During our Round the World trip of nine months, we knew we'd be writing on the go. Although there was plenty of time to explore and see the sights of Europe, Asia and North America, we needed to be disciplined with work. With a novel to work on and a short story to write for BBC Radio 4, I was always on the lookout for the ideal workspace wherever we were situated.
In Slovenia, the first country of trip, we took to writing in Cat Caffe Ljubljana. Although we had a perfectly good sized apartment, fitted with a perfectly good desk and open-plan spacing, we preferred to work (or rather get distracted) whilst surrounded by cats. Sure, this wasn't the most productive way to work; I would only get a paragraph down before looking up from the page to gush over all the adorable kitties running around or snoozing on the radiators. But, the upside to working with cats around is that they soothed us. They kept stress-levels down and would create a relaxing environment around us as we worked. Stroking the lovely teddybear-like coat of the Devon Rex cat, Chilli, as she snoozed on the table, was the equivalent of squeezing a stress ball when creativity wouldn't flow.
What we also found to work very well, was the cosy apartment we rented in Stockholm. The Swedish are notorious for their interior design, but what we came to enjoy was the abundance of plants that seem to be in everyone's homes and in all coffee shops. Plants and good, warm lighting. And this completely worked for us. We spent a few days on the sofa, curled up under a blanket surrounded by plants and lamps and good fabrics and tip-tapped away on our laptops. We're bearing it in mind for when we move into our next home: cats, plants, lamps and blankets are what makes these writers work!
And when we weren't writing, we were always searching for inspiration or a good bookshop or library to visit. The State Hall in Vienna's National Library was an absolute wondrous place to be and a total must for any book lover. We marvelled for quite some time at this opulent haven.
For the rest of the Europe portion of the trip, we struggled to work as we trekked up almost the entire length of Norway to cross the Arctic Circle and camp out to see the Northern Lights - not exactly a great work set-up. But we had Japan to look forward to and we knew that there'd be coffee shops galore, cute hangouts, access to amazing stationery and the weather would be much better.
In Tokyo, we booked one night at Book and Bed, an amazing bookshop-themed hostel. Each bunk is built into a book shelf (which are pretty roomy for bunks in Japanese hostels) and there are actual books all along these shelves for you to peruse and read, you can even buy the book if you'd like. In honour of my favourite Japanese writer, I took up a Murakami novel and curled up on one of the giant bench sofas and settled down to read for the evening, which is pretty much what all the guests were doing. It was peaceful and it was cosy - a rare novelty for a dorm-style hostel.
Any Starbucks in Japan seems to work too, if we could find a large enough branch, chances are, we would have a great workbench with plenty of electrical outlets to keep us going. It's where most Japanese students go to study and the environment is always respectful and comfortable. The iced Green Tea Matchas and Chocolate Fraps we had on tap was a bonus, and the baristas did their best to make our experience a happy one. We got a lot of pages done in our local and favourite branch in Nagano.
When we arrived in China, we realised that not having access to Facebook, Instagram or any of our other usual distractions, meant we would spend hours and hours writing. The only thing that was limiting in terms of working whilst in China, was not being able to research in our normal way. The minute I needed to verify a fact, immediately my fingers would start keying in 'Google' and then I'd quickly realise that there was no such thing in China. Apologies to any Bing fans out there, but it's crap. It yields hardly any decent results and quite frankly, I don't think it has the goods to back up the fact that it calls itself a search engine. But I digress. Directly downstairs of our building in Chengdu, was Maan Coffee, a great coffee shop with an extensive selection of yummy teas and breakfast/lunch dishes. The place was huge so we could always find a table, usually with a cracking upholstered chair to sit in and an electrical outlet right by us. And so we spent most mornings here getting work done, undisturbed and completely without online distraction.
When we landed in Seoul, South Korea, even though we were grateful to be back in touch with loved ones online and to have our research and resources opened up to us again, we decided to keep the good habit going. Just across the road from our apartment, we were lucky enough to have Booktique, a bookshop/coffee shop. This space is large, minimal and comfortable and everyone sat there is working: designers, writers and artists all just happily working away to some low-playing background jazz, sipping on really good coffee.
And by the time we got to America, a giant playground for us to ramble and adventure in, we had established that cosy and quiet was definitely what worked, whether that be a coffee shop or indoors, we had to be snuggly and it didn't hurt to be surrounded by good taste. But there was another element I had never tried before and that was writing just metres away from the ocean. They say that being by water is great for artists and writers, something about the sound of the ocean opens up creativity and imagination; I found this to be absolutely true. How lucky we were to find an absolute bargain of an ocean-view apartment at the last minute in Kona on The Big Island. We were on the third floor with a large balcony that looked out across the road to the ocean where many people surfed and turtles swam. For days we were perfectly happy just reclining on the sofas with our computers on our laps, typing away to the soundtrack of the ocean's waves.
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