Today, we’re sharing this guest post contribution from Matt Kepnes, the man behind the popular travel website Nomadic Matt. We used to contribute family travel articles for his website a few years ago – read our post about the common excuses people use to avoid family travel.
When we started this travel blog 11 years ago, Matt was early in his nomadic adventures. Now, over 10 years later, he has released a new book, Ten Years a Nomad, that reflects on his adventures around the world and his quest for home. We’ve been friends online for almost a decade now, and, finally, had the chance to connect in the ‘real world’ during our trip to Boston a few weeks ago to speak at TravelCon.
10 Favorite Countries from 10 Years Being a Nomad
“What’s your favorite country?”
When people find out I’m a travel writer and have spent more than a decade on the road, it’s usually the first question they ask.
After spending ten years as a nomad, I’ve been to a lot of them. But picking your favorite country is like picking your favorite child. You just can’t do it. You love them all for different reasons, because all of them are unique in their own way.
I usually default to Thailand, as it’s where I have the most memories from — and provides an easy answer — but it’s not my only favorite favorite.
Actually, I have a lot of favorites.
In celebration of my new book, Ten Years a Nomad, here are ten countries that have left an impact on me over the years.
Thailand will always hold a special place in my heart, as it’s where I decided to quit my job to travel the world and spent years living and working — not to mention that I’ve visited it a lot over the years.
I love the delicious food, welcoming people, warm weather, picturesque beaches, great diving, wild nightlife, and ease of living. Plus, it’s super affordable!
It lives up to all the hype and really does have something for everyone, no matter your interests. I only wish it wasn’t so far away so I could spend even more time there.
Get your guide to Thailand here.
I wanted to visit Australia every since I read Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country. Since then, I’ve been five times, crisscrossing the country from coast to coast. It’s a land that never ceases to amaze me.
While the landscapes are scenic, the laid-back, helpful, and welcoming attitude of the locals is really what makes Australia one of my favorite destinations.
And the stunning beaches and amazing diving don’t hurt, either!
This is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. There’s a reason why they filmed Lord of the Rings here: it’s gorgeous! Mountains, glaciers, fjords, and lakes, plus incredible hikes — New Zealand is an outdoor lover’s dream.
Throw in super friendly locals, some of the best wine anywhere, a growing foodie scene, and a high quality of life, and you have the recipe for one of the best destinations in the world.
And if you’re looking to get your heart-rate up, there are all sorts of extreme sports to get that adrenaline pumping. I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about New Zealand.
I fell in love with France the first time I visited and set eyes on the cobblestone streets of Bordeaux.
France has it all for me: wine, food, history, castles, countryside, and a love for life. (And that accent doesn’t hurt either.) I am a huge Francophile and recently spent a few months living in Paris.
The French may get a bad rap for being rude, but I never found that to be the case once you get outside the touristy areas.
This is another stunning destination that reminds me a lot of New Zealand — dramatic natural landscapes, gracious people, and a lot of sheep.
I love how nice everyone is, how safe it is, and how quickly the landscape goes from rolling hills to something out of Mars. It’s rocky, volcanic landscapes make it seems like you’re visiting another planet.
And you’re never far from a waterfall here, too!
It may be expensive, but it’s not hard to fall in love with Iceland. If you’re a new traveler and looking for a place to test the waters of solo travel, this is a great place to start.
Japan is one of the most amazing, gorgeous, and polite places in the world. From bustling Tokyo and Zen-like Kyoto all the way to laid-back Okinawa and wintry Hokkaido, Japan is a high-tech world mixed with a deep respect and admiration for its past.
It was a lifelong dream of mine to go there, and when I finally did, it lived up to all my expectations.
Japan is an amazing destination for both new and veteran travelers alike, offering a quirky and magical balance of east and west.
Get the book – How to Travel the World on $50 a day
Namibia was somewhere I didn’t know a lot about, but I left marveled at the kindness of the people, the eclectic scenery, the diverse wildlife, and the surprisingly good food.
I think I love Namibia so much because it surprised me so much, so I will sing its praises forever. You’ll find some of the most affordable national parks on the continent here, offering incredible opportunities for wildlife spotting.
It’s cheap, safe and bursting with opportunities for adventure for anyone willing to get off the beaten path.
Besides being incredibly striking, Costa Rica was where I fell in love with travel. The buzzing cities, lush jungles, and laid-back beach towns cater to every budget and interest.
This was the first country to show me there was more to the world than my tiny cubicle. It doesn’t hurt that it’s cheap and filled with amazing food and wildlife too. Subsequent visits have only reinforced my love of Costa Rica.
I’d wanted to visit Colombia for years. And after spending six weeks there, I must say, it lived up to the hype. I mean, I’ve been fawning over it a lot in my last few posts.
And though I know I’m the millionth blogger to do so, it really is as incredible as people say. (Even getting knifed there couldn’t stop me from loving the country.)
From the blue waters of Tayrona National Park, the sweeping views of the Cocora Valley, the ruins of San Agustín, Tierradentro, the Lost City and white colonial buildings of Popayán, to the hustle and bustle of its metropolises, Colombia has it all.
If Sweden were located in the Caribbean, I would live there full-time. (Then again, it wouldn’t be Sweden if it were.) From the welcoming and attractive people to the history to the high quality of life there, Sweden is a magical destination.
It is one of the few places I feel at home, surrounded by colorful houses and people who love nature and help each other out. It’s not cheap, but the beautiful landscapes and outdoor activities make it worth every penny.
“What’s your favorite country?” is an impossible question to answer, but even picking ten is really hard too. I love so many for so many different reasons. But, after ten years a nomad, these are the places that come to mind the most.
But don’t just take my word for it — get out there and see them for yourself!
Matthew Kepnes runs the award winning budget travel site, Nomadic Matt. He’s also the author of the New York Times best-seller How to Travel the World on $50 a Day. His writings and advice have been featured in The New York Times, CNN, The Guardian UK, Lifehacker, Budget Travel, BBC, Time, and Newsweek.