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Follow Friday: Be Inspired by Melvin Boecher

Editor’s Note: Inspired by Follow Friday on Twitter, I am profiling (in far more than 140 characters) extraordinary travelers who you, too, should follow! Through these profiles, I want to introduce you to globetrotting souls that follow their hearts to places near and far, so join me each Friday in my quest to be inspired by some of the most intriguing adventure seekers on our planet!

Be inspired by: Melvin Boecher (Cologne, Germany)
Follow him at: @traveldudes

I contacted Melvin, founder of traveldudes.org, via Twitter to ask him a few questions about his travels and to find out what really inspires him. He revealed why he only travels as a backpacker and gushed about a couple of recent adventures, including a swim with crocodiles in the Australian Outback and an encounter with wild elephants in Tanzania, which he caught on tape! (Keep reading to see the video.) 

@jenngaines: Can you tell me about your most recent adventure?
@traveldudes: [In the Australian Outback], my wife and I drove down a dirt road, and about every five hours we had a car coming towards us. From one gas station to the next was a distance of about 400 kilometers. We reached a gas station, and the owner said that he had a camping ground near a lake [with crocodiles]. The crocodiles were harmless fresh water crocs, and he went there twice a week for a swim for more than 30 years and not once had problems with the crocs.

When we arrived at the lake and saw that a few other travelers were swimming too, we had our own swim. My wife, Astrid, waited outside for around 20 minutes to see if someone would get attacked, and after nothing happened, she came in, too. Actually, you couldn’t see any crocs. That was strange, but the water was really nice. In the evening, I took my torch and lit the lake with it, and guess what I saw? Quite a lot of shiny croc eyes!

The other big adventure was our trip through Tanzania, where we drove a 4×4 and saw quite a lot of that very interesting country. We were in a national park, close to a river, and saw many elephants there. I parked in the middle of two elephant paths, and, a couple of minutes after we got there, three elephants marched a couple of meters behind our car. Then came the fourth and he trumpeted and got closer than the others. My hand was really shaky, and my heartbeat skipped a few beats. I’m lucky that I got that experience on tape!

@jenngaines: Everyone travels for different reasons. As a traveler, what really inspires you?
@traveldudes: I’ve traveled my whole life; at first with my parents and later with friends or by myself. I’m also a travel agent and that helped, too. For me, it’s important to discover something new with each trip and even better if there is a small adventure with it. I love to meet locals and learn about the different cultures. It opens your mind and helps to develop your own personality. That’s why I only travel as a backpacker or as an independent traveler. It’s also very interesting to meet other travelers from different parts of the world and to exchange experiences. That is why I started Traveldudes.org, where travelers can help each other with travel tips.

@jenngaines: What is your most memorable travel experience?
@traveldudes: Actually that was a very immense experience. I met someone in a hostel in Cambodia, and we had a fantastic talk about life. We found out that we were soul mates, but much more than I ever had experienced before with others. The funny thing is that I only know his first name.

@jenngaines: What is the most challenging travel experience you’ve had?
@traveldudes: [My wife and I] were in the middle of the Australian Outback, and the moment we finished putting up our tent, a really heavy thunder storm started. The wind was very strong, and the ground was so hard that we couldn’t get the tent’s steel hooks into it. Then the thunder storm really started. My wife couldn’t take it and went into the car. I was afraid that the tent would get blown away, so I stayed in the tent. I laid on a big air mattress that was MOVING because of the thunder! I still can’t believe it. Astrid told me afterwards that the car was also shaking! Normally, I love to be in a tent while it’s raining outside and the flashes lighten the area, but this time I only saw the cross of the tent’s bars above me. After a few minutes, I just got my pillow and put it above my face, just to try not to see the flashes and hear the thunder anymore. I couldn’t take it any longer, but it didn’t help. That was quite an experience! The next morning we found out that one flash destroyed the generator about 30 meters away from us. Another flash hit a shed 30 meters on the other side of us. I was so afraid that night that I didn’t even get out of the tent to get my video camera.

Readers: What inspires you to travel?

Photo of Pinnacles in Australia’s Nambung National Park courtesy of Melvin.

Jennifer

My name: Jennifer Gaines, but my friends call me Gaines, Jenni-Dallas or just plain Jenn.

(Find me on Twitter @jenngaines)

Travel ambitions: It's my mission to visit each of the New 7 Wonders and to step foot on every continent before my next milestone birthday.

Greatest travel lesson learned: Find the local hangouts to experience the real, true culture of a place. During a trip to Europe, my friends and I spent several days with a French family in the small town of Vichy. We had a private party in their family-run creperie, feasting on cheese-stuffed crepes and sampling wine that we picked up in the Bordeaux region a few days earlier. Their English wasn’t much better than my French, which is limited to a few well-known phrases from Moulin Rouge and the question: Parlez-vous anglais? (I'm proud to say that I can spout this question off in several different languages, and luckily most Europeans do indeed speak English!) After a few bottles of wine, the language barrier was hardly noticeable (slurring actually sounds the same in French!), and we managed to swap stories about life in other places. What a slice of local flavor!

My most beloved place in the whole world is: My grandparents place in Texas. It’s a 10-acre oasis in between two sprawling cities: Dallas and Fort Worth. A creek runs through their enormous backyard, where Granddad built a deck over the water. The entire place is shrouded with all types of trees (mainly pecan), blocking the Texas sun in the summer. Dusk is the best time to sit on the deck, drink a glass of ice tea and watch baby raccoons from the spring litter surround their back porch as Gram feeds them bread (no lie!). There will be dozens of raccoons eating on any given night. In the fall, my family gathers in the courtyard in front of their house for an annual “weenie roast.” Granddad lights the bonfire, and we roast dogs and s'mores. Yes, y’all, we’re from Texas!

Favorite way to get around: Well, I’m not much of a driver. I get lost easily and my tires have never come across a curb they didn’t want to get to know a little better. But, I do enjoy cruising around and listening to music. That said, I much rather explore a place by foot (with my iPod in tow) for a more intimate encounter.

View that took my breath away: Coming from Texas (where the view is wide but there’s not much to see), scenes from my new home of San Francisco never fail to amaze me. The city is a pedestrian’s dream, but don’t forget to turn around and look behind you as you meander through its neighborhoods. You won’t realize it, but you’ll be at the tip-top of a hill and the ocean will suddenly seem to be at eye level. Take a drive through the Presidio and over the Golden Gate Bridge where even more stunning views await!

Comments

bound4europe
Reply

Cool video! As for what inspires me to travel…
At first it was the history, food, scenery and thrill of being in a new place. But what keeps me traveling are the people I meet along the way.

Keith Jenkins
Reply

Really cool initiative! Be sure to hang around #traveltuesday for more travel inspiration! Melvin (aka @traveldudes) was last week’s Featured travel Tweep on http://www.traveltuesday.org :-)

Travel is terribly inspiring isn’t it!

Cheers,
Keith

Jenn
Reply

Thanks, Keith! I’ll check out the #traveltuesday website! Also, love the Iguazu Falls pic on your site!

Andy Hayes
Reply

Great interview, Jennifer.

As for the crocs, I don’t think I would have gotten in, you just never know!

Authentic Seacoast Resorts
Reply

Thanks for getting those great stories out of Melvin. We’re with you on the crocs, Andy. Take care out there!

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