I started working at Starbucks when I was 16 years old. I didn’t even like coffee when I started, but I had passed enough mall coffee shops with pigtail-braided baristas to know it was what I wanted to do. When I wasn’t working (or at school or at sports’ practice), I loved cuddling up in the window comfy chair with a Caramel Frappuccino and reading Gossip Girl.
In high school, no one really got my affinity for spending every free moment at a coffee shop, especially when it was also my place of employment. My parents and friends definitely didn’t get it, and sometimes even my barista friends didn’t even really understand why I was always there. I just knew that I felt like I belonged there.
Then I went to college and transferred to a different Starbucks. Here, people understood spending every moment at a coffee shop. In fact, they were even better at it than me. The baristas and regulars at that store become my best friends and they were always there. In fact, one of the regulars, who spent every day at the Starbucks bar on his lap, ended up being my husband. Going to Starbucks felt like going home to family – with better coffee.
Unfortunately I couldn’t work at Starbucks forever, and eventually I quit to work full time in recruiting operations. From early on in my career, I was granted the privilege to work remotely. Having trained for six years at getting shit done at coffee shops, I once again went back to spending my mornings at the Starbucks bar.
At Starbucks, they refer to this environment as the Third Place. Starbucks is intended to be a place that isn’t home and isn’t work, but is a place of community, conversation and connections. I’ve always found that to be true at Starbucks, but also more broadly at coffee shops in general.
I don’t just love coffee. I love being in a place that feels alive. Coffee shops are filled with potential. I feel like I’m my best self in a coffee shop. I feel the most productive when I’m in a coffee shop. I feel inspired by the work that’s happening around me, I feel focused on working towards my goal, and I feel energized because that’s how coffee works.
You’d think coffee shops around the world would vary with differences in people, cultures, preferences, but they don’t. No matter where we are, we have found that coffee shops don’t actually change that much. While the hours might change (for some reason most coffee shops around the world don’t open until 9 or 10 AM which I will never understand), the experience stays the same.
Wherever you are, you can find a trendy coffee shop with exposed brick, cream colored walls and raw wood tables. You will always be able to order a latte, cappuccino or espresso. There will always be baristas, sometimes in pigtail braids, who care about coffee, coffee farmers and the coffee experience.
And what I love most is that inside every coffee shop around the world are people working; working on projects, working on relationships, working on themselves. There are always people typing away on MacBooks, nose-deep in books, catching up with old friends, making new friends.
It’s been 13 years since I first got my job at Starbucks, and I now find myself in the middle of an epic trip around the globe. Every few days, I pack all my belongings into a backpack and bounce around from country to country, city to city, coffee shop to coffee shop. And while I don’t have my own room or a closet to keep my things, no matter I go, I still have a home when I step into a coffee shop.
What’s you’re third place? Where do you go to feel at home?