Travelling To versus Travelling Through

When I first arrived in Chinle I had all of these plans of how I was going to order up some coffee from New Harvest in Rhode Island and use my hand grinder to start brewing brilliant cups of coffee in my hotel room.   Part of this was because I love coffee, part was because I felt obligated to do so since I wrote the book on having good food and coffee in small spaces, and part was because I was being a touch snooty and indulging every single one of my personal preferences.

I had a few pounds of my favorite coffee in the online cart and was about to hit 'purchase' when I had a thought: why on Earth would I travel to all of these places only to drag my preferences along with me?  Why move to an area if I was just going to bring my safe bubble of personal culture with me?  So instead I went to the (only) grocery store in town and found whatever coffee there was to buy.  There was Folgers and the usual stuff, but eventually I found a beautiful bottle of Cafe Combate instant coffee.  And it was as terrible as it sounds.

Instead of having my perfect cup of Cafe Merika every morning (and trust me, I would love it), I had a steaming cup of acrid Cafe Combate, and it became part of my daily routine for 8 weeks, taking the time to find an optimal water to freeze-dried crystal ratio to mute the aftertaste.  And now I have a story for myself about this horrible instant coffee that is made in Mexico City (out of what, I'm not sure) that I eventually came to love.  The taste of that coffee flavors all of my memories there.  If and when I ever have Cafe Combate again, in my mind I'll be instantly transported back to that first trip to Chinle, just like the smells and flavors of travelling abroad to Asia, Europe, Haiti, or Africa do the same.  

The upshot is I think it is one thing if you bring food with you when you travel because you have specific allergies or dietary restriticions, or you don't want to eat pizza every day and gain 60 pounds and get diabetes.  But when it comes to the little things that go along with travel ask yourself if you are traveling to a place versus through a place.  I doubt many people in Chinle drink Cafe Combate besides me, but if I was only drinking coffee from home, and reading the same books, and listening to the same music- then why go to a town in the first place?  You might as well stay home.  

Travel to the destination, not through it.

*As a side note, the author in no way advocates drinking horrible coffee for the sake of drinking horrible coffee.  Whenever possible drink great local coffee and brew responsibly!  

**Yes, it means 'combat coffee'.  It is in fact, that awesome.