Most people travel for fun. “Dancing Matt” Harding made a career of it.
After quitting an “insulated” job in video games, Harding skidded the planet and started filming himself doing a funny jig in front of postcard landmarks. Machu Picchu. The Pyramids. The Eiffel Tower. Countless others.
Because they were so endearing—if not inspirational—Matt’s “dancing” videos instantly found an audience. His first video, shot in 2005, reached 20,000 people by email alone (later 3 million after YouTube launched.) His next the following year reached 20 million. His biggest video to date (below), released in 2008, reached nearly 50 million.
All told, Matt’s channel has been viewed 100 million times. YouTube founder Jawed Karim once called Harding’s second video his favorite at the time. Even now, you can’t help but smile watching Harding’s swash-buckling version of The Running Man, especially when performed with locals.
How many countries has he visited? “More than 100,” he recently told me. “I stopped counting.”
He was quick to stress that last point. “No one is keeping score. To reach as many places as I’ve been, I had to travel quickly and miss a lot,” he admitted. “In the years ahead, I hope to dig deeper and spend more time in the places I enjoyed most.”
Besides the notoriety, I asked him how travel changed his life. This, too, he answered quickly. “I don’t worry as much when things go wrong. I know what I can handle, and I know that when plans fall apart, it’s probably not the end of the world.”
To fund his adventures, Harding sometimes works with corporate sponsors such as Visa, Hotels.com, Stride Gum, and others in the travel trade. He also does speaking engagements.
In recent years, however, the number of trips taken has slowed. Two young sons and a family will do that to you. “But it won’t be too much longer before they’re ready to travel,” he says.
With so much experience visiting so many countries, people and culture, I asked the Connecticut native now living in Seattle where he would return to first. Namibia, Bhutan, Micronesia, Mongolia and Madagascar, he answered. “It tends to be the places I know least about that I find the most interesting and exciting.”
Off the Grid columnist Blake Snow writes epic stories for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. Follow him on Twitter.