Melissa Pritchard Interview
Nicola Thornton interviews TEFL teacher Melissa Pritchard as she travels all the way from Barcelona to Oregon on her bike
I’m heading home from Barcelona to Oregon, US on my bike—‘the loong way’ [the name of the trip]. I plan to cycle over 24,000 kilometres while passing through four continents and more than 15 countries in the next 14 months, teaching schoolchildren on the way.
I came here 10 years ago on a one-year scholarship. I chose to go to a small town outside Valencia because it was a ceramic hub and I was a fine arts major, but they sent me to Barcelona. I thought I would hate it because I’m not from a big city but, in the end, a one-year scholarship turned into 10 years. I always said I would go home when I got bored, but I never did.
I did a second university degree at the Escola Massana and studied jewellery design, then started teaching at the Benjamin Franklin International School where I worked until recently.
The idea for ‘the loong way home’ has been on my mind ever since I started road biking here four years ago. l love being on my bike and enjoy travelling, so with tour cycling you have the best of both worlds. I then felt sad at not being with kids for an entire year, so I thought of a way to combine my professional skills with my personal interests.
Kids and I have the same amount of energy and passion for life, that is why I love working with them. They are always so interested in discovering, learning and doing. I love exposing them to new ideas, different perspectives, and seeing where they go with them on their own and how they develop and transform the content to make it meaningful to them.
You start talking to kids about a bike—when they ride their bike, with who, where they go—and it just opens up a whole conversation. I am riding my bike home, and they are fascinated to know how I’m going to go so far, where I will sleep, what I will see... So I’m collecting a lot of data along the way that I can use in the classroom.
I designed my route by connecting the dots of places I would like to travel and see on bike. I also took into consideration the fact I’m a solo female cyclist.
I’m intending to ride about 100 kilometres a day, taking a rest day every six days, which is when I will try to visit a school. There is a whole network of international schools and I hope their communities will open their doors to me.
I come from a family of five siblings. There was never a dull moment growing up—we were always on the go. I can remember countless hotwheels courses, baseball games, bike riding, fishing, you name it; the Pritchard kids were always out and about.
The biggest challenge will probably be deciding where I want to go exactly as there are so many neat places... I will definitely be making lots of detours but I also have the weather and seasons to keep in mind.
I’ve done four tours previously, starting in 2011 with a 3,000-kilometre loop around the Pacific Northwest and Canada, and then did 10 days in Corsica, 10 days in Andalucia, and three weeks in Thailand. They were all really beautiful and fun places to explore on bike.
I guess the things I will miss are some clean clothes every now and again. Clean becomes such a relative word touring that if the shirt has been worn three days consecutively but still doesn’t smell, I consider it clean!
Everyone always asks me if I’m coming back and I’m dying to know myself! I think so. I love living abroad, the novelty has never worn off and Catalunya is such a great place to be based for all my outdoorsy and artistic interests. But who knows?