“Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train. There is an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, new thoughts new places. Introspective reflections which are liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape. The mind may be reluctant to think properly when thinking is all it is supposed to do.
At the end of hours of train-dreaming, we may feel we have been returned to ourselves – that is, brought back into contact with emotions and ideas of importance to us. It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestice setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, but who may not be who we essentially are.
If we find poetry in the service station and motel, if we are drawn to the airport or train carriage, it is perhaps because, in spite of their architectural compromises and discomforts, in spite of their garish colours and harsh lighting, we implicitly feel that these isolated places offer us a material setting for an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world.”
— Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel
Last week I ordered five boxes of the Starbucks Via Italian Roast. Via is the new instant coffee offering from Starbucks. Currently it is offered in Colombian and Italian. Via is not available in stores yet, but is expected to roll out nation-wide in the fall. In the meantime, simply pop over to the Starbucks site and order away. Here’s why you’re going to want to order some:
- Via dissolves very well in both tepid water and hot water. This makes it perfect for summer iced coffee drinks in a hurry, one by one. One packet of Via, about 4-6 oz of hot water, and top off the glass with ice (and cream if you like it!).
- How many times have you been stuck in a hotel with their corporate brand of coffee? No more. Run water through the coffee put, pour your Via into the mug and top it off with the hot water. The mouth feel of the coffee is very close to original brewed Starbucks. The taste is perfect.
- Visiting great aunt Gladys? She IS going to serve you Maxwell House. Ask for hot water instead and sneak your Via into the cup. Trust me, this works. I’ve done it.
- Airplane coffee is undrinkable most of the time. Hot water is available, however, as is cream. Need I say more? And the powdered packets travel well through security.
Jeremy hooked me up with a few samples of the new instant Starbucks coffee, called Via. I’ve been carefully saving most of it in my suitcase pocket for that inevitable moment when it’s Maxwell House or nothing. (Nothing, thank you!). But curiousity got the best of me and I wanted to try it out.
Via comes in little individual serving pouches, at least in this sample stage. Easy for travel, easy for no-brainer days. Even easy for recipes that call for small amounts of instant coffee (such as my yummy espresso cookies — but that’s a totally different blog!).
The result was a surprisingly good cup of Columbian coffee. Its appearance was good, though not much crema to speak of, which is kind of a picky comment when talking about an instant coffee! The aroma was not strong, but it was pleasant and comforting. The coffee had a slightly thin mouthfeel, but I am used to very strong coffees. I enjoyed the flavor and drank the entire cup even though my normal brew was available.
Bottom line? I can think of many times when having access to Via would make life much happier. Now if I could break myself of my cream habit I would truly have a portable, instant solution to those coffee desserts we all must travel through.
I told you about this book last week, when I spent many happy days curled up in the comfy chair at Starbucks reading about all the places on earth that would make me happy or miserable. This book, by Eric Weiner (yes, pronounced whiner), takes a whirlwind tour of some of the happiest places on earth. And some of the most miserable places on earth. I wondered if the book would wrap the pursuit of happiness up in a neat little bow, but it doesn’t. Instead, it offers a look at how the geography of where you live impacts your life.
Place. That is what The Geography of Bliss is about. How place—in every aspect of the word—shapes us, defines us. Change your place, I believe, and you can change your life.
This quote, by the author on his website, truly sums up the book. So what did I learn in exchange for those afternoons spent with The Geography of Bliss?
- People have an innate “fit” with certain places on the globe. Unfortunately these are not always the places they are born or are living. Also, Moldova apparently fits no one.
- Iceland sounds amazing: cozy, book-loving people living on an ice cube.
- The closer you look at happiness to evaluate whether you have it, the less likely you are to be happy.
- Most happiness appears to spring from trust and the ability to give yourself to something larger than yourself, something worth pursuing.
- The author has an amazing ability, born most likely of his journalism career, to connect with local people and develop the sense of community in a short time. I envy him this ability and tried to analyze how he did it. Still working on that!
After meeting a bartender appropriately named Happy, the author offers this interesting summation of his stance.
But Happy [the bartender] is wise, for only a fool or a philosopher would make sweeping generalizations about the nature of happiness. I am no philosopher, so here goes: Money matters, but less than we think and not in the way that we think. Family is important. So are friends. Envy is toxic. So is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude.
Good lessons to learn, and a good payoff for a few days traveling the globe vicariously with the author. I’d love to hop on a plane and follow the happy trail myself! I leave you with a quote that perhaps I should paint and hang on my wall!
The Icelandic saying goes, ‘Better to be barefoot than without a book!’
Living in the paradise of South Florida, perhaps I may change that to “Better to be barefoot WITH a book.”