Getting Back to What Matters Most

Nomadic Matt in Bali walking through rice patties pensivelyI had an awful realization a few weeks ago. The last time I went abroad and crossed an ocean in the process was when I went to Africa in December. That is so long ago (at least for me).

And this realization might have led to that nightmare I had last week in which I was trying to get this really sweet Air Canada deal to Europe, but no matter what I did, I never could get a confirmation. In the end, I missed the sale.

Some people have nightmares about snakes, death, or storms. I have nightmares about missing cheap airline tickets. I guess I’ll always be a nomad no matter how much I try to settle down.

Over the last couple of months, my life has been consumed by the release of my book and subsequent two-month tour. That tour ended last week.

Right now, I’m glad to be home in NYC. I missed my nice bed and being able to cook. Moving through so many cities so quickly burns you out. This is why I like slow travel; it’s much more relaxing.

But at the same time, the dream and remembering when I last went traveling both made me realize that I really miss being on the road. I miss traveling simply for the sake of traveling. I miss traveling without having to worry about showing up for this meeting or that meeting.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m not giving up on settling down. Settling down was a long time coming. I’m still adjusting to this new way of life, but I need to find balance between the two desires in my life. I need to find a way to be on the road and yet still enjoy having a home (and justify paying rent!).

So what do you do when you have two things pulling you in different directions?

You do them both.

NYC skyline and Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn

Going forward, my plan is to be in NYC half the time, and somewhere else the other half. Sometimes it won’t be so even, but this way I can escape and still satisfy my travel bug. Of course, two weeks is probably not enough for me. Spending as long as I want in a city is a habit that probably won’t die, so I suspect there will be times when I’m gone from NYC for longer than just two weeks. But trying to balance my two desires makes me feel like I’m not fully turning my back on either.

In fact, I went on a booking binge last week and booked a ton of trips while I was in Seattle.

Next month, I’ll be taking a whirlwind train trip through Europe for two weeks, starting in Lisbon on May 2nd and ending in Berlin on May 16th. I’ll be working with Rail Europe to see if rail passes still work out to be cheaper than individual tickets. In 2009 and 2011, I used their passes and took it through the ringer to see if the passes save you money. Two years later and armed with a notebook and a calculator, I intend to find out if the math works out. I’ll be taking overnight trains, high-speed trains, slow trains, and everything in between.

After that, it’s off to Vegas for a weekend!

The famous Eluthera Harbor in the Bahamas

Then throughout the summer, I’ll be visiting the Caribbean to explore the islands, get a great tan, try to figure out how to sail between the islands (if anyone has done this, please let me know), and prove that even these islands can be cheap to visit! The Caribbean is a region of the world I haven’t seen much of, and I’m excited to finally explore it.

In September, I’ll be leading a 10-person reader tour through Europe for two weeks. (If you want to be informed of when you can register for my trip, join this mailing list. Everyone on the list gets first access to the tour.)

After that, I’m going to Ireland for two weeks. I’ve never been around the Emerald Isle, so this is another highly anticipated trip.

After that, I don’t know. I’m saving South America for next year when I take a four- to five-month trip through the continent that coincides with the World Cup. Winter will see me head somewhere warm, but where I don’t yet know. While you’re busy planning, life happens, so I’m just going to see where the rest of the year takes me before I plan it away.

But as I sit and write this from my apartment in New York, I can tell you I‘m excited about getting back to basics and what is most important to me: copious amount of travel.

In just a few weeks, I’ll be slinging my backpack over my shoulder once more, crossing an ocean, staying up late in hostels, and exploring parts unknown.

  1. Sounds like a great plan! I’m struggling with the same thing you are, settling down after traveling for a long time. I’m looking forward to seeing how it works out for you.

  2. Ah, I want your life!

    But seriously, I want to get to a place where my life looks more like this… a home-base but tons of travel! That’s AWESOME. You have some place exciting and familiar to call home, but you also still get to go out and see the WORLD! *I want! I want!*

  3. Where are you planning on heading to in South America (besides Brazil)?

    I have similar plans in place – escape the cold winter of Michigan soon after the holiday season, and venture down to Central/South America to learn Spanish and enjoy the warm weather. Then, Brazil for the World Cup!

  4. Best of luck on your dual lifestyle- I think many of us can relate! I was pleased to hear you will be visiting Ireland for 2 weeks; I’m sure you’re well able to find fab things to do & places to stay, but if you’d like any tips from a local, especially on the Kilkenny area do give me a shout :-)

  5. I should have kept note of every train ticket i paid for in the last month to do my own comparison. Time to delve into the memory bank I think.

  6. I wish I has some balance even what you have, I haven’t worked in almost 4 years and I think my age is my problem, So I spend a lot of time on the internet looking for jobs as well as reading about all the places other people have gone and wonder if I will ever be able to go on any vacations back to Italy or Greece which were just so great. Til then I do a little writing on the site and for myself hoping to make a little money to get me by. I always enjoy reading your articles and like your insight on to many things.

  7. I’m willing to go out on a limb and speculate that many of your readers are having the entirely opposite problem: trying to move from being settled down to being on the road more. In any case Matt, I can really relate with your desire to have a home base (and NYC is an exciting one at that). I love travelling, but there are few greater pleasures than coming home to your own bed, seeing your family or sharing a drink with an old friend. All the travelling and meeting new people around the world can never, in my opinion, completely replace the close bonds to your roots. Even the finest of vagabonds eventually become road weary!

  8. That European trip sounds interesting; I’m looking forward to seeing what you discover about point-to-point tickets vs. Eurail pass.

  9. We gave up on balance when we quit our jobs and moved into an RV to travel full-time, all the time, and obsessively :) I’ve seen and done more in this last year than I have in my first 29 years of life. The people I’ve met as a nomad have convinced me that balance is overrated. Figure out what you love and do THAT as much as possible, until you die. Maybe not for everyone, but definitely, definitely for me!

  10. It’s not really about balance… it’s about doing what you want to do most. It’s letting go of the perception of how you should live your life and just embrace living it how you want.

    Some of us get this taste of travel and freedom so then decide that we must always be travelling. Like you say there are times when even the biggest nomads miss a bed. But then they punish themselves thinking they need to make the most of life and continue travelling.

    The key is to do what you want. Let yourself travel when you want and live “at home” when you want. Let go of the “shoulds” and do what works for you.

    • NomadicMatt

      I agree to an extent but I believe it’s important to have balance in all things. I truly believe that you can have too much of a good thing and when you do, it no longer becomes special.

  11. Great and very interesting post; it seems once a traveller, always a traveller. I have craved stability and a ‘base’ after lengthy backpacking trips but it doesn’t take long for the novelty to wear off with me and so I totally understand your need to have the best of both worlds. Enjoy your up and coming travels!

  12. So exciting! I know what you mean about the travel bug. Staying in one place always seems like a good idea when you’re burnt out from backpacking, but that same routine soon grows old!
    We’ve been in one spot in China now for almost one year…but (finally) in 3 months we’re off to Mongolia, the Stans and Europe..a highly anticipated trip!

    Enjoy all of your future plans, they sound awesome.

    Cheers from China.

  13. Marilynn

    When you look six months to six months life has balance. I have been living that a long time. Having been widowed in June life has taken many a turn. I live in the baja half my year and in Washington state the other half. I am on this site because i am leaving for a 2 month trek though Europe. As i have been healing and evolving as a suddenly single all the options open to me and the opportunities are enormous. I have gone from thinking I would sell a property in Mexico to considering selling my property in the states, just to be freer. My daughter’s dream is to be a missionary, she has 2 small boys and is a widow. I say GO if you do not follow your dreams you live, a living death (have we not all seen them?).

  14. 50% traveling and 50% in NYC sounds like a great combo! I’m in NYC until the end of summer, I’d love to take you to some of my favorite bars and chat with you sometime! Let me know if you’re interested once you’ve settled in. Cheers! :)

  15. Zack

    When your off to Ireland you need to make sure to spend plenty of time on the Dingle Peninsula! Its one of the most beautiful drives around the island, and any pubs found along the way are the real deal!

  16. Do I ever understand the push/pull between travel and staying in one place! Don’t get me started. 😉 I’m glad you’re setting out a design that suits your varying desires…there are no rules!

    As for the Caribbean, you asked for tips/experience, and I have both!
    Here’s how to get gigs on boats:

    And a voyeuristic glimpse into my own 3 months of sailing the Caribbean.

  17. Doug Labout

    Sailing the Caribbean should be fairly easy on the cheap.
    Go to the sailing forums on and post up where you would like to sail from and to and find someone who is going that way and needs crew.

  18. Kat Pedersen

    I can empathise with this post and your post about staying put in New York for a while. I moved to SF 6 months ago because I didn’t want to travel alone any more (shame I missed you while you were here!) and now I’ve just realised its been almost 3 months since I’ve travelled and I’m super restless! Time to find a flight I guess. P.S. Let me know if you have any questions about Ireland. I lived there for a bit.

  19. Steph Cooke

    This is the situation I am working towards… having a base, but being location independent and traveling around half of the year. I have always wanted to see Ireland too- and as I am based in the UK haven’t really got an excuse as to why I have not been yet! Enjoy your travels.

  20. I know it’s a ways away still, but I’m looking forward to reading all of your stories from South America. THere’s nothing like reliving a journey through someone else’s stories! You have a lot of wonderful things coming up this year, Matt. Enjoy them all! :)

  21. Jessie

    I see that you are thinking about spending 4-5 months in South America this year. I’m thinking about doing the continent starting this summer.. Starting in Central America and making my way down to the South (Patagonia) by the time it is their summer. This will be my first true “solo” trip. Maybe paths will cross!

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