Five-hundred-thousand miles. One-thousand hostels. Ninety countries.
Matthew Kepnes’s parents were taken aback when told their son was going to travel around the world for a year. It didn’t match their vision for him: 9-to-5 job, a climb up the corporate ladder, eating with the same friends at the same places. But it was a year – he’d be back.
As it turned out, though, not for 10 years!
Ten Years a Nomad (St. Martin’s Press) captures the passion of Kepnes’s journey, a memoir and philosophical reflection on his travel experience, full of anecdotes and observations, carried out on his own terms.
Kepnes started small. He wasn’t sure if he even could travel abroad safely and cheaply. In 2003, Kepnes he got his travel orientation with a guided tour of Costa Rica. He panicked as soon as the plane landed and when he got lost hiking. He thought any path not approved by his tour group would mean certain death.
After those first few days, however, he realized he was resisting what he really wanted: a break from worrying. From then on, “no opportunity was wasted… Every day was so different I sometimes wondered if I hadn’t lived three lifetimes by the time I fell asleep in bed.”
He couldn’t get enough. Still too concerned to leave his desk job, he saved up and booked another trip to Thailand with his friend.
Kepnes realized his friend wasn’t as interested in seeking out the spaces only locals would know, so he ventured alone to Lipe Noi beach where there were no restaurants, stores, or tourists. To really see the world, he needed to stop relying on pre-packaged, “safe” and middle-class-approved destinations. He needed to be okay with navigating an unknown city alone.
“Few things push a person so completely and unceremoniously out of their comfort zone like solo travel,” he writes. He went from being shy and uncertain to staying in hostels with complete strangers. To save money, he avoided buying souvenirs, penny-pinched by eating local food instead of at fancy restaurants and continually sought out the places most Westerners didn’t go.
Kepnes defines a nomad as “someone who could move from place to place without urgency, without plans.” Throughout the memoir, Kepnes’s main struggle is staying carefree while also supporting himself along the road. At one point, he taught English in Bangkok until it became like his second home. In 2006, when he launched the award-winning travel site NomadicMatt.com, he seemed to finally reach a compromise. He could fund his travels and go anywhere he wanted as long as he had access to the internet. This led him to publish guidebooks for everywhere from Iceland to the U.S. Virgin Islands based on his experiences.
On his blog, he recorded his daily life. He met travelers from around the globe, took some of them on dates and took part in a giant food fight in Spain. And he found he could do it all cheaply, which in turn allowed him to travel longer. His bestseller How to Travel the World on $50 a Day is proof.
Ten Years A Nomad is an inspiring memoir from an unconventional person. His book engrosses you in the nomad mindset: that you are never stuck in one identity, that you can always change and the world has so much more to offer you than you know.
Ten Years a Nomad is now available.
About Matthew Kepnes:
Matthew Kepnes is the New York Times bestselling author of How to Travel the World on $50 a Day, and runs the award-winning budget travel site Nomadic Matt. His writings and advice have been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, Time, and in countless other publications. He is also a regular speaker at travel trade and consumer shows. When he’s not on the road, he’s usually found in Austin, Texas.