Matthew Kepnes, or Nomadic Matt, is an American travel expert, - bestselling author, blogger and the founder of FLYTE, the Foundation for Learning and Youth Travel Education.Create your own user feedback survey
00:59 Matt explains FLYTE
02:34 Seeing the world beyond your borders
03:31 What the students learnt in Columbia
05:51 Travel can open your eyes
07:06 The birth of Nomadic Matt
08:44 It’s all about timing
09:38 Matt’s latest book
11:05 Is traveling an effort?
12:30 World Nomads has teamed up with Lonely Planet
13:00 Phil’s blooper
"I really wanted to provide the opportunity for people to travel and see the world beyond their own little community, as well as show them that not only we're all really the same, but also show them that there's a lot of opportunity in the world." - Matt
"We were able to talk to some students here that were still in high school and comparing myself to them and how different their world is. A lot of the students here are so excited about American culture, and that back home, we're not really excited about other cultures". - FLYTE student
"I wrote a book called 10 Years A Nomad, which is about my 10 years backpacking the world, and the lessons I learned along the way. It's really meant to inspire people to get off their couch, and go travel, and be a better traveler, and show them that, you don't have to be Superman or Wonder Woman to do this." - Matt
Matthew Kepnes, or Nomadic Matt, took a life changing trip to Thailand in 2005. On his return to the US he decided to quit his job and travel the world, blogging about his experiences. Matt has since become a New York Times bestselling author, with his articles featured in the New York Times, CNN, Nat Geo and the Huffington Post.
At the time of recording Matt had just finished a tour promoting his latest book, Ten Years a Nomad: A Traveler’s Journey Home.
Matt has also started his own NGO, The Foundation for Learning and Youth Travel Education or FLYTE, working with students in underserved communities to promote the benefits of travel, education, and cultural awareness by funding overseas educational programs.
FLYTE alumni include Kaleb who is currently a senior at Depauw University, double-majoring in Political Science and Africana Studies, and is also the President of the Association of African-American Students (AAAS).
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Speaker 1: The World Nomads Podcast bonus episode. Hear amazing nomads sharing their knowledge, stories, and experience of world travel.
Kim: Hi. Kim and Phil with you featuring another amazing nomad. It's just not enough delivering you our fortnightly World Nomads Destination Podcast, because while there are so many great destinations in the world, there are equally some amazing people doing amazing things within it.
Phil: In this episode we speak with Matthew Kepnes. A lot of you will recognize him by his usual moniker, Nomadic Matt, who after a trip to Thailand in 2005, decided to quit his job and travel the world, blogging about his experiences. Matt has since become a New York Times best-selling author, with his articles featured in The New York Times, CNN, Nat Geo, the Huffington Post, and, of course, he is a partner of World Nomads.
Kim: Yeah, and that is just listing a few publications. Matt has also started his own NGO, the Foundation for Learning and Youth Travel Education or FLYTE. And Matt, you're here to tell us more about that.
Matt Kepnes: I think it started in 2015. And, [inaudible 00:01:02] it has been that long. It's a way to promote travel for high school kids in the U.S. We have a vacation culture, not a travel culture, and so a lot of the kids don't really get out beyond the borders of the States. Only a third of Americans have a passport, and with this whole political divide, not a lot of people get beyond their little bubble, and that works right and left.
Matt Kepnes: I really wanted to provide the opportunity for people to travel and see the world beyond their own little community, as well as show them that not only we're all really the same, but also show them that there's a lot of opportunity in the world. I think when you are growing up in a small town or a low-income community, you don't see like you can do anything, you could be anything. People are like, "Wait, you can teach English and Asian? I'm like, "Yeah, that's a thing that is very easy to do." People are like, "Oh, I had no idea that existed." So you don't know what you don't know. I really wanted the opportunity for kids to see that like, "Oh, there's a lot of possibilities out there."
Matt Kepnes: Because I grew up in a really small town. Most of the people in my town still live in my town. When you see the world beyond your borders, you can get a better sense of like, "Oh, there's a lot that I can do. I don't have to be sort of stuck where I am." And more than that, when you can see people in different cultures going through the same struggles you are, you develop a lot of empathy. And when you're a high school kid, that's a good time to develop that skill.
Matt Kepnes: But it's not like all of these kids have a passport, and for every one of these kids just the cost of getting the passport is prohibitive for all of them. Their families just can't even afford that. And so just putting that in their hand allows them access to a whole world out there that they didn't have otherwise.
Phil: Give a shout out to your hometown.
Matt Kepnes: I grew up in a small town called Winthrop, Mass. It's outside Boston.
Kim: I think at this point, then, we sponsored the insurance for a group from Oakland to head to Colombia. So let's just take a listen to what they learned from their experience in Colombia.
Speaker 5: Something that stood out the most to me is like everywhere you're going to go, you're going to have to stand up for yourself. Whether it's back home, in Colombia, or wherever you are. There's been a few incidents where students have faced discrimination, or have been pickpocketed, or have been disrespected, and I feel like this experience has taught them, and me also, that you have to stand up for yourself wherever you're going.
Speaker 6: For me, I was really, really excited for the food, just because I'm a foodie, and I like food so much, and I was excited to try everything. It made me realize how everything is so similar to my culture, because I'm Salvadorian, and something that I noticed like all the [inaudible 00:04:11] and the soups are really similar. They're really hardy. And also, how much meat they love eating out here, and also the candy. One of the things was exactly the same was the tamarind ball, which is the candy that they have in the El Salvador, too, and that's why I was like, "Oh, that there's so much things that are similar here."
Speaker 6: We were able to talk to some students here that were still in high school and comparing myself to them and how different their world is. A lot of the students here are so excited about American culture, and that back home, we're not really excited about other cultures. We're just so indulging ourselves and our culture and who we are. And I feel like that experience has made me appreciate Colombian culture more, and like why am I loved so much? Why don't I love other cultures, too, and how can I find that love for other cultures, too?
Speaker 5: Also I really enjoyed walking the streets. I feel like for me, even though I couldn't really speak to people and communicate, I still found a way. You know? Because in America I'm the same way. I smile at people, I talk to people, and they don't really smile back. They're kind of mean. It depends on where you are in Oakland, but here it's just anywhere people want to talk to you, and I feel like that made me question how everyone was here. It was just very interesting to see how people live here, and every day just walking on the street, going to go get food, going to the store. I feel like that was really an interesting experience to see how people live in different countries. Just life. Like how we live, but how they live in different countries has always interested me.
Kim: So as you heard there, Matt, travel really did open their eyes.
Matt Kepnes: Yeah. I mean, that is a common response from a lot of the kids. I mean, we had kids coming from rural Montana who were like, "Wow, look at the diversity here." You know? And so I think, and these are kids that come from very isolated communities, socially and economically. And so seeing other kids go through what they're going through, and meeting people from a variety of places around the world, really shines a light on them. Because, they grew up in these towns and these communities that don't really put a focus on that.
Matt Kepnes: I mean, in the State's we have a very tiered educational system. The amount of money a school gets is based on property taxes, so richer communities have bigger resources. They can talk about world issues and take their kids to Costa Rica and do lots of great things that these communities can't. For many of these students, this is the first time they've experienced something like this.
Speaker 1: So as you said, you grew up in a small town. It wasn't until you were 23 that you headed off and traveled outside of America, that decision changed your life, didn't it?
Matt Kepnes: Yeah. That was the first time I had really gone on vacation, let alone travel. I'm talking just like a two-week holiday from work. It was there that I fell in love with travel, and I understood why people talk about travel with such reverence. It is this unstructured time where anything can happen. Where your days are not dictated by commuting in the nine to five, where you can walk out the door and could do whatever you wanted. I love that unstructured time, and I really understood why people looked forward to vacation.
Kim: You went back and quit your job.
Matt Kepnes: No, I then went on another vacation to Thailand, where I met backpackers, and it was the first time I had really met backpackers. They had the answer to the question I had been asking myself since that trip to Costa Rica in 2004, which was, "How can I travel more, but not spend a lot of money?" Because, we have a vacation culture in the States and so, it's all hotels, and tours, and resorts, and here these people were doing it for super cheap, and I was like, "I want that. That's how I got my job.
Phil: Do you think it's the, and that not having being exposed to that before, do you think that's why you've been so successful as the guru of cheap backpacker travel?
Matt Kepnes: Guru is very nice compliment. There are far more knowledgeable people than I am I think. But I would say that in terms of just like part of the success of the website is timing. I started the website in 2008 when a lot of blogs were coming online. People were just starting to really quit their jobs en masse and started thinking digital nomading, and Tim Ferriss' book, The 4-Hour WorkWeek had come out. I think it's timing.
Matt Kepnes: But also, I'm just really, really detail oriented, so I took a lot of notes, and I think in the beginning, I had a level of detail that not a lot of other blogs did, and I was ... A lot of other websites just told their story. I was writing ones like how to do this, how to do that. Thus a lot of search traffic. That's a lot of people finding it.
Kim: We have heard that before. That people just got in at the right time. But you have been successful as Nomadic Matt, and you are currently winding up a book tour. Tell us about this new book.
Matt Kepnes: Yeah. I'm writing, I wrote a book called 10 Years A Nomad, which is about my 10 years backpacking the world, and the lessons I learned along the way. It's really meant to inspire people to get off their couch, and go travel, and be a better traveler, and show them that, you don't have to be Superman or Wonder Woman to do this. That ordinary people do this, they survive, and millions of people do this, and that if an ordinary person like me can do it, you can do it, too. And so it's really just sort of all that wrapped into one.
Kim: Anything left to achieve, Matt?
Matt Kepnes: I mean, I always like to do more. More is better. I'd like to write another book. I'd like to make it the number one on The New York Times. Maybe a movie. You know. My goals are constantly shifting.
Phil: And when you're doing this book tour, basically, do you get asked the same questions all the time?
Matt Kepnes: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Definitely.
Phil: You noticed we haven't asked them.
Matt Kepnes: I can always say there's always going to be a question about sustainability and climate change, languages, solo female travel, making friends, my favorite country, my favorite food, worst thing that's happened to me. Those are usually the top ones.
Kim: Has it turned into, at all, at any time, an effort for you, now that you've made this decision to travel, been successful at it? Does it now feel more like work?
Matt Kepnes: I mean yes ... and no. If you find something you love, you never really work. Right? I love what I do, so I wake up very excited to do it, so it doesn't really feel like work. I mean, there are trips I just don't want to think about, where I'm like, "Okay, what post am I going to get out of this?" Or, "Let me take pictures of menus to update guides." Sometimes I'm just like, "Whatever, I'm going, and just going to have fun and not write about it." You know, I went to Jordan this year, and I don't story about it. I just went from my own personal pleasure.
Phil: Well, Matt, you certainly have inspired possibly thousands of people to, as you say, have a travel lifestyle, a travel mindset, as opposed to a vacation one. Congratulations to you on that, and great congratulations, too, on the FLYTE Foundation there, and good luck with the book, too.
Matt Kepnes: Well, thank you.
Kim: Thank you, Matt. All the links you need to FLYTE and Matt in show notes. And with regards to alumni, Caleb is studying and double majoring in political science and Africana studies, and he's also the president of the Association of African American Students, so great success there.
Phil: It does work, doesn't it?
Kim: Yeah, absolutely. By the way, World Nomads has teamed up with Lonely Planet to give you the chance at winning a, and this is in Australian dollars, $5,000 travel goods pack, to help inspire you to create positive life-changing travel experiences.
Phil: Whether you want to connect with the natural world, help protect the planet, or better understand yourself, the possibilities are huge, and could range from really easy ideas like sleeping under the stars and witnessing natural events, to ambitious challenges like helping communities and safeguarding the environment.
Kim: We'll have a link in show notes to enter. You can get the World Nomads Podcast [crosstalk 00:13:03]-
Phil: Okay, can we fess up here? I just changed that script, because I couldn't say "phenomena".
Kim: Let's have a little listen. I feel like a blooper.
Phil: Oh, no.
Phil: The possibilities are huge and could range from easy ideas like sleeping under the stars and witnessing natural phenomena. Ah ...
Phil: The possibilities are huge and could range from easy ideas like sleeping under the stars and witchery ... witchery. Oh, [inaudible 00:13:28] us now.
Phil: The possibilities are huge and could range from really easy ideas like sleeping under the stars and witnessing natural phenomena.
Kim: [inaudible 00:13:40] see.
Phil: Oh, there you go.
Kim: You can get the World Nomads Podcast from wherever ... Oh, I can't speak now.
Phil: Oh, I've done it now.
Kim: ... wherever you grab your favorite podcasts, and please feel free to share, rate, subscribe, get in touch by emailing podcast@worldnomads.Community, and don't forget to look for the World Nomads Podcast on Facebook. Join the conversation around traveling, our episodes, and some behind the scenes stuff. A bit like that.
Phil: A bit like one. Okay. And look, next week, every traveler's nightmare.
Kim: See you then.
Speaker 1: Amazing Nomads. Be inspired.