Many healthcare travelers travel for the flexibility to take time off and work part-time during the year. This is my passion and I have worked 9 months out of the year for the past several years. If your goal is to travel for work and pleasure, you may have a lot of logistical questions. How to save money, how to stay connected, or what kind of insurance should you get?
To answer these questions, I’m THRILLED to have an expert on budget travel, Matt Kepnes aka Nomadic Matt, join us for a Q&A. Matt is the New York Times Bestselling author of “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day”. He also runs the world renown travel blog Nomadic Matt.
What do you know now, that you wish you would have known when you started traveling?
I wish I would have known how easy it is, and how if you just let go and accept what comes things will usually work out. They always tell you travel is hard and expensive but actually traveling showed me that travel could be pretty cheap, there were many ways to travel the world on a budget, and tons of other people do it too! Other things: I wish I didn’t over plan my trips. It’s amazing how often my plans changed. I also wish I would have collected more emails to keep in touch with people (this was back before social media!).
In your experience, what are some of the best budget friendly countries for travelers?
There are a lot out of cheap places to travel in the world but a few off the top of my head that I enjoyed were Romania, Bulgaria, Thailand, South Korea, Nicaragua, and Thailand. They were all cheap, with lots to see and do, unique histories, and great food! What’s not to love!
What is your advice for budgeting trips in advance?
These days it’s really easy to find out how much you’ll need to budget for a trip. There are countless blogs and guidebooks and online groups where you can find out exactly how much everything costs. There’s no reason to go into your trip blind when you can Google the cost of anything and everything! This allows you to create a budget for your trip so you know how much you’ll need to save and what you can spend per day!
I generally tell people to figure out what they want to do, figure out how much it costs, and then save another 10-20%. That way, if you stumble into something spontaneous that you want to do, be it an activity or restaurant or whatever, you won’t need to worry about pinching pennies.
The more you save, the more of a buffer you’ll have for those times when you want to splurge (or for emergencies). But if you’re on the road for a long time you can also just work while you travel, which makes budgeting before you leave not as vital since you can make money as you go.
What do you recommend for health insurance/travel insurance while you are away for extended amounts of time?
World Nomads is my favorite travel insurance company. I’ve been using them since I started traveling, and they’ve worked out great. I’ve only had a few emergencies over the years, but they were super helpful and their customer service was on point. Obviously, you’ll want to read the fine print before you go and make sure you have everything documented in case you need to make a claim. But I have only had positive experiences with them, which is why I’ll keep using them!
What are your top tips for meeting people while traveling solo?
The nice thing about meeting people while traveling is you don’t always have to take the first step. Position yourself in hostel dorms so that people who pop in will see you and interact with you. Of course, you can initiate conversations but if you’re not comfortable doing that then stay in the common areas and let the people come to you! Avoid private Airbnbs or hotels, and stick to dorms or Airbnbs where the host is present. That way, you can chat with them and pick up tips about the destination (including where you can go to meet locals).
In the end, you’ll have to break out of your shell in order to really dive into the social travel scene. And while it will be challenging at first, you’ll slowly build up the skills and be much more comfortable doing it the more you travel.
How do you stay connected while abroad? What are your tips for wifi or cell phone service?
I always buy a data plan when I travel, either through my T-Mobile plan (so I keep the same phone number) or via a local SIM card. That’s the best way to stay connected, though it’s not always the cheapest. If you’re desperate for decent WiFi, look for local co-working spaces. You can usually get a day pass (sometimes for free) which is perfect for any important calls. Beyond that, you can usually find a Starbucks or McDonalds pretty much anywhere and they usually have decent free WiFi for basic things like email and social media.
What credit card(s) to you recommend for beginners in travel hacking?
I’d recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred (or Reserve if you can get it!), the Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard, or Capital One (if you don’t care about getting rewards). Those are easy to use cards with no overseas transaction fees. The Chase one has the best rewards program out there if you want to collect points on. Other than that, always look for deals and get the cards that help you reach your specific goal. For me, I only care about flights so I never get the hotel cards since I don’t stay in hotels! This post I wrote on the best credit cards out there goes a bit deeper!
What words of wisdom to you have for somebody who is afraid to take the leap into traveling abroad solo?
Just remember that solo travel is never actually solo travel. You’re going to meet people in hostels and at historical sites, on planes, and on travel websites and social media. You’re never actually “alone” when you travel, so don’t let that get to you. There are tons and tons of solo travelers out there just like you, who are also looking to meet people to chat with and travel with.
But you’ll never meet them if you don’t take the leap. Is it a risk? Sure, but what is the alternative? Stay home forever and never take that leap? Life’s too short to be afraid all the time. So take the plunge and break out of your shell. I won’t always be easy, but I promise you won’t regret it.
Big thanks to Matt for all of this great advice and resources! 🙂