There are some travel memoirs that focus primarily on glamorous trips, daring adventures and unforgettable characters. The kind that thrills with endless stories with a clear climax, serving more or less as the book version of a blockbuster pop-corn movie.
Ten Years a Nomad (Amazon) is not that kind of book.
Instead, author Matt Kepnes aka “Nomadic Matt” has written a thoughtful travel memoir which explores the internal and emotional evolution he experienced as he embarked on a grand adventure around the world which lasted nearly a decade. It is deeply introspective and done in a slower yet gratifying way.
Matt takes us on a personal transformation as he goes through all the stages of becoming a savvy world-traveller; first from a nervous, rookie traveller taking his first “vacation” to Costa Rica, to a naïve backpacker who gets scammed in Thailand, we get to see him slowly become a travel vet who graduates into an expat who lived abroad before coming home.
Photo Credit: NomadicMatt.com/about-matt/
What’s more interesting is that we also get to know his back story a little bit more; of why a young man freshly graduated college with an MBA is compelled to “throw it all away” and forsake a promising career in health care to pursue the unstable path of a long-term nomad.
Of course, anybody who has travelled extensively knows that the wanderlust can never fully be cured and soon Matt makes the difficult choice of leaving America behind for the second time on yet another long stint abroad. He was able to accurate capture that sense of dissatisfaction of a “normal life” at home and craving to once again explore parts unknown.
From the beaches of Panama to the glaciers of Patagonia, the exotic locales serve as backdrops in Matt’s quest to experience life on the road to the fullest while juggling his growing list of work responsibilities as a travel blogger and writer. As someone who has worked online while being constantly on the go, I found this tension between responsibility and "being in the moment" to be a very relatable problem.
Combined with a delightful use of similes, metaphors and some philosophical musings, we’re able to get inside the writer’s head and see how that internal conflict and thought process played out as he lives out the decision to hit the road again.
This book isn’t all sun shine and rainbows. Although, Matt is quick to highlight the pros of travel for personal development (more resourcefulness, becoming more self-reliant, gaining confidence, etc), he is also brutally honest about the downsides to long-term travel.
How do you deal with loneliness as a solo traveller?
How does one deal with travel burnout? (Yes, it’s a thing)
What happens when a romance formed in the adventure bubble of the road inevitably pops and life takes two people down different paths?
What do you do when you come home and experience a deep post-travel depression?
When does constant travel reach a point of diminishing returns?
The author explores all of these in great detail and candidly reveals his struggles with all of them during different phases of his travel career. By sprinkling in different anecdotes from his own life with real friendships and love interests, the story comes to life and is kept grounded.
I found this to be a great read because all of these issues were relatable, and I’ve experienced them myself. Matt's smooth writing style made the book it easy yet compelling to read - I was able to finish it in under four sittings.
I can tell that Matt has walked the walk as a globe trotter because he writes with a depth and clarity that can only be gleaned from first-hand experience. It is a kind of wisdom that comes from a life of extended travel that cannot be gained by a quick one-week trip to Cancun.
In the end, Matt has to come to terms with the tension of conflicting desires – the yearning for novel adventures and freedom made possible with life on the road; versus the need for stability and deeper commitment made only possible by settling down in one place.
It’s a reality that every traveller must face as he or she gets older and matures in life.
Ten Years a Nomad is a brutally honest travel memoir of a person who has come full circle; one who has travelled every road, seen more cities than he can count, met every possible type of people under the sun and has come home to share his wisdom.
Great literature is thought provoking and explores universal themes in a way that connects with its readers. It allows you to take away nuggets of insight and make you question your own life choices a little. To me, Nomadic Matt’s new book has successfully achieved this.
For that, it should be on every intrepid traveller and aspiring nomad’s reading list.
Get your copy on Amazon.com here.
Until next time,
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