What would you do with a free trip around the world? Last year, I gave away a trip around the world. After going through thousands of entries, in the end, Heather was the winner. Her story was powerful. She’s been on the road a little over a month now and it’s time to catch up with her and find out about her trip, how the budgeting is going (is she doing $50 a day?), and the lessons learned.
Nomadic Matt: Heather, congrats on winning! You’ve been on your trip for about a month. First, how did you feel about winning?
Heather: Thanks, Matt! Winning was, in a word, surreal. I’ve never felt so dazed in my life. I’ve never won so much as a raffle prize before, so I didn’t actually believe you for at least a solid week. I kept thinking it was a dream, and I was scared to tell people in case it was. My little sister asked me if I was sure it wasn’t a human-trafficking scheme!
Overall, I feel so loved and supported by my friends and family and extremely, extremely lucky.
I’ve been trying to imagine what my mom would say if she were here to see this. I don’t have much of a frame of reference, since I only really started traveling after she passed. However, I’m sure she would be shaking her damn head at this trip!...
Yeah, I used the F word. That’s how much I hate Ko Phi Phi.
I was supposed to visit Ko Phi Phi in 2005, but the deadly 2004 tsunami destroyed the island. Thousands were killed and injured on the island. The entire coast was devastated, with Phi Phi one of the hardest it. It was one of the biggest natural disasters to ever hit the country. Determined to get there and wanting to contribute to the rebuilding, I made it my first stop in Thailand when I quit my job to travel the world in 2006.
Construction was all over the place, tourists were returning — some also helping rebuild — and the government was promising to make the island more sustainable. Spirits were high. Naturally, it wasn’t like the postcards. The inner beach was littered with coral swept in by the sea, but just outside town was beautiful Long Beach, an undeveloped stretch of white sand and turquoise water. I didn’t fall in love Ko Phi Phi, but I thought that if they limited development as they said, this place wouldn’t be half bad.
Fast forward two years.
I returned (twice) while living in Bangkok to discover that they hadn’t kept their promise: the island had become overdeveloped (again). Hotels were everywhere. Boats seemed to endlessly ring the island, ferrying an endless queue of tourists. There were bars on the beach; the little street...
It’s easy to get lost. To look around and suddenly find yourself wondering how you got here — and why it seems so far from where you thought you’d be. What wrong turn did you take? Is there still time to go back and start again? To be the person you wanted to be? To do the things you want to do?
One day becomes a year, which quickly turns into a decade. Before you know it, you’re miles from the life you imagined.
“Tomorrow,” you say to yourself. “Tomorrow, I’ll fix things.”
But tomorrow comes and goes and you continue down the same path, caught up in the surging river that is life.
Reading entries for my round-the-world trip contest brought regret to the forefront of my mind. I saw so much of it from the strangers who entered; strangers who poured their heart out to me about loss, pain, suffering, snuffed-out dreams, and second chances.
Yet beneath all the worry, regret, and sadness, there was hope.
The desire for a new beginning. A chance to be the person they wanted to be; to find purpose in their life; to escape a future they didn’t want — but one that felt so inevitable.
As writer and blogger Cory Doctorow said, “You live your own blooper reel and experience everyone else’s highlight reel.”
When you ask people why they want to travel the world,...
Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse writes our regular column on solo female travel. It’s a topic I can’t cover so I brought her on to cover topics and specific issues important other women travelers! In this month’s column, Kristin reminisces on the lessons learned from traveling solo.
“You’re going across the world by yourself?! Are you sure?”
You’ve heard it before, right? Someone who means well and tries to talk you out of traveling solo, mentioning all kinds of things that could go wrong.
They can be pretty convincing, focusing heavily on the negative — but completely forgetting that there are so many more positives that come from travel. What about all of the things that could go right?
There are things that only solo female travelers get to experience (things that just don’t happen when you’re traveling with someone else). It’s like a club that almost anyone can get into but few know about. But for those of us who have done it, we know that it’s not as scary as we thought, and much more rewarding than we ever imagined possible.
Traveling the world solo has taught me many lessons and made me realized there are some truths you only learn when you travel the world solo:
1. It’s way more exciting to try a new food on the other side of the world – and find that we absolutely love it...
I first met Staci when she came to one of my meet-ups in NYC. She wanted to thank me for helping her travel the world. See, for her, it’s not as simple as just getting on a plane and going somewhere. Staci was born with a rare genetic condition that has left her deaf, with fused fingers, jaws, and a host of other medical issues. Determined to not sit on the sidelines, Staci has worked hard to overcome the obstacles before her so that she can make her travel dreams a reality. So, without further ado, here’s Staci!
Nomadic Matt: Hi Staci! Tell us about yourself!
Staci: My name is Staci and I’m 28 years old. I happen to have Nager syndrome, a super rare genetic condition wherein I was born with fused jaws, fused elbows, four fingers, and deafness, to name some fun facts about it. I’ve had many surgeries to correct a lot of issues and increase my quality of life.
I was born in Seattle and moved to an incredibly rural town in New York when I was ten. I’ve always had an interest in languages and other cultures. Even though I’m deaf, I easily excelled in Spanish past my third-grade hearing classmates because I found it fun and challenging. My other loves are history and art and yes, they got combined into a bachelor’s in art history and museum professions.
At the end of 2015, I started a travel media school called Superstar Blogging. Since then, the community has grown to over 1,700 students learning blogging, vlogging, writing, and photography from some of the best minds in — and out of — the travel industry. I created the program so that people could learn the real, practical business skills needed to create a sustainable online business. Something that allows you to be your own boss, work from anywhere, and help people with over the long term.
For a long time, I’ve dreamed of organizing a conference in conjunction with the program. Something that would take everything we have online and bring it to life. I want to bring our students, other travel bloggers, and industry experts together to learn, network, connect, and, overall, have a ton of fun! I love the web, but in-person events are 10x better for learning and networking. This is where you can make the most lasting connections and relationships.
When I went to my first conference, I had no clue what to expect. I had this blog I’d been working on for a year and I wasn’t even sure if anyone cared what I was writing. There, at my first conference, I got to meet the fledgling travel community members in real life (back in 2008, it was a small community). Over a weekend, we formed business relationships and friendships. These connections have helped...
Spurred by the writing of my next book about my years on the road, I find myself wandering the halls of memory reminiscing about my last decade of travel.
I dig through old photos and journal entries. I search Facebook for people I met years ago. Stories and faces long forgotten zoom back into my mind as I wonder where they are and what they are doing.
Those whose lives briefly intersected with my own on the highway of life.
The five backpackers who inspired my original trip. The girl from that hostel in Prague who welcomed me into her friend group when I was too afraid to say hello. The Dutch guys I spent weeks traveling with in Australia. The motley crew I spent a month with in New Zealand. My friends from when I lived in Bangkok. The folks I picked up on my road trip across the states. My first Couchsurfing host. Or this group of crazy cats I spent a month in paradise with:
As strangers in a distant land, we were each other’s support. We were the best of friends, partners in crime, and sometime lovers.
Yet, as we all wander further along life’s path and cast our head backwards, we notice each other’s light fading like a star being snuffed out, until one day, it’s gone and nothing...
On a whim, I went to Tokyo for a week. My friends and I had been talking about a food-themed trip to the city for years, and after convincing them that now was the time to cash in all our miles, we found ourselves at the airport on a cold November day with one goal: to eat as much as humanly possible.
Like me, they’d been to Tokyo before and each had a list of places to eat at. Along with our combined lists, I had received suggestions from friends, readers, and one of my favorite foodies, Mark Weins of Migrationology.
Even eating four to six meals a day, I was barely able to scratch the surface of the list of recommendations. Nevertheless, I wanted to share the combined suggestions of the community and my own investigations with you. (Those I ate at are denoted by a star.)
*Bifteck Kawamura Ginza (6 Chome-5-1 Ginza, Ginza MST Bldg. 8F, Chuo, 104-0061, +81 3-6252-5011, bifteck.co.jp) – At the suggestion of our hotel’s concierge, we went there in our quest for Wagyu beef. The steak basically melted in my mouth and exploded with flavor. However, I don’t think I’d go back, as I found it a bit too high-end and...
One of my favorite websites is Couchsurfing. This website allows you to connect with locals abroad and get a place to stay, a friend to show you around, and local information. I remember I used it when I was first traveling and stayed at this lovely home in Athens. I’ve grown to love it even more since they have a “who’s nearby” feature on their app, which I heavily used in France last year.
Celinne, on the other hand, created – and used – her own personal social network. She traveled the world only staying with friends and friends of friends. She reached out on the web and found strangers will to open their home to her. Not only did this help her lower her travel costs, it allowed her to meet wonderful, fascinating, and kind-hearted people. To me, travel is about the human connections we make – and she found a way to make some great ones. Here’s her sharing her story, what inspired to do this, and what she learned along the way.
Nomadic Matt: Tell us about yourself. Who are you? What drives you?
Celinne Da Costa: My love story with travel dates as far back as I can remember: I was born in the heart of Rome, Italy, to an immigrant Brazilian mother and a German-raised Italian father. Since leaving Italy, I’ve gone from living in the quintessential suburbia neighborhoods that American dreams are made of, to frenziedly...
Last month, my mom told me she thought this blog was boring. “Where’s all the fun stuff? I want to see more photos of you traveling. I don’t care about these other updates.”
“Mom, I live in Austin now. You know I’m not on the road that much,” I replied.
“I know but still….I want to see more stuff. It’s just much more interesting, honey.”
“Ok, Mom,” I say and move the conversation on.
But you know what? She’s right (shhhhh, don’t tell her I said that). This website has gotten a little boring.
There aren’t many new adventures, photos of exotic destinations, and exciting stories from the road being posted, because, well, I’m pretty non-nomadic these days. I spent more time in the US last year than I did abroad.
I feel this way every few years, though. “It’s OK,” I think to myself, “I’ll be on the road again, and there will be new content, stories, and tips for my website.”
But lately, as I’ve come to terms with my move from nomadic to more stationary, that’s no longer true. Last year, I only did two big trips, and after I return home from my current winter adventure in New Zealand, it’s doubtful I’ll take another trip until the summer.
Even if my mom doesn’t like it, I’ve come to terms with this change.
Maybe one day, I’ll sling on my backpack and a...
I know you all have been eagerly waiting to hear who has won my round the world giveaway…and today, the wait is over.
We got thousands of entries and it was really hard to narrow it down. It took me a lot longer to read the entries than I originally thought and it took even longer to narrow down a winner. There were a lot of good submissions but, in the end, there can be only one and I had to pick a winner.
And that winner is…
Heather T. from California.
Heather, 26, attended Carnegie Mellon University as a Materials Science and Engineering major and currently works as a Senior Consultant for IBM. Inspired by the life and death of her mother, she decided to start treating her life with urgency. Heather filled her free time with singing, salsa dancing, scuba diving, amazing friends, and as many adventures as she could fit in. At twenty-six, she’s recently applied to grad school so that one day, hopefully, she’ll be making a difference with an advanced degree in Public Policy.
In her own words, here are ten facts about her:
As dawn broke on this year, I was excited for a fresh start. Last year, I dealt with panic attacks and anxiety from taking on too many projects, a breakup that left me heartbroken, and a mini-identity crisis from settling down.
But that “greatest worst year of my life” set the stage for a year in which I shifted my priorities and focused on developing routines. On a personal level, this was a solid year.
I cut my travels in half.
I now love waking up, opening my fridge, and making breakfast.
My panic attacks are gone.
I read a lot more.
I drink less and cook more.
I joined a gym.
I developed routines.
And, while my insomnia is not gone, I’m starting to sleep a lot better.
But no year is perfect.
I replaced one addiction (traveling) with another (work). On the road, it was easy to fill a day with exciting adventures. But now that I was home, what was I going to do? I did the one thing I knew i could default to: work. And I worked all the time. I annoyed my team on the weekend by sending them work. I released more digital guides and published a new edition of my print guide, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day. We changed the site’s design. I did two speaking tours. I ran three tours.
And, in the process, I burned...
Travel is a powerful agent for change. It broadens our horizons, fills our lives with friends, gives us incredible memories, and (sometimes) helps us find purpose in our lives (at least it did with me).
Not everyone can travel and it’s a great privilege to do what we are able to do. Whether you saved up for a year, found work overseas, won a trip, or struck it rich buying Bitcoin, to be able to travel is to do something few in this world get to do.
Think about the first time you traveled overseas. Remember those feelings of freedom, possibility, and excitement? Remember what got you hooked and made you say “I need to do more of this!”?
Well, for kids, travel can be even more life changing than for adults, because it exposes them to different ideas, cultures, and people at a crucial developmental time in their life.
And, over the last few years, I’ve been focusing on trying to get more high school students overseas.
I remember the school group I met on my first ever trip abroad in 2003 and thinking about how lucky those kids were to have that experience. I remember meeting Conor and Carolyn, kids of my friends Dani and Craig, while in Bangkok. They were all on a year abroad and being homeschooled along the way. Now, as adults, they still view that trip as one of their most formative...
“Have you heard of Scott’s Cheap Flights? Should I use them?”
When friends and family far removed from the travel hacking/cheap flights space ask me about a website, I know its mainstream. While there are many good deal websites out there (The Flight Deal, Secret Flying, and Holiday Pirates are three of my favorites), Scott’s Cheap Flights seems to have broken through where others have not. Over 1 million people get his daily flight deals email. I’m a big fan of the website and their ability to often break airfare deals (I used one of their alerts to fly to South Africa). It turns out Scott is a fan of my website too so we sat down for an interview where I got him to spill the secret behind his website:
Nomadic Matt: Tell everyone about yourself. How did you get into this?
Scott: When I graduated college in 2009, I knew two things: (1) I wanted to travel the world and (2) I was never going to be wealthy. So if I wasn’t going to let #2 prevent #1, I knew I would have to figure out some creative ways to travel without spending my life savings. I began reading up on flight pricing economics, spending hours on various flight search engines, and learning various airfare patterns. Before long, I found an online community of fellow travel hackers and cheap-flight aficionados who enjoy not just travel but...
Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse writes our regular column on solo female travel. It’s an important topic I can’t adequately cover, so I brought in an expert to share her advice for other women travelers to help cover the topics important and specific to them! She’s amazing and knowledgable. In this column, Kristin shares some insights from solo female travelers who aren’t millennials!
Every now and then I think about Julie, a 77-year-old woman who stayed at the beach bungalow next to me on the island of Gili Air in Indonesia.
She regaled with me stories about being invited by locals to beach barbecues, her adventures, and the fun she had traveling the world. I felt so empowered during our conversations. She was so laid-back and at peace. This was a woman who had lived a long life and bucked the belief that solo female travel was something for the young. The confident role model in front of me showed me that women of any age can enjoy and benefit from travel.
Over the years while writing this column, I have seen a growing number of women asking, “What about those of us who aren’t twenty-something? Where can I read their stories and connect with narratives that are closer to my own?”
The Internet is awash with young, often Western, women traveling the world. They blog and Instagram and get their stories told in...
Back in 2006, during my first trip around the world, I met a Swedish girl. We traveled together for a bit and the following year I went to visit her in Sweden. Though that relationship didn’t last, my love for Sweden did and, in subsequent years, I learned Swedish and even tried to move to Sweden. I love everything Swedish. And so does my friend Lola. Lola and I met back in 2008 when travel blogging was in its infancy. Unlike me, she’s had success in making a life in Sweden, where she now lives with her husband and son. She’s one of the favorite people in the industry and I love the imagery in her writing and the beauty in her photography.
In her new book, Lagom, she discusses life in Sweden and Swedish culture. Today, I jealously interview her about life there.
Nomadic Matt: Tell everyone a bit about yourself.
Lola: I’m a Nigerian-born, US-educated, Sweden-based writer and photographer focusing mostly on exploring culture through food, tradition, and lifestyles. My photography is represented by National Geographic Creative, and I was recently awarded the prestigious 2018 Travel Photographer of the Year Bill Muster Award from the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW).
I actually took a nontraditional path to this new life, as I worked as a web programmer and GIS system architect for 12+ years before the full career shift into the travel...
Are you looking to get into the travel industry? Well, you’re in luck. Though I don’t talk about it often (well, at least compared to my books), I have a travel media school called Superstar Blogging, with courses on blogging, photography, vlogging/YouTube, and travel writing.
Today, we’re releasing a couple massive updates to the courses. Based on reader feedback, changes in the industry, and updated best practices, we update the courses every year to ensure that they have the best and most current information possible on how to succeed in the travel industry.
And, because it’s also Cyber Monday, we’re heavily discounting the courses too! It’s a double win! Also, all my ebooks will be on sale too! Triple win!
First, you can get all my e-books and guides 50% off for the next 24 hours. You’ll get all my destination guides plus my guide to travel hacking and teaching English overseas. My guides take what you love about this site and supercharge it. The destination guides include all my favorite hostels, restaurants, and bars — spots you probably won’t find listed elsewhere – as things to see in ado in each place. They go into a level of depth not found on the website and help you be the best traveler in any destination! They are written for budget travelers and those wanting to get off the beaten track when they travel.
As Edward said about my Thailand guide,...
Two years ago, I wrote about how privileged and lucky we are to be able to travel the world. No matter our circumstances, we are doing something most of the world will never get a chance to do. Most people never leave their own country, let alone their continent.
Even if we’re barely scraping two pennies together as we couchsurf the world, we’re pretty fortunate. I wrote back then (and sorry for quoting myself):
In the “quit your job to travel the world” cheerleading that happens so often on travel websites (including this one), we often forget that it’s not easy for everyone.
There are those for whom no mindset change, spending cuts, or budget tips will help them travel — those who are too sick, have parents or children to care for, face great debt, or work three jobs just to make rent.
After all, 2.8 billion people — nearly 40% of the world’s population — survive on less than $2 USD a day! In my home country of the United States, 14% of the population is below the poverty line, 46 million people are on food stamps, many have to work two jobs to get by, and we have a trillion dollars in student debt dragging people down.
Nothing any website can say will magically make travel a reality for those people.
Those of us who do travel are a privileged few.
That’s not to say that hard work doesn’t count, but...
On October 30th, I released the third edition of my book, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.
If there’s one constant in travel, it’s that it is forever changing. And so the tips and prices I wrote in the last edition, which only came out two years ago, are out of date. So much has changed! In the latest edition of my New York Times best-selling book, I show you how to travel cheaper, longer, and smarter with all my updated tips, tricks, and travel hacks. You’ll get over 40 new pages of content in addition. It also has more of a global perspective to help non-Americans, couples, and families travel better!
Money is the primary reason why most people don’t travel as much as they want, and this book will help save you money on trips for the rest of your life.
To celebrate the new edition, I decided to give away $18,250 in cash to someone who bought a copy of the book. Since the contest was announced, I’ve had a number of questions from readers about the rules and requirements of the contest, so in today’s quick update, I’m going to answer all your questions:
Why isn’t this contest open to everyone?
Unfortunately, this contest is only open to those in the US and Canada. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the book is really only available in these countries....
I’ve added an LGBT column to the website to make the site is more inclusive and talks about issues that affect some members of our travel community. In this column, we will hear from voices in the LGBT community about their experiences on the road, safety tips, events, and overall advice for other LGBT travelers. This week, Dani from Globetrottergirls shares some of her favorite lesbian travel blogs.
Ever since I started traveling full-time in 2010, I’ve been an avid blog reader. I am subscribed to dozens of blogs, and I have visited countless places after finding out about them on blogs.
Boracay in the Philippines, for example — I read about it on blogs. Or Las Lajas in Colombia, which I visited this year, seven years after learning about it through a travel blog. The charming French town of Colmar? I am now keen to visit it after it popped up on several blogs I read.
Without travel blogs, I would have never found out about these places. The same goes for cafés and restaurants, ice cream shops and bars, small art galleries, and great hostels. I read blogs for travel inspiration all the time, but also for travel tips when I research a destination I am planning to visit.
While there are dozens of couples’ travel blogs, solo female travel blogs, and a fair number of gay travel blogs, there...