Travel blogger Matt Kepnes, better known as Nomadic Matt, started blogging back in 2006 when he quit his full-time job and decided to travel the world.
Matt is the go-to person for tips on travelling on a budget, smarter travelling and how to travel for longer. In addition to his blog, he has written successful books such as How to Travel the World on $50 a Day and Ten Years a Nomad.
If you’re wondering if travel blogging is dead in the era of social media, I have asked Matt a few questions about travel blogging, how to balance blogging and travel as well as tips for travelling longer.
This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and purchase something, I receive a small commission of the price at no extra cost to you. This helps me to keep the content up to date and make other improvements in the blog.
Is travel blogging dead? – Interview with Nomadic Matt
Let’s start from the very beginning, why did you start a travel blog?
I started my blog as a way to share (and improve) my travel writing, so I could get a job working for Lonely Planet. The website was originally intended to be an online resume. However, as it began to grow and I started writing more and getting more readers, I realized I could make a living as a blogger instead.
Eventually, after a few years of that, I quit my other job teaching English in Thailand and focused on blogging full-time. It wasn’t easy by any means, but it’s been incredibly rewarding.
What’s the top advice you would give to a new blogger?
I’d tell them to treat their blog like a business from day one. If you want to create a valuable travel website that has the potential to make money, you need to treat it like a business.
That means planning, research, and most importantly, consistent work. You have to spend time working on your site even when you’re not in the mood — because it’s a job.
The best bloggers got ahead because they did this. You need that mindset to get ahead. While there are tons of hard skills that can help you get ahead — photography, writing, editing, graphic design, etc. — the most important qualities are soft skills, such as patience and consistency.
Success doesn’t happen overnight — it comes after years of consistent effort. Blogging is all about slow and steady effort. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Is there a specific strategy that helped you grow your blog?
Network outside of your industry. Don’t speak to just people in your industry. Find industries that are related and become the travel person for them (or the finance person. Whatever!). I go to a lot of finance blogger events. Why? People who like to save money like to save money on travel so I go talk to them on that subject and I become their go to person for advice. That expands my reach to an entirely new audience.
The most successful people in any blogging niche are the ones with the most diverse network. They know people in all sorts of industries, niches, and mediums. The bigger your network, the more opportunities come your way.
With so many travel blogs out there, do you think travel blogging is saturated? How can you differentiate from others?
Think of travel blogging like the restaurant business. Just because there are a lot of restaurants doesn’t mean that they are all good or that you shouldn’t open one of your own! Instead, people who open a restaurant or desire to be a world-class chef look around and say, “I can do this better.”
You want to think that way. Yeah, there’s a lot of travel content creators but there’s always a new medium. There’s always another TikTok or Instagram out there. And even if you think there’s too many people, think of all the creators you DON’T know. How many exist that you have no idea about?
The web is so vast that you can create a big little empire and still be outside the bubble. I always stumble across profiles with hundreds of thousands of people and I’m like “who is this?” There’s always room for great content online.
In the era of video and social media, is travel blogging dead?
People still use Google. People still want to read words. People still bookmark articles. The mediums change but people still read. Social media is great for brand awareness but people still use blogs and I think always will so no, I don’t think blogging is dead.
How do you balance travel and travel blogging?
It’s all about scheduling. You can’t balance work and play if you’re trying to do both. You have to plan your days so you know that you always have the time to do both things: work and travel. That means staying in destinations longer, having days where you only work, and maybe waking up early to get it all done.
Everyone finds their own rhythm but when you’re working and traveling, you definitely need to move slower and create a schedule that you stick too. You don’t want to be enjoying Paris only to remember you have a 3 pm meeting and have to run back to your hotel.
Long term travel may sound scary to some people, what’s your biggest advice to overcome this fear?
I think it’s important to remember that you aren’t the first person to travel abroad. One of the things that comforted me when I began traveling was knowing that lots of other people traveled the world before me and ended up just fine.
If some 18-year-old from England on a gap year came home in one piece, there was no reason I wouldn’t too. You aren’t the first person to leave home and explore the jungles of Asia. You’re not going into space for the first time. There is a well-worn tourist trail out there. There are people to help you. There are people to travel with. You aren’t going to be alone. Knowing that can be quite comforting.
You are a resource for travel planning. How do you go about planning for long term travel or moving abroad?
I’m pretty old school. I buy print guidebooks for most of my research. That gives me a base for what to expect when I get to a country. I also read blogs but I’ve found that when you travel long term, your plans change so often that doing detailed planning in advance doesn’t really work. You end up throwing out your plans and going where the road takes you. You don’t want to go in blind but there’s no reason to over plan before a trip.
What are the main advantages of long-term travel?
The deep, fundamental change travel can bring only comes when you push yourself outside your comfort zone, which comes from long and deep exposure to other people and their cultures. And that happens when you are on the road for months at a time.
You are forced to deal with tons of challenges and unknowns that long term travel makes you self-reliant, more confident, more flexible, more outgoing, and all-around a better, more rounded human being. It’s not a panacea but it does foster a lot of self-development.
What did you find challenging?
You get tired. Really tired. Of traveling. Of everything. After a while, everything becomes just another “one of.” That 100th church, 100th waterfall, 40th hostel, 800th bus ride, 600th bar… it’s not the same after a while. It loses its charm and luster. Travel becomes unexciting. Ask any traveler — at some point, they hit that point where they are sick of traveling. They just need a few days or weeks to recharge their batteries.
Tell us about a meaningful travel memory.
One of my favorite travel memories occurred way back in 2006 when I was a few months into my first long-term trip around the world. I got an email from another traveler I was supposed to meet that she was stuck on an island called Ko Lipe. She loved it too much to move so she wasn’t going to be able to meet me as planned but that I should come meet her.
I ended up staying for a month. It was paradise. There were few people on the island, electricity for only a few hours a day, deserted beaches, and great snorkeling right off the island. Plus, it was super cheap so you could afford to live there well on little. It still remains the best month of my life.
What destination could you return to again and again – and why?
I would definitely go visit Thailand. That’s just my favorite country. I have a lot of memories there, I love the weather, the beaches, the people, the food, and it’s just my little happy place.
It was the first place I ever backpacked and I lived there for years. I know the country very well. I’ve gone back every year since I first visited in 2004. Well, except recently because of COVID. I’m itching to return once COVID is over and things get back to normal.
Don’t forget to check Matt’s books
P.S. Have you decided to start a new blog? Have a look at this guide to help you choose a travel blog name.