked so hard to afford myself.

I threw the schedule in the trash along with the idea that plans were always necessary. In that instant, I saw how just how quickly things could change and how sometimes you're left without a path. And it's those moments that you have to let your hair down, take a breath and enjoy the options and benefits that unexpected changes bring. I looked at the train schedule that showcased the times of trains leaving in every kind of direction.

Then I looked back at my friend, smiled and asked, "Well, what looks good to you?" My mind frame changed completely in that one moment. It's the impromptu events in life that make life amazing. After that we traveled to places suggested by other travelers and locals we met along the way. We camped in Germany, had a huge tomato fight in Spain, danced the night away in Italy and so much more. Not to mention how many wonderful and random people we met along the way. And as cheesy and cliche as it sounds, the old adage is true, "It's not the destination, but the journey that really leaves an impression on the spirit."

And thankfully I've been in that mindset ever since.