I met Melanie during my first 6 week backpacking trip around Hawaii when I happened to cross paths with this gem of a person that I can now call one of my best friends. I really do it was destiny when we both bunked together in Plantation Village up in North Shore Oahu where we started off with bike rides to the beach, to insanely fun hikes, to island hopping to Kauai, finding our ways to each other weather it be hitch hiking to couch surfing, heart to heart talks in a hammock, and a teary goodbye. I’ve never met anyone so carefree, adventurous, and free spirited… always willing to give more then take. She inspires me SO much to not be afraid, to be the biggest weirdo, and to be open minded when travelling. Even after this Hawaii trip 3 months from now, were still in contact with each other like we’ve never separated. And I want to share with you the story of Melanie Schürch and her travels.
1) What first got you into backpacking? What’s your story?
So for me backpacking, it was never planned. I never had the feeling of wanderlust or the urge to go to discover the world. For me, it was more so the other way round. I needed to get away from my everyday life. I needed a bit distance from everything I know. From my family, from my friends, from everything I literally know to find myself again. It sounds weird to say, I know… and it’s hard to understand. But I knew I wasn’t me anymore and I needed distance to calm down! And when I’m looking back now as I’m here in Mexico, it was the best thing I could have done in my situation. I’m now more myself than I was in my whole life. And yeaaaah i know this is a typical cliché sentence, but try it and you will see what I mean…
So now back to the question what put me into backpacking. Originally my plan was to work in an other country for around 3 months as a working experience. To improve my english knowledge, to meet new people from all over the world, as a new challenge, as an adventure, before I go back to Switzerland to work in a bank with scheduled days, with a good wage and a already planned career. But plans have changed.. I arrived in Hawaii and worked in a fruit stand for 4 days a week for free accommodation and food. I found the job in advance on an internet platform called “workaway”. The thing on platforms like that is that you don’t know the other person. I mean the people can say everything and then you’re there on the place and the truth comes out slowly. So I had bad luck and after 2 weeks, my friend and I met from workaway, decided to leave the place together. We both had flights to completely different places and didn’t plan on leaving the islands but we decided to do it anyway. Before we knew it, we both travelled to the Big Island and Island hopped around Hawaii. And from then on, I slowly got into backpacking the world.
2)How does backpacking differ from leisure travelling (ex: travelling with family and friends, traveling for work off vacation, travelling with a pre planned group) in your opinion?
A huge difference for me is the relaxing part about it. I mean when you’re travelling over a long period of time, not everyday can be awesome – some days you need to be calm and relaxing so you can enjoy the special days even more and to be honest sometimes you just don’t feel like doing anything. You can do what ever you want, whenever you want and nobody will judge you or make you feel bad if you literally just chill the whole day in paradise. With my family and also with my friends, I always just spend a short amount of time in one place, because if you’re travelling just a short time you will see as much as possible so you’re always kinda rushing through… but thats normal so for me the biggest difference is really the time and the speed of travelling!
3) Were you ever afraid of travelling alone?
This is a question I’ve gotten asked many times. Of course I was afraid to leave and to be on my own at first. I was in tears, when I sat on my own at the airport in Switzerland and also when the plane arrived in LA, I had to face the first time everything on my own… but I’m stubborn and so I forced myself to make the first step and it’s always about the first step.
4) Why do you choose to travel the way you do?
As I’m currently backpacking right now, it’s not something that was planned. It just happened overtime while I was in Hawaii and I decided to keep going on my travels as I make my way across Mexico because I feel like going home isn’t the right thing for me right now and I’m still so eager to see more places as I keep going.
5) What’s your current favourite destination and why?
Ohhhh this is such a hard question! My list of destinations I want to visit is endless. But first off, I definitely look forward to my current trip here in central america. So from Mexico with a road trip down to Panama with a guy I met during my travels. It will be a long adventurous one that’s for sure and a challenging one! But I look forward to it and to learn more about myself while I deal with the different situations the trip will bring me… and I’m also looking forward for a little bit of a routine, kind of a “normal life” feel if I were to call it, when I’m back at home before I start my next trip. I’m thinking maybe a safari in Africa, or a very cultural inspired journey through Asia, a road trip in the various landscapes in Australia, a sailing trip to wherever or maybe I will discover the secrets and stories from the different european countries – who knows?
6) What were some things you’ve learnt from backpacking that you’d like to share?
What you give, comes around. So never be afraid of giving, it will come back to you eventually…maybe not in the way you gave it nor not immediately, but for sure in an other way!! You will spend so much money for shit you don’t need, you will make some faults for sure, but you will learn from them and there will be people – all over the world – that will be willing to help you and to hold you’re hand through it all. You’re never on your own, even sometimes you might feel like it. Sometimes you will be really homesick, some days you just need a hug and someone you can laugh with. There are a few awesome people out here on the world that you will meet that will be there for you!!
7) What advice would you give someone backpacking for their first time?
Be open to new things, give them a chance. You’re not in your own country and things are different and YOU are the foreign one. Especially when you’re travelling in underdeveloped countries, there will be huge differences to you’re originated country and the comfort you’re used to. So face the things with respect and everything will be ok!!