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It’s not intuitive that I would be Bob’s co-conspirator in this wonderful journey we are on. For one thing, I don’t work at Biggby Coffee. Don’t get me wrong, I drink lots of it, and I love meeting the franchisees, corporate office staff, store managers and baristas that make it all happen. I am fiercely proud of what Bob and Mike, along with all of their stakeholders, have built and I love watching them grow as a company and as people. But I don’t work there. And that’s as it should be.

I do love to travel. But as I nudged more solidly into my 50s, I noticed that the kind of travel I gravitate towards is the comfortable kind… going back to countries that I’ve been to before, staying in very nice hotels, eating in fine restaurants. Want to wander around the British Museum in London? Stroll along the Seine in Paris? Wine taste in Tuscany? I’m your girl!

So how is it that I’m jetting off to parts unknown in Africa, taking a perilous car ride through the bumpy mountain Nepalese “roads,” getting ready to venture into the jungle in Nicaragua, and wherever future adventures might take us? Who is this girl in the hiking pants carrying food bars and Malaria tablets in her backpack? Welcome to Michelle 2.0.

About a year ago, Bob and I sat down to dream together about who we want to be when we grow up. We do that a lot. We both travelled extensively as children when we had no choice, and as often as work and family life would allow as we got older. We made a list of all the countries we had been to.  I was certain it would be impressive.

It was not. At least, not for kids who grew up the way we did with fathers who worked many, many overseas assignments. We were at about 30 or so, each.  We both have a few that the other doesn’t. I’ve been to the Philippines, Bob hasn’t. He’s been to Indonesia, me not so much. But our lists look largely the same… mostly, all about Europe. That’s not good enough. There are 190 countries in the world, and we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. So, we made a pact to see 150 before we die.

Travelling for its own sake is a lovely luxury and something that is fun to do. But it’s also a little empty. It’s as if I’m collecting memories purely for my own enjoyment and photo book collection. And then there’s the impact that all of that flying has on the climate to consider, as well. It was a conundrum I had been pondering when one day, out of the blue, Bob came home and said “Do you want to go see an orphanage and coffee farm in Zambia? I think we can help them.”

Whoa. I knew that Bob and Mike had committed to the path of helping people build a life they love through Biggby Coffee. This is a deeply personal mission for both of them, and they are determined to make the world a better place through coffee. I’m very excited about what Biggby is doing, but I hadn’t considered that I might have a part in it. Yet here we were with an opportunity to go explore a new part of the world where coffee was literally saving lives.

You’d think I would have jumped at the chance right away.  I did… but then I reconsidered. There’s Ebola in the region, and Malaria, and who knows what other challenges and threats we might encounter?  We have a kid and three dogs, not to mention mothers, fathers, friends and neighbors who count on us… should we BOTH go? I confess, it was a moment of fear.

But I do love a good adventure. And this felt important. So, I decided to challenge that fear with gratitude for the opportunity. You can’t be afraid and grateful at the same time. I don’t think I’m finished learning from life and doing things that are meaningful… not by a long shot. I know the only way I can grow is to get out of my comfort zone. So I’m going to go, willingly, where the journey is uncomfortable and the outcome is uncertain. And we are going to do it in the service of other people… making a difference in parts of the world that could really use some Biggby love.

My job is to take a lot of pictures and to help tell the stories. I have been deeply moved and inspired by the people we’ve already met, and there are so many adventures to come. Flexibility, curiosity and gratitude are the most important tools in my tool kit. That, and a good back up battery for my cell phone/camera, some food bars, and my malaria medicine.

I’m the luckiest girl alive to get to do this with my husband. It’s the chance of a lifetime. It doesn’t mean we won’t go back to Europe. But when we do, I’ll bet that we won’t engage with it in the same way that we used to. This kind of travel changes the way you see things. And that’s pretty cool.

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