A Dream in The Making aka Big Announcement!

Someone I greatly admire sent me sent me a text at the end of 2012:

Hey, Megan, I think you should go and do whatever it takes to turn 52 cups into a book, because I (and I’m assuming many others) think its an incredible story, and it’s almost a shame that as many people as possible won’t hear it. Go. 

The text meant so much to me, I took a screenshot and used it as the lock photo on my phone. I deeply desired to assemble the stories from my journey meeting 52 strangers into a book. The text was a reminder that other people did as well—and would support me in the process. 

I used my 22nd birthday to announce the launch of my blog. It’s only fitting to use my 26th birthday to announce the launch of my book: 52 Cups of Coffee. 

After many hours—and generous help from both family and friends—it’s happening! 52 Cups of Coffee will be available for purchase in August.

The first round of proofs arrive this week(!) which begins the series of revisions to get everything just right and ready for print. To celebrate the launch in style I will be doing a pre-release at the Passion Co. Shine Event July 23rd (San Francisco friends, would love if you’d come!). Then we enter the final stretch to the official release in mid-August.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing updates and the exact date of the launch. To be the first to know when it’s available sign up here!

The 52 Cups of Coffee adventure has been a group effort from the start, from the friends that supported me to the wonderful people willing to sit down with me and share their story. The power of community and connection is beautiful and 52 Cups of Coffee is evidence of that. Thank you for being a part of the adventure. 

I can tell 26 is going to be a good year. 

Cup 11 | Van Redin


"What you will be in five years depends on two things: the people you meet and the books you read." ~ Twyla Tharp

This quote, specifically the people parth, that inspired the start of 52 Cups of Coffee and of all the people I’ve had coffee with, it seems the most true for Cup 11, Van Redin, in Austin, Texas.

You may have never heard Van Redin’s name, but you’ve certainly seen his work. As a still photographer specializing in the Motion Picture Industry he has worked on over 60 major feature films including: Rushmore, Rudy, Office Space, and Lord of the Rings over the course of a successful 20 year career. See his fantastic work here.

Working as a still photographer, Van takes photos of film scenes and studio shoots, which are used to create press and publicity for the film. This includes movie covers, posters, billboards and still shots used in print and online articles.

I found Van through a mutual friend, B A Kane (or as Van knows her, Betty Ann—her real name; she picked up B A as a nickname in college). B A volunteered to connect us after seeing I was going to the SXSW Interactive Festival via Facebook. Van and B A forged their friendship in 5th grade and they spent their high school years together in rural Texas—long before Hollywood was on his radar.


Van walked into the crowded Starbucks south of the downtown Austin with sunglasses, a relaxed demeanor and authentic Texas drawl. We found coffee and a table and started our conversation. It began with stories about B A and their Texas childhood before shifting to the movie industry—which as it turns out, was never his career plan.

It happened because of a connection:

My first job was at the Capitol for the House of Representatives. I was a photographer so that enabled me to meet a lot of people that helped me out in the long run. I got into the movie business because I knew a girl who was a script supervisor. She had done a bunch of movies and she invited me up to the set to do Tender Mercies’ stuff, hang out on Tender Mercies with Bobby (Robert) Duvall and Sally Field. So, that’s the first movie I ever went out on set, I think, first feature, anyway. And then, met Duvall, and kind of got to be friends with him. I’ve done probably ten picture with him now.

While a lucky break led to his first movie opportunity helped him start his career, it was hard word and persistence that made it a successful one:

I had to go out to L.A. and live there for a couple of years to make it happen. You got to go out to L.A. and call on all the right people and have a lot of persistence to keep calling. Then you do a really good job and you give the people you work with a little gift at the end; let them know that you want to work with them again.

In short, his success came from working hard and treating people right. He stayed in touch with people he worked with and used those connections to generate more job opportunities. When I asked Van the secret to success, his answer was simple and straightforward:

I can say it’s all about meeting people and treating them good. Taking advantage of your opportunities. It’s simple but very true. Most people appreciate that. There’s not much more to it than that.

Although it’s not always easy:

The opportunities aren’t always ideal or fun. When you’re working hard trying to make a name for yourself you come across jobs you don’t necessarily want to do.

A lot of people don’t follow through. They get tired of it all. They think an opportunity is a phony deal, or they have to do something that they don’t want to do. Like, “I am not going to do that.” Oh well, you got to do a lot of things that you don’t want to do sometimes.

(Hear Van, in his own words, talk about what makes a good photographer.)

Like movie actors, he’ll work on projects for months at a time often working long hours and traveling across the country (and sometimes the globe) for shoots. It’s contract work, which means Van’s next gig is never guaranteed, his livelihood is based on his ability to continue to book new jobs.

The connections he has, the connections he fosters, are vital because when people need to fill a job, they first look at the people they already know—the people they enjoyed working with the last time. And because Van treats people right (and produces good work) people want to continue working with him—it is his secret to making it in the movie industry.

Really, it’s the secret to making it in any industry.


52 Cups of Coffee has always been about meeting new people and building connections; yet, very few conversation have directly focused on how building the right connections allow people to build their best lives. That was what I most appreciated about my conversation with Van.

The simple reality is that every person we meet has the opportunity to change us. Every person knows something, someone or some opportunity that could be a lucky break that gets you closer to what you want in life.

So treat the people you meet well.

What you will be in five years depends on it.


Cup 10 | Kham in Luang Prabang

This is the final installment of Cups from my foreign adventures to Australia and Asia.


Happiness doesn’t require much.

It was 10pm and pitch black when we met Kham.

Standing just over four foot, ten inches, and eight months pregnant, she greeted us with a thick accent and the most captivating grin: one part warmth, one part mischief.

My partner in travel crime and I had found Kham and her husband Henri-Pierre through Airbnb, which had been our primary source of accommodations while traveling through Asia. Preferring to keep our travel spontaneous, we booked the listing the day before we arrived and planned on staying in Luang Prabang for two days before exploring other cities in Laos.

She led us to a pickup truck and instructed us to climb in the back. I glanced at my partner: we shared the same nervous excitement about the adventure before us. After a chilly ride, we arrived at the homestay, which they’d built themselves in order to start hosting travelers. Kham showed us to our room (which had been meticulously prepared) and then asked us a simple question,

"Would you like to eat dinner with my family?"

Kham and her family had prepared a mouth-watering feast of noodles, fresh veggies and meat served with such warmth and hospitality. We instantly felt at home as we connected with the family in broken English, shared bottles of Beerlao and learned more about all Luang Prabang had to offer.

It was clear we’d need more than two days.


Luang Prabang is a simple city alongside the Mekong River. With 50,000 people and a heavy Buddhist influence, the small city is filled with beautiful Buddhist temples and streets lined with tuk-tuks and fresh food markets.  

Over the course of the following five days, we explored every nook and cranny; taking Kham’s Hello Kitty themed Vespa over bumpy, rooster-lined, roads around town and out into the country to explore jungles and waterfalls and to meet elephants.

We’d explore all day before returning to Kham’s house where Henri-Pierre would make us a drink with LaosLaos Whiskey (a local favorite) while Kham cooked a delicious meal. The meals were slow and relaxed and we would stay at the table long after we were full.  

Despite it’s economic troubles (a third of the Laos’ population lives on less than US$1.25 per day), Luang Prabang is a place where people find happiness within the simplicity.

We saw examples of this wherever we went. The best night of the stay involved a boat tour up the Mekong where we discovered a bar (essentially a wooden shack on the middle of an island) where locals were enjoying their Friday night playing cards. We stopped for a beer and before we knew it, they’d invited us into their circle and treated us like we’d always been a part of the crew.


No electricity, no frills, no gadgets or gizmos: just good people, good food, and laughter.


That’s how it felt wherever we went in the city—but the feeling was strongest when spending time with Kham. She wasn’t a traditional Cup but her charm and generosity made for an unforgettable experience and a lesson I wanted to share:

Happiness doesn’t require much.

It seems the pursuit of happiness is never-ending. We look for the latest and greatest thing that will make us happy: the diet that will transform our bodies, the book that will transform our mind, the technology that will solve our every want and that magical amount of money that makes our troubles disappear.

But the truth is that you don’t need many things to find happiness.  

You can find it within the simple moments: an unexpected adventure, warm smile, delicious meal, and long conversations with kind people.

You find it in the moment.

Happiness is the moment.

Thanks to @jeannineyeah and @alexschiff for editing. 

Cup 9 | Lee Hup Kheng


After a rural adventure around the island of Borneo the next stop of the journey was Singapore: a squeaky clean commercial hub with great public transit and dazzling architecture. Unsure of how to navigate the new city, I asked friends on Facebook if they had any tips on Singapore.

My friend, and Michigan State University professor, Karl answered the call: 

I have friends at the newspaper there if you need some good people to ask what to do!

Before I knew it, I was messaging with Lee “Hup” Kheng, a Singaporean with great advice: Chinatown, the Mariamman Indian Temple, Marina Bay on the Sands Hotel for spectacular views of the skyline and more.

Hup was so gracious to offer his expertise, I asked him if he’d like to get coffee. Two days later I was in the art department of Singapore Press Holdings where Hup works as the Infographic and Design Chief for The New Paper.

Hup is an award-winning graphics artist. Born in the Rice Bowl region of Malaysia, he realized he had a talent for drawing and should try to make something out of his life. After high school he bought a one-way ticket to Memphis, Tennessee for art school. He then moved back to Malaysia and soon got a job in Singapore. He has been in the industry for 25 years and is now running the show at The New Paper—the best paper in Singapore.


We met at his office and sat on the rooftop deck overlooking the city. We talked about what makes Singapore unique, swapped travel stories and discussed lessons Hup had learned over the course of his career.

Our conversation was lively and it was clear Hup was an artistic guy. He’d use his hands or objects on the table to help me visualize the story he was telling.

My favorite part of the conversation was when he talked about art and trying to unlearn things.

He talked about drawing a face over and over again. Each time he starts with the nose, which means it’s now become a habit. He doesn’t know how to draw a face without starting with the nose because habits are hard to break.

It’s the same for life habits: we fall into a routine that is known and comfortable. Then we get stuck.

We pick the easy, expected, known route and suddenly a few years go by and we are in a rut that is safe yet boring. As Hup said:

We get stuck in patterns but sometimes the best things are when you can embrace the unknown… The best things come unexpectedly. It can be a bit dangerous but that’s okay, it’s more fun to follow the heart.

While his career has been vibrant, he said if he could do it again, he would have worked in Singapore for two years and then gone somewhere like Japan where a new challenge awaited. He would have switched things up more often.

To compensate, he’s now travels as often as possible, which is why he was so willing to share tips with me. He told me that when people are traveling he loves to help give them advice because, as a traveler himself, he knows what it’s like to be in the other person’s’ shoes.  

What I love about Cup 9 with Hup was how beautifully it illustrates one of my favorite ideas: the strength of weak ties.

Meg Jay talks about it in her book The Defining Decade:

[We] are in almost constant contact with the same few people. But while the urban tribe [our support network] helps us survive, it does not help us thrive. The urban tribe may bring us soup when we are sick, but it is the people we hardly know—those who never make it into our tribe—who will swiftly and dramatically change our lives for the better.

This is the power of having coffee with strangers.

We need a tight circle of friends and family to survive the ups and downs of life—but it is the wider circle of people in our lives that create the best opportunity.

Karl and I met a few years ago and have stayed in touch since. I greatly admire his work and cherish the opportunities when our paths cross. The same happened between Karl and Hup—they met and stayed in touch, it’s in Karl’s nature to connect.

As a result, when I was in Singapore, the strength of these weak ties led to an opportunity to for Hup and I to meet.

I am continually amazing that people are so willing to connect others. We love being able to share our experiences, our expertise and our connections with others when given the chance to help.

It’s magical.

And a great opportunity to get out of a rut. When you reach out to someone (whether a complete stranger or an old friend you don’t often see) you break out of the habit of talking to the same people about the same things.

If you’re looking for an exciting new opportunity you have to search in different places—old friends are a really great place to start.

Mine led me to a wonderful conversation inside a Singaporean newspaper art department. Where will yours lead?