Matt Kepnes is one of the most successful travel bloggers in the world, but he’s also a prolific author. He’s put out a variety of e-books over the years, plus a couple editions of the book that shows up next to mine the most in Amazon: How to Travel the World on $50 a Day. His latest, out now, is Ten Years a Nomad, available in bookstores, on Amazon, and elsewhere.
Ten Years a Nomad has some advice in its pages, but it’s more of a memoir, a confessional, and a lessons learned book. Did you feel a strong emotional need to get your story out, warts and all?
I don’t say I have a strong emotional need to get my story out. Most of my writing is service based. It’s the nuts and bolts of how to travel the world and do it on a budget. Do this, see that, stay here kind of stuff.
I wanted my next book to be something more story focused. I wanted something more inspirational. I wanted to describe what life is like on the road and show people that it’s not as hard as you think to travel. I just told that message through my story.
What was the most difficult part of putting ten years of travel onto paper?
Remembering all the details in the right order was the toughest. I have a terrible memory so I’m glad I had the blog as well as my original journals to help me really get the details, characters, and emotions down accurately. I don’t think I could have written this book without them. It really helped jog my memory and the conversations I had with people.
You note that “money management is one of the most important aspects of travel.” What do most backpackers do wrong or fail to anticipate when they take off on that first big trip around the world?
Money management is key to success when you’re traveling long term. You have an infinite amount of time but not an infinite amount of money so backpackers who fail to keep track of their spending are going to find themselves going home early. When you aren’t working, it’s easy to spend money with all the time you suddenly have. Meals, tours, and nights out – they all add up pretty quickly. So, if you’re not keeping track of where that money is going, you aren’t going to know how to pace your spending.
I still keep a budget journal so I know. It allows me to go “Ok, I’ve been spending too much on alcohol/Starbucks/tours/taxis/whatever, time to cut down so I can get back to what my daily spending needs to be.”
I’ve long argued against this myth that to be a true traveler (or travel writer), you have to be out there solo, unencumbered by compromises or anyone else’s plans. You mention watching a specific sunset in Africa where you realized that not having a companion along can be a drag after a while. What advantages do you think couples and families have when traveling together?
I love solo travel. I think you should do it at least once because it teaches you so much about yourself and your abilities. But humans are social creatures. We crave community. We’re hardwired for it. I think it’s important to travel with people sometimes. Some things are just better when they are a shared experience and when you have someone to talk with and process what you’ve seen with.
Plus, extended solo travel can make you selfish since you only have to care about your needs. When you travel with someone, you have to care about their needs too. It’s a good way to help keep your ego in check.
Like many bloggers that have been doing this a decade or more, I know “Nomadic Matt” has become less nomadic the past few years. What does your current life look like in terms of your base and your travels?
I think you become less nomadic as you get older and your life goals change. When I was 25, I loved the idea of traveling forever. I mean that was the reason I started my blog. I wanted a way to write and travel and keep going as long as possible. Now, I’m 38 and I don’t like the idea of constant travel. I like my work, I like sleeping in my own bed, and I like routine.
I’m usually home for about three months and then off for a month and then home again. I can usually stay on the road for about 4 or 5 weeks before I get antsy and start to crave my own bed, a gym, and my kitchen.
What’s still on your list of places to go that you haven’t visited yet?