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“Yeah, I’m hip about time. I just gotta go.” Wyatt (Peter Fonda) in Easy Rider, to the hippie commune leader who welcomed the bikers to stay long-term.
The image of Peter Fonda cruising on his motorcycle set to Born to be Wild is what I knew of Easy Rider, which I saw in the cinema last week for its 50th anniversary. The film beyond that soaring scene is an intense look at the social divides in America on freedom and way of life, with characters as familiar today as then. Things do not go well.
I saw myself in Wyatt at that commune, intrigued by the appeal, challenge, and wackiness of adopting a radically new lifestyle, yet seeing it as so far alien to me that I fail to relate.
When I encounter current day digital nomads, née long-term travelers, I often fail to relate. Taking the archive of the long-running Amateur Traveler Podcast, the guests I connect with over the air are the ones with a plan, with a defined purpose, people on the move. The ones who, ‘we showed up here, took a few days to get a feel, then hung around, did some day trips, got the vibe…’ I tune out.
Matt created Nomadic Matt, a top resource for budget travel and popular international destinations. Matt creates guide books, teaches e-courses, holds the TravelCon conference, organizes community events, started the Flyte non-profit scholarship.
Matt’s How to Travel the World on $50 a Day is the best intro to travel book, especially those hesitant to step out into the world. It is one of the handful of travel books I recommend in my Amazon store.
I recall a Nomadic Matt meetup in New York where a high school student was accompanied by her mother. The student had packed her backpack to show Matt how he had inspired her, and that she was rarin’ to go.
Learning from this Nomad
Matt is now out with his memoir, 10 Years a Nomad.
I admire Matt’s achievements, his focus on building useful and profitable businesses, while traveling. While I usually skip over travelogues, this I took up with interest.
I’ve been on two extremes, long-term expat and short-term traveler.
After college, I lived in China for 8 years. That is a lengthy stay by expat standards. A bit longer and without a spousal nudge (kick), I likely never would have left. I was settled so it was hardly nomadic. Sometime in year two or three in a country the crutches you rely on for things working back home fall away and you have to become more a local in your new country.
My travel tendency is to plan ambitious, exhausting trips. The longest trip I have taken, five weeks, ground me down by the third. When I plan a trip intending to be more relaxing, I never stick to it. Yesterday was supposed to be an easy look at a few waterfalls, yet at 9 pm I was still hiking trails in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Since leaving corporate life to work for myself, I have improved a bit at reserving work time in my travel, though nowhere to the level I need to achieve my business and travel goals. This is where I turn to Matt for his insights.
Matt the Nomad
Matt is honest about the fears and difficulties of travel. Not every prospective traveler is as excited as that high school student in New York.
For me it was a high school trip to China that set me on the road to travel. With that trip, and my indomitable teacher, Margaret Wong, I don’t know when or if I would have become an intense traveler.
My favorite chapter from Matt is ‘Going Back Out’ that follows his travel burnout and return home:
People who travel the world aren’t running away from life. Just the opposite. Those who break the mold, explore the world, and live on their own terms are running toward living. We are running toward our idea of life. We get to be the captains of our ships. We looked around at what normal, “well-adjusted” life had to offer and said, “No, thank you. I want something more, something different.”
I’m not sure where I am on my journey. I am retooling and relaunching. The past three years since leaving corporate life is a new start for me that I see a guide and make goals for a decade – and beyond.