Travel Bloggers are a dime-a-dozen these days. Everyone who’s been on longer than a two week holiday seems to have one. But, there is one guy who is the world’s travel blogger right now. His name?
Matthew Kepnes (or Nomadic Matt as he’s known on his blog). And, he’s one of the few people that inspired me to become a Travel Writer.
He’s the author of the New York Times best-seller How To Travel The World on $50 a Dayand I’ve managed to grab him for a quick interview and pick his brain about the world of travel.
I’ve done my best to edit my fanboy-excitement out of the article. Here’s what he had to say…
James Johnson: Hey Matt! Thanks for joining me today. There’s absolutely no denying you live and breathe travel. What is it about it that’s been so addictive and unshakeable for you?
Matt Kepnes: It’s actually not travel I’m addicted to, it’s freedom.
I’m quite lazy and indecisive. That combination usually means that I end up doing everything very last minute. And then I usually change those last-minute plans because I get a sudden, better, brighter idea in my head. This results in me paying a ton of money in airline cancellation fees as I switch my flights around. But that’s the price I pay for getting to do what I want, when I want!
I’m all over the place, and I love it. I really appreciate my lifestyle. But not because I get to travel. I like it because I have complete freedom over my life.
I remember growing up and always desiring to be “the captain of my ship.” You know, working because you like what you do, not because you need a paycheck; being able to jet off to some place you want when you want; and having ultimate flexibility, time, and freedom for anything. But then you graduate college with debt, work, take on responsibilities, plan out your life based on societal expectations, and before you know it, you’re stuck. You’re part of the rat race. It seems like your time is never your own.
Then one day you just think to yourself, “How did things get this way?”
And so I quit my job and went traveling. Though the leap was the hardest part, you realize everything else is easy, and it’s the freedom and flexibility that draws you in. It’s about waking up and saying, “I’m going to Ukraine tomorrow.” Or you’re going to play poker. Or maybe take Spanish lessons. Or move to Taiwan to teach English.
It’s so easy to get caught up doing what you’re “supposed” to do. You get a job, a wife, a house, kids, and then retire. But one day you wake up, and you’re 30, or 40, or 50, and you realize you never did a lot of the things you really wanted to do. Maybe that’s why so many people have a mid-life crisis. Maybe that’s why my dad decided he was going to take up motorcycles again. Or why my friend’s mom changed careers.
That feeling is what causes so many people to turn to travel. Seeing the world is cool, but most travelers are really drawn to the sense of freedom and adventure — the endless possibilities. Days spent traveling seem to hold limitless potential and opportunity. It’s also why I think long-term travelers have a hard time adjusting back into “the real world.” After you’ve been out of the box, it’s hard to go back in.
As much as I travel to explore new places and learn about people, I live my life filled with travel because, everyday I wake up and I choose to do anything I want. For now, that’s travel. Exploring my world. Maybe a few years from now it’ll be different. But no matter what I do or where I go, I’ll never really change how I live because I’m not giving up my freedom to do whatever it is that makes me happy whenever I want.
JJ: What are some of the biggest illusions people have about long-term travel, and what steps do you take to dispel them?
MK:Travel is expensive so most people can’t afford it.
Yes, everything costs some money. No travel is absolutely 100% free, but the idea that most people hold of travel is the result of advertisements and commercials that highlight fancy tours and luxurious accommodations. After decades of being bombarded by these messages, our collective consciousness equates travel with luxury. After all, when was the last time Couchsurfing has an advertising budget big enough to make a commercial?!
Back in 2004, I believed this too. I remember finding 2-week tours to Australia for over $3,000 and thinking, “No wonder I don’t know people who travel!” When I started planning my RTW trip, saving for it seemed like a terribly daunting task. I worked overtime for 18 months and used all of my life savings.
But you actually don’t need a trust fund or a high-paying job!
Thanks to lots of websites, apps, and tools, it’s never been easier to make your inexpensive trip happen. My entire website is dedicated to crushing the belief that travel is only for the rich. Here are some starting points that can help you lower your costs and travel on a budget:
Plus, you really don’t need to save for the whole trip before you leave because you can also get a job on the road so you can pay for your travels as you go.
Your job is to ignore the naysayers. Travel is possible for the vast majority of us — no matter your budget.
JJ: If you were dropped into a random city for a day – with no chance to plan, or buy a guidebook – what steps would you take to get the most from that experience? Where would you start, what would you look for, and why?
MK: I’d start at the tourist office. This is one of the most underutilized resources for travelers. They know everything going on in the city, for any type of budget. They can tell you what events, fairs and festivals are happening too. They’re paid to tell foreigners where to go.
After that, I’d head to the tourist center then turn around and walk 5 or 6 blocks in any direction to find a good, cheap, local place to eat. I’d also try asking someone walking a dog where they’re favourite place to eat is. People walking pets usually know the neighborhood after all!
Then I’d try to find a hostel, check in, and see if I could meet people who wanted to explore the city with me. The rest is really up to chance and the group of people I end up finding.
JJ: Travel always goes hand in hand with great stories. What’s your favourite story from being on the road?
During my third dive, my partner kicked the regulator out of my mouth while we were below the surface looking at coral. Yikes! I acted quickly and breathed out, grabbing the second regulator in a panic as my dive instructor bolted like a fish towards me. I stayed there, breathing heavily while I tried to calm down and managed to swim for a few more minutes before ascending to the surface.It was a scary moment, but it didn’t ruin my love of the ocean. I got to see a whole new side to life on this planet!
It was a scary moment, but it didn’t ruin my love of the ocean. I got to see a whole new side to life on this planet!
JJ: Last one and I’ll let you go! What’s the one lesson you’ve learned from travel that you couldn’t have learned anywhere else?
MK: People are good. All over the world, I have encountered amazing people who have not only
All over the world, I have encountered amazing people who have not only changed my life but have gone out of their way to help me. It’s taught me that the old saying is true: you can always depend on the kindness of strangers.
So treat others how you’d want to be treated and be prepared to be delighted with how they treat you too!
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