A month ago, I decided to put all my shit into storage and travel the world until I don’t feel like traveling anymore. I figured that wherever there is Starbucks, or outside the US, wherever there is internet, I have an office, so there is no reason to be anywhere in particular. I am, as they say, location-independent.
Spoiled by the café culture in cities like Berkeley, CA and Seattle, WA, I did not anticipate how difficult it would be to find a proper place to work. I could just plunk myself down at any café, I figured, and get busy. My first stop, in Oahu, proved otherwise.
I’m not sure what happened to brand consistency, but the behemoth Starbucks is an entirely different beast in the Honolulu area. There was the Starbucks in the mall, which had limited seating and limited electrical outlets and otherwise was entirely open to passers-by, making it difficult to find a place to work and, regardless, impossible to concentrate. Then there was the Starbucks with extremely loud and annoying rock music, similarly scarce seating and outlets, and no bathroom to boot. The third Starbucks I tried had no electrical outlets and no tables – only a high counter and low chairs.
I was excited to learn about an independent café on the beach, but discovered that there was no indoor seating. With my computer battery dead, and nary a computer shop carrying a replacement for said battery, I have been unable to work anywhere without electrical outlets – which are not forthcoming in sandy environs, as lovely as they may be. Besides, I’m not sure how well I could function on a computer, with the bright sun glaring on the screen.
I was advised to try a full-service restaurant overlooking the beach. While it was gorgeous, and while it had one table near an electrical outlet (which I snagged), as well as a bathroom, the table was too tall for the chair, even with my carry-along seat cushion – making it ergonomically dangerous to type. Oh yeah, and the music was nightclub-level loud.
I called all the organic vegan restaurants in the area, hoping I could plunk myself down at one all day long, only to discover they predominantly had no WiFi or electrical outlets near tables. Eventually I found one which assured me they have electrical outlets near the tables, so I made the trek out there. As it turned out, only two tables were hooked up, both of which were taken when I arrived. In addition, there was a dog at one of the tables (how is it legal to have dogs in restaurants?), and I didn’t want to test my allergies to that particular breed.
Then there was the extremely ugly and uncomfortable café; the café with organic food and one electrical outlet, but no WiFi; the café with one decent seat-and-outlet combo, which I got, but a “health” food menu that had nothing I could eat – namely tofu (I don’t do soy), high glycemic fruits (I don’t do sugar), and raw spinach and kale (causes goitrogens, which I’m getting rid of); and lastly, a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, which seemed promising, despite the uncomfortable seats and irritating music, but which stopped working for me once the staff started spraying the tables and mopping the floors with some toxic chemical crap.
After a few days of bouncing from café to café – which was challenging, given that I was traveling by foot or bus, with a heavy computer bag and two everything-I-might-need-while-on-the-road bags – I came to feel extremely frustrated by the hours I was spending each day, in search of a decent place to work. I cranked out maybe 10-12 hours of work in four full days. I not only came to realize that I desperately needed a car (which I got), to cut down on the travel time from place to place, but I also came to realize and appreciate the various qualities that comprise a decent café/office:
- Table-and-chair combos that are ergonomically correct.
- Outlets at all tables against the walls
- Chairs with back support
- Decent music – indie rock, jazz, classical, or punk (shut up, it helps me concentrate) – that is played at low to medium levels.
- Organic coffee and other organic, plant-based food options
- Air conditioning (in hot climates)
- Wall to wall window bringing in natural light and overlooking something interesting
Nearly one week into the ordeal, I had the idea to type into Google the phrase “café good for working Honolulu” and came across a top-ten list from Honolulu magazine. I jumped for joy to see the first listing, for a “Seattle-style” café with organic, fair trade coffee, WiFi, and other accoutrements that met my checklist. And so, for the first time this week, I am not only happily plunked down at a café, drinking decent organic hot and cold beverages, but I finally have the right environment to start writing about my travel journey to date.