Do something worthwhile over spring break

By Aubrey Klein

Spring break for American college students has earned a reputation as one long, alcohol-infused beach party. Whether it’s Cancun or Panama City Beach, college students from all over, including Lawrence students, will soon be packing up and making their way to some of the biggest party destinations in the U.S. For some, a vacation that gives in to vice and self-indulgence is the definition of fun.

After a long term of hard work, some people love to let loose with lots of partying and plenty of booze; as long as it is done safely, I see nothing wrong with this if it’s what you want to do. But many students already drink and party plenty throughout the term, and the thought of spending a whole week doing so sounds absolutely exhausting.

In many ways, the quintessential spring break replicates the same experiences you can already have on campus, just transferred from a frat house basement to a warm southern beach—although that does sound like a legitimate upgrade. But what if you’re sick of hard partying and heavy drinking, and would rather spend your break some other way?

Spring break is full of way more possibilities than what we’re used to seeing in spring break-themed movies or other friends’ Facebook albums. In fact, this image is already changing, and I’ve found that I’m just as likely to encounter someone heading to Panama City Beach as someone pursuing some version of an alternative spring break—one that prioritizes giving fried brains and exhausted bodies a chance to refresh and recharge.

I’m really pleased that on-campus student groups provide Lawrence students with alternative spring break options. One way to go is volunteering: Habitat for Humanity offers a spring break build trip open to all of campus, and this year, they are going to Arizona. There, they will get the same warmth and sunshine of the beach, while performing actions that are selfless rather than selfish.

It’s very uplifting to know that students want to use their time off to help others. While they may not get as much bodily rest as they might want, pursuing a volunteering opportunity is a chance to clear your mind of your own anxieties and school performance, and reflect on other people’s experiences.

Outdoor Recreation Club also offers an amazing slate of trips each year. Some of this year’s destinations include backpacking in the Ozarks, kayaking on the Rio Grande and camping on Cumberland Island, Georgia—all for around or less than $200.

Getting out into nature is a great way to clear your head after a term of cramming vocabulary words and concepts. The benefits of exploring a new place, immersing yourself in nature and meeting new people is—by my estimation at least—a nearly perfect way to spend spring, or any other break.

It should be noted that the sign-up deadlines for the above trips have passed, but there is always next year. And since the rosters fill up quickly, now it can be on your radar early on or maybe even inspiring you to join in on some of these groups’ other activities throughout the year.

In the event that you miss the sign-up for a trip offered by on-campus groups and don’t make any other more elaborate plans, impromptu road trips are a really fun way to spend a break. There’s a reason that the road trip occupies a nostalgic place in in America’s culture. Driving costs much less than flying, and if you split gas costs among friends it’s an even better deal. You can have a destination in mind or not—spontaneity makes for memorable experiences.

If you don’t have a lot of extra money to spend, a minimized version of the road trip can also be a great idea. Just get a group of friends together and go on a tour of each other’s hometowns. Since many Lawrentians hail from the surrounding states, you can get to your destination in only a few hours’ drive, and you save on lodging costs by crashing on your friends’ couches.

Have them take you on a tour around town and show you their favorite local hangouts. You’re bound to discover something new, and exploring places that aren’t top tourist destinations is cheap and hassle-free.

The last option for spring break is to go home and binge watch Netflix for ten days or finally put a dent in your reading list. While it might not be exciting enough for some, I find the prospect of ten straight days of relaxation and general laziness plenty appealing. After you graduate, when else will you get the chance to stay in your pajamas all day and catch up on several weeks’ worth of leisure activities?

While I won’t judge anyone for taking the traditional route to spring break, I think it’s refreshing to experience other options that you’ll always remember, rather than ones you might forget. While it may be too late to change your plans for the upcoming break, you can always start planning for next year. Spring break should be a chance to heal the mind and body from the stresses of a rigorous academic life, and to take the opportunity to do something that you may not ever get the chance to do again.

So instead of more of the same, you may think about elevating your spring break to the next level—dedicating your time to help others, soul-searching on a mountain hike or taking some unadulterated time for yourself. And in the midst of Spring Term, when homework has piled up, stress is imminent and all seems lost, you can look back on those blissful ten days, and breathe a sigh of relief at the memory.