Summers as an adult are much different than summers as a kid. At the end of a long day, I don’t come home smelling like a mixture of grass and sweat, my dinners hardly ever include sloppy joes or ice cream sandwiches, and I definitely don’t get a three-month break from all of my responsibilities in the middle of the year.
So when Hannah and I were tasked with completing everything on our summer bucket lists, I don't think either of us knew what to expect. Especially since there were only two rules:
- Get through as many activities as possible within 24 hours.
- Have fun.
That said, there was one last very important element of this challenge. You see, Hannah lives in L.A., and I live in New York, so by definition, we're enemies.
Being competitive by nature (note: not to be confused with athleticism), we both really wanted to "win." We needed to prove our city was better — in the summer, at least.
So, without further ado, our summer bucket list:
Megan (NY): I'm not a morning person, so setting my alarm an hour earlier than I would for a regular workday was painful. Though much to my surprise, I bounced out of bed as if it were Christmas morning. I guess that's what happens when your "commute" is to the beach to watch the sunrise, not to the office to look at a computer screen.
Hannah (L.A.): I thought this bucket list challenge was supposed to have all the elements of a perfect summer day. WHO GETS UP EARLY ON A PERFECT SUMMER DAY? So yeah, I did not constrain myself to a schedule. I stayed in bed all morning. Sleeping in = peak summer.
Megan (NY): I went to the beach alone. Apparently waking up before the sun (and before a full day at work) to ride the train an hour away to Coney Island is a hard sell. But ya know what? It was actually pretty awesome, even by myself. The beach was nearly empty, so I got to pick the perfect spot, lay out a towel, and read a few chapters of my book that would have otherwise continued to collect dust. And listening to the waves and seagulls was a nice change of pace from the honking and sirens that normally greet me in the morning. (No offense, Manhattan.)
Hannah (L.A.): I was still sleeping. No shame.
Megan (NY): Everyone has a stance on hot dogs: You either love 'em, or you don't. And before you even ask, no, I don't want to know what they're made of — I don't care. They're delicious, and I'm ordering five. I'm such a shameless hot dog consumer, in fact, that I decided to check it off the list at 10:30 a.m., and I even got snaps to prove it. Nothing says "I'm channeling my inner child" quite like eating weird food for breakfast.
Hannah (L.A.): My friend Eileen came over to join me after I finally dragged myself out of bed because summering without friends sounded completely inappropriate. It was time to picnic.
There are picnics, and then there are Pinterest picnics. Blanket? Check. Iced tea with real fruit in it? Done. Paper goods we didn’t steal from work? Present.
To be honest, before the picnic, I was a bit intimidated by some of the items on the summer bucket list challenge. Lawns where you picnic have bugs in them, the ocean is full of 10 million sharks everywhere, sports are hard... You see where I'm going with this. But most of all, I worried that trying to fit so much “fun” into one day would be the quickest way to ensure we wouldn’t actually have any. But when we sat down for our picnic, I found myself fully experiencing it, not just trying to check something off a list. It’s hard not to fall under the spell of warm sunlight, ripe strawberries, fresh grass, and cold iced tea. It was going to be a good day.
Megan (NY): After my sunrise beach adventure, I rode the train back into the city and met my work wife, Priya, for lunch in the park. (See, I have friends, I swear.)
But wow, Hannah, throwing some serious shade at my picnic! Maybe we did steal food and plates and utensils from the office, OK?! No one said that was against the rules! We're just opportunistic. And broke. Mostly just broke.
Megan (NY): We also thought it was important to make lemonade because, you know...lemonade. You know.
Hannah (L.A.): I don’t think I’ve used sidewalk chalk since I was 7, but I am definitely down to do it again. Neighbors, I hope you like bad art.
Also, Eileen spelled "bucket" wrong the first time, and I have the pictures to prove it. Chalk might wash away, BUT THE SHAME NEVER WILL.
Megan (NY): Rooftops in the city, especially during the summer, can be a straight-up nightmare. Out-of-towners always want to visit one so they can snap a pic and post it to the 'gram. But there aren't any guarantees; the atmosphere is hit or miss. That said, the pessimist in me was immediately silenced by this view. I couldn't help but look out at my city and think, My god, I live here! Plus, OK, yeah, I got a good pic for the 'gram.
Hannah (L.A.): For my ~summer look~, I wanted to channel something a little more "Californian" than my pale skin and straight dark hair. I wanted beachy curls, tan skin, and sandal-ready feet.
Unfortunately, my self-tanner application skills haven’t improved since the last time I tried in high school, and my tan was just as streaky this time as it was at 17. (So you could say I had the skin of a 17-year-old. Yeah, let’s go with that.) And the “beachy waves” hair tutorial I tried to follow turned my hair into a lopsided, frizzy nightmare. Luckily we didn’t attempt to do our nails ourselves. (Shout-out to Varnish Lab for hooking us up!) Now at least our feet were summer ready.
Hannah (L.A.): Beach volleyball is hard, you guys. Neither Eileen nor I could breathe after like five minutes of light volleyballing. It was kind of sad.
I’ve always been a little intimidated by the hardcore, confident, and super-fit players on the beaches of L.A., so while I’ve wanted to give the sport a try, I’ve been too nervous to actually get out there. As expected, it is definitely not my calling, but on the plus side, I didn’t draw crowds of people pointing and laughing. Win? Win.
Megan (NY): Confession: I had to google "hopscotch" to make sure I was drawing it right. To add insult to injury, I found out I've been playing it wrong my entire life! Apparently, you're supposed to roll a stone onto the chalked area and hop over the square it lands on. Who knew, y'all? Who. Knew.
Even though this was the simplest activity of the day, it wound up being one of the most fun! Not only did lots of co-workers come down to play with us, but we also caught random passersby hopping on it as they passed our building.
Hannah (L.A.): I’m a bit on the neurotic side — as in terrified of everything, always, and this includes the ocean. At its worst, it’s full of sharks, jellyfish, giant squid, used hypodermic needles, etc., and at its best, it makes your skin feel super dry. I’ve lived in L.A. for the last 10 years, and I’ve probably touched the ocean about five times. It’s very sad, so I vowed to change my ways. And look! Look at my feet! They’re in the water! TAKE THAT, BUCKET LIST!
Also, I'm confirming that sand got in EVERYTHING. In my car, in my apartment, in my backpack, under my nails. We almost deserve extra credit for our thoroughness in committing to this one.
Megan (NY): The first thing on the bucket list should have been "Remember to stop at an ATM because everything in this godforsaken city is cash only, you fool." I guess that's part of the process, though. Nothing worth having comes easily (or without paper money, apparently).
Don't be fooled by the seemingly perfect boat pic below. Rowing that thing around was a serious workout and a reminder that my hand-eye coordination hasn't gotten any better since high school gym. Priya was even worse than I was, though, cruising us into rocks, low-hanging tree branches, and even other boaters. That said, I can't remember the last time I laughed that hard, and we managed not to tip the boat or fall in, so that's gotta count for something.
Hannah (L.A.): I was super psyched when I found out my new apartment had a pool. Cut to years later, and I still haven't used it. Turns out, like everything else on this list I’ve been reluctant to do, going in the pool was kind of great, especially when paired with root beer floats. Why I don’t do this every weekend, I don’t know.
Megan (NY): Priya and I decided to have a Treat Yo' Self evening at a fancy restaurant where they made us order not one but two entrées per person. This further proved that my true goal for this summer challenge was to at least complete everything involving food.
After our lavish dinner date, we both commented "how full" we were. That was, until the music from a Mr. Softy's ice cream truck coaxed us into ordering two chocolate cones with rainbow sprinkles. There's always room for dessert.
Hannah (L.A.): I was terrified to paddleboard. Nothing between you and a thousand hungry sharks except for a dainty piece of foam. WHY DID I AGREE TO THIS?
I mentioned several times leading up to it that I'd seriously considered canceling this part of the day. But I didn't, and our instructor, Tim, was the nicest! He gave us patient and positive instructions, checked in with us to make sure we felt safe, and didn’t make me feel lame when I asked him to take a ton of pics. However, he did tell us we were in STINGRAY BREEDING GROUND and that he’d seen several that week. I was so close to running back to the car and leaving this bucket list item unchecked. But instead, I risked my very life and successfully paddleboarded around the bay...though I haven’t stayed alive this long by regularly swimming in monster-infested nightmare zones, so I stand by my initial freakout.
By the way, paddleboarding was way more strenuous than I thought it would be! I already knew that people who do yoga on paddleboards are intense, but now I barely believe they’re human.
Megan (NY): I think Priya and I were still eating dinner around the time Hannah was paddleboarding. It's not that we'd "given up" on the bucket list, per se, but it had definitely taken a backseat, or at least a quick timeout. After spending the entire day roaming all over New York, we milked the time we had to spend in a chair. Had I known Hannah and Eileen were paddleboarding, biking, and hiking back to back, I might've mustered up the energy to move. Maybe.
Hannah (L.A.): I was so exhausted, I don’t even know how we got our helmets on. Having this much summer fun was completely kicking my ass. We definitely should have put “summer nap” on the list. Or maybe we should have spread all the sporty activities out more.
Also, I learned that just because cute girls in movies can peddle in five-inch platforms doesn’t mean they should. Do NOT recommend. Our smiles are LIES.
Hannah (L.A.): We were so tired at this point. So dead. It was a great sunset, though. This picture looks like we’re probably saying something sweet and meaningful like “Friendship is a wonderful treasure you both give and keep,” and not something like, “I’m so tired, I’m crying,” which is definitely more accurate. I would also like to emphasize how popular this sunset was. A crowd gathered. It was clearly the hottest show in town.
Hannah (L.A.): I’m so glad we saved this for the end. It made the whole day feel kind of like camp. We exhausted ourselves doing a bunch of outdoorsy activities, and then we got to sit around eating s’mores with friends. Only this was much better than camp because we got the s’mores without having to sleep in a tent or listen to someone play an acoustic guitar. And it was finally something that involved sitting! I’m not usually a dessert person, but there is something really satisfying about lighting fluffy sugar balls on fire.
Megan (NY): By 9 p.m., the sky was full of dark clouds, and it was starting to sprinkle on us, but we had no intention of calling it quits. Maybe it was the delirium setting in, but the crap weather wasn't stopping us from dancing our asses off at our outdoor concert. Both of us had even planned on leaving early but wound up staying ‘til the very end, embarrassingly singing our guts out and reminiscing on the crazy day we'd had.
The Winner & Final Thoughts
Hannah (L.A.): 17 things crossed off! WEST COAST, BEST COAST!
I learned quite a bit today. First of all, I am wrong a lot! So many of the activities we did are things I’ve previously written off as no fun or dangerous or hard. I wish I'd been more open-minded and adventurous sooner! Second, Eileen can’t spell the word “bucket” under pressure (don’t kill me, please). Finally, just because we’ve grown up and don’t have an official summer break doesn’t mean this season isn’t worth celebrating. Being an adult and having to go to work on Monday doesn’t mean s’mores, riding bikes, and playing in the pool are out of the question.
Megan (NY): I hate admitting defeat, but the L.A. girls beat us. They beat us good. I only completed 16 items on the list, but in my defense, I couldn't jump in any sprinklers because they were all watering bushes or flowers, and I'm pretty sure fireflies in New York City are an urban legend.
It was a daunting challenge, and we didn't rise to the occasion, at least not in the way I'd initially expected we would. As the day went on, I found myself caring less about winning and more about soaking up each moment to the fullest. It's easy to get swept up in the fast-paced lifestyle of the city, but for once, we stopped to smell the roses. After all, I still have the rest of the summer to check everything off my bucket list, right?