If you've ever searched online for travel information, you've come across the travel blog of Matt Kepnes. He has been blogging for several years – I even remember that his website was a great source of inspiration for me when I first traveled in 2012.
Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Matt a few questions about his ten years as a nomad and his latest book.
Hello Matt! Many travelers already know you, but for those who do not, can you imagine and what you do?
My name is Matt Kepnes and I share my budget travel advice nomadicmatt.com, It's a blog that helps people to travel cheaper and longer. I have been doing this since 2008.
In addition to blogging and traveling, I teach a few online courses, co-own a hostel in Austin, Texas, and organize an annual conference for people in the travel industry (called TravelCon), and I also have a charity called FLYTE This helps students in underserved communities experience transformative overseas travel.
How did your passion for traveling originally come about?
When I grew up in Boston, traveling was just not a big part of my life. My family only visited my grandmother in Florida or relatives in Philadelphia. We were never really a travel family. I did not even have a passport until I was twenty-three.
My first "real" trip abroad in 2004 was a trip to Costa Rica. This trip has opened my eyes to all the amazing things travel has to offer. I loved the independence, the freedom and the ability to do everything I wanted. It was in sharp contrast to my routine at home.
The following year I went on vacation in Thailand. While I was there, I met some backpackers who could travel long term. There I decided to finish my studies, quit my job and travel the world. Originally I only wanted to leave for a year, but here I am all those years later.
You have just written a new book. Can you tell us what this is about?
My new books are called Ten years a nomad, Unlike my book To travel around the world at $ 50 a day This book is a reminder of my travels over the last decade. It's not a "how to" budget travel book, but a book about the why of travel. It also contains many stories that I have never told on the blog (including some embarrassing ones) and goes deeper into my philosophy of travel.
Together sum up, Ten years a nomad Follow the entire journey around the world: What happens if you have the travel mistake, plan an adventure, quit my job and leave, the ups and downs of life on the road and what happens when you eventually have to? Come back home.
At one point in your book, you speak of solo travel to become more confident and overcome your usual personality traits. I also recognize that from my own solo trips. Why do you think you can do this easier while traveling?
I do not think traveling makes it easier, but traveling forces you to solve the problem. On the street it adapts or dies. You have to learn and grow and develop as a person on the street. You have to learn to solve problems. You have to learn to talk to people. If you are not out there, you will be unhappy on your way home. I think the way you travel forces you out of your comfort zone, and when you do that, you realize what you are capable of, which in turn makes you more open-minded, which leads you to try new things more often. It creates a positive feedback loop that always leads you to bigger and better things.
What were the most memorable highlights of your more than 10-year journey?
I have been to some amazing places over the years. Exploring Madagascar, living in Thailand, hiking in Patagonia, diving in Fiji, traveling through Africa, playing poker in Amsterdam – I mean, a lot has happened in the last ten years.
But I would say the outstanding moment is still the month I worked for Ko Lipe in Thailand. In the end, I was stuck there. It was just too nice to go. I had a great group of friends, it was cheap, relaxing and just the perfect place. There was no reason to leave (at least until my visa expired and I had to leave). We spent the days swimming, lounging, drinking and having great conversation.
Have there also been lows in which you have questioned the lifestyle or life path you have chosen? How did you come through them?
There were many lows – especially when I started my world trip. I got lost (there was neither Wi-Fi nor Google Maps at the time), I packed too much and dragged around, but the biggest challenge was dealing with loneliness. I'm usually pretty introverted, so it took me a while to get used to opening up and meeting people. I was ill several times. I was lonely in places where I wish I had friends.
But I think these are things that happen to everyone. There was not a big moment on my journey, when I felt so depressed that I did not know what to do.
You know, when you're traveling alone, you have to solve all your problems. That's the best (and sometimes the worst) thing about it. When you travel, the best personal development tool is in this respect: it challenges you to do better.
I can not say that I have regretted my previous path.
What are some of the most important things you would say to someone who is just beginning as a traveler?
There's a lot to think about when you're just starting out: finding the right flights, looking for the best bag, Conclusion of a travel insuranceFinding out what to pack and how to pack – it can be overwhelming at first. New travelers can easily be confused or frustrated with all the details. As a solo traveler you have to find out for yourself. There is nobody to do that for you.
And that can be a bit overwhelming. Some things I would say to someone just starting out are:
- Remember that you are not a Magellan. There is a worthwhile itinerary and millions of people have already done so. You succeeded and you will. You will not go anywhere that has never been there, and when you arrive there will be an infrastructure to assist you.
- Create a planning checklist to stay organized, This checklist will make sure that you cover all of your bases when you assemble your trip. This adds security and eliminates the worry of missing important steps. So you have control over your journey.
- If you can, join a travel community. Whether online or in person – contacting other travelers is a great way to get tips from experienced travelers and calm down. These are people who have been there doing this and can help you plan your trip.
Which places do you prefer to visit – and has this changed over the years?
I will go everywhere. I love cities as much as nature. I've learned over the years that I do not like campe, so I prefer glamping or day hikes. I think I lived in cities for so long that I was more inclined to love cities. I like the opportunities and diversity that big cities offer. That does not mean that I skip small cities, but that I feel better in the larger cities of the world.
But there is no place or terrain that I will not visit!
When did you surprise the friendliness of strangers the most?
The people are generally good. They want to help you. They want you to have a wonderful time in their home. So if you give people the opportunity to help you, they will. Once I was in the Westfjords, the most remote region in the country, and I do not see nearly as many visitors as in the south and east of the country. After sitting on the road for a long time, a man came by and stopped. He did not speak much English, but he was so kind to take me along. We tried to communicate as well as possible and pointed to sights and other cool sights as he drove me to where I wanted to go.
It always reminds me that the human condition is beyond language.
They are travel bloggers longer than most of us. How is today's blogging different than when you started over 10 years ago?
Blogging is a completely different industry. I used to have an ugly website and wrote about everything I wanted to write about. No SEO. No lean social media.
Blogging is a legitimate profession these days, which of course costs more work. As a blogger you have to wear a lot of hats and you have to Learning the right skills to succeed, You need to be a competent author and marketer, you need to learn SEO and social media management, you also need to learn HTML and design.
Blogging is much more work than most people think. We are not all at the pool or on the beach. We usually sit for hours (or days) in front of a laptop. It's not nearly as glamorous as social media makes it look. But it offers freedom when you are ready to get to work and learn what it takes to be successful.
You've written a lot on your blog that you want to live a quieter life, but you often seem to get the itch to travel again. I'm curious if you think there's a middle ground or a scenario where you have your cake. Can you be semi-sedentary and semi-nomadic at the same time?
I think that's definitely possible. I tried for years to have a home base and I was relatively successful. I think it really depends on how you define these terms. For me, settling down means spending more time at home than abroad, and I want to restrict my travels to about a month each. This is semi-nomadic for me. It's not about escaping quickly, it's still about making long trips – but only rarely.
How can someone bring the way of thinking of the traveler home – and live the life of a traveler, but in your own city or region?
I think the key to bringing this way of thinking home is to accept your curiosity. We usually go to the same restaurants, drive the same streets and go to the same bars when we get home. We have a routine – and that's fine. We like what we like.
But traveling is about messing things up. It's about new experiences. The best way to bring this attitude is to change things at home. Try new restaurants and new food. Take another bus or another subway to work. Go home another way. Host Couchsurfers or Participate in travel meetings, Visit a nearby town for a day trip on weekends.
Mostly we explore the world before exploring our own garden. But there are so many amazing things to see and do when you get home. You just have to be willing to invest time and energy to find it!
Where are you now and what's next for you?
In the next few weeks, I'll be jumping around in the US and Canada to promote my new book. I will hold readings and signatures in cities across the continent (So come and say hello when you're around!)
After that I will probably travel to Europe … but nothing is set in stone yet. That's why I love this job: the freedom to go where you want, when you want. If you ask me, there is nothing bigger.
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