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My Romance With Coffee Is Gone … And So Is My Productivity

Coffee and this blog have always been inseparably tied.

Lady writing on paper with coffee
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I used to be a machine. I used to roll out of bed, make a pot of coffee, pour myself a giant cup, sit down at the laptop and just grind. 8 hours? No. Try 10-12+. I’d just drink coffee and type, drink coffee and type, drink beer and type.

There was something about the rhythmic movement of reaching for a drink and taking a gulp that flowed with the beat of the writing process. Writing is like lifting weights for the mind. When you sit down to write something you rarely just blast it all out like you’re running some kind of ultra marathon. No, you shoot in spurts, taking breaks in between. The mind works better when it is used in reps and sets. Each sentence is a rep, each little break is a set.

When these breaks are spent reaching for a drink of coffee, I rest but I’m still engaged. Without coffee, I try to force myself to do too many reps at once, and my mind rebels, desperately wanting a break and coming up with some dumb reason as to why I need to go to some website / app and divert my attention somewhere else.

Whatever was the case, I stopped drinking coffee a couple of years ago … and what happened? I basically stopped writing. Granted, I was mostly focused on video and generated most of my income from this, but my writing projects were still profitable and should have provided enough personal satisfaction to keep doing. But I just couldn’t do it without coffee … I’d sit down … and then start doing something else … or would just get up and go do something else.

I used to wake up each morning scrapping my feet against the turf, rearing to go when the gate (my eyes) opened and shoot across to wherever my laptop was to begin the long day of writing and making money online. I loved it. My wife hated it. She wanted my attention but I just wanted to tell stories. And it worked out for me.

Throughout my career, I thought this extreme productivity was because of me — my dedication, my ability to endure long periods of sitting in a chair, my drive to be successful. I thought I was something special; I thought I had superior focus. The reality was that I was simply drugged out of my mind. I probably drank around two liters of coffee per day, and it got to the point that I’m not sure if the coffee was helping my writing addiction or the writing was just an excuse to keep drinking coffee. I even have a special category on this blog dedicated to coffee.

And the data on coffee’s positive impact on productivity and performance is overwhelming

This probably begs the question why I stopped drinking coffee to begin with? It obviously filled a professional purpose, I enjoyed drinking it, and it’s supposed to be good for me.

I also had a bit of a romance with the stuff:

In Ukraine, coffee is sold almost literally everywhere, and I’d just walk around drinking it all day long.

I discovered these cool stainless steel one cup drip coffee makers in Cambodia.

I wrote about the history of coffee in Singapore.

I made a coffee filter out of a sock in China.

I explored getting free coffee refills in Iceland.

In Prague, I ordered the same cup of coffee at the same cafe so many times that they stopped taking my order.

I investigated the culture of drinking coffee, or lack thereof, in Guatemala.

I complained about how expensive coffee was in New Zealand and Sydney and how small the cups of it are in Europe.

I published many posts about getting cheap coffee on the road.

Even some other contributors have written about their romance with coffee on this blog.

This is all to say that coffee has been a big part of the Vagabond Journey experience, and it is something that is now … gone.

The reason is that I stopped drinking coffee was that I realized I was addicted to it … and that the amount that I drank would eventually have a detrimental health impact. On numerous occasions I found myself in countries without strong coffee drinking traditions ,where coffee is scare, expensive, or Nescafe… and I just got tired of having to search and pay for the stuff in order to function normally. Then I started becoming aware of how much money I was spending for it. Even in the US — the global ground zero for coffee culture — I was dropping around $10 on my addiction.

I realized that I was physiologically tied to needing to acquire something and pay money for it and I didn’t like it. It felt weak and I thought I could better spend that time and money elsewhere.

A few years later I think that may have backfired.

*Update 4/18/23: I actually believe it may have been creatine rather than coffee. Around the same time I stopped drinking coffee I also stopped supplementing with creatine. In addition to it benefiting athletic performance and increasing musculature, creatine is also a nootropic. I’m taking creatine again and I feel like I’m going to rip the head off of my laptop … the way I used to feel during my years of extreme productivity. Who knows?


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Filed under: Coffee

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

7 comments… add one

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  • Rob November 1, 2022, 7:37 pm

    I drank coffee by the gallon every day for years, I like the taste and I must have liked the get up & go because I drank a lot.
    Then one day it started keeping me up later than I wanted to be up so I cut out the coffee on the way home from work and the coffee after dinner.
    In time I noticed that I wasn’t drinking all that much in the morning, then I found myself only having one cup in the morning and maybe not finishing that…
    I wrote it off to getting older.
    FWIW from gallons a day to one in the morning was a 20+ year process for me.

    I do miss your writing…

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    • VBJ November 1, 2022, 10:46 pm

      Thank you!

      Haha yes, maybe it’s a young person thing. I think the body reacts to substances differently as you age … and you either moderate or die (almost literally). It’s funny how often I hear a friend who’s around my age talking about how hangovers hit them harder now. I’m there too. I used to drink a decent amount — especially while working as a journalist — and now I don’t really drink much at all as it just makes me feel not good. If I have enough to get drunk I can’t do anything for two days afterward. Maybe it was partially my body just rejecting that much coffee. Don’t know? But I am trying to figure out how to refocus without it.

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  • Trevor Warman November 2, 2022, 7:57 pm

    Writing like you used to. Just fantastic.

    Greetings from the DF ;))

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    • VBJ November 7, 2022, 11:27 am

      Thank you! Have fun down there!

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  • Chris November 3, 2022, 12:30 pm

    Ask anyone in Boquete, Panama and they will say that they have the Best Coffee in the World.
    Awesome Tasty.

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  • Jack November 4, 2022, 12:12 pm

    Actually you are embarrassed of the real truth about why you stopped drinking coffee. You became Mormon. You are secretly donning a white shirt and tie when you write blog posts over on LDS Living. You wish you had a name tag that says Elder Shepard. You are doing everything you can not to gush about the last General Conference when President Nelson announced so many new temples. You are wondering how you can visit all the temple sites….and I just realized why you wrote this blog…you are scouting out temple sites for the church. I know the truth and now your secret is safe with your readership. We won’t tell anyone lol

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    • VBJ November 4, 2022, 1:30 pm

      Haha my parents now live right near Palmyra, so you never know!

      It’s either that or something weird must be going on with me 🤣

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