Travelling Coffee Expert, Freelance Writer, Sa Pa, Vietnam
I met Mel in Sa Pa region of Vietnam, several miles from Chinese border. This mountain town, at the time, was covered with a thick blanket of mist and fog and we were killing time before our next adventure. It was then I discovered that Mel investigates and writes about a subject matter that is very dear to me. In fact, I almost offered to get on the road with her as an unpaid intern. I also learned that Mel is a globe-trotter 80-90% of the year, and is a fearless traveller, explorer....and a WOW WOMAN.
2. Where is your hometown?
Schmoelln in German federal state Thueringen, Eastern Germany.
3. What is your profession/career/title/self-label/designation?
I'm a coffeepreneur, freelance writer/blogger and traveler.
4. What was the journey like to get where you are (in life and career wise)? What are some accomplishments you’re most proud of?
I studied twice, first Japanology & Cultural Studies because it interested me and because I've been a fan of Japan since my teenage years. Then Marketing & Communications, because I was hoping to start a career within Marketing. I was pretty much bored within every (Marketing) job I ever did after a while, though. No matter what product or job field, I just wasn't happy to sit at an office desk all day long, working for the goals and dreams of someone else. I've always been a person that had made their own visions and dreams, their own ideas and plans.
When I finally found out, that nothing is wrong with me (I was always wondering why all of my co workers had been so motivated and enthusiastic about their jobs, well at least most of them), and together with an inner journey and discovering specialty coffee and its culture/community, I started thinking about how I can get out of my 9-5 and work for myself/as a freelancer.
I'm proud of all the tough decisions I made over the past almost two years, quitting my 9-5 and starting as a freelancer, making myself known as a coffee expert and writer/blogger not only in Germany, deciding to move out of my apartment that I had rented for over 7 years, leaving Frankfurt where I've lived for over 8 years, getting rid of almost all of my stuff and moving to Berlin, going on the coffee tour/research that I'm doing now and writing/blogging at the same time...
5. What did you study in school?
(see no. 4)
6. How is your life different from what you pictured at 20?
I had no clue what my life would look like back at age 20. At that time I just started my first studies (Japanology & Cultural Studies). I guess, I was hoping to find a job in that field and would have a family, husband and kids latest by age 35. (I'm 37 now.). That's what pretty much everyone else did and is doing in my family and friends. So I thought, I'd just do the same. I didn't know it any better (or about different concepts of living/lifestyle) back then.
7. What was your biggest disappointment and plan to overcome it?
Well, it comes with the answer to the last question basically. Realizing that I was super unhappy and unsatisfied within the jobs I did was very disappointing at first, because I thought, I had failed. Especially in the eyes of my family and society and their concepts. That I just couldn't figure out, what I wanted and how I would like to spend my (working) days. Trying different things, starting new jobs. When I finally realized I'm not the problem and it's alright to find different ways to live my life, I allowed myself to pursue my passion, which is specialty coffee. Accompanied by the inner journey, to confront myself with my fears, thoughts and beliefs, I mentioned earlier.
8. Advice for other women?
Let go of those concepts, everyone around you seems to live their lives by. It's your life and you decide, how you'd like to spend it. Only you (your heart/gut) knows, what's best for you.
9. Knowing what we know now in current political climate, can women be "all that we can be" in today's world? What is the way forward, as you see it for "feminist values"?
Well, I have a different way of seeing it: I'm not a feminist, I'm a strong believer that we all can make it. No matter, if woman or man! Everyone is provided with the same chances. It's just our thoughts, beliefs and the well known concepts and gender roles that we all grew up with, that keeps us from taking those chances.
10. Where in the world do you feel “tallest” (i.e. where is your happy place)?
As of right now, I'm pretty much happy, wherever I set my foot on, really. My happy place is within me, so to say. But, I yet would like to find my future home, where I can grow some roots and build my house including open a cafe that I've been dreaming about for a while now. For now I'm a traveler.
11. What extra-curricular activities/hobbies are you most proud of? Why?
Yoga. I took my Yoga mat with me on my travels. It's a practice that is easy to pursue while being on the road.
12. What do you want to be when you grow up? Future goals/challenges?
I see myself as an owner of a coffee shop that is part of my own house in less than 10 years. I also see myself as a wife and mother at some point. I feel that the house/cafe and the family together is part of my (not so far) future. All of what I'm doing now, the traveling, making new experiences, exploring and getting to know different countries and cultures as well as learning more about coffee and writing about it is part of this.
13. What fears are you still hoping to overcome?
Not being able to make a living of how I spend my days. Being/staying alone. Not being enough. Not having enough trust that everything will work out just fine.
14. Anything you'd do differently if you had another go at life?
Can't really picture this, since I did so many crazy/weird and unusual stuff already.
15. What inspires you?
People who follow their dreams, that don't rest in their comfort zones.
16. What are you hopeful about?
That more people will grow out of these old concepts and start living their lives to the fullest. Letting go of the fears that come with leaving their own comfort zones. Nothing is secure ever.
17. What are some ingredients to a good life?
Trust that everything will find its way. Believing in yourself. Coffee. ;-)
18. What advice would you give your 14-year-old self?
It's ok to be weird.
19. What are you reading now? (what books do you gift most and what are your favourite reads?)
I'm reading a lot of blogs and coffee related stuff at the moment. Besides that not much time for reading while traveling. But I found a German book about a mid 30 woman living in Berlin and her love life just recently on a bus ride from Halong Bay to Ninh Binh in Vietnam - what a coincidence, right? ;-) I enjoyed the book very much.
20. Who is a WOW Woman in your life who inspires you, and why?
These would be some of my closest female friends. They too pursue their dreams and live their own lives apart from the known concepts.
21. Where can others find you/your work (links to websites, blogs, etc.)?
On my Blog www.melscoffeetravels.com