We humans are social beings; we crave, in varying degrees and in varying times, social interaction. For extroverts that comes more frequently than for introverts; but at some point in time we all want to connect. We each have what are known as physical “places” in our lives: The first place is the private home; the second is often either the workplace or school; the third place is an environment in which we feel comfortable, “at home”, or refreshed in one way or another. Some examples of third places are libraries, the barber’s or hair salon, Starbucks, pubs, public recreational centres, and restaurants that don’t breathe down your neck to order or clear your table. The first two places are where we go because we need to, but the third is where we go because we choose to.
Companies like Starbucks, or television shows like “Cheers” capitalize on this craving; they create an environment which feels like a home away from home, a place to slow down, to rest awhile, to read or write or study, and they attract people in droves. In this cyber age we also have virtual places: Facebook is the virtual equivalent to a pub, where people hang out and share their lives while friends are free to share and receive to whatever degree that suits them; in a way, it is essentially selfish: We all have those friends who bask in the sunny parts of our lives, but shy away from our shadows; cyber platforms such as Facebook merely amplify that tendency. Nevertheless, it provides a platform to connect with others with whom physical contact may be impossible; I have family abroad and friends in every time zone, and keeping up with them would be impossible without Skype and Facebook.
My third place varies: We have a large flat with peaceful neighbours, so this introvert doesn’t necessarily need a third place on a regular basis; we have a library in our home, where I usually write, though I sometimes settle on our upstairs couch to work as well (just for a change). When I go out, I go to a local restaurant during its slow hours, and I can unpack my laptop and work a few hours without a sideways glance from the personnel. My favourite third place is actually in London; located in the cellar of the hotel (St. Athens Hotel, on Tavistock Place) I usually stay in while I’m there, Bloomsbury Coffee House is a friendly pocket-sized place with about twenty tables, and they are usually filled with students on laptops in work groups, and lone readers, writers and businessmen out for quiet breaks. It’s dangerously close to (just around the corner from) London’s largest second-hand book store, Skoob Books. The combination is irresistible.
Where is your favourite home-away-from-home place? Where can you stretch your wings, sit back and relax, people-watch, read, write or simply contemplate the deeper things of life? Let us know in the comments below, and inspire others with your ideas!