I wrote this while sitting in a small, independent café in Leeds, England. I’d just ordered a flat white made with single origin beans from Ethiopia and micro-roasted by a local roaster. Apart from the revealing British accent, I could’ve literally been anywhere in the world. Anywhere with a good coffee scene, that is.
When I travel, I always do extensive research on my destination. Places to eat are always at the top of my list, of course, but I also research cafés because I can hardly function properly without my morning (and mid-morning and after lunch and afternoon) coffee and nothing puts me in a really bad mood like a bad cup of coffee. I also like them because they are great spots to watch the local culture. I always seek independent coffee shops as opposed to chains. As I had a moment of stillness in that Leeds coffee shop that morning sipping on my cup and with some rare time to reflect, I couldn’t help but observe how these cafés give me a sense of home. They have no real belonging to the city they’re in, which means that they could, in fact, be anywhere in the world. I feel at home in all of them, which is sometimes a nice respite from running around a foreign city all day long.
To just sit, slow down and feel at home in familiar surroundings for a few minutes, or a couple of hours. Whether you’re in Lima, Hong Kong, Portland, Cape Town or Montreal, to have this sense of familiarity and know how the process works, can be nice. Of course, you don’t want to feel like you’re at home forever because the whole purpose of travelling is to actually get out of your comfort zone.
I remember being in a trendy, hybrid fashion store slash café in Hong Kong sipping on a latte when my better half suddenly felt claustrophobic because of this very sense of familiarity. He got up, questioned why we were lulling away in a place that felt sterile to him. We are in Hong Kong! He then guided me towards the door so we can get lost again in Hong Kong’s sea of rushing bodies and neon lights.