An interview with Nomadic Matt

Talking Travel: An interview with Nomadic Matt

Happy Friday, Luggage and Lifers! Have I got a post for you today!

I’m super excited to share my first ever interview with you, with none other than the budget travel expert and travel blogger extraordinaire himself, Nomadic Matt!

If you’ve ever Googled budget travel tips or long-term budget travel, odds are, Nomadic Matt was one of the first sites to pop up, and for good reason. Matt’s been a travel blogger for a decade, sharing tips and tricks for stretching dollars and travel time with his millions of readers. His blog is a veritable sea of useful information and resources on budget travel. If you’re looking to travel but don’t have a ton of cash, head over to Nomadic Matt and start reading!

An interview with Nomadic Matt
Nomadic Matt

So, how did I score an interview with one of the biggest names in the travel blogging industry? Several months ago, I decided to invest in myself and my blog by signing up for a blogging course. I did a lot of research, because I wanted to make sure I would be getting the best possible course for the best possible price.

There are LOTS of travel blogging courses out there. LOTS. As I sifted through them, I kept coming back to Matt’s “The Business of Travel Blogging” for several reasons, the primary one being that it was really comprehensive compared to so many other courses I saw, which only focus on one aspect of blogging. Matt’s takes you from step one (setting up a blog from scratch), through some of the trickier stuff involving coding and tech, all the way through pitching guest posts and selling your own products. Matt and his team also update and add to the course modules periodically, which you have access to forever!

Another thing I really love about the course is that it’s self-paced, so if life gets in the way, you can put it on hold for a couple of weeks. This has been really useful for me as I’ve had a lot of work to do lately and haven’t been able to focus on it. I’m about halfway through and can’t wait to get back to it. Once I’ve finished, I’ll post a review about my experience.

The course comes with access to a Facebook group, where we can share ideas, help each other, and get support and feedback from Matt and his team. That’s how I got this amazing opportunity to interview him!

I decided to ask questions that I thought my L&Lers would be interested in, so we talked Italy and Italian food, culture shock, and lots more!

Thanks again to Matt for giving me the opportunity to do this interview. Read on for some great travel tips from Nomadic Matt!

An interview with Nomadic Matt
The budget travel expert himself!

One of the things you talk about in the course is reading as a way to not only increase knowledge, but to improve our writing as travel bloggers. Right now, I’m about halfway through The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall, which you recommend. I’m really enjoying it! What are you reading these days?

Reading is definitely something I think we all need to do more. No matter your interests, reading is a great way to learn and stay sharp — especially as travelers! Learning about other cultures and about our own history is something I think we should all be doing more of. Reading and learning about new destinations before you arrive is a great way to frame your trip and add some depth and perspective to all your experiences abroad. 

I read a lot of travel books (and non-travel books) and I never get tired of reading more (or re-reading classics!). For the first time in a long time I don’t have any books on the go! I’m just reading travel guides for Colombia mostly, as I’m heading there soon. But once I get there I’ll finally have some time to relax and catch up with some good books!

I like to talk about dealing with culture shock and homesickness on my blog, because they can be such difficult things to overcome. Have you experienced either, or both? How have you dealt with them?

I think both are inevitable when it comes to long-term travel. Whether that is the shock of going somewhere completely different from where you’re from (for example, when I was traveling Thailand and visiting Vietnam I experienced it) or coming home after a long trip. In fact, I think the shock of coming home is probably more common (and more challenging) — at least for me. 

Life on the road when you’re a long-term budget traveler is often a world away from your life back home. You change so much, you grow and learn new skills, and then you go back to where you started as a completely new person. Trying to fit back into your old life can be tough. I think it’s a universal struggle because the post-travel blues is something I get emailed about a lot. Fortunately, there are some things you can do overcome those feelings, such as read travel books or watch travel movies, plan other trips, or connect with a travel community. 

Whenever the post-travel blues and culture shock of coming home hit me, I try to do those activities to keep me balanced as I re-adjust. It takes time, but it usually works.

What items do you always have with you while traveling?

I’m still a backpacker at heart, which means I’m usually traveling with my REI bag (which I think is one of the best travel backpacks out there). I travel carryon only as well, which forces me to keep my packing to a minimum. Some of my go-to items are:

– Moleskine journal – For taking notes about blog posts I want to write, writing down my own thoughts, and for writing down any travel information I might need (like addresses, language notes, etc.).

– Towel – I always travel with a regular towel (and not a travel towel). I know they take up more space, but they are much more versatile. I can use it as a beach towel, picnic blanket, pillow for long bus rides, and much more. It’s a good multi-purpose item and it’s just much more enjoyable than those small microfiber towels!

– My iPhone – I don’t travel with a camera, which means I use my smartphone as my primary camera. Plus, it’s my map, my translation app, and how I keep up to date on work and social media while I’m traveling. While I try to disconnect when I’m on the road, phones are great for solving problems so I always have mine with me.

An interview with Nomadic Matt
A backpacker at heart

I’m a big advocate of cooking at home as a way to save money either for traveling or while traveling. Do you cook? What’s your specialty?

I think cooking for yourself is a great budget travel skill to have. When you’re on the road, it’s a fun way to bond with other travelers while you save money, and at home it’s a great way to save money so you can go on your next trip faster! It’s always tempting to eat out when you’re traveling, but saving a few bucks here and there will add up if you’re traveling long-term. With cooking classes available in so many destinations now, cooking your own meals is also a fun way to learn about a new culture. 

Using the sharing economy is another great way to learn cooking tips, as services like EatWith will pair you with locals who cook meals in their own home. It’s a much more unique, intimate experience than just going to a local restaurant and you can pick up some cooking tips and inspiration along the way.

As for me, I’ve been steadily improving in the kitchen, and while I’m no Gordon Ramsay I do make a mean Eggplant parm. I think if you plan on being a long-term budget traveler you’ll want to invest some time in your culinary skills, because eating pasta every day will lose its charm after a few weeks of traveling the world on a budget!

Let’s talk Italy! Do you have a favorite place here? What about a favorite Italian dish?

Italy is one of those countries that doesn’t just rely on one single, amazing place to attract visitors. Rome, Venice, Milan, the Amalfi Coast — there is so much to see and do there! While Rome and the Colosseum are arguably the biggest draw, there is so much to see in Italy that you can spend your life there and never see everything. 

I’m not sure I could pick a single, favorite spot but something I did really love when I was there was the Venice Carnival. I know Venice is a city that is wrestling with overtourism, but I had so much fun at the Carnival. It’s such a rich, unique tradition and I had a great time dressing up and going to the masquerades. While it’s not the most budget-friendly activity, it was an amazing once in a lifetime type trip.

And as for a favorite food, I’ll have to be super clichéd and pick pizza. I know, it’s not the most exciting choice but the pizza in Italy is out of this world! You really haven’t had pizza until you’ve had it in Italy.

You spend a lot of time in Bangkok and Sweden when you’re outside the States. Are there any other places you can’t get enough of?

There are! While I think everyone needs to visit Bangkok if they’re backpacking Southeast Asia (and Stockholm if they are visiting Europe), there are plenty of other places I like to visit as well. Amsterdam, Hong Kong, London, and Paris are all places I could move to (in fact, I’m already planning a trip to Paris in 2019). I think those are the best cities in the world. They have everything you’d ever need, no matter what you’re looking for. Great food, fun nightlife, tons of activities, and lots of history and culture. Even if you’re not a city person, I think everyone should spend a few days in each of those places as they really highlight the best that cities have to offer.

What city or country would you recommend to a young traveler who has little to no overseas experience, and a small budget?

While there are a lot of variables here, I think a great budget travel destination for new travelers is Thailand. Backpacking Thailand is the perfect introduction to travel if you ask me. The country is safe, cheap, and has lots to see and do. There are awesome beaches and jungles, a great night life, and so much delicious food. No matter what you’re interested in, you’ll find it when you’re traveling Thailand. And since Bangkok is a big airport hub, you can usually find cheap flights there as well.

But Thailand is also an awesome destination for veteran travelers, as there are plenty of places to get off the beaten trail and relax. It’s for that very reason that I keep going back. It’s really one of the best budget travel destinations in the world if you ask me!

What’s been the most unexpected thing to come out of your blogging experience?

I think the most unexpected thing about becoming “Nomadic Matt’ is the fact that it actually happened! I started my travel blog over a decade ago to showcase my travel writing. I wanted to get a job with Lonely Planet, so the blog was just a platform where I could share and improve my travel writing. I didn’t actually make the website to be a blogger (that really wasn’t a thing back then). So when I saw the website actually start to grow and gain a following it was an unexpected surprise. 

I used that momentum to grow the blog further, dedicating more and more time each week to the website until it was my full-time job. It took a long time before I could live off the blog itself, but the fact that I could become a “professional travel blogger” was an unexpected path that I’m glad I went down. It was a lot of hard work, and there was a lot of trial and error, but I learned a lot along the way. Helping people travel the world cheaper, better, and longer is something I’m passionate about so I’m grateful I have the platform to do that. But it definitely was an unexpected journey!

Once again, I want to say thanks to Nomadic Matt for taking the time to answer my questions.

Thoughts on this post, L&Lers? Leave them in the comments!

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