I wrote this a couple of weeks ago when I first started reading this book. Fast forward to last week and I was lucky enough to meet Nomadic Matt himself at one of his Nomadic Network Meetups in downtown Manhattan! (The photo above is from the night!)
As I’m beginning to delve into well-known travel blogger Matthew Kepnes’ book, Ten Years a Nomad, I’ve been reflecting on my own journeys.
He begins his memoir talking about how while growing up he vacationed the standard American way. An all-inclusive here, a trip to Disney World there, and it was always for a set amount of time, and his family never went anywhere where too many things could go wrong (so absolutely never travel anywhere where English isn’t widely spoken).
Basically Americans have a vacation culture, not a travel culture.
These standard American trips might be what travelers would call “vacations,” rather than traveling.
You’re not seeing anything new or going outside your comfort zone.
You’re going somewhere to relax and not to necessarily “do” anything.
I’ve never been a fan of traveling like that. I can relax in my apartment in New York City and if I want to relax outdoors during the spring and summer, I can do so on my roof deck (I’m really not an outdoors girl). I just don’t see the point of going somewhere new to just sit on a beach (also: I hate the beach).
But I feel like a vacation of this nature will be coming up in my future at some point this year as my boyfriend is a fan of them. (Can this be his solo travel? Please? Kidding!)
I immediately saw myself and my upbringing in that definition of standard American travel. We went to Disney World, we went to all-inclusive resorts, and occasionally we’d rent a house on the beach with friends. There was once also a trip to Toronto, one to Bermuda, and another one or two trips to Washington D.C. because ‘Murica. Driving up to Maine was part of our yearly itinerary, too, because we have family there.
All things considered, I traveled a fair amount growing up, but after I went to Disney World (and it’s surrounding related parks) when I was 16, I decided never again. I was done waiting in lines for stupid rides and overpriced tourist attractions. I also decided beach resorts weren’t for me. Even being bought a massage on the beach in the Dominican Republic couldn’t convince me it was worth a week of wasting my time at some resort at Punta Cana.
As I’ve previously admitted to, I decided to study abroad during my last summer as a college student because I’d met a Dutch boy the previous summer and I thought we could meet up again if I were on the same continent. (Spoiler: we never did.)
But I really should send him a bottle of something at some point because had he and his friend not bumped into me and my friends the prior summer, I might never have gotten the travel bug and I probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere, because well, I live in New York City. Center of the Universe. So, yeah. Why travel? Boys. That’s why. (We’re connected on the social medias and we actually met up again in 2012! It was only sort of weird.)
Myself and the aforementioned Dutch friend from our reunion in 2012.
Back to the topic at hand: Matthew Kepnes’ book moves onto talking about the first time he traveled by himself and he was scared shitless (I hear you). If you follow me on Instagram, you’d have seen me posting pages from this chapter with the words, “ME TOO!” written on them.
However, after that, he decided to travel nonstop. To become a nomad.
This is something I don’t think I could do.
Even before I purchased my apartment and adopted my cats. Even if I didn’t have a partner.
I just couldn’t.
I like routines.
I don’t feel like I could get into a routine while traveling non-stop. But traveling week after week isn’t what he really does, I don’t think. What he does would be considered more like “slow travel.”
A vlogger named Nathaniel Drew recently made a video about slow travel. He defines slow travel as staying in one place for at least 6 months at a time. He says it helps you really immerse yourself in the local culture and it’s also cheaper, as getting around in Europe from city to city is much cheaper than if you’re constantly flying (or taking the train) from another continent.
These points are both totally valid. I’m sure if I’d stayed for 6 months in Oslo, I’d learned a lot more about the culture and I would’ve been able to travel to many small cities in Europe for, say, 30 Euro.
Now here’s where I’m about to contradict myself entirely. If I stayed in one place for 6 months, I’d definitely develop a routine. It wouldn’t be like the one I have in New York City, aside from my morning routine (meditate, matcha, affirmations, journaling) but each morning would still begin to resemble the last because there would only be so many sights to see and eventually I’d just start living a normal life like any other local. I’d probably learn the language a bit too.
I definitely had a routine after a week or two when I studied in London. I’d get up, shower and dress, pack up my bag, and make my way to the Montparnasse Cafe on Thackeray Street, three blocks from my dorm, to buy a cappuccino and sometimes a croissant if I was feeling fancy (and I hadn’t spent too much money that week since at the time the exchange rate was $2 = 1 pound).
After that, I’d drink my cappuccino on my walk back in the opposite direction to Richmond University where my classes were held. I’d often go to the, at the time, BRAND NEW Whole Foods on Kensington High Street for lunch in the afternoon. I assume there was a cafeteria somewhere too, but I honestly can’t remember. I do remember that I most certainly didn’t cook a thing that summer (probably because I didn’t have a kitchen).
For some reason, I thought it was a good idea to take a picture of the Whole Foods sign in Kensington, which had just opened that summer in 2007.
The other problem I think I’d have with slow travel (if a mortgage and furmonster care weren’t a concern) is that I get bored easily. I remember being really glad I only had to spend roughly 6 hours in Tallinn, Estonia in 2015 and I was pretty tired by the time I had spent three nights in Vienna.
Would I be as tired if I slowed down my sight-seeing a bit more because I was staying in one place for longer than a few days? Maybe. But I like to travel fast and see as much as possible so I can get back to my furmonsters and my regular routine.
But that’s just me.
I think I knew when I made the decision to go to Portugal this year that I should try slowing down.
Porto and Lisbon look beautiful and during my preliminary Google searches, it doesn’t look like there’s a whole lot to do. I plan on seeing a few cathedrals, eating a lot of vegan food, spending lots of time in cafes, and strolling the streets of each city. I’m going to go on hostel-organized outings and force myself to be social and make new travel friends. I won’t let my fear of not being able to remember names get in my way.
My time here on this planet, or in this lifetime, is limited, as is my vacation time, so I want to see as much as I can. Maybe when I become independently wealthy I can take two months off, find a friend who wants to live in my apartment and take care of my cats, so I can go see large swaths of Europe and Africa that I’ve yet to see. Until the independent wealth knocks on my door, I don’t see it being a possibility.
So while I was enjoying reading about Kempnes’ life as a nomadic traveler, I just have to admit that it’s not for me. I like the comforts of my home, and my cats and boyfriend, and my friends, and my steady paycheck.
Until a stranger PayPal’s me $10,000, I’ll have to stick to 2 week vacations.
Which isn’t so bad. It’s a lot more than most people can take so I need to remember that I’m pretty lucky. And so is anyone else who travels a lot, too. Even if you can’t, or don’t want to be a nomad.
Everyone is different. While Matt is an awesome and inspiring person, just because nomadic life is how he liked to travel for a decade, that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. We all have to choose what’s best for us and whatever that ‘what’ is is just freaking awesome.
So, go, travel, explore. Find out what your best type of travel is for yourself.