Matthew Kepnes, best known by his nom de plume Nomadic Matt, is one of the OGs of travel blogging. And with his tagline "travel better, cheaper, longer," he's speaking our language.
His story goes like this: he met five backpackers in Thailand back in 2005 who showed him that long-term travel was totally doable without loads of money. Inspired, he quit his job and hit the road. Back in the medieval period—the early 2000s—there wasn't the blogging how-to literature like there is today, though. So, Matt (who has an MBA, by the way) began figuring it out on his own and shared his insight about long-term, affordable travel with the masses on his travel site Nomadic Matt, influencing hordes more to get out there.
I decided to catch him back in the US following a trip to Budapest to learn a bit more about his travel style.
Current Gig: Travel helper
Annual Mileage: 90,000
Preferred Alliance: OneWorld
Frequent Flyer Program: American AAdvantage
First, are you a suitcase or backpack kind of person?
Backpack. I think it’s just easier. You don’t have to worry about stairs or hitting people or carrying it. Just put on your backpack and go. It’s easy! That being said, if I am going on a short trip, I will most likely just take a small suitcase for a few days.
Are there any pieces of travel gear/software that you can’t live without?
What do your travel patterns look like? Are you always going to the same places or going somewhere new?
I try to split it up. I visit a lot of the same places each year because I love them and I have friends there but I don’t like getting stale so I always try to add in new destinations each year. I say it’s about 60% new destinations, 40% places I’ve seen before.
What are some of the things that you will absolutely not go on a long-haul flight (8+ hours) without?
Sleeping pills. I love my Ambien. I sleep like a log on the flight.
Is there a favorite airline? Is there an airline you wouldn’t touch with a 30,000-foot pole?
My favorite airline is probably Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines. They offer great service, food, and amenities. My least favorite airline is United. I can’t stand flying them—United sucks in my opinion!
When you're visiting friends in another city, do you usually crash with them, book a hotel, vacation rental or just declare you’re going to camp it out?
There’s no hard and fast rule—I’ll try to stay with (friends) if I can, but if I can’t, I’ll usually get a room in a hostel or use points for a free night at a hotel. It depends on my mood.
What’s your single favorite travel tip?
Be flexible with your plans. The more flexible you are, the easier it is to find travel plans.
How do you beat jet lag?
Everyone has their own method for this. If I land early in the morning, I take a nap. If I land in the afternoon or at night, I stay up until it’s bed time.
How do you generally get around the places that you visit?
How do you stay connected to people on the road? Is there a particular mobile carrier you use?
Facebook and email. There is Wi-Fi everywhere these days so it’s very easy to stay connected. I use T-Mobile when I travel since you get free data, texting and cheap international calls. Their service is not always great but for someone who bouncing in and out of the US all the time, T-Mobile is the best travel option out there!
What places are left on your bucket list?
I don’t think there’s enough room here to list all of them! Any place I haven’t seen is on my bucket list. I want to see it all! Shoot for the moon, right?
What’s your ideal vacation?
Sitting on a beach eating good food.
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see _________ answer these same questions.
Yeah, I'd love to see Anthony Bourdain, too.