Woman of the Week: Melanie

Meet Melanie, a woman on her way to a PhD and a full passport! Our latest woman of the week has a passion for people as well as seeing the globe, which was likely instilled in her from birth. Melanie tells about her travel-filled upbringing, and how she sees the world while working a full time job. She’s been to some places I can’t wait to visit, and I know you’ll love the photos from her adventures! Happy travels, and happy reading. 

Connect with Melanie:   INSTAGRAM

Melanie in Myanmar.

  1. Tell us about yourself.

I am 29 and am lucky enough to live on the seafront in the city of Portsmouth on the South Coast of England. I was actually born in Australia and lived there from 8 – 16 years old as my parents have lived there three times and keep going backwards and forwards. My family are from Portsmouth three generations back so I feel strong ties to the city and, wherever I travel, know that I will keep coming back here where it really feels like home. I was a special needs teacher of children with severe autism but am about to start a PhD researching a specific area of autism education. My 26 year old brother has autism and is the most important person in my world, so working with children with autism is one of my main passions – along with travelling of course!

  1. Why do you travel?

The first time my parents moved to Australia they were in their early twenties and backpacked through Asia en route there in the early 80s when those countries weren’t so accessible. The second time my parents lived in Australia I was born there and I spent the first year of my life pretty much in their backpack travelling the country with them. Although I don’t remember it, I’m sure that experience and their subsequent stories about their adventures have certainly instilled in me a desperate need to continue wandering. They have always been supportive and encouraging of me grasping every opportunity to adventure from when I first went travelling alone on my first gap year at 19.
People always say that there is no hurry and you have plenty of time to achieve things but, with my brother being autistic, my parents are his full time carers and had they not travelled when they were young then they probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to later in life. I think this is why they are so encouraging and is something I always keep in mind when I want to do something – life is short and you don’t know what is round the corner so why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?
Although my boyfriend hadn’t travelled as much as I had when we met, I was lucky to find someone who is also adventurous and up for anything. Our first holiday together was to India and we both got horrifically ill which was a huge bonding experience and we had no secrets from or inhibitions with each other after that!
  1. How do you balance work and travel?

When I was a teacher I was lucky enough to have blocks of time in the school holidays (and then later being self employed) when I could completely forget about my job and just disappear somewhere, although I have visited special schools and autism centres abroad so sometimes mix the two! Living in Europe means that I am lucky enough to have fifty countries within a few hours plane journey so my boyfriend and I (who is also fortunately self employed) try to do at least one or two short trips or long weekends each year to a new European country. Then, usually in the summer, we choose a country a little more distant and remote to spend a few weeks exploring with our backpacks. It works for us and has allowed me to visit 42 different countries to date, with the vast majority of those being in the last ten years so we don’t feel that we need to change tack just yet.
Melanie on the beach with a brilliant sunset.
  1. What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from your travels?

That the little things are the big things. The details that stick with you when travelling are often things you haven’t paid for and haven’t planned; wandering along an empty beach with a magical sunset, being helped by the genuine kindness of a local, being mesmerised by a night sky, snapping that perfect picture, being caught in monsoon rain. We spent three hours while waiting for a bus on in a thunderstorm in the middle of nowhere in the Philippines playing with a little girl who must have been about four. We couldn’t understand her nor her us but we had so much fun teaching her to flip coins and playing in the rain. We decided to call her Ling since we tried and failed to learn her name and that experience is one of the things we still talk about when we remember our trip to the Philippines. I’ve certainly learned to take every opportunity to find the things I didn’t know I was looking for.

  1. Share one of your favorite travel memories.

Never one to follow the rules, I have far too many to decide on just one. They include hitchhiking from England to Morocco for charity (we made it in twelve lifts without stepping foot on public transport apart from the ferries either end), spending the night in a hilltop Buddhist monastery in Myanmar, delivering HIV prevention sessions for children in Lesotho, watching sunrise from a leaky rowing boat on the Ganges in India, seeing wild manatees while snorkelling in Belize, sleeping in an igloo in Romania, volcano boarding in Nicaragua and flying past Mount Everest in Nepal. I’m so so lucky to have made memories that will truly last a lifetime and hopefully with many more to come.

Melanie photo from the Ganges River in India.

  1. If you could share one travel tip with other women, what would it be?

Don’t be the one to put obstacles in your way. If I had a pound for every time someone has said to me “I wish I could do that but…” I’d be worth a fortune. Travelling is so easy in the 21st century and there are ways around almost everything if you set your mind to it. Money, time, danger, fear of travelling alone, having children – they might make things difficult but not impossible. If other people have done it then so can you and if you really want to then you can find a way! My favourite quote is by Mae West and says “You only live once but, if you do it right, once is enough”. The world really is your oyster so don’t let yourself be the only thing standing in your way.
Melanie with students from a classroom in Africa.

Thanks for reading! Want more travel tips from Melanie and women like her?

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