How to Travel Smarter, an Interview with Nomadic Matt

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Nomadic Matt (Matthew Kepnes) is a New York Times bestselling author who has been roaming the world for over a decade.

Every month over 1,000,000 people visit his site and use his advice to travel better, cheaper, and smarter.

Photo of Nomadic Matt
Nomadic Matt

But Nomadic Matt also provides a fantastic resource for bloggers with his course Superstar Bloggers.

We have been part of Matt’s Superstar Bloggers program, where Matt and his team provide training and advice to travel bloggers.

So, we wanted to find out a little more about his incredible travel adventures; we reached out to the Superstar Blogger program for an interview with Matt.

And we’re so excited we had the opportunity to chat with him about his amazing travel lifestyle.

An Interview with Nomadic Matt

When we first started travelling, Nomadic Matt was one of our inspirations. We followed your advice on setting up our travel blog website TravelKiwis.

1. Matt, who has been inspirational to you, not just at the start of your travel life, but along the journey?

There are definitely too many people to list! But a couple of people I’ve found inspiring over the years are Rolf Potts (the author of the backpacker bible Vagabonding), Bill Bryson (the famous travel writer), Anthony Bourdain, and even the movie character Indiana Jones have all inspired me.

But beyond the “famous” inspirational people, I’ve also met countless regular travellers whose stories, experiences, and perspectives kept me inspired and passionate about life and travel.

2. What was it that inspired you to begin your travel life? And did you intend to become full-time at that stage?

It wasn’t until I actually met some full-time backpackers that I really thought about long-term travel.

For me, and most Americans, travel is usually done in short bursts; longer trips aren’t the norm. So it didn’t really cross my mind until I met some backpackers in Thailand doing it. That really opened up a new realm of possibilities. After that, long-term travel was my goal.

I went back to work and started saving everything I could so that, one day, I could be just like those backpackers in Thailand: travelling the globe without a care in the world!


3. What are the biggest barriers to living a full-time travel lifestyle? And how can people overcome those barriers?

The two most common barriers are money and fear.

People are afraid of shaking things up, of ditching their old life in exchange for something new — even if that new life is something they’ve always dreamed of!

Usually, people in that situation don’t have support, either. And without support from family and friends, it’s hard to take that risk. When everyone in your life is telling you it’s not worth the risk and that you should stay home, you’ll likely end up believing them and giving in to that fear.

On top of that, people think that long-term travel is expensive. But it’s not! Most of the time, it’s actually cheaper than staying home!

Without bills to worry about, you can focus on simple things. It’s easy to save money when you travel because there are so many various ways to save money on the road via hostels, the sharing economy, Couchsurfing, job opportunities, etc.

Solo travel with Nomadic Matt
Travel inspiration with Nomadic Matt

4. We have been house-sitting for two years.  Have you tried house-sitting?

I’ve never actually tried house-sitting. It wasn’t that common when I was first travelling, and now that it is popular, I’m usually too busy reviewing hostels or bouncing around the map that staying in one place isn’t feasible.

But it’s definitely on my radar whenever I need a place to stay for a longer period of time!

5. Travel helped Terry overcome his fear of heights.

What fears have you confronted while travelling?

I hate heights, and I hate flying, so I can definitely relate!

I’m a very nervous flyer, so I’ve gone out of my way to read books about planes and talk to pilots to get a better understanding of how aeroplanes actually work (I even went to the Boeing factory to see them get built and I got to fly a flight simulator too).

Knowledge is a great tool to use against fear because you can rely on that knowledge to convince yourself, to walk yourself through the precise details in a manner that will help those fears subside.

It doesn’t always work, but it helps!

How Travel Helped Me Overcome My Fear of Heights

When we first travelled to Europe, we spent 60 days trying to see as much as possible. We saw a lot but didn’t remember much. We now find we enjoy slow travel by spending longer in each place.

6. Do you have similar learning from your own experience?

During my earlier travels, I did the same thing. I hurried around from place to place, trying to see this and that, focusing on quantity over quality. It wasn’t until I started to get exhausted that I realized I needed to change things up.

One of the best travel advice I’ve ever received was just to slow down. Focus on quality over quantity.

I still share that advice with travellers to this day because I see a lot of new travellers making that same mistake. So if you’re planning a trip, don’t rush it. Slow down. Stop and smell the roses.

It’s not a race, after all!


7. We have always travelled as a couple, sometimes with groups, but we have never travelled solo.

What do you do to manage loneliness while travelling solo?

I’m an introvert, so I’m perfectly comfortable being alone. I never get tired of reading or writing. And even if I do, I’ve always got work to do! But for anyone who is worried about being lonely on the road, it’s never actually been easier to meet people.

Hang out in your hostel dorm or sign up for events at your hostel.

Beyond that, use apps like Couchsurfing Hangouts or to find locals with shared interests. You can also use social media. If you have a passion for, say, swing dancing, you can see if there are any local swing groups on Facebook. The same goes for any sort of passion.

Chances are there will be some people in the area who share your interest, so look for groups or events centred around that interest, and you’ll be bound to meet some people!


8. What are three things you always take with you on your travels?

1) A towel for beaches or picnics or to use as a pillow if I need one.
2) A notebook for jotting down any ideas or notes.
3) My phone, for maps and translation and anything else I want!

Nomadic Matt and furry friend
Furry friend

9. What has been the most useless item you have taken on a trip?

A money belt. They stand out so easily and mark you as a tourist. I never bother with them anymore.

10. Have you had an experience you would call life-changing?

When it comes to travel, quitting my job and selling my stuff to travel the world was a life-changing experience. It seems like a lifetime ago, but I remember all the anxiety and excitement like yesterday.

There were so many variables, so many questions I had…but I also knew I had to do it. I was compelled to.

You see, people do it all the time now on social media, but when it’s you, it’s a whole other feeling. Kicking off a journey like that, with the world at your feet…there’s nothing like it. That changed my life, and I think it changes the lives of anyone willing to take the plunge and do it themselves.


11. How do you choose the next place you want to explore?

I usually just go wherever the cheap flights take me or wherever I can meet up with some friends. I don’t really have a bucket list or specific places I want to go— I just follow the budget flights. They haven’t let me down yet!


12. How much of your upcoming trips are planned vs going with the moment?

Most of my trips are a fair balance between the two.

I love planning, so I always make an outline and figure things out in advance. But, once I get on the ground, I often throw my plan out the window and go with the flow.

I don’t plan nearly as much as I used to because you never know what opportunities will come your way if you keep yourself open.

Obviously, shorter trips will need more planning so you can get the most out of your time. But for a longer trip? Throw those plans out the window!


13. What places do you repeatedly return to? What is their attraction?

Bangkok, Amsterdam, Paris, London, and Stockholm are some of my most-visited places.

They are just cities that I really enjoy, the cities that I vibe with. I’ve spent enough time in each to get under the skin, so these days I just feel at home when I arrive. They are great cities for newbie travellers but also for the experienced.

They have great activities, awesome food, fun nightlife, and enough history to keep anyone busy. In short, they all offer something for everyone. You couldn’t get bored in these cities even if you tried!

Loire chateau
Absorbing the beauty of the Loire

14. Which country would you suggest to someone who has never travelled to give them a wonderful first travel experience?

While there are many great possibilities here, Thailand is usually my go-to answer.

The country has a well-worn tourist trail, so it’s easy to get around without mastering the language. There are beaches and jungles, incredible dive sites, lots of temples and history, amazing food and a non-stop nightlife.

It’s got everything you need to have an amazing trip. Plus, it’s safe and cheap, making it a perfect destination for the newbie traveller.


15. If someone is reading this and considering beginning a travel adventure, what advice would you offer?

I would tell them that they need to make a plan. Figure out how much money you have, and figure out where you want to go and for how long.

Be specific and set a realistic goal.

Don’t make a broad goal like “I want to travel.” Be specific. “I want to spend one month in Paris in 2019”, or “I want to start a 1-year backpacking trip starting January 2019.”

Get precise. Make your plan.

And then do something every day that will get you there. Slowly but surely, you’ll get there, and before you know it, you’ll be sitting on the plane.


Lessons from Nomadic Matt

We would like to thank Matt for taking the time to chat with us.

We have been truly inspired by his travel adventures for many years, and we hope you will get the same inspiration to venture out into the world.

If you are thinking of starting up a Travel Blog, we can highly recommend joining Nomadic Matt’s course, The Business of Travel Blogging.

The course provides a step-by-step process, and the 10-week program will help you:

  • Start your blog
  • Master the technical skills you need
  • Create a lasting brand
  • Write content people want to read and share
  • Optimize your website and rank high in search engines
  • Crush it on social media
  • Get press coverage
  • And make money to support yourself

Listening and taking action from a fellow traveller is one of the best ways to enjoy your travel blog.