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The top ten things I learned in 40 days.

Well, folks. I’ve done it. It has taken me a week to let it all sink in… that the fika tour is over. But, the fika-ing has just begun! I have been having fika regularly for over 3 years now, so that habit won’t be going away anytime soon. Still, this project is over and I spent the last week just letting the experience become a part of me. And wow…has it been ever the life-changing journey, to say the least. Aaaaand I have finally made my Top Ten list of the the things that I learned during my 40 day fika journey!

So, I present to you… my list! With a few photos sprinkled throughout from various places I visited. It doesn’t mean that these places are my faves, just so you know. But, each photo is matched up with each top ten lesson for a reason, most often being that I learned that lesson in that spot, or I was extra inspired in that spot (related to the lesson). Did you follow all of that?

Ok. enough. On with the Top Ten things I learned during 40 days of fika!

1. It’s all about community.

Of course, fika is not actually possible when you are completely alone. I cannot make some coffee at home, sit down in an empty room or outside on my balcony and call it fika. That’s a wonderful thing to do (I try to do it every day – all by myself, at home), but it’s called “having coffee”. However, you can sit alone in a cafe and read or do some work. Why? Because it’s community that surrounds you. It’s the fact that you, as an individual, are part of a community, whether you are interacting or not (see number 9). No matter what, even if you are just sitting there with you cup o’joe all alone, you are still part of a larger community. Of course, the highest form of fika (in my high Swedish experience) is sharing it with one, or two, or 10 people. But, not too many. Because then it becomes a fika party. And you miss out on number 2…


2. Come a little closer… intimacy makes fika even better.

Again, whether alone or with someone it’s all about being real. None of that surface, shallow, superficial stuff. When you have someone with you, talk. I mean, really talk. About dreams and hopes and fears and frustrations. And then, shut up and listen. Really listen. Let your souls connect and touch. Make that person feel that they are truly being heard… because that’s a rare thing. You don’t have to agree about everything that you discuss and share, but be open and accepting. A deep, intense, real conversation will do more for the world than simply talking about the weather and the errands you have to do on your to-do lists.

And if you are by yourself, you can still find intimacy. It’s called meeting your soul. Take a few breaths. Slow down. Hold that coffee cup in your hand. Sip slowly and let your ming wander. Just be present in the moment. And then listen… Your heart, your soul, will speak.


3. Atmosphere matters.

To me at least. I love a cool, hip looking place. But, you know what I love more? I love simple, second-hand, up-cycled, mix-matched stuff. I like eclectic, bohemian, and funky stuff. Golds, reds, oranges, turquoise, greens, browns. Wood, black metal. When I fika, I want warmth and coziness around me – hence, the fact that I look for cafes and coffeehouses with squishy, soft sofas and big chairs you can sink into. I want things to feel organic and blend in with the natural world. I also want inspirational, spiritual things around me. Candles, buddhas, dreamcatchers, plants. Fika is meant to be a time that you slow down, and being comfortable and inspired creates an open space for me to feel a moment of peace and connectedness.


4. A cup of coffee can make a difference.

There are some places that not only receive your patronage and money, but they give back. They serve you coffee because you paid for it, but they serve the community because they have big hearts. Some acres & coffeehouses are catalysts for change and transformation, opening their doors to authors, poets, and social action. Some intentionally meet up with the outcasts of society, providing them a place to feel safe and accepted. But, all of these places that make a difference create a community within their coffeehouse walls. They know the names of their customers and almost everyone is a “regular”. They establish relationships with the people who sit on their sofas and work at their tables. These places that I have discovered on my fika journey have captured my heart. Go and visit them. And become a part of a community that truly makes a difference. Of course all cafes & coffeehouses share something with the world and serve you & me in some way. But, there are just a few that go the extra mile. And that amazes me. And teaches me to do the same.


5. It’s my religion.

Ok. Not really. But, maybe. Fika, gathering together, to break bread and create community, offering love and acceptance, promoting self-awareness by living in the present moment, giving back and making a difference does sound like the makings of a belief system to me. It is not a religion contained in walls, but made up of like-minded people seeking to make the world a better place. Yes, a cup of coffee can do that. Inspiration is most definitely found in a latte cup – whether you sip and reflect on your own life, or sit and chat with someone else about the things that truly matter, or actively plan a way to concretely put love into action over a cup of coffee. I’m telling you, from silence and meditation comes action. That is spirituality in my book. So, I suppose I worship at the altar of Fika.


6. Believe in your dreams.

Sounds cheesy, I know. When I started this crazy journey, even I thought I was a bit nutso for thinking that anything would come of spending 40 days drinking coffee. Buuuut, I had hope. And some kind of weird vision. What if, what if someone stumbled onto my blog and read it and was amazed and decided that they wanted me to write for them? What if, what if a local newspaper saw this blog or heard about my fika-ing around the city and thought it would be cool if I wrote articles for their paper? What if, what if I could turn this blog into a book after I am done with it? I had all of these dreams when I started this journey back in the end of August. They felt real, and they felt totally silly all at the same time. But check this out:

1. Someone did want me to write for their blog:  I’ve posted every single post on www.AshevilleBlog.com. And guess what else? I have a Facebook page called Asheville Coffee. AND… the AshevilleBlog creator and I have decided to have a FIKA group that meets at a different cafe every week. Tomorrow is our first group meeting and as far as I can tell, there will be about 15 people joining us. People I don’t know, but who want to meet the Fika Girl and learn all about fika. Hot damn!

2.The local paper, the Mountain Xpress, has hired me as a freelance writer for their food section and I am doing a series call “The fika files” Repeat after me: “Dream. Come. True.”

3. And, now that I am done visiting cafes and coffeehouses from my list, I have free reign to visit wherever I want, whenever I want as I begin to piece together this blog and convert it into a book. Right now I’m also collecting publishing company names. But all that’s still a work in progress.

So, people. Cheesy or not. Dreams do come true.


7. But… only if you are proactive.

You can do anything that you put your mind to… but you gotta do something to make it happen. Sure, it’s fabulous that the universe has opportunities just waiting for you. But, you won’t get to them unless you choose to step out and make a few things happen. I did not just sit in a cafe and sip coffee for 40 days. I networked, baby. I got to talking with people. I tweeted every damn fika blog post, hoping someone would read it. I applied for a crazy food job at the newspaper. I got myself an office in downtown Asheville (which I no longer have, because it served its purpose). I met more people. I ordered business cards even though I have no business. I began telling people I was a writer and a photographer. I meditated. I cried. I freaked out. And then, I did it all again the next day.

The point is, I can meditate till the cows come home or until I see the light or something, but sitting on the floor with my legs crossed won’t get the job done. It won’t make my dreams come true.

Now, listen carefully: DON’T GET THIS WRONG. It is completely NECESSARY to meditate and pray and just be. That is the FIRST step in making your dreams come true. You gotta know who you are and what your desires are in order to know what your dreams and your destiny are. Meditation, yoga, prayer… these are tools to help you uncover, discover, and encounter yourself. Your soul.

But, you can’t ONLY sit and meditate and pray and chant and just be. If you are actually doing those things, then you will not have to try to do anything, you will simply be catapulted into action.

So, please. Meditate away. Pleeeease meditate. Don’t just try to start doing a bunch of things with no rhyme or reason or purpose because then you will only feel stressed and confused and freaked out. You’ve got to center yourself. First & foremost, you breathe and dream.

Then. you begin doing. You take risks and take action. You make things happen. You act. You chase. You try. You succeed. You fail. You talk. You listen. You just get up off your ass and make things happen.


8. Keep a journal.

Record your daily life. Write down all of those things that you are dreaming, and all of those things that you are doing. Just get a journal and write. Or start a blog. Keep it private or publish it for the world to see. Who care? Just do it. You’ll want to look back over your life and your experiences, trust me. Even now, as I go back and read about my 40 days, I am humbled, excited, and reminded of how I felt or what I thought in that very moment. And that is a gift.

Journals are something to use to help us move forward. To know where we have come from, how much we have changed, what we thought or felt… it all helps us to know where we are today and where we hope to go tomorrow. Keeping a journal seals certain memories and allows us to see the threads running through our lives. We are able to understand the cycle of life and the magical mystery of transformation, of becoming a better person (or not) as time marches on.

So buy a cool pen. And get a journal of your choosing, something that inspires you. Ask for it for Christmas, and start 2014 with a list of dreams – make that be your first journal entry. And then, make those dreams come true!


9. You know how your mamma always said that you should never talk to strangers? Well, she was wrong.

DO IT. Talk to any- & everybody. Strike up a conversation. Or, if you just can’t bring yourself to do that, just smile. It’s amazing how much a smile says, how it invites someone to say something to me. On those days that I want to be friendly, yet just can’t bring myself to start talking, a smile will open a door.

Striking up a conversation with a stranger is amazing. Try it. But, by all means, approach it with an open mind – it’s not guaranteed that you and the stranger will see eye to eye on everything. Still, it is fascinating to see, hear, and share with someone. And who knows what you will learn? You may leave more inspired that you have felt in a long time. Or, you may inspire a stranger in ways that you will never know.

The point is, open your eyes, your ears, and your mouth and meet your brothers and sisters all around you. They’ve got some amazing stories; some incredible and exciting, others heartbreaking and painful. I guarantee, though, that whatever the story, you will be changed – even by a little 2 minutes chit chat with another person.

Be willing to meet people with acceptance and openness. Understand that we are all humans, all seeking love, peace, and happiness – we just go about it differently. Still, find the person inside the living thing standing or sitting near you. Take a leap of faith, say hello to someone, and make this world one step closer to being the peaceful world it was always meant to be.


10. Try something new.

Even if your’e scared. Even if it seems crazy. Even if no one understands. Even if it feels weird. Even if people look at you funny. Even if you don’t think you are strong enough.

Wander down that alley (just not alone, at night). Drive down that windy road. Try that new restaurant and food. Leave your neighborhood. Leave your comfort zone. Push yourself. Believe in yourself. And, by all means, if you need to, order a cup of coffee, sit down, and muster up the courage to walk on.

We only have this one life. And we don’t even know how long we have it. So, do not live with regret, and do not live paralyzed by fear or uncertainty. Just LIVE! Live your life to the fullest. Set that goal and move mountains to make your dreams come true. Laugh. Dance. Talk. Explore. Travel. Dream.

And, all along the way, stop for fika. Soak up all the moments of life and find yourself in a cup of coffee.



Check back in a few days, I am going to post THE FIKA FILES playlist that I have created – amazing coffeehouse/fika music. And, I will also share another post with interesting categories that I created after visiting 40 different cafes. It’s pretty amazing the kinds of places you can go for fika in Asheville. So many different places…

About Liz McGuire

Liz is a blogger, writer, and amateur photographer in Asheville, NC. She is a returning expat, re-adjusting to American life after living in Sweden for the past three years. On any given day you can find her planning her next adventure with her wife, blogging away on her blog (www.belovelive.com) about daily life and social issues, and discovering little hidden gems and secret places in the city. She faithfully totes her camera and her coffee mug everywhere she goes. And she’s always up for a conversation about spirituality, politics, or other taboo topics. You can find her on the web at www.belovelive.com.

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