An Interview with Nomadic Matt: The Budget Travel Pro
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November 27, 2019

An Interview with Nomadic Matt: The Budget Travel Pro

If you’ve ever researched a travel destination online or looked for travel tips (especially if they relate to budget travel), you’ve probably come across Matt Kepnes, otherwise known as Nomadic Matt. You may have even read his books How to Travel the World on $50 a Day  and Ten Years a Nomad.

Matt has been blogging and writing about travel for many years. He is the big deal in travel blogging. He is one of the few travel bloggers who have made it BIG. Whilst I enjoy reading his travel tales and following him on social media, I have enjoyed learning about how to be a successful travel blogger even more.

Since taking Matt's Superstar blogging course, I have found his business goals and travel blogging successes to be exhilarating. In a time when I am trying to grow my blog to allow myself the freedom to work able to work from anywhere in the world (I'm in China right now, if you didn't know!) and to be there for my kids at any time, Matt's work has been inspirational.

So when I was given the chance to ask him any eight questions I liked and to publish his responses on my own website, I jumped at the chance!

Drawing on some of my recent work, I asked Matt about his views on sustainable tourism, family travel and the different types of tourism. Here's what he had to say…

An interview with Nomadic Matt

Q1 Why do you travel so much? Do you think it’s nature or nurture? Or your horoscope perhaps? (I’m a Sagittarius, for example, and we love travelling apparently…)

One of the main reasons I travel a lot is because I enjoy the freedom. Once you’ve broken free of the shackles of the 9-5 grind, once you’ve learned how to travel the world, it is very hard going back to a “normal” life. Long-term travel means you have no boss. No deadlines. No expectations. 

My family wasn’t big on travel so it was never really something I had considered until I was in my 20s. After meeting backpackers in Thailand, I realized long term travel was possible – and something I wanted to do.

After working for a year to save money, I went to travel for what was supposed to be a year. And once I caught the travel bug there was no turning back. One day just turned to another and a decade went by.

As to why people travel, I think some of us are just meant for it. Long term travel breaks you out of the path society lays out for you and not everyone is meant to follow the same path. There are plenty of people who travel and then come home and then there are those who travel and never stop. 

Q2 How has the way that you travel changed over the years? 

There are two things that have changed how I travel (though I still do travel on a budget). The first big change is my job. 

Since I’m a blogger, I have to spend more money when I travel so I can try new things, eat at restaurants I want to review, pay for tours and activities so I can write about them, etc. Not only am I traveling for myself but I’m traveling for my readers too. To give them the best and most comprehensive information, I need to spend a little more money to try more things while I’m traveling. That also means I need to travel slower to make time for me to be able to see and do more things as well.

Matt Kepnes, also known as Nomadic Matt

The second thing is I travel a lot slower now. As I’ve been on the road longer, I take fewer trips that last longer. I think it’s just a sign of age. As such, I also don’t really stay in many dorms at all and tend to eat out more often than I used as I have income coming in rather than just relying totally on my savings. 

Q3 Your travel adventures are incredible and I’m sure that many people are envious of your lifestyle! However, nothing is ever perfect! If you could go back and give your pre-travel self one piece of advice, what would it be? 

If I could give my younger self one piece of travel advice it would be to slow down. I think most new budget travelers make the mistake of rushing around, spending 1-2 nights in a destination before moving onward. While you get to see a lot this way, you only get to see the surface of things — which really is not enough. It leads to travel burnout as well.

If I could go back and share some advice it would be to spend more time in each place. To meet more locals, try more foods, and don’t just rush around from one place to the next. Aim for quality, not quantity.

I would also tell myself to start traveling sooner too. Life is too short to leave your travel dreams on the backburner.

Q4 I recently put together a post outlining more than 150 different types of tourism! How many of these have you undertaken? What was/is your favourite?

I’ve definitely done a lot of them — from adventure tourism while backpacking Australia to animal tourism in Africa to beach tourism all around the world. But these days, I’ve hit pretty much all of the major types of travel. I’ve even been on a couple of cruises.

After getting offline in Patagonia, I learned I’m not a fan of camping and when I was backpacking New ZealandI realized I wasn’t a huge adrenaline junkie. 

That’s the great thing about travel: there is something for everyone, no matter their interest or abilities or budget.

But, if I had to pick one style of travel, it would be the backpacking route. I’ll be forever a backpacker. 

Q5 I’ve seen that you are a conscious traveller. What efforts do you make on your trips to minimise the negative social, environmental and economic impacts of travel? 

Over the years, I’ve slowed my travels down so I’m not flying as much — especially when traveling in Europe (the Eurail pass is great for that). Trains are a fun way to travel as you get to see a lot more as you hop from one destination to the next. You get to see the in-between places, which I think helps you develop a much better sense of a destination. They are much less damaging to the environment too. 

Nomadic Matt on safari

I’ve also started to be much more conscious of how I use sharing economy platforms like Airbnb. These days, I try to book only with locals and not companies that own multiple listings. It’s tricky, but with some extra effort it’s possible.

On top of that, I’ve tried to lend my voice to the discussion on overtourism. Cities like Venice, Dubrovnik, and Barcelona struggle with massive crowds so I’ve tried to shed more light on this topic and encourage people to visit other destinations that are just as awesome but much less crowded.

I’m not a perfect traveler by any means, but I think as long as we all try to be better travelers then we can start to have an impact on the industry and see more changes continue to happen.

Q6 I am a strong believer that travel is the best education and I’ve seen a few terms thrown around recently, such as ‘edventure’ and ‘world schooling’. What are your views about travel as a form of education, particularly with regards to children? 

Travel is the best form of education in my opinion. It forces you to develop the foundational skills you need to grow and learn and be challenged. You need to learn how to plan and organize yourself, you need to learn how to interact with strangers and how to overcome challenging situations on your own. 

When you’re traveling, you have no one around to solve problems for you. It’s all your responsibility. It can be tough at times (it’s always trial by fire) but you learn profound lessons about yourself and the world at large.

I think everyone should spend some time traveling the world — especially solo. It helps you develop a wider, more nuanced perspective about other cultures which is something the world needs more of these days.

And I think traveling with kids is always a great idea. Kids are resilient and curious and traveling with them at a young age can help reinforce those qualities. Is it easy? Hardly. But it is definitely possible if you’re looking for an alternative way to educate your children. 

Q7 It’s great that you share your knowledge and experience of travel blogging through your online courses (I personally loved your course!). You are an inspiration for many aspiring bloggers, however most people don’t end up being as successful as you have been (I’ve done a small scale research project on the issue, you can read a summary of the results here). What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a travel blogger in what is an increasingly competitive industry? 

I think the most common mistake I see new bloggers making is that they treat blogging like a hobby instead of treating it like a job. For example, if you were opening a new restaurant you wouldn’t just do the bare minimum would you? You’d make sure you had the best food and a great marketing campaign and a cool interior. You’d plan and invest in your business and grind and grind and grind until you were a success. You’d read books about the topic and take courses to learn more. You’d do what you had to do to succeed.

Blogging is no different. It’s a business. It’s a job. If you want to succeed you need to really invest in yourself and put in the work. There are a ton of new skills to learn. There is a ton of work to do. It’s not easy. It’s not just lounging on the beach with a laptop as social media might suggest. It’s a grind and takes countless hours of work.

But, if you put in that work then you’ll see results. Not overnight — and not even within the first year. But eventually the results will come. Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint so it takes time. You need to invest for the long run. Do that, and you’ll be able to outlast everyone and turn your blog into a thriving business. 

Another common mistake I notice from new bloggers is that they don’t reading as much as they should. There are tons of great books out there that will help you develop your business skills and give you a leg up over the competition. A few that I would recommend are:

Matt Kepnes living the blogging lifestyle in France

Q8 The tourism industry is fast changing. Budget airlines, dynamic packaging and smart tourism are just three of the major contributors that have helped shaped todays’ tourism industry. What do you think travel and tourism will look like in ten or even twenty years time? 

Hopefully, in the near future the travel industry will be much more sustainable. While I encourage everyone to get out there and travel, we seem to have a tendency to visit the same places. Overtourism is a huge issue right now so I’d love to see our collective travel focus spread out more. That way, our tourist dollars can have a much wider benefit and not just go to the same overcrowded destinations.

I think we will also start to see less people flying and train travel grow in popularity as people make the return to slow travel. Hopefully, flights will continue to become more and more eco-friendly as well as the carbon footprint from flying right now is quite high.

I’m excited to see what changes and what stays the same. Travel is such a powerful tool. I hope more people get a chance to experience it.

A big thanks to Matt for featuring on the blog this week! Hopefully one day I might have just a fraction of the blogging success that he has! New to the blog? Why not help me to achieve my blogging goals and subscribe to my mailing list or follow me Facebook or Instagram!

Leave a comment
  1. Zandra H says:

    Smart move keeping the conversation going on the blog.

  2. Zandra H says:

    I go through many of these steps when I’m planning trips too. I often get asked about travel budgeting and/or ‘how much did you save?’, but it’s really so different for each individual – the great thing about travel is that it can be done on any budget!

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