From the World, with Love
The year is 1982. The Starbucks Coffee Company is a simple retailer of whole coffee beans, and Howard Schultz just an employee. But everything is set to change because of his on-going sourcing trip to Milan. Here, Howard experiences the concept of a coffee-bar for the very first time and he is in love with the idea of it. As he returns to the United States, he brings back with him this strong desire to recreate the Italian coffee bar ambience in the US. When his proposition of Starbucks coffee bars is rejected by his employers, his resounding belief in the idea makes him quit his job and start the first “coffee bar” in the US. He names it ‘Il Giornale’, as a nod to the Italian origin of the concept. Starting in Seattle, and then growing into a number of outlets across the country, this newcomer eventually acquires the Starbucks brand.
The rest is history.
We are but the sum of our experiences. And today, travel experiences are shaping our everyday lifestyle & culture like never before. In 1982, Il Giornale started the coffee culture in the States and gave the quintessential Italian coffee-experience one more home as an everyday part of the American lifestyle. History is full of such examples of inspiration that has transcended borders and found home in the most unexpected destinations. Trade & migration have also traditionally been common routes for ideas, practices & cultures to travel along with the people undergoing these journeys. And food seems to travel the most comfortably of all. As people move beyond their comfort zones to new homes, their food is the first and easiest memory of home that is possible for them to carry with them. Conversely, recipes are also easy for travellers, like me, to bring back home with them. (I just cannot eat garlic-roasted potato without being transported back to the morning of my trek at Taktsang Monastery in Paro.) It’s the same with fashion, with religious ideologies, and so much more.
As people move, so do ideas.
Don’t so many of us have some lovely little habit that we picked up on-the-go, or an idea that inspired and stayed with us for the years to come? While you think about yours (I would love to hear more about them), I am sharing my favourite 5.
Soldja, from Ladakh
Soldja means tea, and for me, it represents the warmth & hospitality of the land. There’s a sudden jump in your step as you get up to make tea for an unannounced guest. The choice of tea goes well beyond the traditional butter-tea and milk tea; a range of herbal Himalayan teas (and rose tea, my favourite!) are also in the running now. And the endless pouring of tea, never to see the cup empty. It’s not just the tea being served and shared, it is warmth and respect. It’s a sign of making someone feel welcomed into your space and a sense of connection established through the simplest of gestures possible in our Indian culture.
Hygge from Copenhagen
The Danes take self-care very seriously, something that we all could benefit in learning from them. When I asked Carlos, in Copenhagen, about what this word means, he first corrected my pronunciation. It’s “hyoo-gah”. And then laughed, “I can’t describe it, it’s an experience”. Off we went to spend the day with two more friends, indulging ourselves in lazy strolls around the city and endless beer tasting. We went to cozy cafes, where you laugh out so loud that your neighbours on the next seat start finding you funny. At the end of the day, he said “This was hygge”. Learning how to take out time dedicated to doing nothing in particular in a happy environment is probably the most pocket-friendly learning I have gained from anyone. Read more about Hygge here.
Floral prints, from Sweden
With a fleeting summer season, the Swedes go all out to make the best of it. I specially love how prints of tropical-looking leaves and flowers take over the textiles, walls of shopping arcades and even coffee cups. I’ve written a little piece about the Swedish summer already, but the prints stand out and serve as a reminder - celebrate what you love, specially if it’s only going to last a short while.
The Siestas of Goa
You’ve probably heard tourists cribbing about not being able to buy anything during the afternoons in Goa, because “oh god, these Goans are so lazy, they shut shop whenever they like”. But I think the Goans are extremely smart because of their understanding that it’s no good being out in the heat. Afternoons are thus reserved for a nice lunch at home, some family time and a nap. Such fantastic wisdom, whether in Goa or any other part of the world, often gets ignored for the sake of making an extra buck. But what is it really worth, in the end, if you have no energy left to spend that money?
Collages, in Singapore
I absolutely love Singapore, not just for the fact that it made me realise how much I like good food, but also for the perfect real-time collage that it is. It is home to people of different ethnic origins, the architecture of the past sits pretty in the foreground of skyscrapers and the green just blends in effortlessly into every piece of infrastructure. It’s harmony at play. It has made me fall in love with the idea of urban collages and finding harmony, not chaos, within diversity.