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If you’ve ever searched for budget travel tips, there’s a good chance you’ve found yourself on the popular travel blog, Nomadic Matt. Nomadic Matt has been one of the biggest names in the travel blogging industry for years and his inspiring blog is one of the reasons I wanted to start a travel blog of my own.
So you can imagine my excitement when, by a stroke of good fortune and what I can only assume was me earning tons of good karma in a past life, I got the chance to interview Matt and chat about his best budget travel tips!
Matt Kepnes is a wildly successful blogger and a New York Times Bestselling author. But he is also, first and foremost, a traveler. He is one of us. He understands the traveler highs and lows we all go through – the euphoria of finding a deal on that perfect plane ticket, the horror of discovering that some guy in your hostel is “learning to play guitar,” and everything in between.
In this interview, Matt explains how he got started and shares his best tips for how you can travel longer without breaking the bank!
You’re known as being a travel expert and the go-to source for seeing the world on a budget. How did it all start?
It all started rather accidentally, to be honest. I started my travel blog a decade ago as a way to catalog my travels for friends and family, but also to get my foot in the door when it came to travel writing.
I was tired of working the 9-5 and wanted a way to support myself as I traveled the world. Learning how to become a travel writer seemed like the perfect option. I could see the world, writing amazing stories, and make money. What could be better?
My original hope was to work for Lonely Planet, using my travel blog as a resume that would showcase my skill. That didn’t exactly work out as I imagined.
After a while, my blog actually started to become popular in its own right. More and more people were looking for budget travel tips online, and so I decided I would focus on my own blog.
With a lot of hard work and trial and error, I eventually turned my blog from a haphazard resume to the online business and budget travel resource that it is today. I never ended up writing for Lonely Planet, but instead created my own travel guides and books. So it all worked out for the best!
When in your travels did you “crack the code” to budget travel?
I wouldn’t say I cracked the code of budget travel, but rather found the sweet spot of balancing being cheap with being frugal. There have been budget backpackers traveling the world on far less than $50 per day for decades. But not everyone wants to live off pennies a day. Yet not everyone wants to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on their vacation either.
So I knew there had to be a balance, a way that let people travel the world for cheap but that didn’t require them to be penniless vagabonds or luxury travelers.
After backpacking the world for a few years, the $50 a day number seemed to be the best fit. It balances cheap accommodation and frugal transportation with local experiences and a few activities.
It’s the Goldilocks number that seems to cover the majority of budget travel experiences, without being too cheap or too frugal. It’s flexible depending on which budget destinations you go to, covering both cheap destinations as well as more expensive ones.
In short, $50 per day is a great reference point to help anyone plan their long-term trip around the world. It’s not perfect and won’t work for everyone, but I think it will cover the needs of most budget travelers — which is good enough for me!
Even as a budget traveler, is there anything you always splurge on while traveling?
For me, food is always something I budget extra money for. I don’t mind sleeping in hostels and taking public buses, because food and drinks are my priority; that’s how I connect with a destination.
For other people, activities might be their personal preference when it comes to blowing the budget, and for others still, it might be accommodation or transportation. To each their own!
I think what is important is that everyone recognizes that, when you’re planning a trip, you need to budget extra money for the things you love. After all, what’s the point of traveling the world if you’re not going to enjoy yourself?
Another important expense I always budget for is travel insurance. I’ve been injured a few times over the years while traveling, so these days I never travel anywhere without insurance.
It’s not a fun or sexy way to spend money, but buying travel insurance is a worthwhile investment. Delayed flights, injuries, and lost or damaged electronics are things we don’t plan for but they are things we should prepare for.
For that reason, spending a few bucks a day on travel insurance is a worthwhile expense if you ask me! I’ve been personally using World Nomads for years but there are lots of good companies!
What are some ways you’ve found to land affordable or better yet, free accommodation?
Accommodation can eat up as much as 30% of your travel budget. Along with transportation, it’s usually your biggest expense. Naturally, saving money on accommodation is one of the best ways to increase your time on the road. While staying in hostels or camping are obvious ways to lower your accommodation expenses, there are plenty of other non-traditional ways to find cheap or free accommodation.
For starters, you can use sharing economy apps like Couchsurfing to stay with locals for free. Not only will you get free accommodation but you’ll get to spend time with a local and pick their brain about the destination – which is an invaluable resource!
Another great option is house sitting. Pet owners travel too, but they often don’t travel with their pets. Signing up for a house-sitting website will let you find free places to stay all around the world in exchange for you looking after their furry family members.
Another way of finding free accommodation is by exchanging work for room and board. WWOOF is a great platform for this. In exchange for helping out on a farm, you’ll get a free place to stay as well as free food (and sometimes other perks). If you don’t mind working outdoors, this is a great way to lower your costs while getting to experience a more unique travel perspective.
With so many awesome travel websites out there, finding cheap or free accommodation has never been easier. All you need to do is know where to look!
Related Post: How to start house sitting and traveling for free!
Nomadic Matt is one of the most successful travel websites out there. How long did it take for your blog to go from hobby to business?
I spent a few years blogging before I was making an income I could live off. It was a lot of work, constantly grinding away at my computer writing, networking, and learning new skills. People have this image that bloggers and “digital nomads” just spend their days living at the beach. I can assure you that that is not the case!
Blogging is a business. Like all businesses, it takes hard work. It wasn’t until 3 years of working on my blog that I was making a living income. 3 years of working more or less full-time on the website, too. It was a grind.
But it was worth it, because now I’m my own boss and have the freedom to work on the projects I want to work on and travel wherever I want to travel. But it didn’t happen overnight, so if you’re looking to get into the travel industry just keep that in mind. This is a great field to work in, but it’s not a place to ‘get rich quick.’ Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint.
Related Post: Step by Step Guide to Starting a Travel Blog
What are some other jobs people can do while traveling in order to travel longer?
There are tons of jobs or ways to save money traveling that can be helpful if you’re looking to extend your long-term travels. From housesitting and WWOOFing as I mentioned earlier, to teaching English in person, teaching English online, or working remotely if you have a marketable skill that can be done from a laptop (such as graphic design, accounting, social media, etc.).
Additionally, there are plenty of countries that offer working holiday visas. These are designed for young travelers, to give them a chance to both work and travel in the country (usually for 1 year).
At the end of the day, it all comes down to what skills you have. What are you good at that can benefit other people? How can you use those skills to make money abroad?
If you have landscaping experience, offer to help your hostel out in exchange for a free room. If you’re a great photographer, offer to take a bunch of awesome photos for your Airbnb host in exchange for another free night.
Everyone is good at something. Find your something and then use that to help you travel longer.
You taught ESL abroad! Where did you teach and how did that experience help you as a traveler?
I taught English in Thailand and Taiwan, and both experiences were incredibly helpful in showing me how to get beneath the skin of a destination. When you spend months (or years) in a destination you get a much more nuanced perspective of the location. You understand more of the culture, the food, the history, and the people.
That knowledge helps you be a better ambassador for that place because you can share a much more in-depth overview of it. You get beyond the superficial, beyond the tourist traps, and into the heart of the culture. While you might never truly be a local, you get a lot deeper as an expat than you would as just a traveler. That depth will show you things no traveler will ever get to see or experience.
And it also teaches you a lot about your own culture, because you become the outsider. You get to look at your own culture from the outside in, which is an incredibly valuable perspective to experience. I think everyone would benefit from being an expat at least once.
I can think of no faster way to bring people together and show them that, deep down, we’re all a lot more similar than we have ever imagined.
How do you balance your time between travel and working online as a digital nomad?
I used to try to balance my work while I was on the road, but it is exhausting! These days, when I’m on the road I make sure to limit the amount of work I do. I keep up on my emails and social media, but everything else waits.
I don’t write new blog posts while I’m traveling and I hit pause on any new projects. That way, I don’t need to juggle both work and my travels. I can enjoy my destination as just a traveler and not a blogger.
Sure, I’ll take notes and be thinking of what I want to write about, but the amount of work I do is limited. Because I don’t want my travels to be exhausting. I learned that lesson the hard way, always trying to work and travel but never really enjoying either. These days, I actively work to have a better work/life balance. It’s not easy, because I’m a bit of a workaholic, but I do my best!
What three pieces of advice do you have for people who want to start traveling long-term?
1. Figure out your goals.
Are you looking to start traveling this year? Next year? Approximately how long are you hoping to travel? What’s your rough budget? Get specific. I want to travel around Europe and Asia for 6 months starting July 2019. The more specific you can make your goal, the more likely you will reach it. Figure out your plan so you have something to work toward.
2. Start today.
What can you do today that will get you closer to that goal? Can you apply for a new travel credit or open a new savings account? Can you buy a new travel guide or join an online Facebook group about travel? Start taking concrete actions because these will make the trip feel more real, more attainable. You’ll start to build momentum, making your travels much more likely to happen when you want them to.
3. Start travel hacking.
If you live in the USA, you have access to the best travel hacking credit cards in the world. These can give you free flights and free hotel stays, as well as other awesome travel perks. Travel hacking is the easiest way to earn free flights, so if long-term travel is something you’re serious about then start travel hacking as soon as you can. I’ve earned tons of free flights and hotel stays over the years. Don’t miss out on these!
Final Thoughts: Budget Travel Tips With Nomadic Matt
A huge thank you to Matt for taking the time to share his expert advice! If you want to learn more from Matt, make sure to check out his awesome online courses for Travel Bloggers, Photographers, Videographers, and Writers.
I learned so much from this interview with Nomadic Matt. If you learned a valuable new travel tip, make sure to pin and share this post!
Looking for more Budget Travel Tips? Check out these blog posts:
- How To Travel The World On A Budget
- How To Save Money Traveling Europe
- Here’s How I Saved $3000+ For Travel
- Skyscanner Tips: Find Cheap Flights Anywhere