Traveling with a backpack and $50 a day

Everyone wants to travel more, but in today's economy lots of would-be wayfarers have put their globe-trotting dreams on hold. No need, says Matt Kepnes, travel blogging celebrity and author of "How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter" (Perigee, $15 paper).

Better known to the backpacking world as Nomadic Matt (, Kepnes compiled tips and tricks from his decade of blogging and backpacking around the world, starting with ways to save money before you even book your flight. In a recent phone interview, Kepnes discussed the birth of his blog, why Bangkok is a great place for dental work and his own next destinations.


What questions do people ask you most when they find out what you do for a living?

How to find a cheap flight, and is it easy to find a job in Paris! I talk about both in the book.


How is the book different from your blog?

The book is a lot more in-depth. On the blog, I might be able to write a 1,000-word article on backpacking, but I can devote a whole chapter on it in the book. I have more tips and tricks, personal stories, budget ideas and lists of recommended travel companies, vaccine information and even what to pack.


In your title, you promise to show people how to travel the world for $50 a day. How did you come up with that number?

It's all based on my own experience. I record all my spending, and I also get a sense of how much other people are spending while I travel. Can you do some countries for less? Sure. There are also certainly more expensive regions, but this is an average.

Where would that $50 really stretch right now?

People are heading to Eastern Europe -- specifically Bulgaria and Romania -- and the Philippines is getting more popular. Also, Turkey -- not just Istanbul, but off the beaten path.


This kind of travel seems like it could be limited to a young backpacker culture, yet you have tips for families and a section titled "You Are Never Too Old." Is it really possible to travel like this later in life or with children?

Why not? I've met travelers in their 80s. You're only too old if you think you're too old! And I met some good friends in Thailand traveling with their two kids. Lots of traveling is an education in itself.


In your book, you offer suggestions to save money while traveling, like making a meal of empanadas in Costa Rica at 50 cents a pop. But you also have tips for lowering expenses before you even leave, which most people don't think about.

People always say, "I don't have enough money to travel." But if you make tiny cuts each day before you leave for your trip, you'll have a lot more money for travel without lowering the quality of your life. I offer easy tips, like skipping the daily coffee, that will add up quickly.


Is there anywhere you haven't been that you want to go?

If I haven't been there, I want to go, but right now I'd say Bhutan and Nepal, in particular. And I want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.


Did you really get dental work done in Bangkok?

Yes. Twenty bucks. There are lots of expats there. Bangkok has world-class international hospitals and lots of medical tourism. People are always surprised by the quality of the medical care.


You've basically turned going on vacation into your job. So what do you do now for vacation?

Sit home and watch TV and eat Chinese food.

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