From as far back as I can remember, summer has always held a special allure. There was something about being freed from the confining strictures of the school year schedule just as the North American summer season was gearing up that combined to put me in a full swoon.
No more awakening early, bleary-eyed and cranky, to rush through the morning routine before the yellow school bus arrived. My mother let us sleep in later, welcoming the opportunity to leisurely sip her cup of coffee and read the newspaper in peace before the day’s work began in earnest.
No more sitting inside a classroom during the rising heat and bright sunshine of late spring; no more stealing looks out the window and desperately wishing I were outside running barefoot in the thick grass.Summer’s high temperatures often meant piling into a car with my sister and some of the neighbour children, someone’s mother dropping off the energetic lot of us at the local pool for a day of swim lessons, water tag and perfecting cannonballs off the diving board.
When we were a little older, we gained the freedom that comes with having one’s own mode of transportation; our parents celebrated emancipation from chauffeuring duties as the gaggle of us rolled up our swim suits into our towels and rode our bicycles to the pool.
Despite the passing of years, two children and a wrinkle or three on the face, not much has changed. As summer approaches, I get giddy with the knowledge that I will soon be free from many of the school and activity-related driving demands that permeate my life from late August to early June.
During the school year the public transportation option – hop on a bus from school to the city train station, switch to a tram and walk the last two blocks home – takes far too long, cutting into precious minutes required to shower, eat dinner and tackle the mounds of homework that await.
But for the nearly three blessed months of summer, I don’t have to trek through rush hour traffic to drop off my daughter at school with her over-sized class project or pick her up at the conclusion of a club meeting or afternoon sports practice.
If she gets together with friends for shopping, a movie, or a day at the beach, she can generally get there herself. Occasionally by bike, just as I did as a girl, albeit in a different country and without extensive bike paths.
In addition to less traffic out on the roads, summertime offers many opportunities to slow down a bit and enjoy a more leisurely pace.
It’s easier to get a table in a cafe or restaurant, or a parking spot on the street. There’s room to meander on the sidewalk without bumping into others. Outdoor concerts, plays and festivities abound.
The crowds have thinned in non-tourist places: favourite haunts beckon. Whether travelling far or staying locally, we succumb to the urge to explore anew.
For those working outside the home, summer often ushers in a more lenient approach. Employers must juggle employees’ requests for use of vacation time while asking others to pitch in to cover responsibilities.
Without full staffing, key meetings and important decisions tend to be delayed until a necessary quorum is available. Savvy bosses recognize some work will have to slip a bit, even in offices accustomed to the most frenetic of paces.
The result? More leeway on arrival and departure times.
One friend’s employer lets everyone arrive a half hour later during July and August. Another friend’s office closes three hours earlier on Fridays. Similarly, for part of August the international organization for which my husband works allows employees to leave work an hour early provided important work is completed.
In shops and stores, summer hours may be in effect. Or in the case of my butcher or locksmith, a small hand-written sign saying ‘Gesloten twee weeks voor vakantie’ suddenly appears in the window.
With the advent of warmer and often humid weather, some employers also accept less formal dress, with ‘casual Friday’ popping up or ‘summer attire’ the daily norm.
Even in the staidest of companies, lunchtime rules may be loosened with workers taking longer for postprandial conversation, sunning or a stroll.
All of the aforementioned may be small indulgences in the larger scheme, but they acknowledge a natural human need to slow down and recharge. In the summer, relaxed employees are happy ones.
Self-employed and working at home, I already have a fair amount of flexibility in my schedule. Yet there’s no doubt that in summer I maximize this aspect with the skills of a veritable time management ninja.
A spate of good weather heading our way? Quick, better finish up this project or that article.
Sunshine and clear skies? I’d rather walk the dog or go for a jog in the wooded park nearby before settling down to business.
Get away to meet a friend for lunch? Natuurlijk.
The days of summer are now waning, so I’m alert to any chance to slip away for a few hours.
If the sun’s shining and a light breeze blowing, you’ll likely find me throwing on a sundress over my swimsuit, rolling up my towel and heading off to the beach on my bike.
Riding among the dunes always clears my mind, and while I have to forego doing cannonballs for lack of a diving board, a refreshing dip in the brisk North Sea waters beckons.
Nothing says summer like a bike ride and good swim.
A writer and American expat living in the Netherlands with her husband and two teens, Linda pens articles on expat life and blogs at Adventures in Expat Land sharing the good, the less good and the just plain odd with a twist. She is also a co-author of the recent bestseller Turning Points: 25 Inspiring Stories from Women Entrepreneurs.
You may also follow Linda’s adventures on Twitter @in_expatland.