Summer tends to be a time where we can sit back a little bit; a time when we can truly relax and not feel so bad about it. In most professions, summer is the time when people take vacations, take more time off, and have the opportunity to spend more time doing what they love, even if it is just a little extra time than the rest of the year.
As a teacher, I get the extreme version of the laid back summer. I get a true break- a little over two full months of it. And what I’ve realized this summer is that I’m inclined to take a lot of this time to myself. For an introvert like myself, sometimes it just feels way more relaxing to take some time to myself, whether I’m binge-watching TV, doing school work to prepare for next year, writing, walking the dog or reading out on our patio, alone time is the theme of most days.
This summer, though, I have felt an urgency to build community while I have more time to do so. I have felt inclined to spend time with the people that I don’t get to see as much during the school year (and the ones I do see- just in a different setting outside of school). And even in between all the traveling I’m doing, I feel a draw to making sure I see the people I care about and enjoy spending time with in each town I’ll be in.
What I’m realizing is that while the extra time we might have in summer is a great space to spend some time alone and truly relax, it is also the perfect time to spend building relationships and enjoying relaxed time with others. It is the perfect time to connect with people that you love even if they are far away.
This is just a small list of relaxing and refreshing ways to spend good time with others and build strong and deep relationships this summer:
Send something to a friend.
Maybe you have friends that you are really unable to spend time with in person. With the time you have this summer, send a far-away friend something that shows them you care about them, or even just write them a letter. As a teacher, with the time off I have this summer, I’ve become a little preoccupied with the mail. It is a big event in most of my days that I spend lounging and writing and working my from-home part time job. I get excited if I get anything special for me and I get a little enraged when it is all junk mail (which is much more usual).
A few weeks ago, I joined in with a summer box swap with other bloggers. Although I didn’t really know the lovely woman I was paired up with (Alex of Always, Al), it was so fun to connect and learn about one another’s styles and shop for her for some sandals and nail polish. Alex sent me a pair of sandals and nail polish that were just perfect for me- you’d think she actually knew me! Even this small gesture of shopping for someone else and sending them something helped me build community from afar and make a new friend!
Learn a new hobby with others.
Summer might be a time where you actually have some extra hours that you can get out and take that free writing class you’ve been wanting to take at your library. Or maybe there is something you’ve been wanting to learn like calligraphy, photography, or knitting. Why not learn with others? If you attend classes, you might meet new, wonderful people. And if you convince your friend to learn photography with you, I bet you’ll learn a lot from one another, plus have more fun while learning.
A week or so ago I got together with other teachers from school for a wine and paint night. It wasn’t necessarily a “new” hobby for me, as I had years and years of art lessons and art classes in my childhood and throughout high school, but it was a revisit of an old hobby. Painting next to friends with wine and some appetizers was a perfect way to get back into art!
We are traveling with my family this year, as we did last year, which will help us enjoy and get closer to them (we’ll be in the same house together for seven whole days with eleven people and two dogs- I’d say we’ll all get closer for sure).
A perfect way to grow closer to friends or family that you love is to travel with them this summer. Whether it is an overnight trip or a whole week, you’ll have fun together exploring a new place and spend way more time together than you would if you were just meeting up somewhere locally.
Work out with friends.
Lately I’ve been enjoying Crossfit more because I’ve been going at the same time as friends (or I’ve just made new friends in the classes). Being with people I enjoy while I’m working out makes it a way better experience, plus it is extra motivating!
Try a new fitness class with friends, go to yoga at a winery (yes, that is a thing in Charlottesville), hike together, or even just go on a walk. The possibilities are endless depending on the ways that you like to get moving. Summer has too nice of weather to waste just sitting around all day (though sitting around all day has its time and place), so get outside and enjoy a workout with a friend by your side.
Bonus: you get to encourage one another, and you also get to know a person better when you’re struggling together.
My husband is my example here (second from the right below). This past weekend he participated in a team Crossfit competition with some friends from our gym. Although it was a LONG day, and they had to do four intense workouts, they definitely grew to be closer friends as they learned to come up with strategies and work together. They also placed 3rd which was pretty great, too!
For a more moderate-level of activity example, I’ve been getting outside every day for short walks with these two friends 😉
Plan a festive party or a barbecue and invite all your friends.
Some people are really good at hosting things and inviting friends over. I wouldn’t say it is a natural gift of mine, but I do always want to have people over- I just don’t take action on it often. Summer is the perfect time to just make it happen- invite a small or larger group over to celebrate the 4th of July, or just to have some appetizers and drinks on the patio. Nick and I definitely want to make this happen before the end of the summer.
Something great about this opportunity is that if you are inviting several people, you may be inviting people from different friendship circles. Ultimate community builder. You get to spend time with your friends, and they get to meet new people that they wouldn’t typically meet if it wasn’t for you, their awesome friend who invited them to such a fantastic little party!
Enjoy coffee or a happy hour with friends, and don’t be over-aware of the time.
Time is precious in our world of crazy-busy lives. But in the summer, when you have time to slow down, it could be a perfect opportunity to spend longer hours with people. During every other season, I always have to be hyper aware of the time because it is so limited as a teacher. If I am having coffee with someone, I have to make sure it doesn’t go too long so I still have time to get home and do some evening work. Or if I’m enjoying drinks with a friend on the weekend, I have to make sure I’ll have enough time to run errands and do my planning for the week.
Of course I know not everyone has as much time as I do this summer, but I’m going to just assume that many of us have a little extra time- or at least that we can intentionally fall into the relaxed-mode that summertime brings. Using the time to spend true, quality time that is not ruled by the clock with friends is a great way to spend it. When you can truly spend time with someone without having to put a limit on it, deeper conversations and deeper friendships will come out of it.
A favorite happy hour spot where I sat with a friend for two hours last week with no time limit in sight (we are both teachers, so that helps!)
Start a supper club.
Or a wine club. Or a book club. Or any club, really. Anything that gives you an excuse to meet up with a group of great friends and drink or eat together (or both) will work. I’ve had a desire to do this for a while, but haven’t felt like I had the time to really think through it or make it happen. Summer is the perfect time to try to start some kind of regular meeting, as people generally tend not to be as stressed about their time. If you can get your friends together and start the habit of meeting in the summer, it may be more likely to continue regularly throughout the year, as the time and habit will already be set.
Meeting regularly with a group of people around a table or around a book is bound to build rich and wonderful friendships. I haven’t done this yet, but I hope to make it happen by the end of the summer.
Because I know I’m drawn to spending a lot of time alone when I have free time, I want to be intentional this summer about spending the time I have well with friends and family, and even make a new friend or two. I want to fight against the temptation to binge watch TV all day and use my time to create deeper friendships by drinking good wine, learning new things, and maybe even moving more in the company of great community.