When you hear the word travel blogger, the first person that springs to mind is likely to be the pioneer of the field, Matt Kepnes, better known as Nomadic Matt. After a transformative trip to Thailand that convinced him to quit his job, he continued to travel and started what would arguably become the biggest travel blog of all time, Nomadic Matt. Aside from blogging, Matt has also dived into the world of literature and his groundbreaking book ‘[amazon_textlink asin=’0399173285′ text=’How to travel the world on $50 a day’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’wingtheworl-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’3db2df49-e200-11e8-b5ca-b12541f9359d’]’ became a New York Times bestseller.
As a fellow travel blogger, I have a lot of admiration for Matt and his achievements. As someone who has followed his career and even joined his online Superstar Blogging course, I know plenty about him as a businessman. What I really wanted to know, however, was what he is like on a personal level. Who is the person behind Nomadic Matt? Does he make the same mistakes as the rest of us?!
Hey Matt! Thanks for swinging by Winging the World. This blog is all about sharing travel mishaps and inspiring others to get out of their comfort zone and travel. First, let me ask the question on everybody’s lips, does Nomadic Matt make mistakes on the road?!
I’ve made tons of travel mistakes over the years that have cost me time, energy, and money. And to be honest, I continue to make them to this day! I think no traveler is immune to making mistakes here and there. While they will become less and less common as you gain experience, they are still going to happen. You’re only human!
Looking back, some of my biggest travel mistakes include booking plane tickets for the wrong day, not bringing a pair of shorts on a trip to a tropical destination, forgetting to book a place to stay to then find out everywhere was sold out, going to the wrong airport, and almost forgetting to buy travel insurance before my trip.
On top of that, I blew my eardrum scuba diving (thank god for travel insurance) and I once got lost in the jungles of Costa Rica. I’ve been lucky that these are the only mistakes and misadventures I’ve had. Each of them taught me a valuable lesson, helping me become a better traveler.
At the end of the day, travel mistakes happen. They’re unavoidable. All we can do is shrug it off, learn the lessons, and keep on traveling!
Sometimes, I find that it is all too easy to crumble after making a mistake – especially one that leaves me out of pocket! How do you deal with your travel mishaps?
When it comes to travel mistakes and travel scams, I think it’s important to keep things in perspective. Losing money sucks — especially if it’s a couple hundred bucks (or more). And it feels even worse if it’s because of a mistake that was our own fault. However, in the grand scheme of things we shouldn’t let a few hundred bucks matter. Whenever I run into a travel mistake or misadventure, I ask myself of in 5 or 10 years time, will that mistake still be setting me back? If the answer is no, then I just let it go. Sure, missing a flight and having to spend money is disheartening, but at the end of the day, it’s only money. You can always make more money later so don’t let the bad outweigh the good.
Travel is an adventure, and that means you need to accept the positive and the negative; you can’t have one without the other. So, the sooner we can keep things in perspective, the sooner we will be able to shrug off our mistakes and get back to enjoying our travels.
My travel must-have is definitely my Kindle, I couldn’t tackle the long bus journeys without it! What items make it into your travel survival kit?
I always read about destinations when I visit them, so I am always on the lookout for new travel books to read. On top of that, one item I always bring with me is a towel. While you can usually rent them or find them in your Airbnb, they are great multi-purpose items to have. Impromptu pillow, picnic blanket, beach towel. Having a proper towel is a great multi-purpose item that, in my opinion, is worth the extra space in your backpack.
Over the ten years that Nomadic Matt has been running, you must’ve seen a lot of changes in the blogging sphere. What is the best thing about the travel blogging industry now?
One thing I really like these days is the community. The blogging sphere has grown exponentially over the years, so I’ve been able to meet and collaborate with more people than I ever thought possible. Back when I started Nomadic Matt, there were only a couple of travel blogs. While we were a tight-knit community, it’s been really inspiring to see so many other people start a travel blog and succeed in the industry. These days, there are more events, more travel conferences, and more opportunities to collaborate with like-minded creators. It’s an amazing community and I’m really happy to be a part of it.
Likewise, what do you think the worst thing about the industry is now compared to when you started Nomadic Matt?
Unfortunately, you get a lot of people preying on the desires of travelers and creators these days, creating spammy “courses” and pushing an unrealistic lifestyle. Blogging isn’t just sitting on a beach sipping coconuts. It’s a lot of hard work. Starting a blog is the same thing as starting a business, but a lot of people are out there pushing the ‘get rich quick’ scheme — which is frustrating. There is plenty of room for new bloggers to start a career in the travel industry, but you’ll only succeed if you do it right. Signing up for spammy webinars or multi-level marketing scams isn’t how you make it. Nor is by hawking sponsored (and questionable) goods on Instagram as an “influencer.” As social media has grown, we’ve seen a lot more of this kind of thing, which is a shame.
Fortunately, most creators are genuinely interested in creating useful content. There are just a few bad apples out there!
As such a well-known figurehead in the travel blogging world, people must assume they know a lot about you from reading your content. What would you say is the most common misconception about Nomadic Matt?
I think people often assume that I’m more of an extrovert than I am. While I’m certainly more extroverted than I used to be (largely thanks to traveling), I’m by no means as outgoing as many other bloggers. Travel bloggers are public figures in a way, so people assume that you’ll be super outgoing and lively and boisterous, which just isn’t me. I’m much more likely to be caught reading a book or having a quiet conversation than I would be being the life of the party. Which I think is something a lot of people can relate to. Introverts want to travel and enjoy life on the road as much as anyone else, but it can be hard to meet people. So hopefully my readers will be able to see that if I can do it, they can do it too.
This is something I had to overcome, as traveling as an introvert can get lonely. If you’re not comfortable striking up a conversation with strangers and making that first move you might end up missing some really great experiences and relationships. Fortunately, there are tons of things you can do to help you meet more people while you travel:
- Be aware of your body language. Don’t sit in the hostel dorm or common room with earphones in and your arms crossed. It will send a message that you don’t want to be bothered. Look at ease and relaxed.
- Download sharing economy apps like Couchsurfing or use websites like meetup.com to meet other travelers and locals.
- Wear clothing or carry items that other people with shared interests might identify with, such as t-shirts or laptop stickers with your favorite band.
- Say hello to everyone. This will let them know you’re open to conversation without you having to work hard to break the ice.
Start small and work your way up. Eventually, you’ll be comfortable making small talk with other travelers and locals. As you get more comfortable, you can start to take initiative and break the ice with new people when you meet them. And don’t hesitate to ask other travelers if you can join them when they go out for drinks or for dinner. Travelers are an open bunch and will never say so, so don’t be shy! You’re all there to meet new people and have new experiences, remember.
I know it can seem like an impossible struggle, but I can assure you that if you start taking baby steps you’ll eventually be comfortable making conversations with total strangers. But you have to start small!
It would be easy for people to assume that as the face of professional travel blogging, you don’t have any embarrassing stories from the road. What is your most mortifying moment and how did you overcome it?
Fortunately for me, the most mortifying experience of my travels wasn’t my fault: I was just the victim. It all happened when I was backpacking Spain a few years ago, when I was staying in a dorm. I woke up in the early hours of the morning to someone banging on the door. I groggily woke up and let them in. When I returned to my bed, I got an uncomfortable whiff of something. It was shit.
I followed my nose until it led me somewhere I wish it hadn’t: my hands. I had shit on my hands. I hastily checked the bed and, fortunately, it wasn’t mine. So whose was it? I walked up to the door and found more on the handle, following it back to the bed where the backpacker (who had just come back into the room) was laying. He had shit the bed and dragged it all over the room and onto the dorm door.
I started flipping out but he denied it, even though the evidence was abundantly clear. After washing my hands for what seemed like an eternity, I eventually checked out and went to a hotel. Because sometimes, you need to treat yourself!
I’m going to warn you now, I have a super clichéd question coming! If there was to be a movie about your life, who would you want to play Nomadic Matt and why?
Leonardo DiCaprio — because The Beach and The Great Gatsby are two of my favorite movies.
Before you go, let me pick your brain one final time. If you could give one piece of advice to anyone who is considering a life of travel but is too scared to make the leap, what would it be?
Nobody travels the world and then comes home and says, “I wish I would have stayed home instead.” While travel isn’t always smooth sailing, it’s an amazing personal development tool that will teach you a lot about the world and about yourself. But you’ll never know unless you take the plunge!
Far too often I hear people say, “I’m going to travel someday.” But someday never comes. Travel stays on the backburner until it’s too late, becoming just another missed opportunity. Chances are you know people who say that. Heck, it could even be you! It’s too easy to stay in our comfort zone and put up with the status quo because that’s what is familiar. I know, because that was me for a long time. But then I took a leap. Then I made changes to my life and rearranged my priorities so that travel was in the forefront. It wasn’t easy, but the best things never are.
So, my final advice is this: don’t leave your travel dreams until it’s too late. Take a risk, make a plan, and see the world. Don’t put it off until it’s too late. I promise you won’t regret it!
And that’s a wrap! Thank you so much for sharing your travel mishaps with us and letting us get to know the real person behind Nomadic Matt. It’s good to know that even the pros make mistakes!
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