The budget travel guy? That’s Matt Kepnes, from Nomadic Matt. I’m so happy he’s accepted this interview to talk about his journey and his future projects.
Throughout the years, he’s been a real inspiration for travelers and bloggers alike. And of course my family.
Matt has built a solid reputation based on his budget travel experience, and today, his expertise is uncontested.
I’ve been going on his site forever, not only for budget travel ideas but also for valuable information.
Read the interview and learn more about the guy behind Nomadic Matt, and get inspired to budget travel!
What are some of the most important decisions you’ve made to achieve your success? What qualities do you have that set you apart? Did you always want to budget travel?
For starters, I think the decision to take the plunge and learn how to start a travel blog was probably the biggest one.
After meeting some long-term budget travelers when I was backpacking Thailand, I decided that I wanted to take a long-term trip myself.
Not surprisingly, the more I traveled, the more I realized I wanted to keep traveling — and that meant I needed to make more money.
I decided to teach English overseas to spend more time backpacking Southeast Asia while still making an income. I also used that experience to start a travel blog.
I had hoped that I could get a job with Lonely Planet which would let me write and travel the world.
That was my dream job. Of course, that never worked out, but I could still grow my blog and eventually make a living from it.
And that would never have happened if I didn’t take the leap and start a blog! I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew I wanted to travel more, so I learned the skills to make that happen.
On top of that, I think a
I couldn’t just sit around relaxing. I had to work hard — like any other business owner. That mindset helped get me ahead.
Lastly, I read. A lot.
Reading is such a great way to learn new skills and I think that reading so much has been such a huge help when it comes to growing and maintaining my business.
There is always something new to learn, so if you’re not reading often you’re missing out on all that knowledge!
As a respected member of the travel industry, do you have anything specific you wish you could improve on?
I think there is always room for improvement — it’s only when we stop trying to improve ourselves that we lose our edge.
I’m constantly networking, reading, and learning new skills because I believe there are always things I can be doing better.
My job is to help people travel better, cheaper, and longer so I’m always looking for ways I can offer more value to my readers.
On a more practical level, earlier this year we held our first-ever travel conference, TravelCon. It was a huge success, but I definitely learned a lot (often by trial and error) so I’m looking forward to making tons of improvements for next year’s conference.
No matter your profession, I think it’s important to always be willing to learn and develop — but especially in the travel industry!
Travel itself is a great tool for personal development, so I think it’s important we embrace that mindset and also apply it to our jobs.
What major turning points in your travel blogging journey significantly changed things for you? And how did you apply what you learned?
One of my first big breaks was when I was able to get featured in The New York Times.
I saw a post on Twitter looking to interview bloggers and I replied immediately. I was backpacking New Zealand at the time, but I rushed to a payphone to do the interview. Before you knew it, my website was overwhelmed with traffic — literally!
My server actually crashed from all the traffic, which was a huge disappointment. But that interview put me on the map and was a huge stepping stone.
I learned a few things from that experience, but the two most important things were:
- Always have more server space than you need — you never know when that big break will come
! Opportunitiesare everywhere. It’s just a matter of keeping your eyes peeled and getting lucky!
Besides budget travel and blogging, what is the one thing you’d be happy doing every day for years to come?
Reading! While travel has made me a bit more extroverted, I’m still an introvert at heart.
I enjoy my peace and quiet, and I love to sit down with a good book.
If I could just travel the world and read, I’d be more than content! Whether it’s travel books or non-travel books, it doesn’t matter to me — I just like to read!
What achievements are you most proud of and what do they relate to?
I think if I had to pick one thing, it would be FLYTE, the charity I started back in 2015. Travel is a huge privilege, so I started FLYTE as a way to give back.
Every year, we send a class of high school students from an underserved community on a trip abroad.
Travel is such a transformative tool, I wanted to make sure that everyone has a chance to experience it. So far we’ve sent students to Ecuador, Mexico, Cuba, and Guatemala. I’m excited to see how we can grow the program and include more students from around the country.
Travel is such an eye-opening experience and by helping these students see the world we’re giving them a chance to build cultural bridges and learn about themselves and the world at large.
You’re a professional travel blogger and have a great deal of proven success. From your blog to guides to books to Travel Con and so much more. How has this changed you as a person?
It’s probably changed me in more ways than I know! But one thing that has changed is that I’m much more extroverted now.
Traveling the world and sharing my thoughts on my blog has forced me to be more open and communicative, which I think is a huge plus.
I’ve also learned a ton of amazing business and life skills that have changed my perspective.
Being an entrepreneur is a challenging path, so you have to learn all sorts of skills to keep you from burning out and working yourself to death.
I think I’ve become more flexible, more adaptable, and more patient over this journey. Because, to be honest, there are always problems to deal with and fires to put out.
But it’s a rewarding job because you have so much freedom, so I definitely wouldn’t trade it for the world!
Without a doubt, your travel journey has been an inspiration to so many people. Who has been an inspiration for you?
I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of meeting so many amazing, inspirational people over the years. But if I had to narrow it down, it would be the group of backpackers I met on my first trip backpacking Thailand.
I had never really thought about long-term travel before and didn’t really know that a “gap year” was an option. Meeting those backpackers in Chiang Mai was an
Those backpackers inspired me to change my life, and without them, I likely would never have become “Nomadic Matt.”
Today traveling has become so much easier, but many interesting places suffer from tourism overload. How do you feel about this and how can we contribute to changing this trend?
With so many cheap flights available these days, we are seeing more and more people being able to afford to travel the world — which is great!
However, it is leading to more environmental damage and
If you want to avoid contributing to overtourism, there are plenty of things you can do to help.
First off, instead of visiting the same old destinations, try going somewhere new and less busy. Instead of Prague, go to Brno. Instead of Barcelona, try Northern Spain.
Every country has its tourist hotspots, but they also have plenty of other destinations you can visit that are just as good – if not better!
Another thing you can do is avoid the high season. Visiting during the shoulder season is a great way to not only avoid the crowds but you can also find cheaper prices.
Lastly, avoid renting Airbnb homes. A room in a place on Airbnb is totally fine, as you get to meet and interact with locals. But lots of places are renting out entire homes, which forces out the locals and drives up the cost of living.
Skip places like that and only stay with locals who actually live there.
There is a lot that we, as travelers, can do to help this growing issue. Hopefully, if we all put in some effort we can help diminish the consequences of over-tourism.
If you found a genie lamp and could be granted 3 wishes… What would they be?
- World peace, equality, and an end to poverty (I can fit all that into 1 wish, right?) Absolutely 🙂
- To learn all
- To be able to teleport – because then I wouldn’t have to worry about flights!
As an avid traveler and single mom, I’ve always taken my kids everywhere in spite of other people’s reactions and judgments. Have you ever had a negative experience during a trip related to the way people interacted with you? And how did you handle it?
I think negative experiences are inevitable — just like they are at home. No matter where you go, there will always be someone who wants to ruin your day.
I try not to let it get to me and make the most out of my travels. You just have to live your life and not let the bad attitudes of other people impact you (which is easier said than done, of course!).
One place where I had some challenging experiences was when I was backpacking in Vietnam. I found that I was constantly getting scammed and ripped off — right to my face.
People would even laugh at me because of it, which was frustrating. But you just have to brush it off and keep doing your best to enjoy your travels and your life.
What would you consider to be the most important quality for a new travel blogger writing about budget travel? What would be the most important action needed to create success?
Patience. This isn’t a ‘get rich quick industry — it takes time to build and grow a travel website.
If you want to start a blog, just know that there are a ton of skills you need to learn, and it will be a slow (and often tedious) process. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
If you just want to make money, this isn’t the industry for you. But if you want to help people travel better while running your own business, then travel blogging can be a rewarding career. But you have to have the patience and discipline to see it through!
much, Matt for the interview! I really appreciate you sharing with our readers your story and budget travel as well. Thanks for being so generous with your content.