Surviving a Small-Town Summer by Marshall Pickard

Today, Marshall steps in to share secrets to not only survive, but enjoy a summer spent in your small hometown. Check out his tips!


As someone who earnestly believes that vacationing is the secret to a successful life, it’s no surprise my family almost always spends some of our summer lounging on a beach.

However, after an incredible semester in England, Florida just wasn’t in the budget this year, so I’ve spent much of summer working in my small college town.

At first, the Instagram pictures of my friends at the ocean or the Eifel Tower or the mountains bothered me.  But then I decided to have an amazing summer right where I was, even if it was a little lonely and stripped of an ocean breeze.

So in case you as well are too busy working or studying to vacay this year (and don’t exactly live in Metropolis), here’s what I learned about staying planted for a small-town summer:

Enjoy local treats.  Especially if the community you’re occupying for the summer is your hometown, this tip might seem useless.  However, no matter how familiar you are with a place, there are always local treasures to seek out and discover.  Celebrate what makes your little town unique!  I’ve personally enjoyed rediscovering my city’s Greenway, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and hometown froyo shop.

Invest time in yourself.  There’s no time like the summertime to get some good moments alone.  When your friends are off traveling the world, you can really enjoy some restorative introverted moments (even if you aren’t an introvert).  Take yourself on a date or spend quality time developing yourself by reading or exercising—both of which I’ve gotten to treasure this summer.

Pursue your passion.  In the quietness of this summer, I’ve found so many more opportunities to go after my favorite thing to do—writing.  Whether you love art or music or sports, there’s nothing like actually carving out the time to do things you really enjoy.  Hey, you might even need to declare a staycation one weekend to catch up on your favorite pastime.

Take day trips to the city.  One of the best things about living in a small town is that you don’t have to deal with the busyness of big tourist attractions.  But every once in a while, you need some fast-paced adventure, and more than likely, there’s at least one city remotely near you (hopefully).   By avoiding cost of a hotel room, day-tripping is a decently inexpensive way to see a city.  In the nearest city, you can catch a concert, stroll through the hipster art district, eat at a nice restaurant, or see your favorite regional sports team play ball—and still get to sleep in your own bed that evening.

Enjoy nature.  Just because you can’t go to beach (unless of course, you live near a beach), doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the great outdoors.  If you live in a small town, there’s bound to be a river, a lake, or a forest nearby for you to take some chill time exploring.  Shoot, the least you can do is take your lunch break in a nearby park.  However nature speaks to you, don’t forget to spend peaceful (and probably cheap) time outdoors.

Practice gratitude.  Humans have this tendency to always be thinking about the “next thing,” so it’s no surprise you’re going to be tempted to ditch the job/schoolwork and hop on a plane to do something more exciting.  But as long as you allow yourself to think this way, you’ll never be content.  What will make you enjoy the rest of your summer is focusing on the good things you have in your life right now.  There are probably a lot more than you realize.

As the summer begins to fade, don’t waste any time daydreaming about distant adventures.  I hate to break it to you, but even travel doesn’t bring complete satisfaction.  You have to find that right where you are.

So dig into your small town, live like a local, and appreciate all the blessings you have to be thankful for right here and right now.


City lights are calling my name

In high school I had a dream. I dreamed of living on a ranch in the country, raising a family and owning multiple dogs (along with other farm animals, probably). The peacefulness and beauty of the country appealed to me, and I loved the idea of owning land and building a home with my own hands. Coincidentally, I started listing to a lot of country music in high school.

I still wanted a career, but my focus was on the country. It seemed perfect.

But then I went to college and everything changed. Over the past two and a half years I’ve been lucky enough to explore cities like New York, Nashville, Chattanooga, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Knoxville, and LA. Each city is unique from another. Some are small, some are huge, some are scenic, some are made of concrete. In all of this exploring I’ve taken away one thing: cities are fun.


NYC lovin’

Seriously. They’re alive, exciting, and full of possibilities. My favorite memories include going dancing in Nashville, biking through downtown Houston, seeing “Chicago” on Broadway in NYC, going to a taping of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno in LA, Stand up paddle boarding on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, and tons more. My most recent adventure was this past weekend in Austin, TX, with my roommate. The whole weekend was incredible. We always had something fun to do! (live music, amazing local coffee shops, theater, incredible shopping and oh my gosh, the Mexican food. Austin definitely won me over.)

I still love the idea of life in the country, but I can do that when I’m old. Right now the city lights are romancing my adventurous soul. I have to explore them. I want to know the people, experience the culture, and try new things. I want to be pushed out of my comfort zone, so a big city seems perfect.


Paddle boarding in the middle of the city with fellow adventurers

I’m extremely thankful for my college experience in a small town that I’ve grown to love, but as soon as I get that diploma I’m packing my bags for a bigger skyline and bigger possibilities. I would go anywhere that’s exciting and new: my ideal is to get a writing job at an amazing magazine and get paid to know the people and explore.

Who knows what will happen, but the possibilities make me so excited. For the immediate future, big city life is definitely for me. But I’ll probably still listen to country music.


Austin, I miss you.
PS I know you can’t actually see the city, but my roommate is beautiful, so I had to post it. Trust me when I tell you that Austin is beautiful too.

If you’re looking for some city adventures (or just want to daydream) like me, check out HuffPost’s “20 Awesome Cities You Need to Visit in Your 20’s,” and FoxNew’s “10 Most Exciting Cities to Live in In America.