Summers before grad school and postdoc were usually spent on the beach somewhere in Greece/Cyprus for 4-6 weeks, with no care other than what delicious food are we eating that afternoon.
Graduating to adult life meant learning reality and true adult responsibilities, like being able to even afford to travel (tickets are so expensive!) and being able to take the time off. This summer, I managed to blend business and vacation – by taking time to present my work at an international conference, and then taking additional time off post-conference to travel to my homeland.
I attended a conference in Tuscany, Italy, and it was one of the most beautiful places to talk science. It was held at a resort up on a hill that overlooked the small village of Barga, with our daily breakfast, lunch and dinner overlooking the glorious valley. It was breathtaking. I got to mix and mingle with others in my field, hear about some cutting edge things going on, as well as expand my knowledge in these topics. I got to know other graduate students and postdocs from various institutions, although I was the only industry postdoc (and almost only person from Industry in general) there. It was a very academic focused conference, and at the “career” sessions, I constantly felt the urge to scream “THERE’S MORE TO DO THAN BECOME A PROFESSOR/ACADEMIA POST PHD!!!!” – and you bet I wrote that in the feedback forms! Overall, it was a great experience, and happy I attended.
Before and after the conference I managed to travel a bit in Italy on my own – first I went to Cinque Terre since it was on my list for a while and close enough to get to before the conference. I stayed in the first village Riomaggiore, and managed to visit each of the five villages thru train or hiking!! It was breathtaking, a lot of good food, and definitely recommend it!! I posted a bit on my Instagram stories and feed, so do check out those pictures! It was nice to travel on my own and just be able to go somewhere I have wanted to. I had some anxiety traveling on my own as it has been some time since I last traveled alone – so at times it was hard. At times I battled within my own mind to not go into the anxious spiral. Everything worked out in the end.
After the conference ended, I took the high speed train to Rome. I enjoyed sightseeing in Rome, but since it was in the middle of the summer, there was a heatwave all across Europe. I explored the city in the 90 degree heat, walking most places, and seeing the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, The Roman Forum, The Colosseum, etc. The sights were breathtaking, but the sheer amount of tourists made it a bit unbearable. There were SO MANY PEOPLE EVERYWHERE. Lines. Just in general at each thing. The amount of tourists made it less enjoyable than I expected. There was a day where I ended up just needing a day in – I was exhausted from constant walking around, so I stayed in the air condition in my airbnb and watched netflix and relaxed. It was so peaceful and really enjoyable. Don’t have to always go out and spend money on things to have a good time.
Following Rome, I traveled to visit my Family in Cyprus for two weeks and it was just what I needed. I was able to no worry about filling my days with sightseeing and having to do things just because I would feel guilty visiting a new place. Having the chance to reset, with no commitments other than what beach are we going to tomorrow afternoon was very very nice. I unplugged from work, unplugged from the things I was dealing with back home, and it was refreshing. I needed a change of scenery, and just time to not have to critically use my brain for science. Time spent with family, and no worries about my other social obligations.
I came back to work feeling focused and refreshed. I hit the ground running and set up/ran my big experiment that was one year in the planning. July and August were very productive and busy months for me work-wise! I’m pretty happy with my progress and now I feel like I am finally moving forward with my data! I can’t wait to see my data after the samples are analyzed and I hope I have some good targets!!
Sometimes, a change of scenery, a change of your reality, can really help. Like a LOT. Taking a break is nice, and allowing your brain to return to your baseline level of low stress is refreshing. I highly recommend it. If you can’t afford to travel somewhere, you can always do a staycation and explore your surroundings, and be a tourist in your own town. I did that right after I defended my PhD and had time off before I moved from LA, and it was actually really nice!
It can be very economical to travel around in your city – you can do free/cheaper things like going to a museum, going to a park, checking out new cafes and new restaurants.
I wore some cute outfits, and went out with my cousins one night wearing this really pretty royal purple dress that I found on Amazon! It was very flattering and it kept me nice and cool in the Cyprus heat! I’ve found a lot of really cute clothing and dresses on Amazon lately! I enjoy shopping on Amazon as there is free prime shipping and quick returns! (not sponsored, lol I just enjoy shopping there!)
How did you spend your summer? Was it productive work wise and personally? Did you get to travel anywhere? Let me know in the comments below!