Traveling long and traveling light—an interview with Evelin Strougal and Melvyn Appleton

By David Hammond 
Evelin Strougle and Melvyn Appleton
Like the Johnny Cash song, Evelin Strougal (82) and Melvyn Appleton (83) have been everywhere.

They know New York, London, Paris, and scores of other cities around the world.

They’ve walked the beaches of dozens of islands set in a variety of oceans and seas.

And over the years they refined the art of traveling light.

The travel bug 

Mel and Evelin first met ballroom dancing in Canada. The couple discovered they shared a love for travel as well as dancing. And since 1995, spend half of each year traveling together.

But long before they met, both Evelin and Mel were travelers.

In the early 1950s, at age 17, Evelin left East Germany to start a new life in West Germany. After eight years in West Germany, she immigrated to Australia, then to New Zealand, and finally to Canada.

Although she settled in Canada, Evelin maintained the travel bug.

On one trip, she spent three months driving a VW campervan from Germany to South Africa, which included 12 days of barge travel on the Nile, attending a local wedding, and finding herself in Sudan during the 1969 coup.

“It became a war zone. A Sudanese soldier escorted us to the border to cross into Uganda,” recalls Evelin.

Mel, the son of a British engineer, grew up in Lahore, an Indian city that became part of Pakistan in 1947.

Mel moved from Lahore to England when his father retired in 1949. During his time in England, Mel served seven years in the British army. In 1967, he immigrated to Canada.

He found a good-paying seasonal job in Alberta. It gave Mel four months off a year, which he often spent traveling and camping in the US.

The attraction of travel 

For Mel, the main attraction of travel is the warmer weather and the people they meet.

For Evelin, its exploring unknown territory and the differences in cultures and languages.

When I ask about places that stick out in their minds, they mentioned the Hawaiian Islands. “Each one has differences,” says Mel.

They recall other island trips, too: Naussa in the Bahamas and Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands.

“In Tenerife, the weather is great. There’s a cable car that takes you up the Teide Volcano. You see vegetation from different climate zones. It’s so high there’s snow near the top,” says Mel.

Traveling light 

Over the years, Mel and Evelin gave thought to each item they packed,  developing ways to travel lighter and lighter.

Evelin and Mel travel for half a year at a time with just one small bag each
When I interviewed them, en route on a half-a-year trip covering several countries, Evelin’s bag weighed just 8 pounds.

Mel's bag, which included some winter clothes, weighed in at 12 pounds.

Advantages of traveling light

Your travel becomes more streamlined and flexible when you travel light.

“You don’t wait for checked bags or contend with lost luggage. You don’t always need a taxi or other transportation to move with your luggage. You can walk a kilometer or two with your bags,” explains Evelin.

What Evelin packs

Content of Evelin's bag
  • Marmot jacket – double layer – very light, yet warm. 
  • Pants with zip-on legs, which can be worn as shorts or long pants 
  • Three tops 
  • Sometimes she takes along one light long sleeve shirt for sun protection 
  • Bathing suite 
  • 1 -2 pairs of socks
  • Sandals
  • Hat
Evelin chooses clothes that can be layered.

What Mel packs

Mel's sandals
Mel also makes use of pants with zip-on legs that can be worn as shorts or long pants.

His bag contains a few winter items, like gloves, scarf, and insulated vest, and weighs 12 pounds.

When Mel and Evelin travel, they wear quality sandals with three adjustments that can be worn with or without socks.

In a pinch, you can often buy what you need when you need it 

On one trip, Evelin and Mel took advantage of a promotion with Lait Airlines in Puerto Rico to visit ten islands.

“We were spending about three days exploring each Island. But we had to go back to Lait’s hub in Purto Rico between each flight.

“A travel agent told us about a cruise special. With the special, we could spend a week on a cruise ship for the same money we were spending a week with the flight sale,” says Evelin.

Traveling light, Evelin and Mel didn’t have clothes for cruise-ship socials. But they didn’t want to miss out.

“So, we went to a mall and bought some cheap clothes and a $5 watch. When the trip was over, we gifted the clothes to the travel agent who found us the good deal,” says Evelin.

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