Travel tips part 3, or they may not have your chosen addiction where you’re going

Posted in Travel at 14:16 by RjZ

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.

Marrakesh Market, Morocco

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.


  1. Mike said,

    March 21, 2006 at 15:29

    As I sit here in my nice warm apartment it is easy to nonchalantly dismiss all of the comforts that I’ve grown accustomed to. No coffee? Sure a few days here without coffee and I’m a quivering mess – but I’d be fine if I’m in an exotic local. Shower not an option? No worries, I’ve been camping before and always seemed to make it out alive (if somewhat dirty). Dysentery? Think of it as an exciting travel story! Perhaps my naivety comes in part from the fact that aside from extensive US travels, most of my experience has taken part in Europe. And I’m not talking the scary eastern parts either, I’m talking about Germany, Spain, France, etc. Places where any excursion is sure to involve several stops for coffee and a nice apfel kuchen. It’s easy to (pretend to) adapt to a culture when your toughest challenge is having to order your pie by pointing to something in a display case – especially when your German grandmother is standing right next to you to step in if you screw up.

    I joke a little of course, but the truth is there is something to be said for the experiences & self reliance that only travel can give you (if that’s what we’re talking about – to be honest I’m having trouble tying this all together). If you can face down a mob of Tuk Tuk drivers & tourist reps, how tough can a boardroom full of suits really be?

  2. RjZ said,

    March 21, 2006 at 15:41

    Actually, I think traveling anywhere counts as a new experience, although the further you travel from the culture in which you were raised the more likely you are to encounter new experiences. Your travels to Europe have surely taught you much about staring down a room full of suits, or dealing with not having you’re favorite pillow to sleep on.

    The point of my travel tip is that, even if you’ve traveled quite a bit, you’re not always going to be able to get the things you think you need. Letting go of these things, and knowing it’s going to happen and that that’s part of the fun, is often the best way to deal.

    Or you can try breaking the coffee habit now, but then you’d miss out on your coffee.

  3. Penelope said,

    March 22, 2006 at 14:09

    This is why addictions scare me: they limit our freedom.

    For example: My drug of choice is Pepsi. I take 3 or 4 doses a day, and a day without Pepsi is a day with a nasty caffeine-withdrawal headache that usually morphs into a completely debilitating migraine. Last time I dated a guy who was healthy enough not to keep cola of any kind in his house, (or coffee, for that matter! What a weirdo! Weirdos can be cute, though. That’s the point of this story, really: how to keep the freedom to date cute weirdos.) I was inspired to break my addiction. A couple of mornings of driving around town together, looking for the Pepsi I had to have before we started off on our Saturday hike, made me feel stupid enough that I was able to wean myself from my drug. Sadly, the stress of breaking up with said cute weirdo sent me back to my drug, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

    I’d like to break my addiction to Pepsi again, soon. I’d be okay with only enjoying a cola every now and then. I think the same could be true for coffee addicts. Even my friend who smokes just one or two cigarettes a day might consider the abstinence-as-a-road-to-freedom plan: how sick would he feel if he got to go hiking in Nepal for two months, but couldn’t find a new pack of smokes?

    This is what makes all better-health plans attractive to me: they allow me to do more fun stuff. If I quit with the Pepsi, I’d have more freedom to travel. If I exercised more, I’d have more strength and energy for fun stuff, like hiking and snowshoeing and sword fighting on stage! I’m still not very good at acting healthy, though. Maybe your inspiration is just the push I need.

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