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Find Your Third Place

I wish I had a photograph of the look on my parent’s faces when I told them I was writing my college essay about coffee shops. They were utterly confused and mildly concerned. Yes, she loves coffee shops, but how will she write a 650-word essay about them? Especially one being sent to colleges?

Truthfully, when I started writing, I wasn’t sure where I was headed - but as I typed, I realized that I love coffee shops for more than the oat milk lattes that they provide me with (although those are significant contributors). I love coffee shops because they’re sanctuaries of inspiration and thought. They host people from every walk of life. They connect me to my community. Coffee shops have introduced me to some very special people and have hosted many of my favorite conversations. For me, and many others, coffee shops are my favorite third places.

The term “third place” has gained popularity on the internet recently. Essentially, it’s a place that you spend time in outside of your house (your first place) and your work/school environment (your second place). It’s a public spot and a place to connect with strangers - often, over a shared interest.

Think… public parks. Beaches. Libraries. Bookstores. Bars. Churches. Basketball courts. Malls. Restaurants. Museums. How often are you going to these places during your free time? 

With today’s technology and society’s dependence on social media, we’ve entered an age of isolation. Especially since COVID, people have spent significantly more time alone and at home. According to a Meta-Gallup survey, nearly a quarter of Americans report feeling lonely. Third places may combat these feelings of loneliness; whether you have a friendly chat with a barista or fall into a deep conversation with a stranger in a library, you open yourself up to connecting with others when you step into a third place. And who knows - maybe the stranger sitting beside you at the dog park is actually your soulmate?

A National Library of Medicine study from 2020 found that senior citizens who were familiar with and frequented places reported higher levels of happiness than those who weren’t. Connecting with others, and spending time in places that you truly enjoy, is vital to nurturing your well-being. 

Depending on your third place, you may also be supporting local businesses, engaging in physical activity, or connecting yourself to nature. There are many benefits to third places, but incorporating them into your life starts with discovering where your interests lie. 

As I mentioned earlier, my favorite third places tend to revolve around my love of coffee. If you live in the NWA area, here are some of my favorite third places that I encourage you to explore. 

Two Friends Books

A quaint, Instagram-worthy bookstore x cafe x wine bar. Perfect for picking up a new book, eating a delicious, freshly baked pastry, sipping a cappuccino, or having a conversation with one of the wonderful employees. 

Best Friends Animal Society/Third Space Coffee

Best Friends is an animal shelter and pet adoption center with plenty of seating spots. Within it is Third Space Coffee, a locally-owned vegan cafe. I’ve come here a few times with friends to play with cats and get a delicious latte. 10/10 experience every time.

Coler Park/Airship Coffee

Coler Park is a lovely walking/biking trail with an outdoor coffee shop nestled within it. It’s undoubtedly my favorite place to go in the spring to spend time in nature and read a good book.

The Meteor

Arguably the coolest coffee shop in the area. It always has a phenomenal playlist, warm staff, and interesting people. It also has a delicious breakfast and lunch menu.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

NWA is so lucky to have such a wonderful museum. Crystal Bridges offers free general admissions as well as incredible temporary exhibits. There’s also a library, nearby trails, a restaurant, and of course, a coffee bar.

Next time you find yourself with some free time, instead of doom-scrolling on the internet or binge-watching a Netflix show, I encourage you to explore a third place. You never know who you’ll meet or what experiences await.

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