How My Summer Went Up, Up and Away In Style

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Figuring out where to go on your summer escape can be a bit daunting. So daunting, you may even be tempted to just go back to wherever you went last summer or wherever everyone else is going . or worse, skip the whole excursion all together. But don’t: That would be a terrible waste, especially when there is a whole world’s worth of under-the-radar places out there just waiting for you to discover.

 To help narrow down the options, we asked a few travel experts to share their favorite unexpected summer vacation destinations. From Algarve on Portugal’s south coast to Sumba in Indonesia to the Greek island of Sifnos (all three of which were mentioned by more than one of our experts, by the way), here are 10 glorious ideas for where to go. Best of all? You probably won’t run into anyone you know.

If you’re looking for an adorable beach read, look no further How My Summer Went Up In Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski is a cute, funny story about a girl who goes a bit crazy over love and winds up on a life-changing cross country road trip (so, pretty much, it’s what we all wish our summers were like).

When Rosie’s ex-boyfriend shows up at a party with the girl he cheated on Rosie with, she snaps. A spur of the moment decision to burn everything he gave her in his driveway accidentally turns into setting his car on fire, and before she knows it, Rosie gets served with a temporary restraining order.

When she violates the restraining order and tries to contact her ex, her next door neighbor and best friend, Matty, invites her on a road trip from New Jersey to Arizona to take his friend Spencer’s brother, Logan, to college. Rosie doesn’t want to go, but her parents make her in order to get her out of town and keep her away from her ex. On the trip, she makes new friends, discovers a lot about herself, and learns a few important lessons about love.

I have always wanted to go on a huge road trip, and I loved that reading this book made me feel like I’d been along for the ride with Rosie, Matty, Spencer, and Logan. Rosie is feisty and hilarious. She’s very passionate and relatable and entertaining all at the same time. Her impulsiveness gets her into trouble, but it’s easy to see she has the best intentions at heart.

The guys she’s with are completely sweet and funny. They aren’t afraid to give Rosie a hard time (which she often deserves), and they are responsible for teaching her much of what she learns on her trip.

This book is the perfect summer read, especially if you aren’t able to take a vacation of your own. On their road trip, Rosie and her crew stop at tons of huge tourist destinations (like Nashville, the Grand Canyon, and Roswell, New Mexico a.k.a. Area 51), so you get a taste of many of the sights across the United States. The story is light, entertaining, and full of humor and love.

I also felt like How My Summer Went Up In Flames did a great job of keeping me on my toes. Rosie is famous among her friends for making spur of the moment decisions, so you never really know what she’s going to do. Likewise, you never know what problems or situations the road trip itself will bring. You get to watch Rosie grow and mature over the course of the trip, and you also get to watch her bonds with the boys evolve as they travel. One of my favorite things was watching friendships and love bloom, because it didn’t always happen where I expected it would. I was convinced that a particular love connection would happen, but things didn’t unfold the way I thought they would which was a nice surprise.

Overall, I think this is a perfect book to reach for if you’re headed to the beach, on a trip, or are dealing with a break up of your own. Everyone can find something to relate to in Rosie and her companions, and their story is entertaining and full of humor. Even if you’ve never been in a situation like Rosie’s, it’s a lot of fun to see how she deals with it and to watch her figure things out with the help of her friends. I think How My Summer Went Up In Flames has a lesson for everyone, and if you like humor and quirky characters, you should definitely check it out.

That awkward moment where you desperately want to love a book but end up feeling indifferent towards it. I was totally psyched for How My Summer Went Up In Flames by debut young adult author Jennifer Salvato Doktorski. Yet, I ended up feeling super irritated during the first half. I enjoyed the end. But, I never really cared too much for the main character, instead Rosalita just grated on my nerves the whole time. However, this book mostly keeps it light and does make for a fun summer read, overall thanks to the secondary characters.

Rosalita ‘Rosie’ Catalano is super impulsive. She doesn’t typically thing, but acts on her emotions and her passions. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however it can get her in trouble. Like, say for instance when she goes to a party and her cheating ex shows up with the girl he cheated on her with. Pissed off, Rosie goes to his house and lights a box of mementos from their relationship on fire.

Unfortunately, Joey’s – the ex- car catches on fire. Under a restraining order and with a looming court date, Rosie’s parents decide it would be best if she gets out of town for a little while. With her next door neighbor Matty and his two friends Spencer and Logan, Rosie goes on a road trip to Arizona. Her itinerary is packed and she’s not a happy camper. Of course, with three teenage guys, you can probably guess some sort of romance will come of this trip.

I hate to say this but I just really could not stand Rosie. She was so over-entitled for the first part of How My Life Went Up In Flames. At one point she talks about how her dad’s lampshade factory isn’t doing too well and how her mom’s assistant bank manager salary doesn’t make up for it THEN SHE GOES ON A SHOPPING SPREE AT NEIMAN MARCUS. Like, dude if your family isn’t doing so hot financially, why don’t you try oh I don’t know JC Penney? Then she spends most of the road trip pissed off because the guys have interests that involve using your brain – they enjoy science and other nerdy, awesome things. Like, she gets all angry too because they want to do touristy things along the way and she just has no interest in those things. So, rather than you know open herself up to new experiences she just sulks. And, okay I get that being dumped sucks but at the same time she just completely aggravated me with her bratty behavior. Granted, she does improve, but I am not really going to be joining her fan club any time soon.

Yet, I did not dislike every character in How My Summer Went Up In Flames. First, there are female characters that Rosie is friends with (Lilliana and another girl but I won’t spoil you). These characters come across as friendly and unselfish and caring. There’s no backstabbing or anything and it is nice to read about females who have each other’s backs. I also really just loved Matty, Spencer and Logan.

 The whole road trip happens because Logan is driving to college (Arizona State) from New Jersey. Now, Matty is Rosie’s next door neighbor and they might as well be siblings. He’s very sweet and supportive. Spencer is Logan’s little brother and definitely a nerd, but again, a genuinely nice guy. Logan basically keeps Rosie on her toes and doesn’t put up with her pampered princess BS. Basically, Logan is the best and said a lot of things I was thinking out loud.

I did like Jennifer Salvato Doktorski’s writing style, for the most part. Seriously, there is no way that I would have been able to get through this book if the writing was atrocious, but luckily it was exactly what I look for in a breezy contemporary. How My  Summer Went Up In Flames is told in first person, through Rosie’s point of view. It’s a very quick read. The pacing is on point. I’d say the book is cute overall, but as you saw above, some things irritated me.

In all, I think that mileage may vary for How My Summer Went Up In Flames.  I think that if you are a YA road trip connoisseur, you will really like this book. I also think that if you are more of a plot person than a character person, you’ll love this book. For me, personally, I think that Amy And Roger’s Epic Detour did the whole road trip across the USA thing much better, but that’s just my opinion. Give this book a shot, you may like it much more than I did.

It’s hard to describe the beauty and awe of floating above the Shenandoah Valley in a hot air balloon: sun rising, roosters crowing as we lift up from a dew-covered hillside; a patchwork of green hills and forests punctuated by late-summer brown fields; the quiet of drifting through the sky with the occasional blast from the burner to raise or lower the balloon; turkey buzzards circling unseen prey; cows mooing and dogs barking as they watch us glide overhead; deer pausing, possibly sensing danger, as they run through the corn stalks below; and the gobble-gobble of turkeys drifting up to our balloon.

As exhilarating as this was for me, nearly half the people I told about it said they could never do it. For most, it’s a fear of heights; for some, a fear of no control. I understand that because I experience both to some degree. Yet, I made up my mind before the balloon ride that I wasn’t going to be afraid (unlike the time I went parasailing).

As it turns out, it didn’t require much effort. I felt calm and secure in the big woven basket. The only twinge of fear came as we started to land on an unbelievably small patch of land in a vineyard, surrounded by grapevines and trees. But our very experienced pilot landed so smoothly and quickly that I hardly had time to worry.

This adventure caused me to reflect on a blog I wrote last spring about getting ready for a “big, bold, passionate summer.” I shared tips from Nancy D. O’Reilly, a clinical psychologist and women empowerment expert, on how to keep from getting in a rut and spending a boring summer. O’Reilly, along with 19 other successful women, cowrote the book Leading Women, and she asserts that courage and a sense of adventure are keys to success not to mention happiness.

Sifnos, Greece

Sifnos is a standout among the Cyclades Islands in Greece and should be top of the list for discerning travelers seeking a laid-back, culturally enriching escape this summer. This under-the-radar alternative to bustling Mykonos and Santorini is known to many as the island of flavors—and for good reason. Tempting dishes such as chickpea balls, mastélo (lamb cooked in red wine and spices), and the sweetest honey pie are to die for. The rustic island welcomes travelers into traditional Greek island life with its whitewashed villages, secluded beaches, perfect climate, and 227 churches and monasteries dotted along the coastline.

Where to Stay:

The Elies Resort is a 32-room haven known for its romantic elegance, Cycladic-style rooms, and direct access to Vathi beach.

Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands are made up of 18 small islands in the North Atlantic Ocean roughly between Iceland and Norway. On a map they look like pinpricks, but upon landing you realize that the islands are hugely imposing and sturdy and so beautiful you’ll have to keep checking your own pulse to make sure you’re actually alive. It isn’t the easiest place to get to, but after spending some time there, it’ll be even harder to leave.

The people are immediately warm, wonderfully earthy, and interesting; almost everyone I met spoke multiple languages and had traveled extensively, not something you may expect to find in such a small, isolated society. The islands have their own language, literature, art, and—of course—food. Ancient techniques of preserving fish, meat, and eggs are still in use and you’ll encounter flavors that just don’t exist anywhere else. Try the skerpikjøt, which is lamb fermented by sea air—you won’t be sorry.

Where to Stay:

Hotel Føroyar was designed by Danish architects Friis & Moltke and looks as if it has been carved directly into the land.

Adelaide, Australia

If Melbourne, with its colorful laneways, coffee shops, and heaps of top-notch restaurants, is Australia’s foodie capital, then the nearby state of South Australia would be the foodie state. Start in Adelaide, which feels a little like Portland in pace and love for food. Just an hour-drive away is the Barossa Valley, which makes some of the country’s finest wines from some of the world’s oldest vines. Right in town is the original Penfolds Magill Estate, and 20 minutes outside of town is the Basket Range wine region, which is leading the country’s natural winemaking movement. Go to Lost in a Forest for organic pizzas, more wine, margaritas and Negronis in a 130-year-old church. Since you’re there anyway, you may as well take a small plane over to Port Lincoln, just an hour away and home to the largest fishing fleet of the Southern Hemisphere where you can eat your fill of oyster, bluefin tuna, and abalone.

Where to Stay:

The locals know The Mayfair to be one of the best in town—comfortable beds, large bathrooms, friendly service, and ideal location. In the Barossa, you could indulge in a vineyard retreat at The Louise with 15 private villas, each with their own terrace.

Portugal

Algarve, that beautiful stretch of land all the way in the southwest of the country, at the tip of Europe. The coast has always been breathtaking, with green mountains, spectacular cliffs, and hidden beaches all over. The surf scene is vibrant, and with that comes a carefree attitude toward life that is infectious. But in recent years, something else has happened: The country’s design scene has blossomed and new restaurants have been opening left and right.

Where to Stay:

Pay a quick visit to Lisbon or Porto, then rent a car and head down the coast to Algarve and create some fantastic summer memories. Casa Mae in Lagos opened last year; its owner, Veronique Polaert, is a French expat who has an incredible eye for design. She assembled the best and brightest from the region, commissioned furniture and artworks from local artists, and created an oasis in the middle of this historic city. The hotel has its own farm outside the city, so the food in the restaurant is simply wonderful.

Åland Islands, Finland

Summer’s seasonal warm temperatures and long sunny days make it the best time to explore the undiscovered landscape of the Åland Islands in Finland. Travelers can get lost discovering Finland’s archipelagos, taking advantage of opportunities to cycle, hike, kayak, and swim around the island. June is also a great time to visit Helsinki, as the city comes alive with a series of festivals and events celebrating Finnish culture and design.

Where to Stay:

Be sure to check in to the Hermit Cabin, a four-man cabin offering unparalleled seclusion and only accessible via kayak. This cute, rustic abode boasts its own sauna, making it the perfect place to relax and unwind after a day of adventure.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen is a favorite spot that doesn’t get talked about much in summer. I suspect it’s because the locals want it for themselves. The weather is perfect, there are only four hours of darkness at night, and the culinary scene is incredible. You can visit the fine-dining restaurant Kadeau at its secluded Bornholm Island location. It’s a short 30-minute plane ride and absolutely worth the journey; there’s also the Hotel Nordlandet where you can spend the night.

Where to Stay:

The most luxurious yet intimate place to stay is without question the Hotel Nimb. It’s a boutique property done in a stunning Arabian style with only 17 rooms.

Tofino, British Columbia

Tofino is an epic cold-water surfer’s paradise with peeling waves in protected coves that break on soft sandy beaches with only a few surfers in the lineup. The hamlet—just a speck in a massive harbor dotted with tiny islands covered with pristine forests—has delicious food, coffee, a great bookstore, and everything you need for a getaway. Hike through forests to get to hot springs, get around on boats to visit floating houses, watch bears shaking berries off shrubs and catching salmon in streams—there is so much to do and see.

Where to Stay:

Wya Point is outside of town with no cell reception and poor Internet access but there are a series of yurts right on the beach surrounded by forests. We spent our time unplugged; most nights we cooked fresh crab picked up from a fisherman in town and sat around the fire drinking wine and local beer.

Namibia

I just came back from Namibia, which is an incredible and often overlooked African destination that combines wildlife viewing, amazing landscapes, both desert and coast, and cultural interactions with the Himba people.

Where to Stay:

Don’t miss a stay at Sossuvlei Desert Lodge, which has great stargazing (and star beds), or Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, where you can see the desert-adapted elephant.

Indonesia

Indonesia’s Komodo islands are ideal for intrepid families and honeymooners who want an experience all to themselves, away from other tourists. Best explored via luxury sailboat, these remote islands offer the perfect balance of adventure and relaxation. Visitors can hike volcanoes, enjoy diving lessons in coral atolls, try paddleboard yoga, swim with whale sharks, visit villages to witness traditional weaving, get up close to mighty Komodo dragons, and, of course, unwind and master the art of chilling.

Where to Stay:

There’s no better home base than the new Dunia Baru an über-luxurious boat offering seven exquisite en-suite cabins and ample space to relax over three decks. With iPad controllers and a Sonos sound system hooked up throughout, Dunia Baru effortlessly combines traditional techniques with modern technology for a truly over-the-top getaway.

10 Unexpected Places to Travel This Summer

Figuring out where to go on your summer escape can be a bit daunting. So daunting, you may even be tempted to just go back to wherever you went last summer or wherever everyone else is going .  or worse, skip the whole excursion all together. But don’t: That would be a terrible waste, especially when there is a whole world’s worth of under-the-radar places out there just waiting for you to discover.

To help narrow down the options, we asked a few travel experts to share their favorite unexpected summer vacation destinations. From Algarve on Portugal’s south coast to Sumba in Indonesia to the Greek island of Sifnos (all three of which were mentioned by more than one of our experts, by the way), here are 10 glorious ideas for where to go. Best of all? You probably won’t run into anyone you know.

Sifnos, Greece

Sifnos is a standout among the Cyclades Islands in Greece and should be top of the list for discerning travelers seeking a laid-back, culturally enriching escape this summer. This under-the-radar alternative to bustling Mykonos and Santorini is known to many as the island of flavors—and for good reason. Tempting dishes such as chickpea balls, mastélo (lamb cooked in red wine and spices), and the sweetest honey pie are to die for. The rustic island welcomes travelers into traditional Greek island life with its whitewashed villages, secluded beaches, perfect climate, and 227 churches and monasteries dotted along the coastline.

Where to Stay:

The Elies Resort is a 32-room haven known for its romantic elegance, Cycladic-style rooms, and direct access to Vathi beach.

Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands are made up of 18 small islands in the North Atlantic Ocean roughly between Iceland and Norway. On a map they look like pinpricks, but upon landing you realize that the islands are hugely imposing and sturdy and so beautiful you’ll have to keep checking your own pulse to make sure you’re actually alive. It isn’t the easiest place to get to, but after spending some time there, it’ll be even harder to leave.

The people are immediately warm, wonderfully earthy, and interesting; almost everyone I met spoke multiple languages and had traveled extensively, not something you may expect to find in such a small, isolated society. The islands have their own language, literature, art, and—of course—food. Ancient techniques of preserving fish, meat, and eggs are still in use and you’ll encounter flavors that just don’t exist anywhere else. Try the skerpikjøt, which is lamb fermented by sea air—you won’t be sorry.

Where to Stay:

Hotel Foroyar was designed by Danish architects Friis & Moltke and looks as if it has been carved directly into the land.

Adelaide, Australia

If Melbourne, with its colorful laneways, coffee shops, and heaps of top-notch restaurants, is Australia’s foodie capital, then the nearby state of South Australia would be the foodie state. Start in Adelaide, which feels a little like Portland in pace and love for food. Just an hour-drive away is the Barossa Valley, which makes some of the country’s finest wines from some of the world’s oldest vines. Right in town is the original Penfolds Magill Estate, and 20 minutes outside of town is the Basket Range wine region, which is leading the country’s natural winemaking movement.

Go to Lost in a Forest for organic pizzas, more wine, margaritas and Negronis in a 130-year-old church. Since you’re there anyway, you may as well take a small plane over to Port Lincoln, just an hour away and home to the largest fishing fleet of the Southern Hemisphere where you can eat your fill of oyster, bluefin tuna, and abalone.

Where to Stay:

The locals know The Mayfair to be one of the best in town—comfortable beds, large bathrooms, friendly service, and ideal location. In the Barossa, you could indulge in a vineyard retreat at The Louise with 15 private villas, each with their own terrace.

Portugal

Algarve, that beautiful stretch of land all the way in the southwest of the country, at the tip of Europe. The coast has always been breathtaking, with green mountains, spectacular cliffs, and hidden beaches all over. The surf scene is vibrant, and with that comes a carefree attitude toward life that is infectious. But in recent years, something else has happened: The country’s design scene has blossomed and new restaurants have been opening left and right.

Where to Stay:

Pay a quick visit to Lisbon or Porto, then rent a car and head down the coast to Algarve and create some fantastic summer memories. Casa Mãe in Lagos opened last year; its owner, Veronique Polaert, is a French expat who has an incredible eye for design. She assembled the best and brightest from the region, commissioned furniture and artworks from local artists, and created an oasis in the middle of this historic city. The hotel has its own farm outside the city, so the food in the restaurant is simply wonderful.

One of my top picks for summer is Lisbon, both for the city itself and as a starting point for exploring smaller towns and villages—like Sintra and Colares, an ancient town known for its very old vines. Toward the north, Nazaré, Óbidos, and Peniche all have beautiful beaches that are off the typical tourist track.

Where to Stay:

My favorite place to stay is a beautiful boutique hotel called Areias do Seixo, about an hour outside of Lisbon. Areias do Seixo offers both hotel rooms and villas. While the villas may seem like a great deal with three bedrooms, opt for the main hotel rooms, which are much more luxurious and beautifully designed.

Aland Islands, Finland

Summer’s seasonal warm temperatures and long sunny days make it the best time to explore the undiscovered landscape of the Åland Islands in Finland. Travelers can get lost discovering Finland’s archipelagos, taking advantage of opportunities to cycle, hike, kayak, and swim around the island. June is also a great time to visit Helsinki, as the city comes alive with a series of festivals and events celebrating Finnish culture and design.

Where to Stay:

Be sure to check in to the Hermit Cabin, a four-man cabin offering unparalleled seclusion and only accessible via kayak. This cute, rustic abode boasts its own sauna, making it the perfect place to relax and unwind after a day of adventure.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen is a favorite spot that doesn’t get talked about much in summer. I suspect it’s because the locals want it for themselves. The weather is perfect, there are only four hours of darkness at night, and the culinary scene is incredible. You can visit the fine-dining restaurant Kadeau at its secluded Bornholm Island location. It’s a short 30-minute plane ride and absolutely worth the journey; there’s also the Hotel Nordlandet where you can spend the night.

Where to Stay:

The most luxurious yet intimate place to stay is without question the Hotel Nimb. It’s a boutique property done in a stunning Arabian style with only 17 rooms.

Tofino, British Columbia

Tofino is an epic cold-water surfer’s paradise with peeling waves in protected coves that break on soft sandy beaches with only a few surfers in the lineup. The hamlet—just a speck in a massive harbor dotted with tiny islands covered with pristine forests—has delicious food, coffee, a great bookstore, and everything you need for a getaway. Hike through forests to get to hot springs, get around on boats to visit floating houses, watch bears shaking berries off shrubs and catching salmon in streams—there is so much to do and see.

Where to Stay:

Wya Point is outside of town with no cell reception and poor Internet access but there are a series of yurts right on the beach surrounded by forests. We spent our time unplugged; most nights we cooked fresh crab picked up from a fisherman in town and sat around the fire drinking wine and local beer.

Namibia

I just came back from Namibia, which is an incredible and often overlooked African destination that combines wildlife viewing, amazing landscapes, both desert and coast, and cultural interactions with the Himba people.

Where to Stay:

Don’t miss a stay at Sossuvlei Desert Lodge, which has great stargazing (and star beds), or Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, where you can see the desert-adapted elephant.

Indonesia

Indonesia’s Komodo islands are ideal for intrepid families and honeymooners who want an experience all to themselves, away from other tourists. Best explored via luxury sailboat, these remote islands offer the perfect balance of adventure and relaxation. Visitors can hike volcanoes, enjoy diving lessons in coral atolls, try paddleboard yoga, swim with whale sharks, visit villages to witness traditional weaving, get up close to mighty Komodo dragons, and, of course, unwind and master the art of chilling.

Where to Stay:

There’s no better home base than the new Dunia Baru,an über-luxurious boat offering seven exquisite en-suite cabins and ample space to relax over three decks. With iPad controllers and a Sonos sound system hooked up throughout, Dunia Baru effortlessly combines traditional techniques with modern technology for a truly over-the-top getaway.

The island of Sumba has been a secret favorite among surfers for years and its special resort, Nihiwatu, is drawing those who love beaches, pristine nature, and local interactions.

Where to Stay:

Spend a few days at Nihiwatu and then explore the remote islands on the Aman boat, Aman-i-khan.

Baja California, Mexico

It’s easy to forget that Mexico’s landmass is as big as Europe’s, and all the country’s in-the-know foodies know that Baja California is where the finest seafood is to be found as well as a burgeoning winemaking scene. I like to go high-low, eating everywhere from hole-in-the-walls to fine-dining restaurants, like Corazón de Tierra in Valle de Guadalupe by Diego Hernández, ranked on the Latin America 50 Best list. Hernández combines influences from international travel with a back-to-the-land approach and has experience working under Mexican greats like Enrique Olvera. All of this is about an hour’s flight away from LAX.

Where to Stay:

The six-room boho-chic B&B Villa del Valle adjoins Corazón de Tierra. There’s nothing like being able to roll over into bed after just one more glass of Baja Californian wine. You’ll be very well-fed, and the owners also make their own wine. It’s also an ideal launchpad from which to visit the 60-ish wineries in the region.

It inspired me to look for ways I could make my summer more exciting.

Now that summer is officially over, let’s see how I did with my plans for a more interesting summer.

Here’s a recap of O’Reilly’s seven tips for an exciting summer, along with my commentary on what I hoped to do and what I actually did:

Don’t waste the weekend.

O’Reilly encouraged us to set a goal for every weekend to do something new. My list included:

  • Picking berries at a farm (check)
  • Inviting new friends to dinner (check)
  • Playing tennis (check)
  • Riding bikes (Oops … maybe this fall.)
  • Going hot air ballooning (Yes, that was a biggie!)
  • Landscaping our backyard (Pulling a few weeds probably doesn’t count.)
  • Walking on the beach and watching the sun set with my husband (Well, sort of. I walked on the beach and watched a few sunsets, but hubby didn’t make it. It’s not too late for a fall walk.)

Get out of your vacation rut.

O’Reilly encouraged vacationing in a new place. We didn’t travel far this summer, but we did attend an out-of-state wedding and spent a few days at our old favorite vacation spot the Outer Banks. There’s a good reason we didn’t go far: We are planning a trip to Italy this fall to celebrate my big 6-0 and our 25th anniversary. That is really getting out of our rut!

Find creative day-trip destinations.

O’Reilly suggests imagining a 100-mile radius around your home and exploring it. This should’ve been easy, but I didn’t do so well. I visited nearby beaches and spent several lovely weekends at a friend’s river house. My husband and I also went to some outdoor concerts throughout the region, sampled several new restaurants and attended a downtown street party.

Learn a fun new skill.

Summer is a great time to learn something new, whether through a class, a club, an organization, online or from a friend. I am using an app to learn a little Italian before our trip. I had hoped to learn paddle boarding from a friend, but her summer schedule didn’t permit. Maybe next year.

Do at least one thing to give back to your community.

Giving back enhances gratitude and contentment and can even reduce stress levels, O’Reilly says. I fell short on my plan to donate blood over the summer, but I spent an afternoon weeding at our church.

Make a point to meet new people.

This gets difficult as we grow older. I had hoped to connect with some new health-minded friends through paddle boarding or biking, but that hasn’t happened yet. We did have a serendipitous meeting at a farm-to-table community dinner. These new friends are also going to Italy and invited us to share their apartment for a few days.

Maintain a spirit of joy and gratitude.

O’Reilly says it’s important to approach new adventures with a positive, open attitude. I was fortunate to have both of my adult daughters home for part of the summer, and I made a point of being grateful for their time and enjoying activities with them whenever possible.

When my older daughter suggested early morning trips to pick blueberries or go to the beach, I made every effort to rearrange my schedule and go. When my younger daughter invited me to try some new exercise classes with her, I went and, despite the sore muscles I was grateful and (mostly) joyful.

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