In this month’s One-on-One blog, ExpertFlyer talks with popular blogger and travel expert, Matt Kepnes, also know as “Nomadic Matt.”
Traveling the world since 2004 with little more than a backpack, Matt’s adventures, travel wisdom, and aspirational lifestyle have been catalogued by him on his popular website, NomadicMatt.com. With more than 200,000 site visitors per month and nearly 45,000 Twitter followers, Matt has succeeded in his goal to help the “average Joe” travel better, cheaper and longer. His new book, “How to Travel the World for $50 a Day” is a testament to Matt’s inspiring and comprehensive advice that only an experienced wanderer could know.
“I’m here to push you, motivate you, show you how to travel and how to do it without needing to win the lottery. Travel doesn’t have to be expensive nor does taking a long-term trip have to uproot your entire existence.”
— Matt Kepnes, budget travel expert, blogger and author of “How to Travel the World for $50 a Day”
After more than six years, your blog, Nomadic Matt, continues to receive high praise from the media and travel enthusiasts. Now that you’ve announced that your days of traveling solo are over and you’ve given up your nomadic life for an apartment in Manhattan, what does the future hold for Nomadic Matt?
Travel will always be a part of my life. I love it too much and have a hard time sitting still. And since I’m cheap and like to get value for my money, I’ll always continue to travel on a budget. But instead of constantly being on the road, I’m going to have a home base. I’m going to take shorter trips using NYC as my hub. After close to 7 years of being on the road, I’m ready for a routine and the new adventures that will come from being in one place for longer than a week.
Tell us about your newly released book, “How to Travel the World for $50 a Day,” and where it will lead you next?
This book is the culmination of my knowledge and is my guide for people planning a long term trip or how to travel to that dream destination without breaking the bank. It contains a step by step guide on how to plan your trip, general money-saving advice, and in-depth destination guides based on my own travels about how to make even the most expensive places more affordable.
Now that the book is out, I hope to begin running some of my own tours later in the year.
Can you give our readers a few nuggets of the proven worldly advice that’s in your book so they can travel better, cheaper and longer?
For starters, I think that it’s important that travelers remain flexible. The difference of a day can mean hundreds of dollars in savings. If you are adamant about going to X place on Y days, you’ll never save any money because you won’t be able to catch deals. Other than that I think it’s important that travelers use airline branded credit cards to get free miles for flights and avoid major hotels and stay in apartment rentals, homestays, or small guesthouses to save money (Trip Advisor is great for finding these places). Never eat anywhere near the main attractions as prices will be a lot higher, use the tap water when you can (water bottles add up!), and get rail passes to reduce the cost of train travel!
About a year ago, you wrote a post advising folks that they shouldn’t be loyal to their frequent flier program. What’s the best practice now – is there a way to be smarter about leveraging frequent flier programs more effectively?
For the casual price conscience traveler, I think being loyal isn’t worth it. If you aren’t flying enough to get status and the benefits that come with it, travel on whatever airline is cheapest and save money. If you really want some modicum of special treatment, you can get a branded airline credit card that will give you free checked bags, priority access and boarding.
If you are traveling at least 25,000 miles per year, which is enough to make the lowest status tier on any airline, it might be beneficial for you to stay loyal to one carrier.
Do you have a best and worst airplane story?
My worst story happened recently. I was flying from New York to the Bahamas when the cabin depressurized, the oxygen masks came down, and we had to make an emergency landing. For a good 10-15 minutes, I thought I might die. It really gives you perspective on how helpless you really are up there.
My best trip was first class on British Airlines from LHR to JFK. That was an amazing flight. It was just after they upgraded their cabins too so it had that “new plane smell” to it.
You seem to favor the Far East as a nomadic traveler. Any particular reason?
It’s cheap, it’s warm, the people are friendly, the food is wonderful, and there are lots of other people traveling there, so it’s easy to find travel friends and meet people from around the world. It’s really the budget traveler’s dream region.
Was there ever a time when you were concerned that you would run out of money or not be able to get to your next destination – how did you manage?
No, I always travel with more than I need. When I first started traveling, I decided I wanted to extend my trip so I taught English in Thailand for a while. If you are worried about making money overseas, don’t be, there are plenty of ways to work abroad for money.
How do you decide when and where to travel?
There’s no rhyme or reason to how I pick destinations. I’m basically throwing darts on a map. I basically go where I haven’t been and do regions of the world at a time when I feel I can get the most out of where I’m going. I’ll try to do the Caribbean or South America or Asia in one trip instead of just flying back and forth a lot.
Is there still a place that exists that you want to visit — Where does someone like Nomadic Matt go on their honeymoon?
I’d love to go to either the Maldives or the Seychelles for my honeymoon. I’m a beach guy.