Querencias and the comfort of the familiar

My friend Brian and my wife (shown here at a Starbucks in Edinburgh) both tend to seek out the comfort of the familiar (or maybe just the caffeine) on a trip away from home.

Let’s take one last look at this issue of querencia, a place of safety or comfort that we seek out on our trips much as the bull in a bullfight finds his querencia in a given spot in the bullring.

Most of us travel for the novelty of it, to experience new sights and even emotions. But for some who travel for a living, the novelty quickly wears off and becomes as welcome as the phrase, “I think we need to run a few more tests” is when coming from your doctor.

For those road warriors who are on a first name basis with the airline staff and who know the number on their Hilton Honors card better than that of their home phone, the last thing they want is more novelty or stress. They just want a familiar spot amidst all the unfamiliarity around them.

They want a querencia.

My friend Brian is one such traveler. He routinely travels the world, often alone, to assist pastors and churches overseas. On one long trip to Asia, he found himself in Jakarta, Indonesia and was feeling particularly homesick.

Those who don’t travel much somehow think that those who do become immune to a longing for family and home, but that’s not the case. You do learn ways to cope with the distance and absence, but it never fully goes away.

One of Brian’s coping skills was that he had long since discovered a place that served to some degree as a querencia for him while traveling: the local Starbucks. Because the menus, atmosphere and access to wi-fi are fairly similar in any Starbucks around the world, Brian knew he could always go there to find his own reconnection to home emotionally, and in this case, digitally.

An avid New York Yankees fan, Brian was in Jakarta during the playoffs. While he could have gone to the Starbucks in Jakarta (and there are many) and connected to the Internet to get the scores or details of the game, that wouldn’t have sufficed.

Instead, he took his laptop computer, connected to the Internet through Starbucks’ wi-fi, and through Skype (an Internet video phone service available worldwide), he called up a close friend at home…all for the price of a cup of coffee.

They talked a few minutes via the laptop’s built-in web cam and microphone, but then his friend did something that converted this coffee shop in Jakarta into a true querencia for Brian. Brian’s friend took his own computer’s web cam at his home back in the States and turned it around to face the television behind him. On the TV was the Yankee’s game.

Half a world away, Brian sat in a Starbuck’s, talking through the mike on his computer to his friend as they watched the game together. Sure, the clarity of the TV image through Skype may not have been great, but it didn’t matter.

Brian had found his querencia.

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