Nomadic Matt needs no introduction. The blogger, adventurer and New York Times bestselling author is not just a legend, but also a dear friend of Intrepid’s. (Seriously, he’s been to Madagascar, Patagonia, Morocco, Jordan and more with us!)
Oh, and he’s just published a new book entitled Ten Years a Nomad.
In honor of this exciting milestone we sat down with (well, emailed) the man himself. We talked about his time on the road, approach to sustainable travel, fave Intrepid trip, and so much more. Buckle up… and be sure to pick yourself up a copy!
Congrats on visiting 100 countries! Tell us some of your top picks!
This is a hard one to answer since there are so many great countries out there, all offering something unique. Picking your favorite is like picking your favorite kid! You love them all equally but for different reasons. But if I had to narrow the list down and pick a few, here’s what I’d choose:
For the landscapes…
I think Iceland and New Zealand are two of the most breathtaking destinations in the world. The landscapes are truly out of this world. From the rocky terrain of the Icelandic interior to the rugged volcanic mountains of New Zealand, both destinations are home to unique and diverse scenery. They both offer challenging hikes, adrenaline activities, and tons outdoor activities such as whale watching and glacier trekking in Iceland and skydiving, white water rafting, and bungee jumping in New Zealand. If you’re the outdoorsy type, these are two countries you need to visit!
For the cities…
Some of my favorites are New York, Paris, Bangkok, and Hong Kong. I love giant metropolises. There are always so many people around, a wide variety of food, activities, and events. You can’t be bored in these places and as someone who likes to be busy, I like these places.
For the food…
I’d probably say Thailand has my favorite food. I love the street food there. There’s something wonderful about sitting in a plastic stool eating a delicious bowl of noodles. Thai food is spicy, fragrant, and full of texture and flavor. It’s so complex and delicious. I can’t get enough.
For the people…
I really love the people of Cambodia. The people here really blew me away on my first visit with their kindness and generosity. Even with its heartbreaking recent history, the people here were always friendly and inviting.
How has the way we travel changed in the past 10 years?
When I first started traveling back in 2004, there were no apps, smartphones, wifi, or social media to guide you along. It was like the Stone Age of the Internet (and it wasn’t even that long ago).
And I think that is really the biggest change. The why of travel never changes. What drives people 100 years ago continues to drive people today.
But the how of travel is constantly changing. And right now the biggest change is how technology has changed things.
Tell us a memorable story from the road!
One of my favorite travel memories occurred way back in 2006, when I was a few months into my first long-term trip around the world. I got an email from another traveler I was supposed to meet that she was stuck on an island called Ko Lipe. She loved it too much to move so she wasn’t going to be able to meet me as planned but that I should come meet her.
So I did.
And I ended up staying for a month. It was paradise. There were few people on the island, electricity for only a few hours day, deserted beaches, and great snorkeling right off the island. Plus, it was super cheap so you could afford to live there well on little.
For the next month, I relaxed and lounged and swam and drank with a small group of friends. To this day, my time on Ko Lipe is my version of “the beach”, that place of travel perfection where time melts away and you don’t have a care in the world.
For those looking for budget destinations, where would you recommend visiting?
Southeast Asia is probably the best place to start. It’s cheap and has tons of amazing things to see and do. Beaches, temples, food, nightlife, diving — the list goes on. Plus, it’s incredibly affordable so you can get around on a budget for well under $50 a day!
Eastern Europe is another great choice and the most underrated part of the continent. Romania, Ukraine, and Bulgaria all have tons of history, medieval towns, fewer crowds, huge national parks, and delicious food all for a fraction of what you would pay in Western Europe.
Tell us an interesting or unexpected obstacle you faced being on the road so much.
I think one of the challenges of being on the road so much is just maintaining the desire to do so. There’s always logistical challenges: language, figuring out transit systems, and finding places to eat. Every day you have a thousand decisions to make in a place you know nothing about. That can be pretty taxing.
The desire to travel is a battery not an unlimited wellspring and it needs to be recharged every so often. Learning that lesson is something you never really think about. I mean who says, “Travel is going to be boring!”
How do you keep sustainability and the environment front of mind when traveling?
I travel with a reusable water bottle to keep the plastic use to a minimum (I use lifestraw) and I never say no to taking the train for shorter distances. As a foodie, I’m always looking for delicious local food and drinks, which are much more sustainable than imported or processed foods.
I think it’s always important to just try to do the little things as often as possible: take public transportation, don’t eat a lot of imported food, use travel companies that take care of the environment, avoid plastics, and turn the lights out when you leave a place. Every little bit helps!
You’ve taken a few Intrepid trips in the last 10 years – what was your favourite and why?
Madagascar was a special trip, in part because it’s such a rarely-visited destination. With under 400,000 tourists every year, Madagascar is relatively untouched from a tourism perspective. It’s also an isolated, diverse island nation and I wanted to see what the country was like with my own eyes.
It can be hard to travel as a solo backpacker, so a tour seemed perfect. While the poverty was jarring at times, the people we so warm and always happy to say hello. The landscapes were stunning as well, and some of my favorite photos are from that very trip!
What destination could you return to again and again – and why?
Thailand is a country I could return to again and again and never get bored. Bangkok, in particular, is a city that I could always go back to. I lived there years ago so it holds a special place in my heart. I love the chaos of that city.
Paris would be high on the list as well. I recently spent a few months living in Paris, but I would go back in a heartbeat. The food, the history, the architecture, the café culture – I love it all.
Bhutan. It looks absolutely gorgeous. The remoteness of the country is very appealing, as it has been relatively unspoiled by overtourism. I’ve seen the picture-perfect mountains and monasteries all over social media for a couple years now so I think it’s finally time I go and see the country for myself. (Maybe that will be my next Intrepid tour!)
For those who want to take the leap to travel but are scared – what would your advice be?
I remember how anxious and nervous I was when I first started traveling, so don’t worry — those feelings are natural. It’s never been easier to start traveling as there are countless blogs and guides and websites to arm you with the tools that you need. Plus, there are Facebook groups you can join for tips and support, as well as apps you can use to connect with locals. The tools are out there — you just need to be willing to use them.
The first steps will be daunting. You may feel uncomfortable or awkward or even scared. But action begets actions. All you need to do is take that first step out the door. Everything gets easier after that first step.
What’s next for Nomadic Matt?
A book tour! For the next two months, I’ll be traveling all around the US and Canada hosting book readings about my recently released new book, Ten Years a Nomad. It’s a travel memoir about my ten years traveling around the world, highlighting the lessons I learned as well as my advice on being a better traveler. The book features stories I’ve never told on the blog and goes deeper into my philosophy on travel.
This book explores the emotional journey of a trip around the world: getting the bug, the planning, setting off, the highs, the lows, the friends, what happens when you come back — and the lessons and advice that come with all that.
Where can we buy your new book?
Learn more about Nomadic Matt’s NEW book here.