18 Lessons from 5 Years Around the World

By Nomadic Matt | Published August 8th, 2011

Five years is a long time to be on the road. Five years spent living out of your backpack, with no permanent home or address. I never thought I was going to travel this long. It was only gong to be a year, maybe 18 months tops, and then I’d go back home, find a “real” job, settle into life, and by now, I’d be married, have a house, 2.5 children, and be complaining about my retirement fund to my friends.

But here I am, five years later, in Romania, with the same backpack, still traveling, still staying in hostels, and still having the time of my life.

I celebrated five years of travel by giving away all my frequent flier miles, but I think five years is a good point in which to sit back and reflect on what exactly travel has taught me through this long, strange trip:

It’s not that hard.

Every day, people get up and go out the door to travel the world. And they survive and thrive. In fact, the travel industry has made it very easy to make it. Just get on that plane or train or bus. Everything else will work itself out. All that worrying and fear I had was for naught – this traveling thing is a lot easier than you would believe. It’s not like you are the first person to ever do this.

You learn a lot of good skills.
Traveling around the world has taught me to how to be more social, adapt, be more flexible, and, most importantly, understand non-verbal communication a lot better. It has helped me figure out situations even when I can’t understand them. It has made me more independent, more open, and, overall, just a better person. There’s no reason to be scared that you might not have “it” in you. You’d be surprised how often you can surprise yourself.

You make a lot of friends.

It may seem scary just throwing yourself out there and talking to strangers, but we are all strangers in a strange land. At the end of the day, everyone is very friendly. It took me a while to get used to just saying “hello” to strangers, but now it seems like second nature. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming on the road that even when you travel solo, you are never really alone.

You meet some of your closest friends traveling.

Those times I just want to relax and do nothing are the times I’ve made my closest friends. Whether it was in a hostel in Vietnam, on a boat in Thailand, or walking into a hostel in Spain, when I least expected (or wanted) to meet people was when I met the best. And even though you may not see them for years, you still end up at their wedding, Christmas dinner, or family celebration. Distance and time cannot break the bond you formed.

Relationships come and go on the road.
I’ve met lots of people on the road, including members of the opposite sex I’ve found attractive. But the nature of travel doesn’t always lend to a lot of long term relationships. It’s hard to make something last when everyone moves in different directions and holidays end. If you get too attached too often, you’ll have nothing but heartache as people come and go. But I’ve realized you need to simply enjoy your time together for what it is and stay on good terms when it ends.

But chase the ones you like.

Yet once in a while, you’ll find someone you really connect with. Meaningful romance on the road does happen. And when you have nowhere to be and no place to go other than where you want, sometimes there is no reason not to follow. Don’t force yourself to say another good-bye if you don’t have to. Pursue it even if the distance seems too vast, because you never know where it could lead or how long it might last. Sometimes you only get one chance and when it is gone, you’re filled with nothing but regret.

It’s good to try new things.

I used to be a very rigid person, but traveling has helped me expand my worldview. I’ve pushed myself to the limit, eaten new food, taken cooking classes, learned magic tricks, new languages, tried to conquer my fear of heights, and challenged my views on people. I’ve learned that the more you know and the more you try new things, the funnier life is.

Be adventurous.

Doing the canyon swing was tough. So was jumping off the boat in the Galapagos. As was eating the maggots in Thailand. And getting my butt kicked in Thai boxing. And, while I won’t do either again, I don’t regret stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things. Even if you only try things once, it’s good to challenge yourself and be adventurous. Scare yourself once in a while. It makes life less dull.

There is no such thing as a mistake.
No matter what happens on the road, it’s never a mistake. As was once said, “your choices are half chance, and so are everybody else’s.” When you go with the flow and let the road just unfold ahead of you, there’s no reason to have regrets or think you made a mistake. You make the best decisions you can and, in the end, the journey is the adventure.

Don’t be cheap.
When you travel on a budget and need to make your money last, it’s easy to be cheap. But why live like a pauper for so long while you were home so you could not eat the food in Italy, drink the wine in France, or have a sushi meal in Japan? While it is good to be frugal, it’s also important to splurge and not miss out on doing once-in-a-lifetime things. Who knows, for example, when you will get another chance to dive in Fiji?! Being cheap only fills you with regret.

That being said, don’t be wasteful.
But remember you aren’t made of money, so don’t always feel like you need to party with your new friends every night or do every activity in a new place. Sometimes it’s OK just to sit around and relax or cook your own meal. Be frugal, but not cheap.

Go with the flow.

Sometimes it is great to have a plan. When there is limited time, you want to try to see as much as possible and stay on track. But stop being hemmed in by that plan. Traveling is about opening yourself up to change and letting life take you where you want to go. In the end, you throw the plan away anyway, so why even bother getting caught up in one? Have a rough idea of what you want to do, and just fill in the details along the way.

Drop the guidebook.
Don’t be so glued to a book. You can travel fine without it, especially with so many good alternatives on the Internet these days. You buy it and hardly use it anyway. Just ask people for tips and information. It’s just extra weight in your bag.

It’s never too late to change.
Even if you aren’t the traveler or person you want to be in your head, it’s never too late to change. Travel is all about change. The more you say “tomorrow,” the less likely it is that tomorrow will ever come. Traveling has shown me aspects of my personality I wish I didn’t have and also shown me I’m really lazy. I’ve always lived by the phrase “Carpe Diem” but sometimes I don’t really do it. It’s never too late though and realizing that has made being more pro-active a lot easier.

Relax.

Life is amazing. There’s no reason to worry. The universe unfolds as it should. Relax and just go with it. You can’t change the future – it hasn’t happened yet. Just make the best decisions you can today and enjoy the moment. Don’t get caught up trying to see all the “must sees.” There’s nothing wrong with spending a day playing games, reading a book, or lounging by the pool.

Learn more languages (seriously).
There’re some great benefits to not knowing the local language – like miming out “chicken” to let the lady know you want eggs for breakfast – but learning languages is fun, very helpful when you travel, and works out great when you meet other travelers. Not only can you eavesdrop on their conversations, but there’s also nothing like surprising people by speaking their language. It brings a smile to everyone’s face.

Wear more sunscreen.
Seriously. Science has proven it helps, and with all that beach time you do when you travel, you could always use a little more. Being tan is great. Having skin cancer is not. SPF up.

People are good.

All over the world, I have encountered amazing people who have not only changed my life but have gone out of their way to help me. It’s taught me that the old saying is true – you can always depend on the kindness of strangers. My friend Greg taught me long ago not to be guarded against strangers. We grow up in this culture of fear in America that is unrealistic. 99.9999% of the people in the world aren’t murders, rapists, or thieves. There’s no reason to assume someone is one. Sometimes, people are just trying to be friendly.

I’ve learned more about the world and myself in the last five years of travel than I have in the previous 25 years of my life. No matter what happens in the future, I know that I am very blessed to have these last five years, and I’m a better person because of them.

comments 132 Comments

amazing journey… 5 years and still counting.. you’re really an inspiration to a lot of us trying to live life the way we want it… thanks Matt… great tips too… i’ve dropped the guidebook too although i use it sometimes to check info about border crossing but thats about it… other than that i just explore places without the guidebook…

NomadicMatt

I haven’t had a guidebook these last 4 months in Europe and everything has been just fine!

Ian L

Thanks Matt. One important lesson you should let us in on is, how on earth do you afford to travel for 5 years?

NomadicMatt

The first year was from savings, years 2-3 were funded by teaching english overseas, and the last two years have been from this blog.

Thanks for your honesty Matt :) Its interesting to see the progression you went through.

NomadicMatt

I don’t. I work in the US where all my banking is located. I’m not coming there to work, I’m coming there for holiday.

irish

your blog is such an amazing, informative and inspiring one. I really want to start to travel this year, planning to go first trip to Hongkong. I am thinking to travel alone however i really am sort of scared, that is why i am looking for a travel partner.

People are really good! You forget that when you sit at home watching too much tv and horrible newscasts.

Traveling the world, in my opinion is the only way to really learn about the world around you, try new stuff and meet people you would never hang out with in your hometown!

NomadicMatt

There is a great quote about how the more we travel, the more we learn we don’t know anything about the world. I forget who said it but he was spot on!

Mandy

Heyah Matt,

Travelling to Thailand, Cambodia,Vietnam and Laos on a very limited budget, any advice on places to stay,eat and see and things to do?

J J Kosmac

Yes, Marina is right…people are good! And watching too much tv and horrible newscasts is not the way to experience life…when traveling in May I was walking down the street in Budapest when the smell of the open bakery shop stopped me in my tracks…I went in to make a purchase and didn’t have enough change (forint)….as I turned to leave the owner jumped up from behind the case and asked me which pastry I would like…she just gave it to me! and would not accept dollars or euros…It was the best pastry I ate during my 5 country trip! YES…PEOPLE ARE GOOD! ALL OVER THE WORLD! It was a simple gesture but one I will never forget…Matt, that’s why I travel…to meet other people from other cultures and experience the way they live! Congratulations on your 5 years of TRAVEL!

Congrats on 5 years, Matt! I love that you’re still wearing the same backpack. This is an inspiring post and I hope everyone reads it. There is no greater education than travel – through the experience of travel we learn about others, but we learn far more about ourselves.

Hi Matt,

Congratulations on 5 years of travel, what a beautiful and epic journey. I love that so many of your lessons are related to the people around you and personal experiences – that’s something I’ve learned to in my (only) 8 months of travel. I used to think travel was about seeing sights or being luxurious, but my most memorable and life-changing moments were defined by people experiences.

Congrats again and cheers to more life adventures.
– Lily

Good stuff, Matt. Here’s to many more years of fulfilling travel!

This was a great read. I can’t believe you’ve spent five years travelling around the world with the same bag. I think the first point is the most important for anyone who’s hesitant to travel, even on a shorter term. I hope there are many more happy and safe travels for you.

NomadicMatt

REI equipment is built to last. The bag looks as good as it did on the first day. Well, almost as good.

Many safe travels to you too!

Great lessons and ones that rang true for me and traveling too. I really like meeting new people and creating friendships with people all over the world- I’ve met some pretty amazing people because of traveling and am so thankful for that!

NomadicMatt

It’s the people who make a place and what we remember the most.

Fantastic post Matt! You pretty much plucked everything out of my brain…and everybody else’s I’d say. I totally agree with you about the guide book. I’ve always said look left and right instead burying your head into a guide book…you’ll see and experience way more. Well done!

Awesome milestone Matt!

I agree with making new friends while traveling and meeting some of the most interesting people ever. I also liked your point after that about “not being wasteful,” and sometimes having to just say NO. While traveling I tend to meet so many people that it can be too much for me to handle, and I have learned that I just can’t say YES to everyone everyday. I enjoy my own time and being by myself a lot too!

As for relationships on the road, they can definitely shift plans. I briefly stopped to teach a few English camps in Thailand with no intention to remain. 2 years later and Bangkok is still my home base – largely due to a female. Luckily, Bangkok is a fantastic hub and my visa is only valid for 2 months, which necessitates taking frequent trips to surrounding countries. While traveling, one just can’t predict what kind of relationships will form – and that’s one of the beauties of traveling!

Keep it up Matt – I know what the future holds will be just as exciting as what you’ve been through in the past 5 years!

NomadicMatt

Ahh the women. Woman have changed my plans many, many times. But sometimes, how can you say no!?

I hope the future is as bright as the path has been for the both of us.

Steve Russell

Congratulations, Matt! Following you around the world is one of my favorite things to do. I wish I had been following you all 5 years. Your tweets, posts, and pics are awesome!

NomadicMatt

Thank you.

Matt, this post made me think about how I’ve been on the road only a month, and still it’s easy to fall into old habits, recreating my stay-at-home life on the road. Thanks for the reminder!

A wonderful post and I found myself nodding to a lot of things as I read it..am going to share it ..thanks

NomadicMatt

Glad you liked it and thanks for sharing it!

sri

Congrats Matt. go on..

Great post. My favourite line was: “sometimes you only get one chance and when it is gone, you’re filled with nothing but regret.” So true and can be applied to so much in life, but particularly travel and enjoying every minute of it.

Well done on 5 years, sir!

I can’t help but notice that a lot of your lesson are people (or person)-centric. It’s incredibly fascinating what you can learn on the road from others and what these strangers indirectly teach you about yourself.

Here’s to another 5 years (and a healthy dose of SPF 30)!

NomadicMatt

Try spf 40 :)

And thank you!

This is what I always say to people who do not understand why I can’t spend a lot of time in the same place … there’s nothing better than travel! Keep up with that!

NomadicMatt

Once it is in your blood, there is no getting rid of it!

Great post! I like that you included wearing sunscreen. I cannot tell you how many bottles I went through in Central America.

Very inspiring! In fact, I can relate to some of them. I want to be a true traveler one day, just like you. But now, I still have to save more money in order to live that dream. Once again, truly inspiring! About the sunscreen, it was one of the latest things that I learned from my travel in Cambodia. I didn’t wear any sunscreen and all I got was sun burnt from cycling around the temples.

NomadicMatt

I’ve had to have a few moles removed so I am very careful about the sunscreen.

Very encouraging, I do have the Tomorrow problem. I would love to go, but still I am full of fears ….
*SIGH* :-)

Great post, Matt! You’ve also taught us–all of your readers (and even fellow travel bloggers–lots of great lessons from your experiences.

I like the balance in the ideas:

Relationships come and go VS Chase the ones you like

Don’t be cheap VS Don’t Be Wasteful.

What would you say are some key things that you would NOT have learned had you not traveled?

I loved this post! Here are my top three faves.

#1 “It’s not that hard.” Before I had ever traveled outside of my home country, I never thought about traveling the world. I always thought far away places were fascinating but I never actually thought I would go see them in person. Then I went to college and made a friend who told me about this amazing study abroad program called Semester At Sea. My friend and I studied abroad together with the Semester At Sea program visiting ten countries around the world in 100 days. This semester changed my life. I finally realized that traveling is easy and SUPER fun! :) I realized that I can go anywhere I want to; the possibilities are endless! I can’t even begin to explain the happiness and freedom I had during those 100 days. Now, 5 years later, I am in living in South Korea teaching English and planning trips left and right.

#8 “Be adventurous.” I will never stop exploring. I love the feeling I get when I’m adventurous. I feel so alive!

#16 “Learn more languages (seriously).” This is one I totally agree with but need to actually put into practice more. I’ve always thought I should just learn one language really well, but now I’m starting to think it would be better to know a little of a variety of languages…

Thanks for the post!

Matt – Wonderful post! Thanks for the inspiration.

Way to sneak in a quote from a Baz Luhrmann song! I think I’m most impressed that you still have the same backpack.

NomadicMatt

Everything in that song is the best life advice anyone could ever give. EVER.

Nothing more refreshing than someone giving life a nudge! Nothing more disappointing than seeing a person sitting and letting life pass them by!! Good luck for the next 5!!

NomadicMatt

Thank you!

Best advice is regarding sunscreen. I see so many beautiful women that you can tell were once even more beautiful but have been ravaged by sun. SPF it up!

EER

Even just learning a couple of words of a language is a great conversation starter. Especially if the language is really obscure. Also, knowing stuff about the country the other person is from (like the capital, the difference between Budapest and Bukarest) usually brings about the smiles :)

Luana

Great site and post! You are in Romania now?Yey! I’m from Romania. Are you coming to Constanta at the sea side? If yes please contact me, I would love to meet you and talk about world travel.
For any information e-mail me.

NomadicMatt

I was just in Romania. I’m now in the Ukraine.

Malorie

I would love to have a milestone like that. How awesome to have seen as much as you did.

My biggest hang-up is money. How much did you take with you? How do you afford it?

I want to see the world. But I can’t figure out how to leave.

Congratulations!

NomadicMatt

I left with 20k when I left in 2006 but since 2008 I have supported myself with this job.

Congrats on 5 years! Your first lesson really resonates- ITS NOT THAT HARD. As much as we travelers like to complain about how hard it is on the road (and yes there are some very difficult aspects of traveling) it’s truly not that hard. We traveled for 21 months, and my husband and I found the hardest part about travel was being together 24/7! Now that we’re home and settling into a more traditional routine we find it difficult not to be together 24/7. Ironic?

NomadicMatt

Wow! That goes back a long, long, long time. You are probably my oldest fan then!

Love this! And agree with the “Go with the flow” mindset – I’ve had many of my travel moments coming from following where my feet (or my newly-met) friends take me!

Congrats on the 5 years, and the next 10-20 or more years to come! So what’s next after you’ve seen the world? space? under the ocean? ;)

Great advice! I’ll remember this when I start heading down to Peru in the steadily approaching weeks. So far the most nerv-recking thing for me is trusting other in other countries especially with all the bad media that comes across the news with guerillas and what not. Thanks again Matt!

alex

very good read, and inspirational, thanks :)

Oh so true! Great post, Matt! Thank you and Congrats! Cheers to more years of traveling!

NomadicMatt

Thank you! :)

Marques S.

Man, I just wanted to say you give real good advice and that your a real inspiration, never been on this site before,but im coming back soon.

Thanks

Gayle

I’m 61 and find your advice invaluable! Just shared it with my 22 year old daughter who has also spent time studying abroad in Australia, and traveled to Thailand and Laos, not alone however. Best of luck to you and thank you for sharing such great tips.

Miri

Wow, you have amazing advices! I am really looking foward to travel like that! it’s wonderful to read someone’s experiences.

good luck!:)

Matt

Matt, congrats on your lifestyle choice….I traveled for around 5 years in my 20’s too…but I do wonder after so many years of travel you don’t seem to have been to that many places, and I would have to say also that many of your destinations are pretty “safe”, well tred places.

How about trying somewhere interesting like Iran or Pakistan?

Good luck!

NomadicMatt

No desire to go to Pakistan and Iran is on my list but the visa process is pretty long and I don’t have the time to go to it since I don’t stay in one place long enough. I don’t make condescending comments the choices you pick, please don’t do so to mine. We all go where we most desire to go.

I don’t think going somewhere where there is a higher probability you’ll get shot is necessarily a cooler way to travel. I think going places where you’re inspired and fulfilled is much more important. I am so impressed by your ability to spend five years travelling. Have you spent much time in a sleeping bag or have you been able to make it in hostels all this time?

Matt

A higher probability of getting shot? You obviously don’t know much about travel in Iran or Pakistan Gretta..it’s not about being cool…it’s about going to countries that haven’t yet been utterly changed by tourism, where it’s not just like being at home except it’s a bit warmer…where it’s a bit challenging.

And Matt, obviously I hit a nerve with what I said…surprising it wasn’t meant to be condescending…you have 5 years plus of solid travel but don’t have time to sort out an Iran visa?

Anyway, Matt, if you are going to make out like you are some sort of celebrity traveler, like you have done something incredible when in reality all you have done is spent several years hanging out in back packer hostels and visiting the easiest travel destinations in the world over and over again, well…you are going to get some criticism…don’t stand in the spot light if you can’t take the heat..Anyway good luck, the teenagers are obviously very impressed with you!

NomadicMatt

There will always be people who look down on others for being “less authentic” travelers based on the destinations they go to as if you can only prove you are a real traveler by say heading to Iran or making your way through Uzbekistan. But the reality of it, by telling people that, it doesn’t make you a better traveler – it just makes you sound like a dick. My travels aren’t done for you or anyone else. They are done for me. And me alone. I pick my destinations based on where I want to go and what I want to see.

Matt

Matt,

Calling someone a dick simply because they are not awestruck by your travels is a bit childish. You publish yourself on the net, so people have a right to pass their opinion on your writing. Perhaps you should put a note on your blog stating that only comments along the lines of “Oh my god, you are awesome!” are welcome.

I’m not saying you aren’t a traveler, but you are a boring traveler…and I do wonder why you make all this fuss about yourself. And yes, there is more authentic travel, and then there is safe, boring, gap year circuit travel. Do you think Marco Polo would have been as revered a traveler, if instead of crossing the silk route into China, he instead hung out in backpacker hostels for years, hitting on young, impressionable girls and drinking beer in the sun.

I bet you have even thought about a movie being made about your life huh? hehe. If you are going to make such a fuss about yourself, then I think you should do something worthy of that fuss. There are literally thousands of people out there right now, many a lot younger than you…doing the most incredibly journeys, going way out of their comfort zone, and really have a story to tell. Sorry, but somone doing the gap year circuit year after year isn’t worthy of all this fuss…I would suggest you read that excellent article “How to Overcome Your Fears” by some travel guru with a similar name to yours.

NomadicMatt

Well, I don’t do my travels for you. I do them for me. I don’t make a “fuss” about myself. I just blog and people seem to enjoy reading it. There’s no post here saying “I am the best” just posts on where I’ve been, my tips, and my changing attitudes.

You can think I’m a boring traveler. You can imply i’m so womanizing drunk. You can think you are the best traveler out there but don’t judge people. It’s not your place to pass judgement on the travel decisions of others. While I think some travel methods are better than others, I would never disparage someone’s destination choice. People go to destination because that’s where their heart pulls them. Travel is a personal experience.

I once wrote about the types of backpackers you meet (and included it in my “things I hate about backpacking post”). One of the backpackers is the “I’m better than you” traveler. The one that looks down on others for where they go and what they do. That is you. You may think my travels aren’t special but they are special to me. They make the difference in my life. Shouldn’t that be enough?

To quote a famous guy “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

PS- I like discussion, which is why your comments are still around.

Matt

Well that’s good you like discussion. See the problem I see Matt is that you are publishing travel guides, articles, videos, and then get upset if anyone provides any criticism. That’s not how it works unfortunately.

For example, you criticise gap year travelers destination choices for not going off the beaten path…which you seem to think is Western Australia..

You claim that “the truth is” that it’s really difficult to meet foreigners abroad and see their home life. You seem to make these blank statements, which are clearly based on the fact that you haven’t yet gotten off the beaten track yourself. There are many countries where it’s incredibly easy to be invited into locals homes and lives.

You seem to like handing out lots of advice…take some advice from someone that has traveled a lot longer than you….Go and see the countries whilst you can that haven’t yet been utterly changed by mass tourism and globalisation. These places are disappearing fast, and within a generation, there will be very few places if any left…Places where traditional lifestyles, traditional dress, traditional culture are still pervasive. Places where you won’t get many gap year students, where travelers in general are more interesting/eccentric than the typical haunts of first time travelers. Places that don’t have starbucks and you can find yourself with days or weeks on end without meeting another foreigner.

Anyway, I’ll leave you to your blogs…good luck!

NomadicMatt

You seem to be missing my point. It’s not criticism of content that I have a problem with. I take issue with your attitude that people are better travelers if they go off the beaten track and those that go to popular destinations are not real travelers. You keep trying to steer the conversation away from your original assertion. What constitutes off the beaten track for you anyways? Iran? Pakistan? Uganda? You aren’t really being clear.

You said I need to travel better and really see the world. I said my destinations choices are made for me, not you or anyone else. And yet you still make condescending comments about my destination choice. I write guides based on where I go and my thoughts on what I think can be helpful for people but I’ve never made the claim that by not visiting say Iran, you aren’t qualified to be considered a “traveler.”

Chris Haughey

“It’s about going to countries that haven’t yet been utterly changed by tourism, where it’s not just like being at home except it’s a bit warmer…where it’s a bit challenging.”

Really, is that so? I thought traveling was about people going to places that were new to them, broadening their own horizons on a personal journey. Family holidays aside, I’ve never went further than uni life in England so a RTW trip will be a challenge, regardless if it’s in Koh Phangan or the North Pole.

I don’t know who this other Matt guy is making these comments, but if you’re reading this blog then you must find it compelling in one way or another. You’re right in saying that everyone is entitled to an opinion and constructive criticism shouldn’t be rejected.
However, the thing is, there’s thousands of people embark on their first trips abroad every month, every year. While the banana pancake trail etc may seem ‘boring’ to you, it is still very exciting for others.
My brother and I are setting off on a RTW trip next month, starting with 7 weeks round south East Asia then onto Australia.

It’s not original. It’s nothing new. It’s huge crowds at Angkor Wat. It’s McDonalds on a tropical island. But it’s also going to be the time of our life.

“And yes, there is more authentic travel, and then there is safe, boring, gap year circuit travel. “

No, boring is sitting in an office answering a phone 40 hours a week in between reading blogs of other travellers doing what you wish you were doing; it doesn’t matter if it’s Thailand or Timbuktu it’s going to be exciting.

“You seem to like handing out lots of advice…takes some advice from someone that has traveled a lot longer than you….

For a man of the world, your arrogance is shocking. You look down on people who have traveled less than you, as if their experiences weren’t worthy simply because they haven’t traveled to places that you deem to be exciting.

You’ve said you traveled for a number of years back in your 20s. Perhaps I’m wrong but from your posts I’m guessing that was quite a few years ago. Traveling probably wasn’t the booming industry it is now and blogging was unheard of. Therefore the notion of internet entrepreneurs probably seemed mad.

See, years ago it was a lot easier to “Go and see the countries whilst you can that haven’t yet been utterly changed by mass tourism and globalisation. These places are disappearing fast, and within a generation, there will be very few places if any left…”

That’s because the gap year circuit didn’t exist, so it wasn’t much of a challenge to find these places.
But now that the world has became better equipped to cater for tourism are we all supposed to stop going to these places? Now that they are so popular, does that make them unworthy of visiting?

They’re popular because they are exciting places to go. They have been for years and therefore newbies on the trail value the experiences and opinions of the “boring travelers” who have already been there.

You might not but unless Nomadic Matt has created 30,000 fake twitter accounts, it certainly seems like there are a few people out there who do.

As someone who has traveled more than NM, your experiences and stories would probably be worth reading about too, yet you come across as someone with a chip on their shoulder, a tad jealous perhaps that your own adventures didn’t get the recognition they could have done through the wonders of the web?

“I bet you have even thought about a movie being made about your life huh? Hehe.”

Considering traveling is supposed to broaden your horizons, this is very naïve and immature statement, which only reinforces my belief you are a little green beneath the gills when you see how many people are getting recognition and praise blogging about their boring travels around the world.

My blog looks like the product of an 8th grade computer class at the moment and it might be a year or more my first visit to an “exciting” or “challenging” country is detailed on it. But even if it still looks amateurish in a year or two years and there’s nobody reading, the experiences and memories will mean more to me than the opinions of anybody else, good or bad.

I think any travel blogger would agree, actually scratch that; simply any traveler would agree. I don’t think anybody has ever set out to travel because they want to impress someone else.

Except you, of course.

Tina

This is exactly what I was thinking too whilst I was reading random ‘Matt’s’ condesending comments about Nomadic Matt’s travels… There clerarly are levels of ignorance that even ‘years of travelling through one’s 20’s’ cannot be erased… Shame really that people feel the need to be like that. Blogging is usually a personal thing anyway and people do it to share experiences with friends and family whilst on the road but I applaud anyone who manages to make their travelling journey/experiences work for them and help them travel more as a result. Maybe this is a notion that many older people who went travelling in a whole different generation can’t grasp onto because it wasn’t an avenue open to them at the time. Matt certainly sounds like a very unhappy bunny in his current life and perhaps his jealousy is born out of the fact that he wishes he was still travelling? I don’t know him but his toxic tone in the comments makes me wonder just how much he enjoys his life at present… Maybe being a bit less ignorant and a bit more understanding of the fact that not everyone is the same person with the same aspirations, desires, ideals and opinions would make this random ‘Matt’ a happier person? :-)

Try not to get bitter in your old age sir… it isn’t endearing you to anyone :-)

Thank you, this is beautiful Matt. Great lessons and I agree with all of them. Travel is about saying YES to life. (I’ve been reading your site non-stop for the last couple of hours, lol)

There must be a lot of great women to meet for sure! I foresee a women one day settling you down :)

Sam

Elle

Hi Matt,

I agree with Chris Haughey.That “other Matt”really gets into my nerve.Well,If you re reading this comment, my say is, “Maybe, you should write your own blog to share your wonderful experience”

One thing to another, yeah! I agree with the language thing. I plan to visit Paris in summer next year, I have been learning the language haha. And i realised that it is a beautiful language. Well, i do have 2 frens there but i guess it s good to know the local dialects and it is fun too, if you talk like “chicken and duck”. Haha! When i was in Manila it suprises them that i can speak Tagalog. Well, i am half(Malaysian-Phillipine). I am not tagalog even but undertsand the language. They speaks in Tagalog with me so i replied.

For CHRIS…welcome to Asia and enjoy your Round The World compelling trip.

And Nomadic Matt…I think you should travel more and write more blogs…

Elle

I Like Your Blog About 18 Lessons from 5 Years Around the World.I Am Very Happy To Read Of Your Blog.Really Great Post.Its Brilliant.

Thanks.

I’ve heard from several people your blog is the one to read and they were right! I’m headed out on my expat life in a few months and reading blogs like yours gets me so excited & makes my days in the office that much more enjoyable! Thank you!

NomadicMatt

You’re welcome but really thank you for such kind words.

Mike WGT

To the 2 Matts having a heated discussion on going to Pakistan or Iran, I myself haven’t been to either, and I was written up in the Miami Herald as the youngest most traveled backpacker in the world 10 years ago, been to 101 countries,7 continents and 52 ski resorts by age 32, it’s not a matter of how dangerous the country is, you should go to a destination because it fuels you with passion to experience the country first hand and learn everything there is to learn about that place. I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging but both of you guys can learn a thing or two about backpacking and traveling the world from someone as myself. My book should be published by the summer, look for it at bookstores everywhere, titled “The
World’s Greatest Traveler of All Time”. Good luck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Allison L

Matt-

Thanks so much for your insight and inspiration. I turn 21 next week and it coincidentally marks the first day I begin traveling. Although I’m starting out in Germany (not so culturally different than the US) I hope to explore as much of Europe and Northern Africa as possible. It’s refreshing to see someone so effortlessly put in to words their passion for life and seeing the world.

thanks

Sid

Hi Matt,

A 5-year long travel plan must be an amazing journey. Thanks to SU that it drove me to your travel blog. I like it, and, I don’t know what to say really. The photos are great. And I particularly appreciate your positive mindset. You must have faced occasional challenges. But your summary does not give much stress on that. That’s the way to move on. Thanks again.

Best,
Sid

Salil

Terrific stuff, mate. I am inspired :)

Sounds like you had a wonderful adventure. I’ll bet it changed your life forever.

Really great post – loved reading it and oh so true!

Hi Matt,

I’m leaving next Monday morning for Puerto Rico with my girlfriend (soon to be fiance :) Becki and it’s her very first plane ride. She’s nervous about a lot of parts of it, and I think is also nervous about “letting me down” if the plane and her don’t agree.

I tweeted this post hoping she’ll read at least some of it and it will help ease some of her fears of traveling and increase her desire to do so. I think in the face of a large desire to do something, any fears you have get smaller and smaller until they’re not even a blip on your radar any more. So thanks for the great post and keep up the awesome work!

Cheers,
Andy

5 years is a feat in itself, I congratulate you! My biggest worry is being on the road for 5 years, how not to get sick or tired of it all. The idea of traveling is wonderful but the reality of living out of a bag for 60 months is a reality and the novelty does wear off.

What do you do when you reach that limit where you just can’t see one more church or sleep in one more hostel or meet one more person?

NomadicMatt

Settle down in one place for awhile, get to know, and wait until you get antsy again.

Great lessons learned Matt. One other important thing you’ve learned is how to make money while you travel. The rest of us just spend money when we travel. That’s why I can only be a nomad for short periods of time.

Stacey

I’m sure you hear this constantly but you are an inspiration! I just got back from a month in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. The longest stint I ever traveled was for 4 months and then I got “settled” into life, marriage, owning a home, 4 dogs, etc…

I’m now 46, divorced but still have a house and 4 dogs. :) During my month in SE Asia I realized more than ever that I’ve made myself a slave to material things and kept myself miserable in a job that sucked the life from my soul. Working to sustain a lifestyle that doesn’t bring me much joy is keeping me from feeling the passion and excitment I get from meeting new people, seeing new places and learning about the world. I realized that traveling lights me up in a way like nothing else does.

I’m committed to freeing myself of my house and significantly scaling down my lifestyle and possessions so I can travel for a year (or many more) within 5 to 8 years. I have to wait until my doggies leave this world and I need to prepare for this financially as well.

Many of you on this board are still in your 20’s and relatively unencumbered with responsibilities yet and I envy that position.

Anyway, I’ll continue to follow your blog as it will keep me focused on the carrot. Thanks for putting your stories out there.

NomadicMatt

You’re welcome! Thanks for sticking around!

Jonathan

This is really cool I just got back from Europe. I went to 6 countries in about 3 weeks. I plan on going to Moscow next year and traveling all the way down to Singapore. It was scary this last trip because I was by myself and got lost alot. As soon as I got back to the states I was wishing I was back in Europe or some other part of the world. You only live once so do not worry about money there is always more to be made. I have a bunch of money saved up so I am fortunate. Good luck to all you travelers out there.

Very inspiring post! I love that you make a distinction between being frugal and being cheap. I also thought it was cool to hear the things that you didn’t expect to learn along the way (namely what you’ve learned about yourself). Keep Carpe Deiming, my friend!

NomadicMatt

Thanks!

Waccamacca

Hi. My name is Tim & I have lived in 5 countries, Canada, Australia, New Zealand,Papua New Guinea and The Ukraine. I have been fortunate enough to visit 40 countries. My son by the age of 12 had been to 20 countries and my ukrainian wife has been to about 25. What have I learned? To do a lot of research first. There is still room for being spontaneous but when you travel as a family it requires a bit more preparation. I have been accidently tear-gassed in the West bank, travelled through Gaza when single.[wouldn't go there now with a family] But we did go to Jordan not long after the Iraq war started and everyone thought we were crazy. Yes we had a whole hotel by ourselves and had a wonderful time but I felt sorry for the locals. One young man said “Binladen killed my business!”
We ate with the Bedouin in the Negev and stayed with locals in their homes. We always bring a nice gift for the ones we stay with. I belong to 2 organizations that have been a help to us on our travels. First is one which anybody can join. Its called hospitalityclub.org and its free but takes a month or two to be accepted as its run by volunteers. Our id is iraandtim so check us out. We have stayed for free in Israel, lithuainia or maybe it was Latvia? Also Denmark and New York with a famous author who was born on the exact day and year that I was born. And we have had people stay with us when we were living in Canada in British Columbia. Its all about showing hospitality to others even if all you can do is share a meal or give them a tour of your area. Last time I looked there were over 300,000 members. We found the Polish the most hospitable but don’t count on getting free accomadation in Paris or Rome. You might be lucky if you travel solo.
The other organization I belong to is more difficult to join. I am also a Jehovah’s Witness and we are a worldwide family. We can go to a new area and enjoy other JW’s company and they are a very reliable source of local information and contacts. In Jordan the witnesses insisted on picking us up at the hotel and after the Sunday meeting took us out and we had a barbeque with the local group and some amazing stories of life in the middle east. The JW’s around the world that we have met have been really good to know and we still keep in contact with quite a few from several countries.
There are some dangers to traveling. I have been robbed of all my belongings in The Ukraine yet they are some of the most generous people I have ever met. Many would share their last meal with a stranger. Please enjoy your travels but always exercise caution even with other travelers. Don’t be too naieve. I speak from 40 years as a traveler who has seen more than most. Now please don’t write that I am being condenscending. I am not. Its just that I have lived in the jungles of Papua New Guinea [4 years] to the jungles of New York. [I do love NY as a city for those that live there]
I only offer an experienced opinion. That is all. As a landscaper for 30 years I offer an experienced opinion with those that want help in landscaping. The same with travel.
Oh and what is our favorite country? Slovenia is both mine and my wife’s top pick. The city we liked the best is St. Petersburgh in Russia. It helped that my wife speaks Russian. Any anyone that goes to Budapest please dont forget to see the Labryinthe under the Castle which has the fountain of red wine. My goal is to go to Montenegro & Croatia one day. Enjoy your travels. Ciao Tim

Waccamacca

Sorry Matt I didn’t even say thank you for this great website which I just came across. Such bad manners on my part!! :O) I look forward to exploring it more thoroughly. Warm regards Tim

Wow, 5 years of travelling, thats amazing.
I’ve lived abroad for 9 years of my 23 years of life. So I have a taste for travelling but only have a month or so every summer to visit all the places i want to go to, don’t think I could go full out travelling for a year or so.

It is amazing to look back at the last 5 years of travel and still enjoying every moment of it. Thanks for the inspiration.

really nice information and well written!!! Thanks :)

Lisa Abroad

Great post! I especially like the point about not being cheap. Frugality is something I’ve been learning to let go of. I missed out on so much during my first couple years of travel only because I wanted to save a few extra dollars here and there. Now, instead, I live like a pauper when I’m working my full time job so that I can splurge more during my travels. On my first international trip 4 years ago I never would have spent $120 for a day of snorkelling in Mombasa. Earlier this year I did it without hesitation… and the memories I have are priceless.

These are amazing thoughts. And it’s true that we need to relax while we travel. It helps in appreciating more where we go into rather than trying to keep up with our schedule and stressed out on everything we must do and go to before we go out of the place. I, myself, have been once in that situation but I find it more worth it to simply relax and enjoy.

Julie

Thank you for this post Matt! I find it very inspiring. Especially the point about not worrying about the future.

I am just starting my RTW trip and got more excited about it after reading this.

Thanks again!

Julie

NomadicMatt

Glad you enjoy the site!

Chris

Hi Matt! This is a great post and I can see that you are really dedicated to reading each of these comments! I myself am taking a year off after graduating from college and am currently teaching in China. However, I’m in a bit of a rut at the moment. I’m taking Chinese language classes and it’s feeling like more of a chore now than before (I’ve been here about 3 months and really, the only thing I can dedicate myself to learning more about is math, my major). I’ve been thinking of just dropping the classes since honestly, I can get by just fine with English, broken Chinese, and pointing lol. I haven’t learned much about culture since I’ve been here and my time is limited (family situation is causing me to cut this trip short). I’d like to travel around the area more although the next time I travel I think I’d want to stay much shorter than a few months. I’d ask for advice but I think I know what to do just by writing this post…

Chris

*learn more about in intensive study at least is what I meant to say. Sorry a bit of a perfectionist haha

Jaden

Hi! I’m so glad I found this!
I’m 17 and graduating this year. I have put much consideration into college because I do want to have a career and make good money someday. But I always come back to traveling. I just want to get out and be free. I don’t feel like I’m “running away” from anything. But my parents and family feel as if traveling like a “hippie” is being lazy.
Anyway what I want to ask is can I leave at 17 or 18. I know I’m ready I’ve always been very independent, a little shy, but I can take care of myself. Is it possible to save up enough for a plane ticket somewhere? And make it?
Thank you for the article:)

Charleigh x

I googled things to think about whilst travelling and came across your blog.. Its taken me 45mins to every post but its definatly been worth it!! :)

Me and my boyfriend are travelling next year and im super excited.. I liked that you said plans change along the way so im going to bare that in mind before i start booking plane tickets for dates i have to stick to.

Can i just ask, if you could recommend me and my bf 1place to go (out of everywhere you have been), where would it be.??

Charleigh x

Iulia

I am so happy that I have found your blog as it is really helpful! I am leaving on a round the world trip in 13 days and I am so excited! I am gonna keep an eye on this blog:) really cool stuff.

How was Romania by the way?

NomadicMatt

Romania is a wonderful and beautiful place I highly recommend you go.

Eugen

Hi Matt,

had a fundamental question, how do you sustain your travels, financially? I am currently planning an 18 months trip, with my partner, and i am really considering working anywhere and everywhere as i go along with the flow. Is that possible?

Thanks for any response!

Meiyi

really inspire me a lot… have u all ever experienced the life like you standing on the crossroad of life. don’t want to be the person do the same thing like others things like studying when you are 18… waste our parents money study abroad but learning things couldn’t apply to ur real life… pls give me some suggestions really need help.. wanna go traveling around the world next year when i am 18…

Crezy Traveller

Wow its great fun to roam around the world….I am heading toward world tour soon like you. In case will meet if path crossed…All the best Matt….take care..

Thank you for the reminder that most people are good and life can be fun. I learned that in Japan but just recently have forgotten. Having kids raises the fear for some reason and I am the least fearful of my friends. Anyway, remembering and hearing it again makes me want to travel more. Have fun!

Craig grant

Are you still travelling ;) , is work easy to find in random countries matt :)

Zach Ohrtman

Hey Matt my name is Zach Ohrtman and I wodering if you have any advice for me. Ok my goal is to leave by December 13 and travel to Dublin Ireland on a one way ticket. From there start a trip around the world ending back in Arizona my home state. What would you recomed to start with on a trip like this money, supplies maybe even places to visit.

Hey, Matt! I hope after 2-3 years, I’ll post the same words on my blog. I’ll never change freedom for “real” work. To work in the internet and travel the world – is the best life for me. I’m happy, that there are people like you who chose the same way of life!

Ahmed

This is an inspiring post and congratulations on the milestone :)

Hunter

My and my best friend plan on leaving America and wondering the world once we get out of highs school we feel like this is the best possible thing that we could do.We want to live life on the go not stuck at some dead end job. I was just wondering if you had any good advice for us?maybe some good tips and recommendations.Id love to hear what you have to say about our idea!
Sincerely Hunter Greene
My and my best friend plan on leaving America and wondering the world once we get out of highs school we feel like this is the best possible thing that we could do.We want to live life on the go not stuck at some dead end job. I was just wondering if you had any good advice for us?maybe some good tips and recommendations.Id love to hear what you have to say about our idea!
Sincerely Hunter

Erny

I always go to different countries for holiday every year…but i really hope one day i have a chance like you…to be a true traveller….that is my dream…is it safe for a woman to travel alone and share room with strangers in hostel?

Lee

Wonderful article that makes very good common sense Matt, thanks. I totally agree that 99.9999% of the people we meet abroad are friends to be made and not to be hesitant about. They are also looking for us to share some of our experiences with them. I live in NYC and the statement that rings most true is that to many people never stop take some time from their lives to enjoy more than their existence of going to , then return home, and back to work the next day. Until its too late when one’s health does not permit. I always schedule and budget time and money every year for vacation travel for my family, including impulse weekend getaway trips. I travel every opportunity I get even though my work schedule is demanding. Regards. Lee

D joseph

Very inspiring! Thankyou!

Thanks for inspiring us to continue traveling this beautiful world!

It’s amazing how much you can learn about yourself and about the world while traveling. all those new experiences, new people and new cultures can really make you a better person. and the most beautiful thing is that your curiosity never dies, so you’ll always keep on learning new things, even after many years of traveling.

Wow! Cool. I guest I want to start traveling too after reading this post, seriously. This is really inspired, though.

So very inspiring! I’m definitely looking forward to re-learning some languages again!

This is really wonderful – i wonder if I could ever imagine to get out of the office and other responsibilities and take time out to travel for 5 yrs… not 5 but atleast for 6 months would be fun and so energizing.

NomadicMatt

Do it! Do it! Go! :)

klein3351f

You are not everyone. You are young, don’t have any resposiblities, are beautiful to look at and probably don’t eat that much… You should keep that in mind when espousing your wisdom to the masses… What if you had kids and were married. What if you had a mortgage or rent to worry about. Pets. A Retirement to consider in your future?

I think it’s wonderful that you did this when you were young. Everyone should. But don’t act like just anybody can do this.

NomadicMatt

Everyone can do this. This kind of thinking is simply because you don’t believe you can. Search this site and you will find senior retirees, couples, families, and more profiled on this site countering your very argument. I had all the things you talk about. You are free to not believe the advice on this site and to think that travel is just for the young and carefree but there are plenty of people proving you wrong and only you are missing out!

Teddy Andriese

hey nomadic matt! My friend sara and i have been reading your blog and its inspired both of us! we are youngins in high school but we want to someday do the exact thing your doing! Your the man. thank you

NomadicMatt

Glad you already have the travel bug! Keep dreaming!

Bimesh

Your website is awesome and very informative.
I just loved it.
Thanks for inspiring us.

Nice site! I’m working on a months travel this august. Not sure, but pondering east coast, Canada, Alaska, Iceland, Europe. I’m going get back to reading all your good info.
Ps- my buddy Joseph (Joe) Wimp is a world traveler. He will have a book out later this year or next. Check it out! Good guy like you.