Sitting down at this dusty, old, tiny laptop—the width of which is only an inch longer than my spread hand, and covered in stickers from the 20 different countries it’s explored with me—I am instantly transported to the back corner of a dim-lit Parisian cafe. Walls of dusty books and tea-drinkers engrossed in newspapers surround me. I listen to a continuous wave of French phrases flowing from the tables outside. The aromas of robust roasted espresso and steamed milk fills the air. Although I initially set off on journeys imagining myself befalling the wildest predicaments, I often end up spending at least half my time abroad in my comfort zone: quirky cafes.
When planning trips, travellers often forget about the need for ‘down time’. Of course, when travelling on a time constraint, it’s important to fit in as many adventures as possible. But it’s also important to enjoy them.
Amazing trips do not burst out of meticulously followed itineraries. It’s not the carefully selected post-cards, the perfectly posed photographs, or the memorized facts. In my experience, the greatest travel memories cannot be planned.
When I first tackled traveling solo, I felt the need to do everything, all the time. I went bungee jumping, caving, hiking, rafting, kayaking, WWOOFing, scuba diving, and abseiling. I had incredible adventures with amazing people. However, I wasn’t always happy. I was exhausted.
I found myself craving a cozy night in with a movie and take-out. I wanted to waste an afternoon writing in a coffee shop. My biggest fear was coming home to my friends and family and admitting I spent most of my time doing exactly what I loved: drinking lattes and reading good books.
When I returned home, to my unmitigated surprise, no one really cared what I had done abroad. No one but me. Sure, they listened to my wild stories for awhile, but they had stories of their own. Life at home had carried on without me, and it wasn’t long before their eyes glazed over and the latest gossip became more important than my roadtrip along the Great Ocean Road.
Even more shocking to me was when I tried to recall my best memory in Australia. It was easy: I was staying on Cottesloe Beach and planned to spend the day in Perth. Unbeknownst to me, I took the train the wrong way. I ended up wandering the adorable town of Freemantle. I spent hours sitting in the sun outside Gloria Jeans Coffee House, basking beneath palm trees and curiously watching an old priest serve free pancakes outside a cold stone Catholic cathedral. The sky overhead was piercingly blue. I found a rumpled magazine and slowly read Australian articles, losing all track of time. It was bliss.
Now, when I travel, I still take far too many photos and try to photobomb tourists at tacky attractions. I always push myself to go out and try new things. But I don’t stress over it. I let events unfold as they will, and when I simply want to sip a flavoured latte and read a good book abroad, that’s exactly what I do.