For college students across the globe the month of April means only one thing - Spring Break. While not exactly an official holiday, Spring Break has become an integral part of American culture, appearing everywhere from MTV to the Food Network, conjuring up images of white sand beaches and frozen margaritas. What the hours upon hours of vacation shows on TV don't tell you, however, is that the traditional concept of a Spring Break spent lounging next to the water represents only a tiny fraction of the people who have that time off from school or work.
Some people have no interest in donning a bathing suit and laying by the water for a week; others think the idea of being surrounded by people on a crowded beach is more of a nightmare than a vacation. Luckily there are plenty of amazing opportunities for those people who would rather spend their time on the road less traveled than partying on the beach. For example, you could...
Take a Walk
Every year a few hundred people take months of their lives to walk a thousand miles or more across the country. Memoirs like Wild by Cheryl Strayed reach out and tug at the hiking boots of people who yearn to do the same but don't know if they will ever have the time, money, or fortitude it takes to make that trek. Just because you can't give up half a year of your time to walk from Mexico to Canada doesn't mean you can't take an epic journey by foot. Not only is it possible to walk just a small portion of either the Pacific Coast Trail or the Appalachian Trail, but there are other walkable journeys you can take all across America that can fit into your vacation.
The Boston Post Road, for example, is a 250-mile trip from Boston to New York City, and not only is it an epic walk but much of the route runs through historical sites and markers, so you could stop and see some of the country's history on your journey. There are many walkable roads across the nation where you could travel for a few days if you fancy yourself a bit of a wayfarer. Safety is the most important thing, of course, so plenty of research and planning are necessary before embarking on this type of vacation, but if you plan ahead and take the necessary precautions this could be a vacation you will never forget.
Support a Cause
Have you ever thought about building houses with Habitat for Humanity or delivering food for Meals on Wheels? Often people are too busy in their day-to-day lives to roll up their sleeves and pitch in to help their community, but Spring Break is an excellent time to finally do the charity work you've been contemplating all year. If you want to spend some time walking shelter dogs or stocking shelves in your local food pantry now is the time to make a few calls to see which charities in your area need assistance for the week.
You might even be able to use your education to help other people during your vacation. Students who have become fluent in a foreign language can volunteer at local hospitals to translate for doctors and their patients, while math majors can use their skills to help small charities and other non-profits with their bookkeeping. Not only would this let you do some good in your community, but it would look great on your resume after you graduate as well.
Check Something Off Your Bucket List
Almost everyone has a few things they want to do before they shuffle off this mortal coil, even if they didn't put them together in a written list. Some people have lofty ambitions, such as visiting every country on earth, while others have goals that are a little bit easier to reach, but no matter the complexity of their desires everyone can use their Spring Break to help move them towards their goals.
For those people working toward something big, this is a great time to take a step in that direction. If your goal is to visit every country on earth using your vacation to go visit a new place is a great idea. If you want to write a book, learn to juggle, or find the best burger in your state, Spring Break is an ideal time to accomplish that goal.
If you want to accomplish something but you aren't sure exactly what it is you want to do, don't be afraid to get weird. Maybe you would love to see if you can pet 500 dogs in a week, or perhaps you want to swim with dolphins, or maybe even be a contestant on a game show - take advantage of your time off and do it now!
Practice Self Care
No matter what is going on in your life taking care of yourself is important. Making sure that your physical and emotional needs are met is a vital part of being a healthy, happy person, but that can be incredibly difficult when you are elbow deep in classes, labs, homework, and everything else that is part of being a college student.
If you know that taking proper care of yourself is going to be difficult as the end of the semester approaches you can use your Spring Break to stock up on healthy foods, visit your doctor and dentist, get your living space upgraded and organized, or learn some techniques to help keep you calm when things start to get frantic as finals week approaches. 'Self-care' as a practise is socially recognised as becoming more and more important, as the life of your average student now is far more stressful than it was a couple of decades ago.
Dedicating your Spring Break to self-care might be a little less glamorous than a week on the beach, but knowing you are prepared for the end of the semester is more valuable than any sun-drenched selfies posted on Facebook.
How will you be spending your spring break? Let us know in the comments below!