By Michelle Shaw
When Bob and Michelle Fish invited me to Chiapas, Mexico, I didn’t hesitate; I was all in.
As a self-proclaimed fangirl of One BIGG Island In Space (OBIIS), this was my first opportunity to be “Boots On the Ground.” I’ve been closely following the tales of OBIIS travels for years. This past year, I helped create the first annual OBIIS Calendar. The calendar features the Farm-Direct relationships around the world.
Translation? I have spent hours poring through the photos captured everywhere OBIIS has travelled.
Now, an opportunity to join the BIGG adventure? Yes, please!
I couldn’t wait to prepare:
- Hiking boots, pants, extra socks, and OBIIS T-shirts ✔️
- Water bottle, travel yoga mat, bug spray, and ear buds ✔️
- Updated Hep A, Hep B, and Tetanus shot ✔️
- Quick check of the expiration date on my passport ✔️
Good to go!
But, here’s the thing . . . all my hours studying photos, and all the stories shared with me by Bob and Michelle, didn’t fully prepare me for my experience in Chiapas.
Don’t get me wrong, I was ready for:
- Riding in the back of a pick up truck for a trek down the hill ✔️
- Slipping in mud while walking a mountainous coffee farm ✔️
- Battling motion sickness on yet another bouncy ride in a van ✔️
But, none of those capture the essence of traveling with OBIIS. For me, traveling with OBIIS was an incredible immersion.
My connection to Bob and Michelle Fish originates with yoga. In 2017 I got a call from Michelle asking if I would consider teaching her private yoga classes. Over the years we’ve done tons of yoga, even more talking, loads of laughing, lots of deep listening, and most importantly, we’ve formed a profound friendship.
When I attend yoga teacher trainings, I almost always choose to do so as an immersion. Meaning, rather than attending online workshops, or doing something that meets in the evenings or on the weekends, I go somewhere for several days (or weeks, if I’m lucky!) where I can live, breathe, eat, and fully sink into what I am doing.
I choose immersions because they offer greater growth and expansion. I’m always blown away by the knowledge gained and the relationships built.
I knew traveling with OBIIS would be an adventure. And a great opportunity. But, an immersion? This concept had not crossed my mind.
That’s exactly what my time in Chiapas was: the most amazing coffee immersion.
We learned about how coffee is grown, harvested, sorted, dried, milled, evaluated, packaged, and delivered. I have a LONG way to go before being qualified as a “cupper.” Evaluating coffee is a complex set of skills that I definitely do not have.
We were able to ask questions, talk about the challenges, and wrestle with big ideas. It’s amazing when you can see what a fair wage and an ongoing relationship with a buyer does for a community. The pride in the work. The vision for increasing yield. The investments for the future of the farm and the family.
After learning so much about coffee and beginning to understand the work people do to make it all happen, I find it almost incomprehensible that we drink coffee whenever we want. That we have such easy access to coffee in different flavors and forms. That we drink it in such volume, with very little thought about what might be leftover or wasted.
Now, whenever I have coffee, the faces of the people in Chiapas who do the work pop into my mind’s eye. I know they awoke before dawn to trek down the mountain and begin picking. I understand that over 200 hours of labor when into the beverage I am sipping and enjoying, and I am grateful to know a few of the folks who make it all possible.
OBIIS partners with farmers and producers doing good things for their people, for the planet, and for their community. I like knowing more about where my coffee comes from, and the OBIIS farm-direct partnerships empower me to enjoy my coffee even more.
That’s the beauty of an immersion. You come away changed. Altered by the conversations, the experiences, and the people . . . in the best of ways.
As for traveling with OBIIS? It’s an immersion I wish everyone could experience.
I am all in, every time