The Truth...

I suppose it's about time I told you all the truth...

Over the past 18 months, I've come damn near close to putting this project to rest. More than once. You might be wondering why I'd stop, only 28 cups in to a journey to 100. I spent a lot of time wondering the same thing, if I'm honest. In a recent conversation with my family, though, I found the answer.

In my heart, I've not been chasing a number. It seemed appropriate to set one when I started all this funny business. In reality though, I just felt then need to make this a finite journey. I needed something to reach for that could be measured. The truth of it is - this journey to meet strangers is anything but a finite one.

Along the way, I've asked myself (and others) a very simple question. 'Can a cup of tea change your life'? I had myself convinced that this was the questions for who's answer I should be seeking. The funny thing is, I'm quite sure I knew the answer before I started. After 28 cups of tea with 28 strangers, though - I was certain of it. The answer is, and always was yes.

When I set out on this journey, I wanted to know if meeting 100 strangers for nothing more than a simple conversation had the power to change my life. Would the people I met inspire me to take a new path? Would I inspire them? Could these conversations - these very organic meetings between two ordinary, everyday people - could they amount to something greater than the sum of their parts?

I can say without a doubt that I am a different person today than the one who sat down for the first cup in North London with a good fellow named Lee Allen (Lee's doing well, if you were wondering). Each of the 28 conversations I've had thus far, they've all had an effect. Each one has influenced me in some way; inspired me to do something different; provided affirmation to continue doing something the same.

And as life got busier and more hectic, I began to wonder why I continued to ask a question for which I already had the answer.

Some time passed, and I continued to consider, if I were to put all of this aside, how I should it? What would be the appropriate way to put an end to my journey, 72 cups from the goal I had set? Do I have a responsibility to explain myself to those who come here to read my stories? Or do I have the right to just pull the plug and let it all fade away?

And as I had begun to accepted that I might be done with it all, I had a realization...

In life - what does one do when they find the answer they've long been seeking?


They find a new question to ask...

I may not know what that question will be just yet, but perhaps we can sit down for a cup of tea and figure it out, together...

What do you say?

Big In Belgium!

Just when I had begun to believe that all of this had faded into obscurity - Belgium called. There still into it...

I received an email from a stranger a couple weeks back. She'd heard about this very blog in an article featured in Belgium's 'De Standaard Magazine' - an article I knew nothing about until I received the email. It's amazing to think that what started with a few strangers meeting for a cup of tea and a bit of awkward conversation in North London continues to reach the far corners of the globe. More amazing still to think that I am only 28 cups in.

Since the big move from London back to my home in Canada, it's been a job just settling back in to 'normal' life. And just as I'd began having tea with strangers as an escape from the inevitable pull of normalcy - it seems I've given in the pull once again. I guess that's okay sometimes, isn't it? We get stuck back in to routine. We become so content simply existing, that we forget how incredible life really is. Maybe what's most important is having the ability to recognize when that happens and adjust accordingly...

I've got more tea to drink now - more strangers to meet - and I'm excited about it. I guess I have Belgium to thank for that.

Thanks Belgium.

Now then - who's up for a cuppa?

This is why numbers don't matter.

Each and every time I lose a follower on Twitter – I smile because that is one less person who didn’t care all that much in the first place...

I’m not exactly sure why, but I’ve always been weary of social networks. When MySpace took over the world – I avoided it like the plague. I was so against it, in fact, that my friends thought it would be fun to make an account for me – posting pictures, adding friends, and generally making me look silly.

I’ve changed a lot since then. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’ve embraced the world of social media. I’ve connected with new friends and reconnected with old ones. I’ve updated my status once or twice. I’ve ‘liked’ pages, and commented on photos, and said happy birthday to people I haven’t seen in a long time.

A number of years ago, though, I learned something important about social networks, and why the numbers don’t matter nearly as much as we like to think they do.

So sit back, make yourself a cup of tea, and relax – because, my friends – its story time...

100 Cups hits San Francisco, California!

We are living in an absolutely incredible time - a day in age when the ability to connect is all around us - it is, quite literally, always at our fingertips. We blog, we tweet, we 'like', we check-in - and yet, somehow, we tend to forget that all of these new and exciting means of human connection cannot do much to replace the one upon which they were all built - our ability to speak.

To craft sounds into words - to mold words into sentences - and to construct, with these very sentences, our thoughts, our stories, and our emotions...

I was rather inspired when, quite recently, a gentleman by the name of Matt Ramos - of San Francisco, California - decided to take my ideas on board and meet his very own stranger over a cup of coffee.

James Corden thinks I'm a stalker... (Cup # 27 with Ellen Lee)

It's not every day that you meet a stranger for a cup of tea. It's also not incredibly common that such an event would be talked about on national UK radio by author and media personality Danny Wallace and renowned British actor, James Corden, of Gavin & Stacey fame.

Though, I suppose there isn't much about this while project that we can consider common or ordinary - so maybe it's fitting in a way!

I could tell you all about it - but maybe I'll let the following audio clips tell the story...

Do something. Do anything at all... (Cup # 26 with James Walters!)

Life is tough sometimes. It gets busy. You get overwhelmed. I get overwhelmed... It seems lately that my life is getting quite skilled at getting in the way of my desire to meet strangers for tea – and as such, it took James Walters and I quite some time to actually get around to cup number 26 – a meeting that has, in reality, been in the works for the better part of a year. Between James’ bicycle trip across the UK and his ongoing home renovations, and my own tendency to hop on planes to other worldly destinations – getting together for tea was beginning to seem like it would never happen.

Being unemployed (for a period of time) does have its advantages, it seems – in the interest of having a cup of tea with James, anyway...

Sensibility .vs. Spontaneity (Cup # 25)

Only a few weeks had passed since placing the first 'Care to join me for tea' ad on Gumtree when an email arrived in my inbox - an email that was just a little bit different than the others I had received.

I would love to.
There's only one tiny detail, I live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Take care,
Sara SebastiĆ£o

Hello, my name is Jason. Let's chat!

Send @coffeeshopchat a message...

I stared at the empty box for a few moments. I wasn't sure what to say, really. Here was a man – a few years older than me – a few years wiser too. A man who, in his own way, is doing exactly what I am doing with tea, only he uses coffee. Jason Simon is the brain behind Caffeinated Conversations – a blog, if you will, that shares the stories of a man in Seattle who wants desperately to believe that the art of conversation still exists. A man who has studied mediation and conflict resolution. A man who not only believes in the power of conversation, but also, the power that a coffee shop has to facilitate it. A man so dedicated to his quest that he wears a shirt bearing his name on the front, and on the back... lies a simple suggestion.

'Tap me on the shoulder if you want to chat.'

Ti va una tazza di te?

La vita e prena di opportunita...

Silvia handed me the book she had just written this in, ever so carefully above the first sentence on the first page.

I was touched that the memory of this book – a story that meant so much to her – came to mind after she had decided to meet with me. Touched even more that she would go out and buy me a copy of my own. The store had but a single English edition of the Italian novel, written by Italian journalist Tiziano Terzani - a chronicling of  his adventures throughout South East Asia in 1993, the year that a fortune teller in Hong Kong had marked him for death. A year that, in reality, left him feeling more alive than ever before.

The table wobbled beneath us as we spoke. Silvia was shorter than I was, 5'8'' maybe. Auburn hair that fell just below her ears. Her eyes had an orange glow to them when the light hit just right. And when it did, I saw an honest girl with an adventurous spirit searching for meaning in her own life, just as I am searching for meaning in mine.

Everything in life has become so easy, that we no longer take pleasure in anything. Tiziano Terzani wrote those words in 1995, and I think the truth in them rings even louder today. In our obsessive quest for speed and convenience, and the subsequent success in integrating those values – we have stripped life of the small details that make it worth living. The journey doesn't seem to matter like it used to. Convenience gives us control. And when we have control, life is no longer about seizing opportunities – it's about manufacturing them. If we slow down though – if we take a moment to think, we realize that this is only true if we wish it to be so. The details remain, as do the opportunities that life conjures up without our influence – whether you pay attention to them or not, is up to you.

Silvia took Tiziano's words to heart. I could see this in the way she lived her life – hear it in the stories she had told me. Keeping an ear to the ground, and an ever watchful eye on the world. Paying close attention to each and every opportunity that life has placed at her feet. Taking note of the little details that many of us tend to take for granted.

I'll say it once more... La vita e prena di opportunita. Life is full of opportunities. It's full of inspiring people, and intelligent conversation. It's full of details too. Don't forget to pay attention to them. For those very details – they give life a touch of poetry, don't they?

What do you think?

Is it really dead? Or have we just forgotten about it? Maybe it's like riding a bike - if you haven't done it in a while, it's a little tricky at first. You're nervous. A little wobbly. But sure enough, in time, it all comes back to you...