What’s in a Name

I almost called this blog “Black Flats and Flat Whites”. To me it was symbolic of the journey it took to get here — moving more than 16,000 km away from family and friends in my hometown of Toronto, Canada to Melbourne, Australia with my significant other  —  and also my struggle to find Timmie’s style coffee in a city obsessed with their cafes (more on that later).

I spent my last few weeks in Toronto trying to shed as much of my possessions as possible. We sold most of our furniture and larger household items on Kijiji. Interesting fact: there’s a market for used mattresses online and it ain’t pretty. We hosted an “Empty the Cupboards” party and invited friends over to take whatever items they liked. We held a garage sale. The goal was to whittle our possessions down until they could fit into five suitcases. My personal goal was to limit myself to packing just five pairs of shoes.

But how is a girl supposed to do that? You need options to cover you in cold weather and warm; formal occasions, job interviews and jaunts to the beach. The one pair of shoes I knew I couldn’t live without were my black, lace-up, Steve Madden flats. They were professional enough for work, cute enough for a night out, and comfortable enough to spend a day wandering Queen Street window shopping in.

The ultimate utility shoe. (Photo courtesy stevemadden.ca)

And in the words of Dion, but without the sexual connotation: I’m the type of guy girl who likes to roam around. I’m a wanderer. The best way to experience a city is to wander through its streets. I spent most of my twenties wandering through the streets of the places I dreamt of in my youth. Paris, Rome, Prague, London, New York. Places I had romanticized as beacons of culture, architecture, food and style. I needed to see everything, and I needed to do so in my trusty, stylish but comfortable flats. Because you can’t wear running shoes in Rome. What would the locals think?

And now that my significant other and I were packing up our life and moving to Melbourne, I knew I was going to be doing a lot of wandering to learn my new city. And I knew I needed to do so in black flats.

But as our flight date narrowed it, and ALL of our suitcases were still comfortably overweight, drastic measures needed to be taken and reluctantly, I took my Steve Maddens out. I realized they had served their purpose, but in all honesty, had seen better days. A new life in a new city required new black flats to journey in.

Which leads to the flat white part. Google “Melbourne coffee culture” and you’ll find a plethora of smug articles boasting why Melburnians seem to think their coffee is better than everyone else’s. As a person who used to require three to four coffees a day to get by (I’ve since reduced that to one or two) I was very curious to see what these claims were founded on. 

However, I quickly discovered asking for a regular coffee (with one milk and one sugar) in a Melbourne cafe will always be greeted with confusion or a prodding, “What kind of coffee?” Shanny Sena, a Singapore native who moved to Australia for university, sums up this frustrating exchange pretty well in her guide to ordering coffee in Melbourne. She also provides a super helpful breakdown of the types of coffee you can order here and how they differ. I recommend you give it a read if you plan on venturing to this part of the world any time soon, or just want to step up your coffee lexicon. After many grumpy days of going without my coffee fix, I eventually started experimenting and found a flat white to be the closest you can get to a regular coffee with milk. 

This coffee experience actually summarizes my time so far in Melbourne fairly well. Wanting to hold on to what I’m used to, sometimes quite vigorously, but ultimately finding changing habits and routines isn’t so bad after all.

 I ended up calling this blog Trading Cities because it provides a much less convoluted synopsis of what my story is about. And it is possible that we will trade again and move back to Toronto, where ordering coffee is a much simpler endeavour.

But that story would have made a much less interesting blog post.