My friend David told me my year is going to be full of contrasts. He’s right. South America was hard and beautiful and a struggle. Now, I’m in a place that is easy and beautiful. I can breathe again (and I mean that literally and metaphorically). There is far less pollution here than Lima, but because I don’t have so much other daily struggle, I feel my creativity coming back to life.
I’m not one of those artists who can create my greatest works in my darkest moments. I’m too exhausted in my darkest moments to do anything. My batteries have to be full to a certain level before I can really create.
In a way, it feels too easy here. Where’s the struggle? Where’s the fatigue? Where’s being forced to learn a new language? I can really just walk into a hair salon and tell them what I want and they understand!? But, really, only the privileged complain about things being too easy.
Every country has a different dance. Latin cities dance with unhindered emotion and sensuality. They move with rhythm, not, necessarily, efficiency. They look their partner in the eye and commit for the length of the song. The UK dances with more formality and less zest. It’s beautiful, but it’s just a little stiff. They prioritize efficiency over relationship, and they’ll probably not make eye contact very often. It’s not that the UK is unfriendly. It’s just that they aren’t Latin.
But the coffee. Oh. my. gosh. the coffee. Finally, after four months of bad to mediocre coffee, I have returned to the world of proper, third wave, craft coffee. I’m sitting in my third coffee shop of the week, Cult Espresso. There’s a lively chatter around me. I had one of the most floral espressos I’ve ever had, a flat white (because you have to try the espresso with and without milk to really judge a shop’s aptitude), and a made-with-milk porridge.
Yesterday, I was at a different shop, Filament, and noticed the Scottish Independent Coffee Guide on the shelf next to the retail bags of beans. I picked it up, swooned over the good design, and then gushed over all the craft coffeeshops and roasters in Scotland. See, while South America grows amazing coffee, they’re a bit behind on knowing how to roast it well, let alone brew it well. Disclaimer: I only visited two South American countries, but I’ve also been told by roasters in The States not to expect good coffee in Central America, specifically. They have great beans, but they just don’t have the third wave coffee culture in most places.
I bought the Scottish coffee guide and have made it my goal to try as many of the shops in it as possible. It’s now on my Scottish bucket list. Be prepared: the Scotland chapter(s) in Little Spoon Book might have a lot to do with coffee.
Some other notes on Scotland:
- Every coworking space should have international plugs or a stash of adapters.
- They love direct deposit/debit cards here. I’ve been at my coworking space for a week, and I still haven’t paid them because they’re trying to figure out how to accept my money without a Scottish bank account.
- It is gray and rainy an average of 50% of the time so far. Quite the change from sunny South America! We had a couple of rain storms in Buenos Aires, but Lima was dry and sunny for two months.
- They have two separate apps for public transportation. One is for purchasing your tickets, and one is for planning your routes. This is dumb.
- Everyone seems to own a little, portable grill. When the weather is nice on the weekends, they carry them to the parks and have grill picnics with their friends.
- There are lots of bicyclists here! I’m going to buy a bike.
- The cigarette/tobacco products have absolutely zero branding on them. I’m not even sure they say “tobacco” on them. Instead, they’re plastered with very disturbing pictures of what can happen to your body if you smoke. I really don’t know why anyone still smokes, but a lot of people do.
- I currently don’t have an end date for Edinburgh (other than my six-month visa stamp).
Edinburgh is a small city with big city amenities. People are friendly. The city is very walkable. You run into people you know on the street. But there’s also a ton of theaters and music and almost any kind of restaurant you could want and museums and tourist crap. It’s really really nice.
Edinburgh is to blame for my year abroad, in the first place. Last year, my mom and I came on vacation to Scotland for two weeks. When, I got on the plane to go back to Austin, I was sad. While I had friends I loved there and a good life I had built for myself, it had never felt like My Place. A lot of people in Austin are in love with the city and, most definitely, feel like it’s their place. If that exists for me, I want it. So, I decided that 2017 would be my year abroad, living in different cities that met certain criteria, to see if I could find My Place.
South America got tacked onto the beginning, because I can’t just be in the UK/Europe all year. When I learned about Hacker Paradise, it sounded like a very good way to start off my travels, and it was. Buenos Aires was the surprise of South America—a place that could be My Place.
I’ve come to the realization that even after this year abroad, I still might not know where My Place is. I will either love multiple places or I’ll still have the question. Regardless, I hope this exploration gives me enough perspective (on myself and the world) to be able to choose. And, like I realized last time [https://littlespoonbook.com/lima-little-homes-week-16/], I’m going to have a lot of Places by the end of my travels.
Have you ever found Your Place? I’d love to hear the story if you comment below.