While many of the American blogs I read are already using the phrases “end of summer” and “back-to-school,” Europeans are giddily preparing for the beginning of their real summer: August 1. Schools are out of session. People are leaving town. The restaurant downstairs has put up a sign that reads “See you in September!” Because of the unspoken agreement throughout Europe that August is for vacation, you can’t get much done around here. You can’t schedule a dentist appointment or get a haircut. Women even avoid giving birth in August! You must relax.
After four years living in Geneva, it’s hard to imagine not having the entire month off — we dream all year of the lazy, restorative days of August. It’s good for the body. And the mind. Heck, it’s good for the whole country. Although you may be out of vacation days, you can still adopt the European mindset to soak up summer before it slips away.
Learn to relax anywhere. Every day I come across someone in Geneva who is totally and completely relaxed. Like the man dressed in a suit and tie taking a midday nap in the park. Or the woman eating a tarte au citron in silence at the bakery. Or the neighbor sitting on the sunny bench with her eyes closed. Not looking at her phone. Not listening to a podcast. Just relaxing and not feeling guilty about it.
As a starting place, download the Headspace Meditation App. I’ve been using it for a few weeks and I’m getting better at unwinding anywhere, any time.
Take a long lunch. Europeans love to linger over lunch outside in the summertime. A bottle of rosé, a simple dish and seasonal ingredients. (Come to think of it, did Europeans invent this? Is that why we say dining al fresco?) See if you can schedule a two-hour lunch during the work day. Make a picnic or go to a favorite restaurant. Order a glass of wine. Order dessert. Don’t check your watch or Instagram. Let yourself be totally present.
My favorite summer dish? Watermelon salad. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried it.
Just add water. Be it an Alpine stream or the Adriatic Sea, Europeans will swim in any natural body of water under any conditions (and often, totally nude!). They believe that swimming in natural water boosts the immune system and energizes the heart. I don’t know any research to back up the claim, but watching them do it has given me the confidence to as well. Jumping into glacial Lake Geneva certainly gets the blood flowing.
Find a local swimming hole and reap the invigorating effects.
If all else fails, make an Aperol Spritz and call it a day!
Most of my European friends are not taking long flights to far-flung places. They’re hiking in the mountains or spending a week by the sea. They’re simply making time for doing nothing. Isn’t that lovely? Us, we’re traveling through Spain and Portugal. If you’ve been, I’d love recommendations. Meanwhile, a few links for the end of July: