I used to collect Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts mainly because of the names of the cities imprinted on their shirts. The shirts were my travel memorabilia for many years. When I visited my friend in Israel, I asked him to take me to a Hard Rock Cafe for dinner on the night I arrived. He lived in Rishon LeZion, a few miles from Tel Aviv. He was perturbed at the idea of going to an American restaurant to eat instead of us trying one of the acclaimed local Israeli restaurants in the city. I told him, without being embarrassed, that all I was after were those Tel Aviv Hard Rock Cafe shirts. (Of course I didn’t eat at every HRC I went to. In later years, I just bought the shirts and left).
Looking back, I now cringe at my shallowness. But because I was still young and naive, I can put the blame on my age, rather than my lack of sophistication. Dozens of unworn Hard Rock shirts later, I eventually stopped collecting them. What was I thinking? I didn’t even like wearing T-shirts in the first place! I also realized I’ve missed out on all the great local restaurants whenever I went to eat at Hard Rock Cafe. Clearly FOMO wasn’t a word yet way back then. 😛
After years of hiatus from collecting travel souvenirs, I resumed the habit of collecting travel memorabilia once again. This time they are more useful and definitely more worthy of praise-—mugs from Starbucks! But I still kept my annoying habit of going out of my way to locate a Starbucks wherever I go. When my mom and I went on a tour to Eastern Europe, I had to ask every local guide if they had a Starbucks. To my disappointment, they didn’t have it yet in Budapest or Slovakia back then. The people in our tour group soon learned about my strange obsession with Starbucks (after the many times they heard me ask in desperation). When the guide in Prague informed me there was a Starbucks in the city, everyone in the group clapped and cheered, “hooray, finally a Starbucks for Boots!” Unfortunately, after breaking away from the tour and walking for fifteen minutes towards the only Starbucks in the city, I was dumbfounded to find out that they didn’t sell the mugs! I stood there in disbelief and wanted to protest. I wanted to cry and throw a tantrum inside the store, hoping the workers will miraculously find me a ‘Prague’or a ‘Czech Republic’ mug. To compensate my heartbreak, I bought two mugs when we arrived in Vienna. I heard they now have Starbucks in almost every city in Eastern Europe (lucky me)!
Recently the United States has started improving its relations with Cuba. Everyone I’ve spoken to about Cuba told me I better visit it soon because it is still frozen in time. God forbid, once the doors open up, American chains will start to infiltrate the country. McDonald’s, TGI Friday’s, KFC, and others will shamelessly come and ruin Cuba with over-commercialization. I agree…..they should forbid all those awful restaurant chains from entering. Although I am fine with allowing only one—just one! Because seriously, I
must have…. I got to have…. can’t live without….well, okay, it would be really nice to add a Starbucks Havana mug to my collection. 😂
With all the mugs, I can’t decide which is my favorite. Every city or country has an interesting design. But one thing is for sure, each has given me so much pleasure. Whenever I make myself a cup of tea, I instinctively look at which city I’m using and in my solitude, I quietly sit in our kitchen table, reminisce the memories I had there. It doesn’t only bring me back to that place, but it gives me a few minutes each morning to escape from my mundane life in the suburbs. With that, I gleefully say, “thank you, Starbucks!”