Matt Karsten calls himself the Expert Vagabond–and for good reason! After leaving his full-time job to pursue adventure travel writing and photography, Matt has built up a big audience and made a name for himself while traveling the world in search of new adventures. Check out his blog here!
How did you initially get interested in the travel blogging industry?
It all started when I read the book Vagabonding by Rolf Potts, recommended to me by a friend who was traveling through Southeast Asia. Soon I was reading travel blogs like Everything-Everywhere, Notes From the Road, and Bacon Is Magic, dreaming about long-term travel. With a background in web design and photography, I decided to create my own travel blog to share experiences with friends, family, and anyone else who wanted to read about my backpacking adventures.
What was your first “big step” in terms of getting your start?
After a year of budget backpacking and blogging my way through Mexico and Central America, I began receiving advertising requests and sold some of my photography. Soon I was invited on a press trip to help promote a destination. It just snowballed from there. I realized that I could actually do this for a living if I worked hard enough, and took it more seriously.
Tell us a little bit about Expert Vagabond. How did you get it started and what’s the journey been like?
I try to share a mix of useful and entertaining articles about travel, photography, and life as a digital nomad on my blog. It started more like a diary, but now the articles attempt to help others who might be researching their next trip, or want to learn more about working while traveling.
In the 10 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve experienced a lot! Some of my favorite adventures include trekking through Afghanistan, camping in Greenland, wildlife watching in Antarctica, and attending Italy’s famous Venice Carnival.
Let’s say you’ve just met someone who wants to start an adventure travel blog. What would your advice to them be?
Save money and go on some adventures. Teach yourself how to take great photos using online photography classes. Join some writing classes. Learn about SEO, marketing, branding, and web design. Invest in yourself. Network with other travel bloggers. Be consistent with creating great content.
Do interesting things that others are not. Travel blogging isn’t a vacation; it takes serious hard work to make a living this way. I spend countless hours sitting in front of my computer even on beautiful beach days — in fact I’m doing it right now!
Are you doing anything differently now than five years ago in terms of bringing in traffic? If so, what are you doing differently and what would you recommend to bloggers just now starting out?
Learning Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has been very helpful for bringing in traffic from Google. Publicity and marketing are important too. Writing articles is only half the equation; you need to spend an equal amount of time promoting them so other people actually see them. And thinking outside-the-box when you do it.
For example, when I publish a travel guide to Key West, I also reach out to the local tourism board, as well as local hotels and businesses that I might have mentioned in the article so they all have the opportunity to share it with their own audiences too. With that effort I am reaching more people, and maybe gaining some new readers.
What would your first piece of advice to someone be if they contracted the “vagabond virus” and wanted to see the world?
My first piece of advice to anyone wanting to travel like I do is to know that it isn’t impossible. You will probably have to make major sacrifices to make it happen, but you can do it. Lots of people are doing it, from all walks of life. But you have to make travel a priority.
Long-term travel might not be for everyone, but you’ll never know unless you go!
Matthew Karsten is an adventure travel blogger, photographer, and digital nomad who’s been exploring the world for the past 10-years — traveling to over 50 countries while sharing stories, photos, and videos from exotic destinations. He inspires others to see the world and save some money in the process. Follow along with him on his adventure travel blog: ExpertVagabond.com. You can find him on the major social media platforms as ExpertVagabond, including Instagram.