I got stranded in Florence, Italy, during Easter weekend of 2016.
During my abroad semester during college, I had just met up with a group of friends in Rome. We were heading back to Florence to catch a flight the next day and go our separate ways.
I was supposed to take care of our lodging, but I dropped the ball and forgot to book a hotel.
In the beginning, I did not think too much of it because how hard is it to get a place to stay and one of the most popular cities in the world?
The small flaw in my plan was the fact that it was Easter weekend in Italy. So there was no place to stay and no lodging to be found.
Honestly, I was a little bit worried because we could not afford to get a nice hotel, and all of the hostels, Airbnb’s, and other options were taken.
And then it hit me — I needed to go back to the coffee shop that I had visited the week prior.
I’m Obsessed With Coffee
Coffee has always had a special place in my heart because my dad worked in the coffee industry, I worked in the specialty coffee industry throughout college, and I continue to take Barista shifts at my favorite coffee shop when I can.
This is an important detail because the week before I went to Rome, I was in Florence for a few days to visit the factory for my favorite espresso machines, La Marzocco.
While I was in Florence, I found a specialty Cafe called Ditta Artigianale, Which is incredible with some of the kindest Baristas I have ever met in the world.
Trading coffee with other coffee shops is a generally accepted token of appreciation and Goodwill in the specialty coffee world.
I had done some research before getting to Italy, so I knew that I wanted to go to Ditta. I brought them some coffee beans from my favorite shop in Vienna, where I was living at a time, and we got along very well. Plus, everything they serve is fantastic, the coffee, the cocktails, and the food (It’s Florence, after all).
I said my goodbyes and headed down to Rome to see my friends.
We pulled into Santa Maria Novella station at around 5:30 p.m. on Good Friday without a place to stay, and I was freaking out.
We sprinted across the river to Dita, and I was greeted with a pleasant “Justin’s back!” which calmed my nerves immediately.
I explained our situation, and two of the amazing Baristas took a smoke break to call their friends and family to help us find a place to stay.
Fifteen minutes later, we were on our way to a hostel that was not online, and they only spoke Italian. after a little bit of translation, we had rooms, we set our baggage down, and we were overwhelmed with a sense of relief.
Our next objective was to head back to the coffee shop to say thank you, and they made us sit down, drink Aperol Spritzes followed by cocktails, and Chow Down on some finger food.
Our bill should have been somewhere between eighty and ninety Euros, but they only charged us 10.
Identifying Your Hobbies
To this day, this is still one of my Fondest Memories of one of my favorite cities because that situation could have gone completely different if I didn’t have coffee as a reference.
Whether you like to knit, cook, practice martial arts, play video games, or whatever else, Hobbies enhance everything about you.
Taking time to research and practice something for the sole sake of the craft says a lot about your character.
I’m a firm believer in developing a hobby because it connects you to other people who might have no other reason to talk to you other than bonding over that Hobby.
Reaching Out When You Travel
If you are planning a trip, see if you can tie in one of your hobbies to the itinerary and make that one of your first stops.
Whenever I go to a new city, I always start at a coffee shop I had research beforehand to get calibrated and to introduce myself to this new area that I am visiting.
Through experience, I’ve learned that locals know the best restaurants, most fun events, and, more importantly, what I should skip when it comes to tourist traps.
When you are researching your hobbies in new cities, I’ve found that Instagram is one of the best ways to communicate directly with shops, gyms, and restaurants.
A quick, direct message doesn’t take any extra time or effort, and they are usually more than happy to respond because you are choosing to reach out to them over everybody else in the city.
Sometimes I don’t hear anything back, and that’s fine, but sometimes I’m greeted with free coffee and a group of new friends waiting for me in a country I’ve never been to before, which makes it always worth the effort.
I know that Fitness communities are big on things like this because building up a good sweat is pretty Universal, and there are many gems all over the planet Willing to welcome visitors.
If you are a digital content creator or a gamer, you probably already have friends spread far and wide because of your audience and fellow Digital community members’ nature.
Hopefully, this story has inspired you; just think about your hobbies and how you can tie them into your next trip. It doesn’t take very much effort, and the impacts can be life-changing if you can plug into a community anywhere on the planet.