“I would do anything, and at this point I do mean anything, to be laying on the beach in Cancun with a piña colada in hand…”

By Mariana Gutierrez-Serna

I have come to realize I am one of the rare cases that actually enjoys being trapped inside and spending most of my days alone. This is probably the reason I also don’t have a boyfriend, but that’s beside the point.

Through my many hours alone I have come to the conclusion that I have been suppressing the part of me that is completely devastated by the fact that I cannot travel. I would do anything, and at this point I do mean anything, to be laying on the beach in Cancun with a piña colada in hand, or just romanticizing being a fashion icon in the streets of Paris, or literally just taking a trip to the mountains.

As much as I love being stuck at home trying to drown myself in high quality Netflix originals or just binging on whatever I find in the kitchen, getting on a plane going somewhere far away from Edmonton would be a godsend. It is hell knowing that I probably won’t be able to go to Mexico to visit my family members any time soon or take a year abroad and explore some mysterious city that I have never visited.

Unfortunately, complaining about the reason I can’t do things has become a habit that I am desperately trying to get rid of. So, I decided to think of things I could be doing that could make up for the fact that I won’t be on a plane escaping this reality in the near future.

A beach day in your backyard

Anyone taking a stroll by your backyard would probably have a laugh looking at you lay alone in the middle, staring at the sky, but hear me out. There are very few things that I genuinely enjoy doing outdoors during the summer, but laying on the beach with the sound of waves crashing in front of me is always going to be my all-time favorite activity. Under the circumstances, there is no way I will be finding myself in a tropical setting any time soon, so I brought the experience to my backyard.

I start by placing a towel on the grass and if I am feeling confident, I would wear a nice swimsuit instead of some loose shorts and a random tee. Unfortunately, my laziness always gets the best of me, so I never give the swimsuit a second thought. I also made myself my go to beach snacks: ceviche, shrimp cocktail, chips and salsa, and a classic Caesar. If I had wanted to add more ambiance to the experience, I probably would have played beach sounds in the background; but instead, I decided to go for some Bad Bunny, Don Patricio, and I will probably get some hate for this, but Pitbull just gets me in the right vacation mood, if I am being honest.

This could also be a good meditation technique. By taking my time to put my snacks together and preparing the drinks. Even creating the playlist can take some time and getting to set up a vibe for the event is definitely soothing. The preparation of it is honestly exhilarating cause I know I am doing it for the sole purpose of relaxing.

This could be applicable to any other setting you are trying to achieve. If Paris is somewhere you wish to be right now, you could try incorporating some French cuisine into your day. You could do this by going to your favourite French restaurant or getting out of your comfort zone and trying some new homemade recipes. I don’t want to lie and say that I am a New York expert, because there is no way that’s true from one visit. But personally, to try to get a sense of its ambiance, I would go for some classic Brooklyn pizza and some huge-ass pretzels with way too much salt in them. I would also suggest binging as many films set in New York and just immerse yourself in its culture. I just hope this helps spark some ideas because everyone will come up with their own personalized way to recreate their ideal vacation.

Virtual parties

Bad connections and terrible lighting will never replace the experience of being in person and actually being present with family members and friends. Sadly, this is the closest we will get to staying connected to the outside world, especially if those people live outside of your city or country.

My dad’s side of the family is very involved in each other’s lives. To give you an idea of how overwhelmingly close they are, I will just say that our WhatsApp group chat receives over 300 messages daily. Half of them are just dedicated to saying a quick “hello” and “how are things?” to 20+ members, and the other half consists of memes and random pictures. We try to visit Mexico every summer but since the pandemic started, we haven’t had the best luck.

This did not stop my family from sharing major celebrations. From Christmas to everyone’s birthday, there is always a scheduled Zoom meeting to celebrate the occasion. Christmas had to be one of my favourites, karaoke, loteria and continuous laughs for over two consecutive hours.

I tried suggesting this to friends that have been struggling to stay in touch with family. Give the people you miss a call. Or better yet, organize an entire event for your family. The planning itself does not take long and you will realize that, even if the experience is not exactly the same as the ones you’ve had in the past, it is heart-warming to see your family smiling through the camera, happy to see your marvelous face once again.

PowerPoint parties

PowerPoint parties also have become somewhat of a trend, or so they told me before I partook in one of them, and it gave my friends and I something to keep ourselves busy during our breaks from school.

The whole idea of the event is to pick a theme for the PowerPoint presentations and during the party everyone gets a chance to present their argument. It is easier to do this through Zoom by sharing your screen so everyone can see your presentation.

My best friend and I are currently debating whether Ron or Draco would be a better boyfriend for Hermione. For anyone who has not seen Harry Potter, this argument cannot be settled over one debate. Let’s just say there is no way my Draco presentation will be beaten. I put too much damn effort for my friend to beat me with her Ron argument; also, sidenote, I love Ronald Weasley, and hate me all you want but I have to pair Hermione up with Draco, they would just work. Anyway, there is no reason why someone would not be able to plan a virtual party for their family or friends. It is easy and it can be done from the comfort of your own home


I thought the last thing I would like to do during any sort of break from school would be to study, but honestly, I seem to like it more when I know no one is forcing me to do the work.

Weekend workshops were the highlight of many summers: they are a very entertaining way to stay productive during weeks of laziness, but I am not sure how available they will be this year.

 About a year ago, 75% of my YouTube ads consisted of MasterClass previews, and maybe it was the fact that they came up so much, but I gave in and subscribed. This online education platform was a reasonable replacement for any in-person masterclass I could have taken. The subscription contains pre-recorded courses from various categories, which are taught by well-recognized professionals. They are all accessible to you without having to leave your home. This made it so easy for me to enroll in several courses at once.

My favourites are the creative writing ones, especially the Margaret Atwood masterclass. Atwood went over the important elements of creative plot and process, using her own work as examples. I always thought I would be caught dead before working on an assignment of over 20 pages during the summer. But Atwood never failed to put a smile on my face whenever she assigned an intensive writing task for homework at the end of every class. It was fascinating to me to have an actual legend enlightening me this way.

My brother has also been taking advantage of the subscription and has started to take Stephen Curry’s basketball masterclass. Practicing his dribbles and ball-handling at the basketball court for a month before his school’s tryouts. Let’s just say Curry has some competition now.

Meditation and Self-Renewal

During the pandemic, I wanted to improve myself in every way. A long, peaceful health retreat would have been preferable, but having your own improvement plan at home is better than nothing.

My dad has recently read the self-help book Atomic Habits and is trying so hard to make us realize the good things that we could be doing to better our lives. So, based on his constant words of encouragement, I started exercising for at least five minutes a day. The amount of time I spend working out is slowly increasing and I am hoping to reach 45 minutes a day during the summer.

A lot of my friends have used the excuse that they are on vacation to stop doing the “healthy thing”, and even though I have also been one of those people, I am forcing myself to use my free time productively.

I would suggest creating a small support group with people that are close to you. Make it a goal to improve every week and share your progress with everyone else. Believe me, it can be exhausting and intimidating, but sometimes being pressured by others is all you need to take the big leap of change. Or if this is something you can definitely not get behind, keeping a progress log for yourself would also be a step in the right direction.

Aside from improving physically, I am also trying to make my mind shut up at times, cause my anxiety is suffocating. Meditation has been a blessing. I am not going to lie and say I have mastered it, because who am I kidding? My attention span is so low I get distracted by a car driving five blocks away. So, I am still trying to create a good ambiance for me to be fully involved in the moment. The experience had to be worth my ridiculous 50$ ash-scented candle, which I returned and went back for a couple times. It was quite an investment that definitely required some thought.

I was also hoping my several Amazon orders of self-help books, essential oils, Rose Quartz Gua Sha, and Tarot cards would help me feel better and release some stress instantly. I realized it was stupid of me to think these things happened like magic.  My wallet has been in tears since I started my self-renewal phase, which by the looks of it will not be ending any time soon.

I have come to realize that not everything works for everyone. I did my research and acquired everything that I thought would motivate me to stay healthy and in tune with myself. For example, many of my friends mentioned Gua Sha. Firstly, the name sounded like delicious soup, but I discovered it is actually a stone that helps improve circulation by scraping parts of your body that feel tense. It might not seem like much but incorporating it into my routine has helped me relax a bit more. So, I encourage you to find something, anything, to help you improve the aspects of your life that you think could benefit from enhancement.


I have an unhealthy obsession with going to the movies. Let me just say that in two months time I gained enough Scotiabank points for eleven free movie tickets. And I doubt it’s just me. Unfortunately, I was separated from my dearest love a couple of months ago. Either way, I have always related vacation and relaxing with sitting at home watching TV. So, I guess I had a safe alternative.

The world has gratefully provided us with so many platforms to waste our time with so saying “there is nothing to watch” is an insult to our own laziness. Put in the damn work, or better yet, I will give you some options to keep you attached to the couch.

If you haven’t watched The To Do List on Netflix, I recommend you do. Yes, it is a chick flick. There will be more options from other categories later on, I promise. I would be kidding myself if I said I was going to be sexually active this summer. So instead, I decided to click on the one movie that does not make me feel shitty about my love situation. The protagonist feels so pressured by others’ sexual experience that she decides to make a list of every sexual act that she can think of. So, the summer before she heads to college, she commits to check everything off her list. Aside from the hilarious plotline, who wouldn’t enjoy some of Audrey Plaza’s expressionless acting? She is the goddess of sarcasm.

Now heading towards something a bit different. The dark comedy-based spy thriller, Killing Eve, is a must-watch. After Eve begins to obsessively decipher several European murders, she is placed on a psychotic killer’s case. And as the assassin notices Eve close behind her, both get stuck in a ridiculous game of catch-up. For anyone who has a basic Crave subscription, I believe this would be worth your time. I also don’t think Rotten Tomatoes’ 96% rating lies, just saying.

Lastly, why not binge the entire Harry Potter series. Or any family favourite for that matter. There are great options out there: The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek, or just go ahead and binge all four of the Shrek movies. Planning a daylong event with a never-ending buffet of food seems like heaven when all you are looking to do is relax. Be sure to make it a cheat day, cause otherwise you might be concerned with the amount of junk food you will be consuming all through the marathon. Trust me, you will hate yourself afterwards if you don’t allow yourself to loosen up.

To everyone reading this, I would recommend that you take the few things you really enjoy about being stuck at home and amplified them. Trust me, if you do them right you will have one of the best summers of your life. I know you are probably just laughing at how stupid that is, maybe not the BEST summer but close enough.

Although, I do believe that as long as you are happy with yourself it will never matter where you are. You will always be satisfied regardless. So, there is no harm in putting a little effort this summer and trying to make every single thing you do memorable.