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Long-Term Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt, the World’s Biggest Travel Blogger

Today I’m delighted to have a special guest on the blog, Matt Kepnes, better known as the world’s biggest travel blogger Nomadic Matt.

If you haven’t heard of Nomadic Matt, then I’m surprised you found this post, as chances are you’ve not spent a lot of time on the internet! Search Google for everything from ‘travel tips’ to ‘backpacking in Thailand’ and you’ll see his famous silhouette logo there waiting to guide you.

Matt got bitten so hard by the travel bug on a trip to Costa Rica in 2004 he gave up work and set off on a round that world trip that’s been going for 15 years. On 12th June 2008 the website Nomadic Matt was launched, and since then he has produced practical travel guides and budgeting tips to help others do the same. 

I can think of no one else better qualified to talk about long-term travel tips and in this interview, Matt and I discuss everything from choosing destinations to his specialist subject – travelling on a budget.

Long-Term Travel Planning Tips

The world is a big place! How do you decide on your destinations for long-term travel?

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There’s no rhyme or reason to it. 

I tend to bulk my travels these days so I like to do regions at once. That way I can avoid having to fly a lot and it just makes things easier. I simply look for places I haven’t been to that suit my mood. 

This summer I did the Balkans. I had never really explored the area, I knew I wanted to go to Europe, and I knew I wanted lots of outdoor opportunities. Since I had three months, that region became the obvious choice. There’s really no secret sauce to it. 

READ NEXT: European Road Trip Itinerary for 3 Months

When you’re planning a long-term trip, what is your process?

There are many steps to planning a trip. The more you do it, the more it becomes second nature. 

I think the first step people need to take is to first get a sense of their finances. If you want to go away for a while, you need to know how much money you’ll have. To do that, I always recommend people write down all their expenses for two weeks and then see what is “low hanging fruit.” Cut the low hanging wasteful spending and then get a sense of how much money you can save. 

After that, it’s a matter of picking where you want to go. It’s a lot easier to mentally get behind “I am going to Paris in the summer” than “I’m going to Europe” or “I’m going somewhere.” Not only will your trip become more concrete for you and easier to commit to, but it will make planning easier as well…because you know what to work towards. 

Get specific with your plans. Get detailed. The more focused and concrete your goal, the easier it will be to actually reach it.

READ NEXT: Long-Term Travel Calculator (Discover Your Travel Budget Here)

What are your favourite tools/resources/apps to help you plan a long-term trip?

Well, obviously, I think my book, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day, is a great planning resource (it sure is, I’ve read it three times so far – Ben)

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How to Travel the World on $50 a Day - Third Edition: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter
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How to Travel the World on $50 a Day - Third Edition: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter
  • Matt Kepnes (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 368 Pages - 01/06/2015 (Publication Date) - TarcherPerigee (Publisher)

That said, when it comes to what I do, I’m pretty old school.

I buy print guidebooks for most of my research. That gives me a base for what to expect when I get to a country. I also read blogs but I’ve found that when you travel long term, your plans change so often that doing detailed planning in advance doesn’t really work. You end up throwing out your plans and going where the road takes you. You don’t want to go in blind but there’s no reason to over plan before a trip. 

READ NEXT: How To Use Blogs To Plan Travel (And Why They’re So Useful)

Long-Term Travel Budgeting Tips

How do you set a budget for your long-term travel?

There’s so much information on the web that if you go down the rabbit hole of overplanning, you’ll get lost and confused by the firehose of information. 

My three suggestions: 

  1. Buy a guidebook.
  2. Read blogs.
  3. Google prices for specific things you want to do, such as scuba diving, bungy jumping, winery tours, etc.

There’s a lot of information online. Know yourself a bit. Guidebooks can give you a sense of how much things cost. Use that information to come up with a realistic budget for you.

Do you want to do a lot of food tours? Adventure sports? Drink a lot? Don’t lie to yourself. Create a budget that reflects what you want to do when you travel. That way, you’ll never run out of money (use my free calculator to get a specific estimate based on the part of the world you’re travelling to).

You are famous for travelling the world on ‘$50 a day’ what would be your best tips for keeping costs down while travelling?

Be flexible.

There’s always deals out there. There’s always cheap flights, last minute hotel or tour deals, and discounts. You just have to be flexible. If you can’t be flexible in your date, be flexible when you go. There are always deals.

Other than that, budget travel is really about doing what you do at home.

Take public transportation, cook as many meals as possible, avoid taxis, and don’t drink a lot. If you do that, you’ll be able to keep your costs down.

Also, Google “free things to do in X”. Every destination has a bunch of free activities. Once you find those, it’s easy to fill your days!

In your experience, which parts of the world offer the best value for money while travelling?

I think Southeast Asia offers the best value for money. Hands down. Everything is cheap, there’s a lot of travellers there, it’s easy to get around, and your dollar goes really far. I always suggest that region to travellers, especially first-time travellers. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: I completely agree with this, it was the first long-term trip we and I was amazed by how little we spent in three months versus what we would have spent at home. We were often eating for less than $3 a meal!

Do you have any tips for how to save money for long-term travel in the future?

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There are a lot of ways to save money for travel. Like I said before, most people don’t have a budget so the first thing you need to do to save money is to know where you’re spending it. In an age where you tap an app and a car comes, it’s easy to not think about how much we spend. So the first thing I suggest is to track your spending so you know where your money goes. 

Separate things into wants and needs. What are the things you can’t live without? That’s rent, car payments, your phone bill, etc. Then what are your wants? Those are movie nights, nights at the bar, the water you bought on the way home, Starbucks, etc. You can cut all your wants. Once you do that, your bank balance will grow. 

You’ll live like a hermit for a long time but when you’re travelling the world, all those nights in will have been worth it!

Returning Home After Long-Term Travel

I really struggle coming home from a trip, especially when I’ve been away for a while. How do you deal with the ‘post-travel blues’?

Post-travel depression is real. Anyone who has returned from a trip knows what I’m talking about. We talk about how amazing and life-changing long-term travel is but seldom address the idea that coming home is harder than leaving. 

How do you deal with it?

There’s no magic bullet. What can help is to stay active. I mean you just went from 100 to 0.

  • Stay moving
  • Go explore your hometown
  • Get outside
  • Read travel books
  • Keep the same mindset you had on the road with you
  • Plan your next trip!

If you go back to your old patterns, you’re going to be depressed. Stay moving and stay busy.

READ NEXT: All My ‘Returning From Sabbatical’ Resources

You have spent a lot of time travelling in your life, what are the biggest lessons it has taught you?

As much as travel highlights our differences, it also highlights our similarities. Travelling around the world, I’ve found that the differences between cultures are minor and that, no matter where you go, people all really have the same hopes and dreams. Everyone wakes up, gets dressed, sends their kids to school, runs errands, wants to be healthy, have a good set of friends, worries about money, and thinks about the future. The how might be the same but the why is universal. 

Any Other Business

If you could only take one trip a year for the rest of your life and it had to be to the same country, which one would you choose and why?

I would definitely go visit Thailand. That’s just my favourite country. I have a lot of memories there, I love the weather, the beaches, the people, the food, and it’s just my little happy place. If that was the only place I could visit for the rest of my life, I’d be a very content person. 

What’s the best destination you’ve been to that most people have probably never heard of?

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Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica. 

Costa Rica is one of my favourite countries in the world. It was the first country I ever travelled to — and it was the country that sparked my wanderlust.

It’s on the remote Osa Peninsula, which means it is largely off the beaten track, keeping the rainforest pristine.

Finishing Up

I want to finish up by saying a huge thank you to Matt not only for his time today, but for all his inspiration over the years. I’ve bought his books, spent countless hours reading guides on his website and became a member of the Superstar Travel Blogging Course which taught me so much when I was getting this site going.

Despite all his personal successes, Matt still makes time to support smaller sites like this one, his actions help this entire community move forward and I wanted to take the time to thank him for that.

If you’ve enjoyed this post you can find lots more sabbatical ideas and inspiration, including numerous other long-term travel interviews on my sabbatical inspiration page

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