NEW YORK — Matt Kepnes had a desk job in health care with two weeks’ vacation a year when he took a solo trip to Costa Rica and “fell in love with travel.” The next year he went to Thailand and “met five backpackers who were living my dream.”
“I grew up in an environment where travel wasn’t a thing for my family, it wasn’t a thing for my friends,” he said in an interview for the AP Travel podcast “Get Outta Here.” “I had always assumed … that travel was expensive. Here were five people proving me wrong.”
He quit his job to travel in 2006 and created the popular Nomadic Matt blog, offering tips on budget travel and what to do in destinations as well as the motivation some of us need to get out there and see the world.
Kepnes spoke frankly about a point in his career when he was “having terrible anxiety and panic attacks.” It came to a head in Argentina. “The guys in the hostel saw me working and said, ‘You want to come get some wine with us?’ I said, ‘No, I gotta work.’ They looked at me and they said, ‘Did you come to Argentina to work or did you come to drink wine?’ ”
That led him to take a “mental health month” where he realized “the world did not end because I didn’t tweet or update my blog for a couple weeks. Most people were very supportive. They were like, ‘Go! This is why we read your website so we can get travel tips.’ ”
Here’s more from his interview.
• YOUR PERSONAL COACH: “For many people, travel is easy. You just got to go. If you’re like me, you decide on a beach, quit your job to travel. Other people, they need a shove. … They need to know everything is going to work out, it’s going to be OK. For a lot of people even taking a two-week vacation with your family seems like a pipe dream. I want to get people in the right frame of mind and have them say, ‘What can I do today to be one step closer’ (to financing a trip) whether that’s walking rather than Uber, one less Starbucks. Anything you can do today to build that positive momentum, every step you take after that becomes a lot easier.”
• TO TRAVEL CHEAPLY, TRAVEL LIKE YOU LIVE: “We imagine travel to be expensive because we imagine it to be hotels, fancy meals, expensive tours, resorts, cruises, expensive flights. Now is the golden age of flight, so many amazing flight deals going around now. You can fly pretty cheaply. You can get tons of credit-card bonuses, miles and there’s just a lot there.
“When you’re in a destination, travel like you live. Stay in an Airbnb. Hostels have private rooms. Check for budget hotels. Go to the market for food. Take local transportation. Google free things to do. There’s so much information available on the internet now. It’s really easy to find deals and everything. If you just go travel and do what you do back home, you get into the local rhythm a lot easier.”
• HOW HE MAKES A LIVING: “Most of my income comes from writing books. I don’t do sponsored content. I don’t do ads. I started this to become a travel writer. That has always been my goal. I wanted to write guidebooks so I wrote my own guidebooks. I have eight destination guides, a couple of longer-format books on specific subjects and my New York Times best-selling book, ‘How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.’ Besides book writing, the other way I earn a living is people booking their travel through my website. People come to my website to book a flight, book insurance, book a hostel.”