Nomadic Matt

A Day in the Life: A Backpacker

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If you’re at all plugged into the travel community, I’d say there’s a 100 percent chance you are familiar with today’s guest poster, Matt Kepnes, better known as Nomadic Matt. Before going all “digital nomad” became the thing to do, the Boston native already was traveling the world on his savings, moving from place to place without an actual home and chronicling his adventures (fact: Matt and I started our sites within a couple months of one another in 2007, and he was probably the first travel blogger I virtually met). And he continued this lifestyle until recently when he signed a lease (oh, the horrors!) in New York City. Though don’t believe the guy for a second, he’s hardly stationary. Currently, he’s on the road plugging his new book: How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter (which just came out this month from Penguin). Read on to find what it’s really like to be a backpacker for a living…

Nomadic Matt's book on budget travel


What’s life like as a backpacker? Well, it’s pretty easy. There isn’t much to do. A backpacker’s day is spent sleeping late, traveling, visiting different attractions, eating, partying and working on “foreign affairs.”

It’s a carefree lifestyle where every day is Saturday, and the only responsibility you really have is making sure you have accommodation. But for this backpacker, life is a lot more complicated and has been for many years. Two years into my six-and-a-half-year journey, I created a blog and though it was just a hobby at first, it blossomed into a career and like any career it takes up a lot of my time. So while life for some travelers is pretty loose, for a backpacking blogger, it’s a bit more complex:

8am: Wake up. I hate waking up early but with so much to do, time management and productivity becomes really important so it means early wake up calls most days of the week. If I go to bed really late, I’ll sleep in until 9am.

9am: Breakfast and e-mails. After eating a hearty breakfast and some fruit, I sit down at my computer and try to clean out as much of my inbox as I can. I’ll also use this time to Tweet, Facebook and read the news.

11am: Head out to sight-see. Compared to most people, I get a late start but work needs to be done so around 11, I head out to explore the city I came to visit. I hate really long days trying to cram everything in anyways. I stay in places as long as I need so I have plenty of time.

Paris, France

5:00pm: Come back to do work. After 6 hours of some good sightseeing, I head back to where I’m staying and log a few more hours in front of the computer

7:30pm: Shower and eat. After some faint-hearted attempts to do work, I’ll take a refreshing shower and then head out with friends from the hostel for dinner. I like being social and since I’m anti-social while doing work, I try to go out with people for dinner. Plus, it’s better than eating alone.

Portland, Oregon

9:30 pm: Party time. I like beer and after dinner, I like drinking beer. Since everyone in the hostel wants to go out and get to know each other, I too go out and party. Not as much as I used to, but I’m still willing to go out for a bit.

Between midnight and 2am: Go to bed, wishing I could sleep late.


Now there are a couple of caveats to my day. For the most part, this is how I spend my days. I work hard to balance work and travel–after all, work lets me travel and I can’t have anything to write about if I don’t travel. However, if I’ve been slacking on doing work, need to do a lot of writing, or have some big projects in the works, I’ll end up spending one or two days as a recluse, shut myself inside my room and do as much work as possible.

On the other hand, if I’ve been spending a few days working and catching up, I become the typical backpacker again–I sleep late, I leave early to sight-see, I socialize more, and I just enjoy not doing anything.

Life of a Backpacker

The day of a backpacker is pretty easy. The day of a blogging backpacker is a bit more complex and requires juggling a few more balls in the air but overall, it’s not a bad job to have. I can think of a lot worse things to be doing.


Follow Matt on his blog, Twitter or Facebook. Or meet him in the flesh on his current book tour for How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.

  • February 27, 2013
    Briel K.

    I actually don’t read many travel blogs besides yours and so it is nice to be introduced to a new-to-me blog. Interesting guest post and I’ve been perusing his blog all morning now!

  • February 28, 2013

    Matt certainly has it down and teaches many of us newbies a lot. Most people who don’t blog and travel have no idea how much work is involved.

    BTW, 8am is not early. But I guess if you stay up until 2am it is.

    • February 28, 2013

      Haha, funny, if I sleep until 8am, I feel guilty! I’m not a morning person either, though, as I like to work until 1am or so, but I try to be up by 7:30 if I can…

  • March 1, 2013

    The life of a backpacker must be really cool. Travelling has been one of my dreams since I was a kid.

  • March 1, 2013

    Quite a tough life it is of a travel blogger!! I can completely relate!

  • March 2, 2013

    In all seriousness, Matt’s way of travel and working sounds like the best way to do it. I’ve noticed that while on the road, if I spend too much time just being a slouch, and not getting anything productive done, I feel like something is off. Part of it is my American roots, but I think a more important aspect of it is an internal desire to continue expanding and growing as a person.

    Thanks for the insight, Matt.

  • March 2, 2013

    What laptop do you use for your travels? I just “moved” to Hawaii and would like to keep my blog going, and I’m using an asus tablet with an android operating system. It’s great for browsing the web, but for actually uploading photos and putting them on the blog it’s not the best. 🙂

    It certainly sounds like you do a lot of work! But at least you’re having fun along the way 🙂

  • March 3, 2013

    Life as a backpacker indeed is full of interesting possibilities and Matt seem to be one of those lucky few who have made the hobby their livelihood. But I haven’t lived a single day as a back packer, since I am too laid back and like to laze around in hotels and resorts rather than frequently moving out to see new places and seek new experiences.

  • March 11, 2013

    Its funny to think there’s a serious side to backpacking..but the life of a travelling blogger can really be demanding if you don’t allocate your time wisely. Loved the pics in your post BTW Matt..thanks for sharing!

  • March 13, 2013

    A great post on every true traveler’s dream — figuring out how to turn your globe-trotting into a career. Nice job, Matt!

  • March 9, 2016

    Great post! This is how a backpacker life is, a very inspiring article for those who love to travel and you inspire a lot of people. Thank you for posting this article. 🙂

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