One way to feel at home anywhere that you are is to have people you love around you. Another way to feel at home anywhere that you are is to find a place where you can plant your feet, even if just for a little while. It doesn’t have to have a solid roof or a comfortable bed. It can just be somewhere to sit.
There’s a small coffee shop downtown, where the barista will greet you in comfortable jeans and a t-shirt, hair cut in a pixie style–flopped over to one side of her face–and say, “What can I get you?” The bar in the coffee shop wraps around in a semi-circle that ends in a glass case full of scones, sandwiches and bagels. All experiments with different fruits, vegetables and cheeses–sometimes hybrids of all three. They only take cash at this coffee shop, but the paninis are pressed, the bagels are toasted and the scones are warm. The benches and chairs are hard, polished wood. Not the most comfortable, but they’re sturdy. You can find focus there.
I have a favorite: It’s an Almond Joy-inspired coffee with almond milk. The coconut and almond blend perfectly, iced or hot. When I’m done ordering, I take my coffee with a smile and go to the bookstore next door. There are several stretched across those few, adjacent streets–some with shelves and books crammed into tiny spaces, some large and impressive with space for other novelties and merchandise. Sometimes instead of going next door, I explore them all.
No matter how old or new, the secondhand bookstores are cloaked in the smell of moth balls and worn pages passed between many hands. There’s a section on the top floor of my favorite bookstore where old National Geographic magazines sit and collect dust. The October 1910 edition’s cover stories are “The Portuguese Colony of Mozambique,” “The Lost Wealth of the Kings of Midas,” “A Talk About Persia and Its Women,” “The Greatness of Little Portugal,” and “The Woods and Gardens of Portugal.”
I open up the plain paper, almost ripping at the corners from the slightest touch and read each headline, skimming the copy. I imagine the gardens, the kings and the women. I wonder what it must be like to be in the early 1900s as a travel journalist. I thought about the books covering the shelves nearby, telling stories of people and places I’ve never seen with my own eyes. I imagine a photographer with a Newsies-styled paperboy cap and camera sitting on a log, feet planted, pointing his lens towards the next big story.