Stirring up the Cafe Culture

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.

forty ninth

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.

Ali 9 The Coffee Ape 2Now, 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.


  1. I can totally relate to coming back home, and whilst my stories of jumping into ice-cold canyons deep within the Alps and swimming into crystal clear blue grottos of Capri held interest a little while amongst my friends, the latest gossip or TV show would quickly change the topic of conversation.
    I wouldn’t mind though because those memories are ones that will stick with me forever and be shared with the people I met along my journey, much like yours.
    It’s so refreshing to read your blog, and it’s got me hungry to explore some more, so thank you 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your input, Wesley! Your adventures definitely sound like they’re worth reading about. Hopefully we can continue to inspire each other (and others) to keep exploring 🙂

  2. You have described what I have been trying to tell people for years.
    Just being in a country and hanging out is most of the experience for me. I mean, I worked up the courage and got there and am surrounded by exotic people and things, what more could I need? Well, now and again some tourist activity does look interesting so I will go there.
    Usually, when I am with other people I meet while travelling I don’t anymore try to explain this, and I do a lot of what they are doing and it is exhausting. Then I set off by myself again to relax in hot spring or old cafe with a view.
    Sometimes somebody says I should get a group of 5 or 6 people together to travel with so I don’t have to do it by myself. Mmm! I think, I am also going to give up responding to that one with the truth. I’ll just tell them I might do that on some other trip which will hopefully end that topic of conversation.

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