Founder and editor-in-chief of TheExpeditioner.com, one of the largest independent travel sites in the world, Matt Stabile is Our Type of Traveler. Balancing a full-time career as a lawyer, managing a robust travel website and hosting a travel web series, Matt’s overflowing plate begs the question, “How does he do it all?”
It seems that the same limitless energy and attention to detail that makes a great lawyer also makes a great traveler. When we caught up with the globe-trotting attorney to find out how he juggles both worlds, the New Yorker explained that he funnels his boundless energy into documenting his travels when he’s not working on a case. “I have a disorder that doesn’t allow me to relax, even while on vacation, so naturally, I would turn my travels into as much work as possible,” confesses Matt.
And the travel world seems to be happy Matt can’t sit still — his online web series, featuring his travels around the world, has been viewed more than 1 million times on YouTube.
Find out how Matt “unplugs” from lawyer life, what destinations he recommends for those short on time and money and where he hangs out when he’s home.
TravelingType: How did you get started travel vlogging/blogging?
Matt Stabile: By the time I was finishing law school in 2006, I had been in school for 7 straight years, and I hadn’t yet had the time or the money to travel much until that point in my life. I made a vow to myself then that after I graduated, I would travel as often as possible. I also started thinking about how amazing it would be if I could also write about my experiences while I traveled, but I knew how hard and unrealistic it was for me to think I could break into the professional travel writing world. So, instead, I decided to just go ahead and start up my own online publication, with the upshot that, as editor, I knew I would never get rejected.
What is your web series The Expeditioner about? What’s different about your take on travel?
The Expeditioner travel series is hosted, and is entirely shot, edited and written by myself (except for the rare times I can recruit someone around me to hold the camera for me). My goal is to try to give a viewer a “real” sense of what it’s like to visit a particular destination, and to do so in a fun, entertaining, informative and interesting manner. I really try to focus on exploring the lesser-known parts of a place and meeting with the locals. I’m never happier any other time in my life than when I’m traveling, exploring new places and meeting new people, and I want the viewer to experience that feeling along with me, and hopefully inspire them to travel there as well. The series is different from most because I really strive to see the parts of a destination that visitors don’t normally see, or wouldn’t otherwise know about.
What was the moment you knew travel had hooked you?
My first big, solo trip after starting The Expeditioner after I graduated school was to Argentina and Chile, and it was the first time that I was shooting video and blogging during my travels. From the moment I stepped off the plane in Buenos Aires to when I headed home from Santiago, I was having a blast. It was my first time to South America, it was the furthest I had been away from home and it was the first time I got to travel while pretending it was my “job,” and I don’t think I’ve had as much fun in life as I did during that trip. I simply fell in love, as I had expected, experiencing the different culture, trying the new foods, meeting travelers and locals from all over the world, and getting to shoot video and write about it as I went along. From that trip forward, I was hooked, and I’ve been trying to recreate that feeling every trip since.
Your “day job” is a lawyer. How do you manage to balance both worlds? Are you working while you’re traveling or do you unplug from that job while you’re traveling?
It can be a bit stressful and time-consuming juggling both, as one can imagine, but I was fortunate enough to find a job early on that offered me more vacation time than most new graduates get, and a job that didn’t frown upon me taking those days. I then made sure to take all of those days every year.
With regard to “unplugging,” I suppose that never really happens. This kind of dates me, but during my first trips, I was checking into internet cafes to update my blog, upload pictures and check my email – this was the pre-smart phone era of the late 2000s. Even after the advent of smart phones, I’ve usually chosen to leave my iPhone at home while traveling. I wrote about this decision in an article prior to a recent trip to India. In a nutshell, I feel I’m better able to take in a destination and be “in the moment” if I’m not worrying about social media or checking emails along the way. It’s bad enough the number of photos I’m taking and hours of video I’m shooting; I don’t need one more distraction from the real attraction: the place where I am at that moment.
What destinations do you recommend for travelers short on time and money?
If you’re in North America, I would highly recommend Latin America, especially Central America. If you’re here in the US, that means you’re only a few hours away from a number of amazing, interesting, relatively inexpensive and beautiful countries such as Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador. If you have a bit more time and money, South America is great, and I always have a great time visiting there whenever I go.
Where’s “home” for you while you’re not on the road?
I live in New York City full time – specifically Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I have a beard and tend to wear plaid, so they let me live here despite being a lawyer. New York is a great location for travel. Basically every culture is represented here, so you can “travel” in your own city any day of the week. Plus, given the location, it’s one of the best launching points for international travel, and you’ll likely pay less and deal with less layovers when traveling from here than from most places in the world.
What would you recommend to travelers visiting your home city — local secrets, favorite spots, etc.
If you’re visiting New York City, I would recommend allocating at least 50% of your time to the outer boroughs. In my opinion, this is the “real” New York City. Visit Williamsburg and Bushwick in North Brooklyn to experience the youthful energy that’s driving the city’s culture right now. Explore Queens to see some of the most diverse neighborhoods in the United States. Visit South Brooklyn to see some of the most scenic and interesting neighborhoods in the world. There are also great spots to visit around the Bronx, as well as the lesser-visited parts of Manhattan such as Harlem or the Lower East Side.
What’s 1 destination you think is overrated and what’s 1 destination that’s underrated?
As far as overrated, that’s hard. I’ve actually never been to Thailand, but I feel like everyone and their mother goes to Phuket and the nearby islands, which puzzles me given the sheer number of beautiful, authentic island and beach communities throughout Southeast Asia, including in Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and other parts of Thailand. It always makes me wonder why people pick the one location that is probably 10 times the cost of other nearby places, and is also hugely developed and crawling with tourists.
As far as underrated, I have to say, India. There are not many places in the world that seem to change you as much as India does. Too many people are put off by the rumors and negative aspects of the country they hear about, such as crime or pollution, without getting the chance to experience the craziness, the spirituality and the diversity you see in India, along with the amazing spirit of the Indian people and the great culture shock you get to experience while there.
What’s No. 1 on your bucket list?
I’ve been fortunate enough to knock off a lot of my “bucket list” countries in the last few years, but Brazil is still one of the few places I really want to see, but haven’t yet. Watching the World Cup and seeing all the people I know down there was really difficult for me!