Living abroad is a somewhere else. It is a situation that is easily observed and fantasized about, but rarely lived and experienced. Sometimes, when I’m bored with the routine stress of life, I escape into the magical world of life abroad. The fantasies change. There are days when living in a remote area of Scandinavia sound great and other ones when I’m convinced that Paris or Milan is the way to go. There are no visa worries, no concern about practicality.
The moment I return to most frequently is that Sunday morning I spent at Drop Coffee in Stockholm. It wasn’t so much the actions or the process of getting there that so enchanted me, even though both of those worked their magic. How can they not when cardamom buns and coffee are involved? What I think about is the group of three friends I saw ordering their coffee and breakfast while I was waiting to pay for my coffee.
They weren’t remarkable. There was nothing about them that was exceptionally shiny, nor did they command much attention. They were simply there and Swedish, which, for that morning, seemed remarkable enough. Everyone else I had heard come into the cafe spoke English, but their lilting Swedish gently rang throughout the space.
There were two men and one woman. The woman and one of the guys were blond, while the other had brown hair, I believe. They just stood there, debating what to order. In the end, they all chose the same: cappuccino and croissant. It’s the kind of breakfast you could order anywhere. It’s what I frequently order both when abroad and when at home. Yet, in that space, it transformed from routine to something completely and magically not mine.
The people looked Swedish as well. The blond man didn’t have great posture. He wore a green sweater and a grey hat that awkwardly sat atop his head. The woman had on a loose grey sweater with a layered t-shirt underneath and relaxed pants that were nearly leggings. The way I saw them, they effortlessly inhabited their respective lives. Who knows what they were saying? The rest of their breakfast could have been spent arguing, complaining about the weather or grumbling about work. Since their lives were mediated through a Swedish, cadence, I thought it was all alluring.
That’s the thing about living abroad: the once-exotic loses its deliciousness and becomes routine. Once I know and understand an area, my fantasies about it diminish. Once I know what the house looks like inside, I’m no longer going to dream about how it’s decorated. Once I can inhabit a life, it becomes mine. No matter where I may travel, I’m never abroad from myself.
So, no, I’ve never had a Sunday morning like the one I imagined those three Swedes enjoying at Drop Coffee. But, I’m willing to bet, that I have had a Sunday morning like the one they were actually experiencing. After all, I go out to eat croissants and drink coffee. I’m just inhabiting my own life, instead.
Do you ever dream about living somewhere else?