With each new school year comes the teetering adjustment to a heavy course load and the increasingly inclement weather. As the work bogs you down and cold weather freezes your free time, you begin to compile next summer’s wish list. There are books to race through, scrapbooks to style, and parks in which to prance. And this list of everything you’d like to do but never had the chance to get to is relegated to the file marked “summer to dos” in the corner of your desktop. However, when the last final is finished and finally the long-awaited, salvific summer is upon you, how many “to dos” do you actually do?
Why is it that, despite a newfound abundance of time and energy, the summer witnesses a shrinking of motivation? In an article published in The New Yorker, titled “Why Summer Makes Us Lazy,” writer Maria Konnikova pulls data from several studies conducted between 1994 and 2013 regarding the connection between weather, attitude, and judgment. The various studies, coming from research institutions like Harvard and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, came to similar conclusions: Much of the inherent summer laziness can be linked to the simple shift in climate. Warmer weather and the subsequent uplifting mood can lead to what is described as “relatively mindless thinking,” thus turning any “to dos” list into a cold case.
A piece in Business Insider from 2012 had comparable findings regarding diminished productivity in summer months. It highlighted one study involving several hundred white-collar American workers which found lower work attendance, slower work pace, and an increase in distractions in warmer weather months.
To ward off the impending summer lull and beat the heat, I decided to plan a chunk of my summer while still in the intemperate, and slightly unfavorable, Boston weather. With several of my friends from high school, we set out to fill our summers with a whirlwind tour of Europe by pulling from long ignored “to do” files and unchecked bucket lists. We traveled from Dublin to London to Dubrovnik, Split, Rome, and Budapest; to Vienna, Prague, and Krakow, before on to Berlin, Amsterdam, Zurich, Paris, and Oslo.
The extensive vacation planning that I was motivated to complete during the school year allowed my high level of activity to continue even into the summer months. With the rapid adjustment to various cultures, languages, and transportation systems, we were left little room for laziness. We were challenged not by problem sets or research papers, but rather by the introduction of many different ways of life and perspectives. Even though the temperature warmed with each passing day of our trip, the heat could not deter our progress as there was something new to see every day.
In the past, my summers had been filled with the typical assigned readings and minimum-wage odd jobs, so I understand all too well the effect the heat index has on one’s motivations. However, with my trip to Europe I now understand the satisfaction in self-motivation that trumps Mother Nature’s heat. Because, let’s face it, when else will you get three unencumbered months with your youthful optimism at your fingertips?
To all my Boston College comrades, you have just three more weeks to indulge in the heated haven that is summer break. What can you make of the next 26 days? Personally, I recommend Prague… it’s great fun.