A friend visited me from Holland. The Dutch really like their coffee. He’s been drinking coffee since he was young, so he’s really good at it. Meanwhile, well, I don’t drink coffee. But I do know how to buy those little freeze-dried instant coffee things you just add water to.
He was unimpressed by these, so the first thing we’d have to do every morning is find a coffee. Actually, it was the first thing we’d do, and we’d continue to do this a few times during the day. In Holland, they have koffeetijd (coffee time). It’s just like tea-time, but they stick with coffee, that’s all. In other words, coffee isn’t just for breakfast anymore. All this stopping for coffee was well and good so long as I was showing him around Boulder and Denver. It was during our trip to California that things got interesting, though.
In the desert, camping in the middle of nowhere, he was up early trying to boil water for one of his last freeze-dried packets. At the Grand Canyon, we had to wait until after 9 am to start our hike down because the restaurant wasn’t open until then. It’s not like we could start without coffee. I was almost glad when we stopped in Las Vegas. I knew we would not have to be delayed or go out of our way to get coffee.
Coffee is consumed the world over, but that doesn’t mean you can get it everywhere. If you travel, you’re quite likely to wind up in a place that just doesn’t have any. Before you travel, you might want to start thinking about this. What will you do if you really can’t get coffee?
It’s not just coffee. You’re going to have to be prepared to adapt whereever you go. I wouldn’t even know where they have and don’t have coffee, as I rarely drink it. For me, the big challenge is avoiding meat.
Morocco has some of the best vegetarian dishes in the world—except that they always have meat with them. In Islam, meat is considered a gift from God. Refusing to eat it might be insulting to the creator. While having dinner with Moroccans, they would push cubes of meat towards me, in the otherwise untainted and delicious couscous. The dish is served family style, each person reaching in with the right hand to a big platter in the middle. At some point there was no polite way to refuse, and I had a bite, smiling as much as I could.
In Thailand, I learned how to say, “I am a vegetarian, no meat please.” I learned how to say it, but it’s not like the Thais understood me. Once I got a plate with no vegetables on it. Essentially the Thais couldn’t really understand why anyone with enough money to travel from the U.S. to Thailand couldn’t afford meat. “No extra money,” they said sometimes, smiling with pleading eyes.
It’s no surprise that customs are different everywhere. Are you going to be able to have ice in your water? (Not most places, and if you do, your stomach may not approve of you having the tap water, anyway.) Your dessert has arrived; where’s your coffee? (In most European traditions, it comes only after you’ve finished dessert, so while you’re waiting to start, your polite waiter is waiting to bring you your coffee as soon as you’ve finished!) Wouldn’t a beer be great in this heat? (Not even if you can find any in Indonesia; most of it’s pretty terrible there, and often warm. Try their juice drinks, though. They’re wonderful!)
Things are different in other parts of the world, but you might not know what to expect until you get there. It’s much more fun if you can remember, even while shaking from lack of caffeine, or spending some extra time trying to digest the first meat you’ve had in years, that experiencing new things is why you traveled so far from home in the first place. And I hear they have really excellent coffee in lots of places, much better than the usual U.S. American stuff, anyway.