To all the undergrad and graduate students — and restless young professionals —suffering from bouts of cabin fever and jet-setting off to the beach or Caribbean, we salute you. But for 20-somethings looking for an alternative way to spend spring break or to just get out of the office for a week, here’s your guide:
Hit the trails
Sand and sun not for you? Grab a friend and embrace the wide-open freedom offered by a week spent in nature. Gather your camping gear and consider section-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, or exploring your favorite state or national park. Or opt for a cozy cabin stay with a scenic view, far from distractions or stress for a few days — after all, this is vacation.
Volunteer — abroad or at home
Volunteering abroad may be one of the most common spring break alternatives, and there’s a good reason why: It’s awesome. Volunteers get to check multiple boxes: travel, helping others, and if you head to the right location, you even get sunshine and warmth. Countless organizations are ready to help plan your trip, all varying in project length, type, and involvement. Nonprofit giants like Global Vision International take care of your whole trip (except airfare), leaving you to focus entirely on the work at hand. Projects like wildlife conservation, women’s empowerment, teaching, and more are available for as short as one to two weeks. Looking for more independence? Try workaway.info, an international exchange site in which the host provides lodging and food in return for a few hours’ work each day. Projects can range from milking cows on a dairy farm in Iceland to working at a cafe in Paris.
Meanwhile, to get a macro glimpse at independent nonprofits and learn up-close how they function and grow, try small, grassroots organizations like Casa de Los Angeles in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I spent two weeks at this day care for the children of single, working mothers one spring, and it was a phenomenal experience.
Volunteering abroad can be a murky pool to wade through, so make sure you do plenty of research and know up front what work you will be doing. Most importantly, how effective are the projects for the local community? You can find this out by getting advice from people who have gone on alternative spring break trips and really scouring an organization’s website for comments, reviews, etc. – even perhaps by contacting previous volunteers.
Sometimes the hardest part of planning a trip is finding a friend who can join you, whose schedule and budget align with yours. Often, a would-be traveler interprets an unsuccessful recruitment as defeat, and the trip’s off. But why? Traveling solo can be one of the most rewarding experiences you could have this year. You get to decide scheduling, destinations, restaurants, where to grab coffee. The hours you may have spent debating or compromising with a travel partner you now have entirely to yourself to wander, challenge your comfort zone, and get to know yourself and your capabilities on a new level.
Always busy and stressed with no time or resources to plan a trip? Then maybe a staycation is for you. It’s the perfect opportunity to unwind and recharge in the ease and comfort of your own home. The key word here is indulgence — read books, stream your favorite shows, sleep in, take time for you and only you.
While you’re at it, why not jump into a short-term course centered around that hobby you’ve always wanted to try — cooking, baking, woodworking, carpentry, pottery, or if you’re feeling particularly ambitious, getting a head start on learning a new language. Community colleges often offer affordable classes on eclectic, fun subjects like these.