Summer Vacation: From The Inner Tube to the Internet

black Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses on beach sand

Ah, summer! That magical time of the year when schools let out, ice cream becomes a food group, and every beach in the country starts looking like a Where’s Waldo picture. For the kiddos, it’s a two-month hiatus from their scholarly duties, a time when they transform into temporary nocturnal creatures, flipping day into night. But let’s compare summer vacations now, in the hyperconnected 2020s, to those of the simpler, sepia-toned 1970s.

In the 1970s, parents couldn’t wait to boot their kids out the door at 9 a.m., with the only instructions being: “Be home the time the street lights come on!” Today, parents carefully orchestrate each moment of the day, programming the calendar app like a symphony conductor, lest their children have a moment of unproductive idleness. It’s all “Soccer Camp Monday, Coding Camp Tuesday, Band Camp Wednesday…” In the ‘70s, the only “camp” was when you and your pals pitched a tent in the backyard and toasted marshmallows.

And let’s talk about the attire. Fifty years ago, summer fashion was barefoot and cutt-offs, with the occasional addition of a baseball cap for sun protection. Now, it’s all about taking selfies for  Instagram . Oh, and those pool floaties! They’ve morphed from an actual inner tube to a unicorn-llama hybrids, avocado slices, and even the Titanic (I wish I was making this up).

Back in the ‘70s, the summer sun was your friend, your bronzing buddy. Sunscreen? Who needed it? Pass the baby oil! Tanned skin was the badge of a summer well-spent. Nowadays, going out into the sun without SPF 50 is equivalent to walking on a tightrope across the Grand Canyon—brave, but not particularly wise.

Summer jobs used to be a rite of passage. Mowing lawns, babysitting, working a fast-food drive-through—these jobs not only put some change in your pocket but also taught you the value of a hard-earned dollar. Now, the summer job has been replaced by YouTube channels and TikTok fame. The lemonade stand has gone virtual, and the hard-earned dollar is now a Bitcoin.

Let’s not forget about the ever-elusive summer reading list. In the past, these books were just begrudgingly skimmed or entirely replaced by their Cliff’s Notes counterparts. Now, they’re replaced by their YouTube summaries or still-begrudgingly read on a Kindle. However, I think we can all agree, no matter the era, that the allure of a summer night, a good book, and the chorus of crickets remains timeless.

And what about family vacations? Road trips in a station wagon crammed with luggage, kids, and a cooler stuffed with homemade sandwiches were the norm in the ‘70s. Now, we have the blessing and curse of GPS—no more surprise detours (or getting lost), instant traffic updates (endless highway construction), and recommendations for every pit stop, right down to the cleanest public restrooms. Yet, despite the tech advances, the infamous “Are we there yet?” has stood the test of time.

As much as we smirk at the changes, summer still has its charms. The essence of freedom, adventure, and the sweet laziness that comes with the heat remains the same. Thecrickets still sing their songs, the lighting bugs still blink through the sticky moonlight,  and the watermelons are just as juicy.  Even if they are in a smoothie.