This week I have an interview with Matt Hershberger, fellow travel blogger and Matador Network All-Star!
1. First of all, what are your website and social media links?
2. How did you come up with your website name?
Well, right now it’s just my name, but a while back, it was A Man Without A Country, which was a reference to a Kurt Vonnegut book of the same name. I chose that title because I’ve never felt like I fully belonged to any one place or ideology, and the title still fits – but it turns out it’s kinda hard to compete with Kurt Vonnegut on the Google search rankings.
3. What more can you tell us about your blog? What are your goals or intentions for it?
Writing has been a kind of therapeutic release for me for years. I started blogging when I was on a study abroad program and found that I was having experiences faster than I could process them, so I started writing them down and posting them online. People actually seemed to like what I wrote, so I started writing for more people than just myself.
Earlier this year, I was made a staff writer at the Matador Network, so that kinda became my full-time job and my blog has fallen by the wayside a little bit, as I figure out where my career’s going.
4. Can you provide us with a Throw Back Thursday picture of one of your favorite travel memories with an explanation?
Back in 2007, I went to the small town of Lencois in Bahia, Brazil, for a few nights during Carnaval. We started the day by hiking down into a cave and swimming in a totally dark underground pool. Then we hiked out of the cave, climbed up to the top, and bungee jumped back into the mouth of the cave (that’s me hanging down in the picture). Then we had an all-you-can-eat steak and and all-you-can-drink wine dinner, and then we went and partied at the local Carnaval celebration. It was a day that I’ve never tried to write about at length, because no one wants to hear about how perfect that day was. The internet is for misery, happiness belongs in the real world.
5. Which are your favorite and least favorite cities you’ve traveled to? Why?
Favorite: London. There is no place better than London. Full stop. The city is two thousand years old, and every street corner has two millenia of history. When I lived there, the place I arbitrarily chose to live was an old homeless shelter and women’s home that just happened to be one of the places two of Jack the Ripper’s victims lived. Also, there are pubs everywhere.
Least Favorite: Beijing. I try to be open minded about places I visit, but I went to Beijing on a horrid internship and found that the entire city – it’s people, it’s culture, it’s food – didn’t agree with me. The constant haze of pollution, the massive, unending sprawl, and the fact that I couldn’t get a cab didn’t help either.
6. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten? Where?
Probably yak butter tea. It’s this drink they brew in Tibet. It’s supposed to help with altitude sickness, which had floored me during my week in the Himalayas, so while staying in this hut at the base of Mt. Everest, I finally felt awful enough to give the tea a try. They let the butter curdle a little bit, which gives it a slightly rancid taste. Apparently Tibetans drink this stuff by the gallon. It didn’t really help my altitude sickness, but it certainly distracted me from it.
7. Who are your travel idols?
I suppose it has to be Ernesto “Che” Guevara. If travel doesn’t change who you are – especially your politics – then you’re doing it wrong. Che’s travels made him into one of the most important political figures of the 20th Century, but unfortunately, he turned into a zealot and an executioner in the end.
I would also throw Chris “Alexander Supertramp” McCandless of Into the Wild fame onto the list, but he also gets an asterisk: McCandless was a guy who lived out his ideals in a way not many people do, but ultimately, his naivete killed him.
8. What’s your best travel tip?
Travel by train and bring a fully-stocked eReader.
9. Which is your favorite post you’ve written? Please provide a link.
“How to Choose the Song You Should Be Listening to as Your Plane Crashes to the Ground.” My first piece at Matador, and probably still my favorite.
10. What advice would you give to someone new to travel blogging?
If the main reason you’re writing is to pay for your travels, you probably shouldn’t do it. Writing has to be for a reason for it to be particularly good – whether it’s because you feel you have something to say, or because you just need to write – and if you are good enough at it to get paid, well, then that’s just gravy. There are much more lucrative ways to get paid for traveling if that’s your end game.
I’d also say that you always need to be balancing what you want to say with what your audience wants to hear. If it becomes all about the audience, you’ll turn into Buzzfeed, writing nothing but listicles. But if it’s all about you, it turns into this incredibly self-indulgent navel gazing that has been the unfortunate hallmark of travel writing for far too long.
Finally, I’d say try to be funny. When I’m traveling, I spend way more time laughing at myself and others than I do learning and growing, but for whatever reason, travel writers usually want to focus more on the latter two.