Matt Kyhnn, of backpackingmatt.com, is the latest big blogger to catch up with the My Destination blog team. Here he shares some travel tips and insight into long-term life on the road, and reveals why he can’t stop bungy jumping…
There are plenty of misconceptions about backpacking – which backpacker myths have you found to be false?
I think most misconceptions about backpacking are only conceived by those who haven’t actually done any semi-long term travelling. Once you get out of your comfort zone and on the road, most pre-conceived notions about backpacking will be proved false. The one that specifically comes to mind is that ‘backpacking is easy.’ It most certainly isn’t – you’re constantly making plans, making decisions on the fly and often in cultures far different than your own.
When travelling, when should you splurge, and when should you save?
I guess splurging is based on your budget. I recently finished a three week trip in South America and it was just that – three weeks. As I had an end date and wasn’t on an extended trip, I was comfortable having more meals out than normal – especially given the reasonably priced steaks and Malbec throughout Argentina.
You claim to pack light and travel with only a few essentials – having lived in NZ for a while now, have you accumulated various belongings? Are there any you don’t want to leave behind?
I have. This is a huge danger in settling down in one place for too long – you begin accumulating stuff; stuff that’s very easy to get attached to. I left Southeast Asia about 18 months ago and was slowly becoming entrenched in the ‘minimalist’ lifestyle – living with very few worldly possessions.
This all went out the window once I arrived back in Queenstown – my current home. I’m a lover of the mountains, and with that comes a steady process of accumulating more toys which allow me to get out and explore them more comfortably. A new mountain bike, bike accessories, climbing harnesses, snowboards, and the list goes on. At the end of the day, these are simply things temporarily tying me down. When I’m ready to leave, they’ll be in the weekly and up for sale with the money helping to fund my next big adventure.
You are an advocate of the ‘working holiday’. Which job whilst travelling has been your worst, and why? Was it worth it?
I spent four months in 2010 working on New Zealand’s rugged West Coast. It’s a fantastic place – one of my favorite places in New Zealand, in fact – but I was working about 10kms outside of a small village called Franz Josef. I spent the summer working for a B&B – cooking breakfasts, cleaning rooms, doing odd jobs. It was brilliant fun for a time, but by the end of the four months everyone working there was dead set on leaving.
I met some fantastic people, had some unforgettable experiences and was able to live in a stunning area of the South Island. The work wasn’t fun, but it was worth it in the end.
Your site is packed with tips for your fellow travellers. Is there any advice that you give out but never follow?
I don’t believe so – not on a routine basis anyway. The tips are meant to be taken with a pinch of salt in some senses. You have to tweak them to fit your own travel style and they won’t work across the board, for all people, all the time. That’s the joy in travelling though – we all have our own unique style, yet at the end of the day we share the same joy in getting out and seeing the world.
One look at your site makes it clear – you’re a lover of bungy jumps. How many have you done exactly? And does the feeling ever change?
I’ve done three – all here in New Zealand. With New Zealand being the home of commercial bungy, it’s almost impossible to come travelling here and not throw yourself off a bridge.
The feeling doesn’t change. I’m convinced that bungy jumping will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do in your life. To stand on the edge of a bridge, a platform, or a gondola suspended hundreds of metres above a canyon and jump into nothingness goes against all your rational thinking consciousness. It’s this challenge that makes it all the more worth it. It’s a huge challenge, but the rush of the jump quite simply can’t be put into words.
The online travel community is going strong and growing rapidly. How would you say being part of this travel-mad group has affected your backpacking experience?
The travel blogging community is a hugely cohesive bunch of people. They’ve been a huge inspiration both on and offline. It’s travel blogs which originally motivated me to get out and begin exploring the world, and I can only hope mine is doing the same for others.
New Zealand is a majorly popular destination for backpackers and with all the adventure activities, beautiful scenery and friendly people it’s easy to see why. Why is New Zealand so special to you, personally?
New Zealand is a place like nowhere else on Earth. It’s a land of huge contrasts, of beaches, mountains, deserts, rain forests and wind-swept plains, all in an unbelievably close proximity to each other. I’ve been here almost three years and am every day reminded of New Zealand’s beauty – constantly reminded of how special this place really is.
Outside of the rugged and untouched landscapes, New Zealand is special to me because it’s such a small and cohesive country. Being so far from just about everything means that New Zealanders are very proud to be New Zealanders, and this identity is apparent just about everywhere you look. It’s a laid back,’ no worries’ culture where everyone seems to look out for everyone else.
Everyone wants to get ‘off the beaten track’ – do you have a secret place, in NZ or elsewhere, you can fill us in on? (Make sure you whisper!)
One of my favorite areas of New Zealand is one that very often gets missed on the typical tourist trail – the Catlins on the southern tip of the South Island.
Specifically I like Curio Bay and Porpoise Bay, which offer up some of the Catlins’ best scenery, marine wildlife and coastline. If you didn’t know better, you’d think you were at the very bottom of the world and could quite easily spend days on end here watching sunrises and sunsets, listening to the surf and enjoying the slow-paced life of the Catlins. Porpoise Bay is one of the many areas in NZ that have somehow escaped the huge commercialization that has hit many of the hot tourism areas in the world.
How would you say backpacking has changed you?
A few years ago, I volunteered and spent time with refugee families living in some of Bangkok’s most impoverished areas. It has forever left me with an understanding of just how lucky we are compared to many people in the world. It was a hugely moving experience and one I still haven’t been able to actually write about on my blog, given the effect it had on me.
I have no doubt that many people will never get passports, never leave their home state and live perfectly fulfilling lives. Yet I truly believe that to fully appreciate the little things in life – the roof over your head, the hot water coming out of the shower, a warm bed at night – you must first escape your comfort zone and travel the world. Grow in terms of experiences, ones that you’ll never have until you leave the borders of your home country.
You say ‘life is a journey’ – but we want to ask, what’s your next destination?
After about five weeks away, I’ve returned to my temporary home of New Zealand. I’m preparing to launch a new website that will serve as a travel guide to NZ. The next few months will be spent traveling around the North and South Island researching this stunning corner of the world that I’m lucky enough to call home.
Thanks Matt! Don’t forget to keep up with all things backpacking at BackpackingMatt.com, and check out Matt’s new site GoBackpackingNewZealand.com for a chance to win a one week road trip around New Zealand – our guess is you won’t want to leave NZ either!