Recently, I’ve found my thoughts frequently drifting off into nebulous, nostalgic day-dreams of those heady days when I wandered aimlessly from cafe to cafe with my life on my back, my biggest problem being which type of muffin to order next.
So today I decided to experiment. Is it possible to recreate, on a work-day, that traveller feeling of freedom and contentment that I often found whilst sitting in cafes on my travels? (By the way, I’ve just spent a weekend maxing out on Sex and the City episodes with my sister, hence the Carrie-esque, mildly irritating question-posing. My sister thought it would be good for me, as a singleton in my thirties, to enjoy the capers of the New York foursome – but, nope, it just made me roar with outrage at the show’s cruel lack of realism. The depicted NYC streets, crawling with good-looking, charismatic, available and interested men, do not compare favourably with sleepy, geriatric Warwick. Don’t get me wrong, I love my current home-town, but I just think it’s much more likely to inspire a series called ‘Specs and the Modest-sized Town’.)
Aaaanyway, back to the experiment:
It is possible to recreate the feeling of traveller contentment whilst being back in the daily grind by controlling sufficient variables to replicate favourable conditions.
Take one incorrigible day-dreamer who is somehow feeling work-weary, despite having already taken approximately a third of the year off to indulge is financial irresponsibility, amongst other things (I know, I don’t expect any sympathy…). Making sure it is a work-day, place said day-dreamer in a favoured traveller-scenario (in this case, sitting in the sunshine outside a rather swanky cafe, drinking a flat white coffee and eating a muffin whilst pretending to write, but actually mainly people-watching rather blatantly).
Positives included the fact that it is now possible to buy flat white coffees in Warwick (previous experimentation highlights Bread & Co on Smith Street and Within Reach Cafe in the main square as two such vendors – clearly it’s the new trendy thing, hurrah). Also, people-watching is just as fruitful in the UK as on the other side of the world, if not more so, due to the incredible diversity within our crowded island. However, the negatives rather abounded and, as such, warrant a list:
- The muffin and coffee were sad approximations of the ambrosial offerings of NZ and Oz.
- Customer service, although good, lacked the inspiring friendliness and effortless laid-back coolness of the NZ staff in particular.
- The hours were not mine to play with; I had to get back to work.
- The fact that someone I knew might see me meant I couldn’t completely relax into anonymity.
Despite the negatives, I am pleased to report that the familiar scenario did kick off pleasant feelings of contentment and I had a particularly enjoyable lunch-break, as it is always a good thing to treat yourself (plus the Indian summer definitely helped). However, interestingly, it was hard to determine whether this was primarily ‘real-time contentment’ or ‘remembered-contentment’. In other words (cue Carrie again), was I experiencing a bittersweet husk of a memory of contentment, evoked through the familiar ritual, or was I genuinely contented, in that moment? I concluded that it was a bit of both, and that was a pretty good outcome. It didn’t perfectly replicate that traveller feeling, as I knew it couldn’t – the time-limit factor being probably the most significant variable (due to its intrinsic links with feelings of freedom or lack of) and, sadly, the one I was unable to alter. However, it felt really good to revel in nostalgia through the real-time enjoyment of replication, and realise that the feeling was definitely more sweet than bitter.
- I am ridiculously nosy.
- I need to move to NZ.
- I am becoming addicted to coffee again, d’oh.
- I am no scientist.
Aaah, even the photo of my flat white and my writing pad next to it is nostalgic… 🙂
View of Warwick, as seen by a traveller – although the sadly work-inappropriate wine list in the foreground was a mocking reminder of the illusion…