Cooling Off This Summer

The author's rendition of a European city during the Autumn months that he is looking forward to visiting instead of summer
The author's rendition of a European city during the Autumn months that he is looking forward to visiting instead of summer
This year, my wife and I put off our annual summer break. The decision came after we both came back from our business trips with lost baggage and long waits at airports. We had plans to go to Rome during the summer break. However, the huge number of tourists, and resulting mess at the airport, combined with the rising heat made us reconsider &ndash and eventually cancel &ndash our summer plans.
We decided to stay home and instead experience the nature around us. We live in the Nordics where even the peak summer requires one to carry a pullover in their backpack. However, this summer is turning out to be a weird one. We are roaming out in t-shirts and shorts, after slathering our bodies in sunscreen. Despite that, the heat is endangering a treasured pastime of ours &ndash outdoor walks. Rarely during the daytime are we able to walk outside.
Given that yearly variations in temperature are natural, I would have let this summer slip by as an exception. However, the intensity of the heat has left me stunned. For instance, Copenhagen, for at least one day, recorded a higher day temperature than Delhi. I should not have been that surprised though. Scientists have repeatedly warned that Europe will become a &lsquohotspot&rsquo for severe summer heat and predict the future heat waves will be longer, more frequent, and more intense.
Yet, tourists did not stop pouring in. I wondered why and settled on two reasons after casually striking conversations with the tourists who came to visit my city. First, after two years of putting off their vacation, travellers are averse to cancelling their trips, even in the face of the headline-making heat. There has been a pent-up demand and tourists are condensing two years of travel into this summer.
Second, many of the tourists I spoke to mentioned that they rerouted their plans. They had originally intended to be in southern Europe &ndash Spain, Italy, Greece, or Portugal. However, many of them eventually decided to head up north to the Nordics. That explained why I was seeing streets spilling over with foreign tourists when I stepped out. &ldquoThe restaurants are full, and the cabs are all occupied&rdquo said one cab driver, serving a barometer check on the swelling tourist population in the city.
Despite the heat on one summer afternoon, unable to contain myself at home, I decided to take a walk outside. I sought out a green space and walked to a large park in the centre of the city, which offered many shady areas as well as a canal that snaked through it. As I slowly made my way across, I saw several families with children sitting around the central fountain. The children played in the water while the parents lay on a spread under the shade of giant trees. In the canal, couples lazily sculled their paddle boats, easing themselves in the cool breeze that gently flowed.
There is a café in the garden, with a greenhouse and rows of tables lined outside under tree shade. The greenhouse was obviously empty, but the tables were all occupied. I studied the tables to check what people had ordered, as I scouted for a place to sit. Gone were the cups of hot cappuccinos to be replaced with glasses of ice coffee and cups of sorbets. On one end of the café, perched on a high stool, a street singer strummed soft melodies on her guitar languidly. It seemed that the world had slowed down a notch as we all waited for the sun to go down.
As I sat there sipping my ice-tea, I thought of my own travel and how it has changed. Like everyone else, I have a long list of factors that I account for while deciding where to go and when to go. Now, the calculus has changed where I need to factor in additional questions including whether I should go at all in the middle of the summer. Or rather, stay home and enjoy what my city has to offer, reserving outstation trips for periods that shoulder the summer months, i.e., March-May and September-November.
Once my thoughts consolidated, I floated the idea to my wife who readily agreed. No, we will not cancel our summer vacation. Instead, we will take it in the mountains and outside the summer months (would that qualify it to be a summer break then, we wondered aloud). With that resolution, we picked our phones to check the European map.
And that is how we settled on exchanging our Rome summer break for a vacation in the Slovenian Alps in autumn this year.

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