The Expert Vagabond
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  • Matt Karsten

Hey there! My name is Matthew Karsten (aka Matt). I’m an adventure travel blogger, photographer & digital nomad who’s been exploring the world for over 10-years.

Welcome to my travel blog! This is where I share entertaining stories, budget travel tips, fun YouTube videos, inspiring travel photography, advice on nomadic living, and plenty of outdoor adventures with you from my travels around the world.

It’s a place for people like you who are looking for daily inspiration & motivation to live a life full of adventure.

Or just some helpful travel tips for planning your next vacation.

I want to show you how to travel the world, to seek experiences over possessions, and open your mind to new possibilities.

To visit places that you didn’t even know existed!

What’s A Vagabond?

1. Wandering from place to place without any settled home; nomadic.
2. Leading an unsettled or carefree life.

Since 2010 I’ve been living as a traveling digital nomad & expat — visiting over 50 countries while “vagabonding” around the world from place to place.

Living temporarily in countries like Mexico, Thailand, Italy, Spain, South Africa, and more.

I’m currently based in North Carolina with my wife Anna, our two sons Dylan and Holden, plus our traveling cat Poofy.

Why Travel For So Long?

Because I’m curious about our planet. I want to take risks, meet interesting people, challenge myself, see amazing things, explore the world, and learn as much as a can.

Not to mention have a bit of fun along the way!

Travel doesn’t have to be expensive.
Adventure is worthwhile.
The world isn’t as dangerous as you think.

Maybe I can show you something you’ve never seen.
Inspire you with new ideas for your next vacation.
Attempt to put a smile on your face.
Help you learn from my mistakes.
Make you think carefully about your actions.

Adventure travel is much more than just participating in extreme activities — it’s about breaking out of your comfort zone, immersing yourself in different cultures and trying new things.

To see the world from someone else’s perspective, and grow in the process.

”Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t
have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.” ~ Alan Keightley

How To Travel The World

I haven’t always been a world traveler though. With a bachelor’s degree in business, I found myself working as a freelance nightlife & event photographer in Miami. It was fun, but something was missing…

I dreamed of more — a life filled with adventure.

One day I just decided to stop dreaming, and start doing.

I spent a year saving money, sold my car, bought a bicycle, stopped going out to clubs/bars, cooked food at home, and spent all my free time building a small online business selling eBooks.

In the fall of 2010 I quit my job, sold most of my stuff, and bought a plane ticket to Guatemala.

I downsized my life — so that basically everything I owned fit into a travel backpack.

My family & friends didn’t understand what I was doing. They thought I was nuts — and I wasn’t sure either. Following my dreams at all costs was my new goal. Becoming wealthy with new experiences was my mission.

Embracing The Life Of A Nomad

For the first 29 years of my life, I’d never left the United States. Suddenly I was in Guatemala City with no luggage (the airline lost it) and no real plans. I was alone, nervous, and felt a bit in over my head.

It was scary and overwhelming — but exciting at the same time. I soon made new friends and began exploring a fascinating area of the world I knew absolutely nothing about. Eating at local markets, trekking in the jungle, staying at backpacker hostels — I was hooked!

My original plan was to travel for one year. Which turned into ten years.

Long-term travel provides me with unexpected challenges to conquer while I continue to learn about the world, meet interesting people, and have life-changing experiences along the way.

Traveling The World Indefinitely

My itinerary? Your guess is as good as mine! The plan is to plan as little as possible, and let fate take me on a roller-coaster ride of discovery & adventure.

I often hang out in a country for as long as it feels right and move on to the next when I’m ready. Exploring the Earth with an open mind, living on a limited budget, meeting new people, and learning what I’m made of.

All the while, attempting to capture and share my travel experiences using photography, video, and articles published on this travel blog.

Hopefully I can inspire you to embark on your own travel adventures.

My logo tells you I’m some sort of travel expert — but while I don’t have all the answers yet, I’m happy to share what I’ve learned after ten long years of adventure travel.

Published : Aug, 2023

Sites and attractions | Health and safety
Badii Palace | Bahia Palace | Ben Youssef Madrasa | Dar El Bacha Palace | Hammam | Jardin Majorelle | Jemaa el-Fnaa | Koutoubia Mosque | Riad | Saadian Tombs | Souks | Tannery
Marrakesh is a beautiful city in Morocco. The “Rose City” or “Red City” offers visitors an enchanting taste of old world charm and opulence. Here are some of the best things to do in Marrakesh.

Many travelers who visit Morocco spend at least a few days in Marrakesh, before moving on to other parts of the country. And there’s a lot to see in the city.

Marrakesh (sometimes spelled Marrakech) is without a doubt one of the most exciting destinations in Northern Africa. The city has been an important trading hub for centuries and inside the walled Old City Medina, you’ll find a maze of lively markets and a myriad of busy alleyways – a true feast for the senses.

There are smells, colors, flavors, sounds and textures to be devoured, and even though the hectic heart of the city can feel both enticing and overwhelming at the same time, there are places where you’ll be able to enjoy moments of calm, such as the riad hotels, and several parks.

The city’s bustling souks, theatrical street vendors, and mesmerizing performers are attractions in itself, but don’t ignore the palaces, the mosques, and the food – here are my top picks for the best things to do in Marrakesh.

Published : Aug, 2023

How to get there | City tours or passes
Arena Floor | Hypogeum | Roma Pass | Tips | Vatican Pass
The Colosseum one of the most popular sights in Rome, and one of the most recognizable landmarks in the entire world. Here are some useful tips for visiting the Colosseum!

No matter if you’re a serious history buff or a Gladiator fan – you can’t miss a visit to the Colosseum on a trip to Rome. I was super excited to see the Colosseum when we were in Rome for the first time, but visiting this historic landmark can be a bit overwhelming.

To ensure that you get the most out of your visit to the Colosseum and to avoid any disappointment, it pays off to plan your visit well in advance.

In this article I’ll be sharing my best tips for how to visit the Colosseum, how to buy tickets, and other things that you should know based on my experience traveling in Italy.

Published : Apr, 2023

When to visit | How to get there | Sites and attractions | Outdoor Activities
Old Town | Hiking | Lake Annecy | Waterskiing | Lake Tour | Sailing Lesson | Lover’s Bridge | Jardins de l’Europe | Annecy Castle | Promenade du Thiou | Annecy le Vieux | Chateau de Menthon-Saint Bernard | Biking | Palais de l’Île
While France is full of charming places, my favorite has to be the mountain town of Annecy. From lake cruising to farmer’s markets — here are the best things to do in Annecy, France!

Annecy is a beautiful lake town in the Haute-Savoie region of France surrounded by mountains on the edge of the Swiss border. The lake, Lac d’Annecy, boasts some of the freshest water in Europe, replenished each year from the snow melt.

The town isn’t too big — or too small either. With a very walk-able and bike friendly atmosphere, you can spend many lazy afternoons exploring local shops, snacking at fresh food markets, or take a picnic in one of the many parks.

We spent 2-months living in Annecy as digital nomads with our two kids and cat, and absolutely loved it! So here are some of our best tips for activities and great things to do in Annecy, France.

Published : Apr, 2023

How to get there | Sites and attractions | Cultural Activities
Apulian-Romanesque Cathedral | Belvedere di Mugia Timone | Casa Cava | Casa Noha Exhibit | Musma | Night In A Cave | Pane di Matera | Rock Church & Crypt | Saint Peter ‘Caveoso’ | Sassi Di Matera
Matera is one of the coolest places we visited in Italy. An ancient town made of caves, carved into the side of a ravine! Here are some tips for cool things to do in Matera.

The town of Matera, Italy has a long and fascinating history. And I mean loooong.

It is one of the oldest continually inhabited settlements in the world, estimated to be settled in the 10th millennium BC (that’s about 10,000 years ago!). And sporadically settled for another 400,000 years before that…

So you’d think that because Matera is considered the 3rd oldest city in the world, it would be much more popular than it is.

But for a long time the poor people of Matera were forgotten and left to fend for themselves. The great “Shame Of Italy” it was called.

Once a painful reminder that Italy was considered a third-world country, with its residents living in squalor underground and sleeping next to livestock.

However Matera has seen a drastic turnaround and has been transformed into a unique tourist destination, along with being featured in the latest James Bond film “No Time To Die“.

After spending 3-days exploring this very cool town, I wanted to share some of the best things to do in Matera Italy if you’re planning a visit.

Published : Nov, 2021

Sites and attractions | City tours or passes
9/11 Memorial | Battery Park | Broadway | Bronx Zoo | Brooklyn Bridge | Central Park | Federal Hall | Grand Central Terminal | Museum Of Modern Art | Statue Of Liberty | The High Line | Times Square | Trinity Church | Walking Tour
New York is an amazing city to visit as a tourist. I’ve been a handful of times now, and always look forward to it. There’s so much to do! But it’s also expensive.

Today, my friend & travel author Matt Kepnes shares tips for things to do in New York City on a budget after living there for many years. Tips are his, photos are mine. Here’s Matt:

New York is one of my favorite cities. In fact, I love it so much I lived there for close to five years. I can never get enough of it!

To me, NYC is the center of the world, with people, foods, and cultures from everywhere. It has a wild nightlife scene, and there’s a never-ending list of things to see, do, and experience.

You can never be bored in NYC.

But, as awesome as it is, it can easily break the most hardened of budgets without proper planning.

Tourists often decry New York’s cost, but this is also place of starving artists and underpaid interns. To be a local is to know where the deals are.

Despite what most people think, it’s actually possible to have a fun, budget-friendly trip to the Big Apple without breaking the bank — if you know where to look.

So, if you want to take it in without spending a fortune, here are the best things to do in New York on a budget:

Published : Nov, 2021

How to get there | Sites and attractions | Outdoor Activities
Hiking Trails | Waimea Canyon
While the garden island of Kauai is certainly a lush green tropical paradise, it also boasts a massive red & orange canyon called Waimea — the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

Waimea Canyon is not the kind of landscape most people associate with the islands of Hawaii. Stretching 14 miles long, one mile wide, and around 3,600 feet deep — it’s quite impressive.

One of the reasons Kauai is my favorite Hawaiian Island is because of the diversity of things to do there. You could easily spend a whole day just visiting the different viewpoints and hiking trails in Waimea Canyon State Park if you wanted to!

Published : Oct, 2021

How to get there | Sites and attractions | Health and safety
Cliff Top Viewpoints | Cliff Walk | History | Shipwreck Beach
Navagio Beach (aka Shipwreck Cove) on the Greek Island of Zakynthos is arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in the world! Here’s how to see shipwreck beach for yourself.

The island of Zakynthos off the southwest coast of Greece is one of the country’s quieter islands. However it has one particularly incredible highlight called Navagio Beach (also known as Shipwreck Beach). A sandy little cove surrounded by towering limestone cliffs — plus the rusting remains of an old shipwreck.

This stunning Greek beach surrounded by brilliant blue ocean water is an Instagram favorite, and many travelers include Zakynthos on their itinerary specifically to visit this amazing beach in Greece.

We spent 3-days exploring Zakynthos with a rental car, including a few trips to Shipwreck Beach, and wanted to put together a little guide for you.

Published : Aug, 2021

How to get there | Sites and attractions | Health and safety
Afghan Consulate | Dushanbe | Khorog | Permits | Safety | Sarhad-e Broghil | The Wakhan Corridor
In August 2016 I traveled through Afghanistan as an American for two weeks, backpacking across the beautiful Pamir mountains in the Wakhan Corridor. This is how I did it.

DISCLAIMER: The US government warns against travel to Afghanistan. Just because I went, does not mean I think everyone should go. The safety situation changes on a weekly basis, and requires a good deal of research/planning.

When I told family & friends I was planning a trip to Afghanistan, they thought I’d lost my mind.

Afghanistan, the war-torn Central Asian (or Middle Eastern, depending on who you ask) country full of terrorists, soldiers, car bombs, predator drones, and IEDs.

Why the hell would I want to go there?

Afghanistan has been on my bucket list for a few years after I met a fellow traveler and public speaker Shane Dallas who happened to share his experience with me at a travel industry conference.

I learned that the version of the country most of us see each night on the evening news is simply not the full story…

Parts of Afghanistan can be dangerous, sure, but it’s also full of beauty, hospitality, and history too.

This is the Afghanistan I was on a mission to seek out and share.

Published : Jun, 2021

Sites and attractions | Cultural Activities | Outdoor Activities | Nature and wildlife
Jerusalem | Makhtesh Craters | Mount Arbel Caves | Negev Desert | Spice Road | The Big Fin | Trail Angels | Wadi Canyons
Relentless sunlight baked the air to 100°F. We pushed forward in the heat, one foot in front of the other across the barren Negev desert, hiking Israel’s National Trail.

Never waste good shade in the desert.

Over the next week I would learn to respect the importance of this golden rule. Because shade is hard to come by in the Negev, a massive desert in southern Israel.

I was here to hike the Israel National Trail, or INT, with a group of international journalists, bloggers, and Israeli university students.

At 1000 kilometers (620 miles) long, walking the entire trail takes 6-8 weeks. Zig-zagging through much of the country, it’s a collection of ancient local trails that have recently been merged into one.

Inspired by the Appalachian Trail in the United States, the INT was the brainchild of journalist Avraham Tamir who hiked its US counterpart back in the 1980’s. Israel’s trail is relatively new, officially opening in 1995.

My plan was to sample 3 different sections of the trail over the course of a week. A few days in the Negev, a few days in the Jerusalem Mountains, and a few days in the North near the Golan Heights.

Published : Sep, 2020

Low budget | Outdoor Activities
Chicken buses | Cockfighting | Hitchhiking | Stories & Adventures | Volcano Boarding
Is it possible to travel in Nicaragua on a budget? Learn how much it cost me to backpack in Nicaragua — along with my favorite tips & highlights.

I think I’m in love. The Central American country of Nicaragua was a big surprise. I quickly got sucked into it’s laid-back pace of life, incredibly friendly people, and low cost of living.

I wasn’t planning on spending much time here. That scenario soon changed once I got to know the place!

Do you want to travel back in time? It’s possible in Nicaragua.

Venture into any of the many small towns to experience rural farming communities where water is collected with buckets, horses are the only way to get around, and even basic electricity can be hard to find.

Living in Nicaragua for a while was a refreshing pause in my journey, and I became captivated by it’s magic.