Throughout my childhood, I spent every summer at home in Key Largo, Florida, save for a few weeks spent on vacation. Summers at home have several constants: oppressive heat and humidity that necessitates cooling off in the water, swarms of mosquitoes and a town overflowing with tourists.
As much as I long for days spent kayaking through the mangroves or snorkeling on the reef, I had grand visions for what I was going to accomplish this summer. I was going to study abroad in Paris, finally use the French I’ve studied for years and have a cliche moment of self-discovery. However, due to a series of complex and unexpected events which culminated in spending 12 hours in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, I only accomplished two of those things.
Instead of having my Molly in Paris moment, I traded one small town for another and spent my summer in a village in England with nothing more than a church, a pub and a lot of sheep. Although this may sound anticlimactic, I not only got to spend time with my relatives who I last saw pre-pandemic, but I also finally got to see a country that I have never spent more than two consecutive weeks in, despite being a dual citizen.
With my family as my tour guides, I went across England, covering territories ranging from the rolling hills of the South Downs, the Norfolk coast, Birmingham’s canals and, my personal favorite, the Lake District. I chased after national rail trains and caught countless Tubes, with the rides spent partly people-watching, partly reading the Evening Standard and mostly studying the map full of intriguing station names like Angel, Swiss Cottage and Elephant and Castle.
I truly got to have a quintessential English summertime — having pub lunches and afternoon cream teas in the garden, walking along the Thames and laying in the grass watching cricket. I enjoyed the simple pleasures brought on by warm weather (and the unpleasant experience of cooling down in front of the grocery store’s freezers during a record-breaking heatwave) and woke each day excited by the myriad of possibilities.
Moreover, the two months I was there allowed me to reset and refresh. My love for reading was reignited, as I stayed up devouring books until the early hours of the morning and fulfilled my annual Goodreads reading challenge goal in two months. I baked recipes I’ve been bookmarking for years, never having had the time to experiment until then. My afternoons were well spent trekking through the wheat fields in walking boots and watching the crops change from green to gold as the weeks flew by.
Even though I still found myself checking my emails far too often and contributing to my various commitments (The News-Letter never stops!), I realized that taking time out to relax and unwind was something that I greatly needed. The stress and worry that I carry with me on a daily basis faded away, and I found myself experiencing — dare I say — mindfulness for the first time ever.
The time I spent there gave me the opportunity to think about and evaluate my priorities and goals from an outside perspective. During the academic year, I often feel like I am running blindly on a hamster wheel, attempting to conquer as much as possible rather than being precise about what exactly I am looking for. This break provided me with much-welcomed clarity and optimism about how the future will unfold.
Through the course of the summer, I have realized that simple things can help alleviate stress and generate a feeling of being well-rested. Life is hectic, and being a Hopkins student is certainly not a cakewalk, so I hope to incorporate some of the small joys from the summer into my routine, whether it’s going on a long walk, extending my lunch break to make something exciting or unwinding with a book and a nice cup of tea before bed.
More importantly, I realized that sometimes plans change, and that’s okay (a major shift from my usual preoccupation with strict planning and organization). The unexpected can be better than you ever imagined or what you originally planned.
As the summer fades into fall, I will start counting the days until classes let out in the spring, and I can hopefully take another trip across the pond. I have many exciting things on my list for next year — hiking in the Lake District and eating my body weight in scones are top priorities — and a determination to carve out time for some rest and relaxation.
Molly Gahagen is a junior from Key Largo, Fla. majoring in International Studies and Political Science. She is an Editor-in-Chief for The News-Letter.