Meet a Traveler: Natascha

Perhaps one of the best parts of traveling is meeting fascinating people - locals and backpackers alike. One of the coolest people we've met lately is Natascha, from Switzerland. Over the past two weeks, she became like our family away from home as we celebrated the holidays. Together we cooked, baked, watched movies, laughed, had conversations about anything & everything, solved a 1500-piece puzzle, and drank copious amounts of tea. She left only this morning to begin her trek across Te Araroa, New Zealand's cross-country through-hiking trail. We miss her already!

Natascha is a solo backpacker who just wrapped up about a year's worth of traveling in Australia,  mostly on the country's West Coast. Before this current trip, she had been to Canada, a few countries in Europe on family holidays, and the U.S. as an exchange student in Alabama when she was 15. Here in New Zealand, she's traveling on a nine month visitor's visa which she hopes will be enough time to complete Te Araroa. We got to witness a lot of her planning while she stayed here, including making lists of food stops along the trail and making her own ultra-light camp stove out of a soda can.

Bio: Natascha, 29, from Aarwangen, Switzerland.

What's something most people might not know about Switzerland?
We're not all rich. There are a lot of low-earning positions. Also, it does not snow all the time in Switzerland.

What did you do before you started traveling?
I used to be a carpenter's apprentice. Then I went back to school and became a technical clerk. I worked in an office where I bought and sold materials for carpenters.

What are your two favorite memories from your past year traveling in Australia?
1. Swimming with whale sharks and humpback whales in Exmouth.
2. Doing the Bibbulmun Track from Perth to Albany. The people I met there, the community - that was my favorite part.

What made you decide to hike Te Araroa?
First of all, because I like hiking. In Australia, I was driving the car a lot. It wasn't very active and I liked the idea of going somewhere and moving by my power. Also because New Zealand is not that big and it's possible to walk it and see it all.

Why start on the South Island instead of the North?
That's because of timing. The South Island needs to be done by April. I also think it's better to start on the bottom, so I don't have to hurry. I don't want to rush because I want it to be like a journey. I can walk for a week and if I want to take a break, I'll take a bus and explore.

Where do you think you'll go after New Zealand?
Somewhere in Asia, I don't know. I want to enjoy New Zealand now, then decide what is next when I come to an end.

What's your favorite part of international travel?
Meeting different people and hearing their stories. Also seeing the plants and animals and everything. But the people are my favorite.

***UPDATE*** In March, I did a follow up interview with Natascha after she finished hiking the South Island leg of the Te Araroa.