September 2011


Anyone who has lived in cities like New York or D.C. understands the theory of some that, without coffee, the economies and productivity levels of each location would pretty much screech to a caffeine-deprived halt.  Every morning I brew my cup of coffee and head to the Metro station armed with the all-important travel mug, floating by other commuters blearily clutching their travel mugs as well.

So, as I was sipping on my cup of Sumatra dark roast this morning in an attempt to perk up my Wednesday, I noticed a Facebook post by my friend Rose about coffee and was immediately intrigued.  The article was very interesting indeed–today a report came out about the most caffeinated cities in the United States.  My own city, D.C., ranked in sixth place, which wasn’t really a surprise.  I don’t think I’ve ever attended a conference, meeting, or even date (when I was single) that didn’t involve coffee somehow, let alone the fact that all you have to do is pass by a coffee shop during rush hour and feel a little bad for the overwhelmed baristas.  The coffee crowds here are like scenes from zombie films.

According to a 2011 study conducted by the National Coffee Association, more than half of American adults drink coffee every day (again, not really surprised), and even more grab a cup of joe on occasion.  Coffee shops also remain wildly popular in the U.S.–that is something that I like about my country, I must say.  I enjoy living in cities/countries in which coffee shops are part of the culture, as meeting places and locations to get a favorite beverage and hang out with friends or just grab and go.  When I was studying in Santiago, Chile, one lone Starbucks had opened in my neighborhood and served amazing dulce de leche lattes.  Plus they had really comfortable chairs and a study room, which is the mark of a truly great coffee shop.

According to the coffee study, the top ten most caffeinated cities in the U.S. are as follows:

#1 Chicago (home of Intelligentsia coffee, which my friend Esther introduced me to during a visit–it is quite delicious)

#2 New York (home of every kind of coffee shop imaginable)

#3 Seattle (never been but they are the home of several popular American coffee brands, after all)

#4 San Francisco

#5 Los Angeles (it does seem like everyone walks around L.A. with their coffee cup as a fashion accessory)

#6 Washington, D.C. (I’m a proud contributor to the study I suppose!)

#7 San Jose

#8 Portland

#9 Miami

#10 Minneapolis

There you have it, the top ten most caffeinated cities in the U.S.  I’d be curious to see which countries in the world are the most caffeinated–I’m guessing Italy, France, and Spain, and the UK if you count tea consumption as well.  I also drank a lot of coffee in South Korea and Japan; coffee companies have found a way to ease themselves into Asian consumer markets and are proving pretty effective over there, as evidenced by all of the coffee shops springing up in cities like Seoul and Tokyo.

It would also be interesting to compare coffee consumption rates in countries that export coffee, namely in Africa and Latin America.  For instance, do Brazilians or Kenyans drink coffee often, or are the coffee industries removed from the culture?  Hm…I smell a dream coffee study.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a quote from Mike Phillips, from Chicago’s Intelligentsia Coffee (he was interviewed by Bundle, which reported the study’s findings):

“If you think about it, coffee is the most affordable luxury that people have on hand…You can spend a little bit of money and treat yourself extremely well.”

These days we live in a much more globally interconnected world, and it is common for one to have friends scattered everywhere.  Thanks to modern technology, it’s easier to keep up with each other than it used to be.  It is wonderful to know that, whether they live in London or Seoul,  I can Skype with friends and even see their faces over webcam.

One blessing of being a traveler, or being internationally minded wherever you live, is to have friendships with people from different places and different cultures.  Some of my best friends to this day hail from England, Northern Ireland, South Korea, Poland, Bulgaria, and Mexico.  I’ve learned more from them than I can recount–Hae Chin teaching me about the intricacies of Korean culture, Kora taking me to her favorite drinking chocolate place in Warsaw, Sonja showing me the progress that Belfast has made in post-war years.  They are all dear friends, confidantes, teachers, and guides, and they have made traveling truly fulfilling.

This week one of my best friends that I met at King’s College London, Ileana, is coming to visit from Guadalajara.  We met our first day of graduate school, during orientation for the International Relations Masters students.  Olof, another close friend, Ileana, and I had struck up a conversation during one the breaks and ended up having lunch together.  After orientation we took a stroll and sat on a bench down by the Thames, talking about how excited we were to be in graduate school and how wonderful London was.

It’s always fun to reminisce about when you met a certain friend and what memories you hold of that individual.  With Ileana, after that first meeting during orientation came many adventures–exploring and getting lost in London, going down to Brighton for my birthday, fulfilling mutual lifelong dreams of visiting the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, going to Greece with our other friend Sy and riding donkeys down the caldera of Santorini, and many more.  I stayed with Ileana and her family for a few days in Guadalajara before reporting to language classes in Buenos Aires in 2008, which is the last time we saw each other in person and therefore means that we are far overdue for a reunion.  So, starting this weekend, it will be my turn to show her around my neck of the woods.

It’s always fun to visit friends overseas, and in turn to have friends visit from overseas. Friendships in general that are able to be picked up right where you left them, as if no time passed between visits, are truly a blessing in life.  Throw scenarios in which the friendships are international in nature into the mix, and you have even more of a unique dynamic.

Of course, if only plane tickets weren’t so expensive and time so limited, the unique dynamic of international friendships would be able to be enjoyed more often.  I guess what ultimately counts, though, is appreciating the time that you do have together.  And appreciating the fact that you have a couch to crash on when you do make the trip.

 

I’m what you might call a “quotes person.”  I love great quotes.  From Jane Austen to Jack Handy to Bible verses, I have different quotes scribbled in my planner and other notebooks.  Some are uplifting, some thought-provoking, and others humorous. The act of writing down quotes to refer to later, in my mind, is like gathering little scraps of wisdom or humor to create a literary collage.

Sometimes a gem of a quote will randomly appear, and in today’s case it turned up in my Twitter feed:

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” –Robert Stevenson

In typical 21st century style, I retweeted the pearl of wisdom and posted it as my Facebook status.  My friend Kora, also a quotes kind of gal, immediately commented that she was going to “steal” it for her status as well.  Other friends “Liked” the quote almost as soon as I hit the “Post” button.

This quote perfectly sums up what so many travelers struggle to explain when asked why they love to travel or why on earth they have wanderlust or, my personal favorite, why they still have the travel bug even after going on a trip.  Stevenson hit the nail on the head–we travel for travel’s sake.

Indeed, it is the act of traveling–the full experience step by step–that we love. From making travel arrangements to researching the destination to arriving at the airport, each logistic forms part of an adventure.  Some of my friends think I’m crazy, but I love airports.  I love knowing that it’s the place where you go to be transported to anywhere in the world.  When I get on the plane and settle into my seat, armed with fashion and celebrity magazines (my favorite guilty pleasure), I feel relaxed and my mind seems to automatically clear.  Then, while flying, it feels like you’re suspended above the entire world, literally and figuratively.  I’ve had some great moments of clarity and epiphanies on airplanes, probably because my mind truly has a chance to chill.

Travelers appreciate the process of adventure existent in the entire journey to whatever place you’re trying to reach.  One of my favorite memories is from a time when I was heading from Seoul to Rome via Paris.  It was, as Stevenson said, “the great affair of moving.”  I ate breakfast in Seoul and spoke Korean, grabbed lunch in Paris and attempted to dust off my French, and switched over to Italian upon ordering diner in Rome.  Every aspect of that journey was a rush, not just the act of arriving to my final destination.

Perhaps that is why travelers often struggle with that restless urge to take off somewhere far away.  In essence, I think Stevenson got it right.  We love the thrill of moving, and traveling allows us to do that.

 

This week it has been raining nonstop in D.C.  Literally.  The forecast at the beginning of the week indicated ceaseless rain, and this time the weathermen weren’t wrong.  Every night I’ve gone to sleep hearing the patter of raindrops on the windows and have woken up to the same.

A natural side effect of dreary, gray skies and wet weather that makes you want to stay home with a cup of hot tea is, at least for me, a tendency to contemplate.  There’s something about rainy weather that seems to steer my mind towards deep thought.

In the case of this week, I’ve been thinking about what kind of legacy I want to carry on and what kind of legacy I would like to pass down.  I can’t take credit for thinking up this topic by myself–my mother emailed my siblings and me to ask us that poignant question in preparation for her Sunday School lesson this week.  The question got me thinking, and instead of typing back a quick response I wanted to put some real thought into it.  After all, many travelers, after leaving their places of origin and touring the grand sights of the world, are drawn to these types of thoughts by all that they see and experience.  The world is complex, fascinating, heartbreaking, exciting, and puzzling, all at the same time, and a profound question to ask yourself is what kind of contribution you would like to make.  In other words, what kind of tradition do you want to pass along to the next generation, and what kind of legacy do you want to leave behind.

After some careful thought, here was my response to that million dollar question, “What kind of legacy do you want to carry on, and what kind of legacy do you want to leave?”

 

Legacy I want to carry on:

 

Mammaw Douthit’s legacy is the one I want to carry on.  She embodied humility, grace, strength, and love.  She was firm in the Lord but gentle to everyone, regardless of where they came from.  She was always loving, no matter what situation she faced.  I want to teach my children what she taught–to focus on Christ, work diligently, and let your actions speak for themselves.

 

Legacy I hope to leave behind:

 

Value Christ’s opinion above that of others.  Be willing to explore outside of the comfort zone, take chances, and understand that the Lord uses both successes and failures to mold you.  Do not let Satan tell you that mistakes mean you’re unable to be used by the Lord.  Be the kind of person that others can turn to for love, comfort, and the truth.  Do not give up on relationships or situations when things get tough.  Strive to love unconditionally like Christ did.  Do the right thing regardless if others are watching.  Aim to be multi-faceted, internationally aware, and well-balanced.  Work hard, always be willing to learn, rest well, and laugh often.


This morning I woke up feeling incredibly excited.  September 1 was here, meaning that the month of August, with its seemingly long and drawn out days, earthquakes, hurricanes, and just overall “bleh” feeling was over.  A new month was here, meaning that a fresh, clean slate had arrived.

Not to mention that September marks the beginning of fall.  My friend Rose pointed out to me, as she loves everything there is to love about autumn, that the season technically does not commence until September 23 at 5:04 a.m. EDT.  However, the beginning of September, to many, means the beginning of fall–in some sense.

In the past, I always considered spring or summer my favorite seasons.  What student didn’t love spring break or summer break, after all–they were times to travel, hang out with friends, and take a break from studying or trying to figure out what to do with your life.  As I’ve gotten older, however, I have come to adopt a devotion to that season wedged between the months of beach vacations and the months of thick coats.

Autumn, for aficionados, is a very special time.  The weather begins to cool down, replacing balmy temperatures with the relief of crisp, refreshing air.  The trees know that it is their time to shine, showing off their amazing, God-given gift of changing their leaves from vibrant green shades to warm, orange-brown hues.  Light jackets and cozy scarves emerge out of storage, as do boots and tights and other fun fall fashion staples.  People begin to crave hot drinks as opposed to iced drinks.  Oh do they.

My friends and I, along with probably half of the country, are obsessed with pumpkin spice lattes.  Fall means that pumpkins are in season, and whoever came up with the idea of infusing pumpkin flavoring into coffee was beyond brilliant.  My first experience falling in love with fall (no pun intended) involved a pumpkin spice latte, so the beverage will always hold a special place in my heart.

Now, I love D.C. in the fall and think that it is gorgeous.  My favorite city to see in the fall, however, is New York.  My friends and I began a tradition a couple of years ago that, in order to commemorate our favorite season and have some time together, each fall we take a girls’ trip to NYC.  New York in the fall is a more chilled out version of the city, and it is fantastic.  One of my fondest memories is from our girls’ trip last year, when my friends and I strolled down Fifth Avenue wearing our cutest boots and scarves while sipping on pumpkin spice lattes, enjoying the glittery windows of Tiffany’s and Saks Fifth Avenue.  Good times.

Hopefully I’ll be able to make it up to New York sometime this fall.  I’m also looking forward to another joy of fall, a.k.a. the beginning of football season.  Next month Leon and I are headed out to South Bend, Indiana, to attend a Notre Dame game and enjoy the beauty of the campus during my favorite season.  Fall is the perfect time to travel to a new place, whether it be to Indiana (in my case) or to Paris or even Rome.  There’s just something about exploring a new place in autumn.

Even hanging out at home during fall, however, is a treat.  I’m looking forward to curling up on my couch with a hot beverage and snuggling with Leon.  That’s another good thing about fall–it’s the perfect time of year to snuggle.

So, even though it’s still technically summer, I’m definitely in a “fall” state of mind.