This year my wife and I postponed our annual summer break. The decision came after we both returned from our business trips with lost luggage and long waits at airports. We were planning to go to Rome for the summer holidays. However, the large number of tourists and the resulting chaos at the airport, combined with the rising heat, caused us to reconsider – and eventually cancel – our summer plans.
We decided to stay at home and experience nature around us instead. We live in Scandinavia, where you have to carry a sweater in your backpack even in the height of summer. However, this summer is going to be a strange one. We roam around in t-shirts and shorts after slathering sunscreen on our bodies. Even so, the heat is endangering one of our favorite pastimes – walking outdoors. During the day we are rarely able to go outside.
Since annual temperature fluctuations are natural, I would have exceptionally let this summer pass. However, the intensity of the heat left me stunned. Copenhagen, for example, recorded a higher daytime temperature than Delhi for at least one day. I shouldn’t have been so surprised though. Scientists have repeatedly warned that Europe will become a “hotspot” for severe summer heat and predict future heatwaves will be longer, more frequent and more intense.
Still, the tourists didn’t stop pouring in. I wondered why and settled on two reasons after casually conspicuously chatting with the tourists visiting my city. First, after two years of postponing vacations, travelers are reluctant to cancel their trips, even in the face of the headline-grabbing heat. There was a backlog and tourists are condensing two years of travel into this summer.
Second, many of the tourists I spoke to mentioned that they had rerouted their plans. They originally intended to be in southern Europe – Spain, Italy, Greece or Portugal. However, many of them eventually decided to head north to the Nordic countries. That explained why I saw streets full of foreign tourists when I got off. “The restaurants are full and the cabs are all occupied!” said a cab driver serving up a barometer check of the city’s burgeoning tourist population.
Despite the heat on a summer afternoon, I couldn’t help myself at home and decided to go for a walk outside. I looked for a green area and walked to a large park in the center of the city, which, in addition to many shaded areas, also offered a meandering canal. As I slowly walked across, I saw several families with children sitting around the central fountain. The children played in the water while the parents lay on a lounger in the shade of huge trees. In the canal, couples lazily steered their paddle boats, relaxing in the cool breeze that flowed gently.
In the garden there is a café with a greenhouse and rows of tables in the shade of the trees. The greenhouse was obviously empty, but the tables were all occupied. I studied the tables to see what people had ordered while looking for a place to sit. Gone were the cups of hot cappuccino, replaced by glasses of iced coffee and cups of sorbets. At one end of the café, a street singer perched on a high stool strummed lazy soft tunes on her guitar. It seemed like the world slowed down a bit while we all waited for the sun to go down.
As I sat there sipping my iced tea, I thought about my own journey and how it has changed. Like everyone else, I have a long list of factors that I consider when deciding where and when to go. Now the calculus has changed where I need to include additional questions including whether I should even go in the middle of summer. Or rather, stay home and enjoy what my city has to offer and reserve trips to outstations for periods that shoulder the summer months, ie March-May and September-November.
After my thoughts settled, I told my wife about the idea, who readily agreed. No, we will not cancel our summer vacation. Instead we’ll be doing it in the mountains and outside of the summer months (would it then qualify as a summer break, we wondered aloud). With this determination we picked up our phones to check the map of Europe.
And so we decided to swap our Rome summer break this year for a holiday in the Slovenian Alps in the fall.