This column, “Escape Artist,” is a series about folks who have escaped. More importantly, this biweekly column is for those thinking about trading in their 9-to-5, leg-shackled-to-the-desk existences to forge their own way. The brave outliers featured in this collection of interviews are the digital nomads, online entrepreneurs and lifestyle trendsetters who decided it was time to say to hell with the humdrum and grab life by the roots.
Travel writer and photographer
runs Land Lopers
, an experiential luxury travel blog that shares tips about where to go, what to see and how to experience adventure travel. Long has traveled to more than 70 countries and all seven continents. In 2016, Long is focusing on new destinations and experiences.
The “escape the 9-to-5” mentality seems to be popular now. What are your impressions?
Matt Long The concept is definitely gaining ground, but I don’t think many people know how to make it work. I especially see it in younger professionals who, understandably, don’t necessarily want to be in the traditional workplace. The tricky part isn’t leaving a traditional 9-to-5 career — the hard part is replacing it.
What was the “aha” moment that sparked ongoing travel for you?
ML To be clear, I’m not a nomad. I have a house, partner, three dogs and a fairly normal life with the exception that I am location independent and travel a lot. I’ve always had a love affair with travel and have looked for a way to make it a big part of my life. I lost sight of that when I first entered the workplace, and my site was a way to rebalance my priorities.
How does your life now compare to before, as you put it, as a “cubicle dweller”?
ML I definitely work harder now than I ever have before, but I’ve never been happier doing it. It’s a combination of pursuing a career that I truly love and being my own boss. Being successful in this weird world is about being an entrepreneur, and that means a lot of hard work — but fulfilling work.
What inspired you to start blogging, and how did you first build a following?
ML I was stuck in a job I didn’t like with no creative outlet. I started the site as something to do on the side, but it quickly gained traction to the point where I was ultimately able to leave my traditional job to pursue this full time. Readers come to sites organically and either click with the voice and personality or they don’t. I was lucky that a number of people can relate with my life experiences and enjoy reading about my travels.
Why did you decide to focus on the “Land Lopers” idea and brand?
ML From the beginning, I was different in the travel blogosphere in that I wasn’t nomadic. I hadn’t sold everything and moved to Thailand. Instead, I traveled as a normal person for a week or two at a time and shared how I make that work. ?
The “dream job” and “travel blogging” mentality is becoming more popular. What have you noticed?
ML It’s not a zero sum game. We all have different audiences and appeal to readers for different reasons. It’s also a deceptively difficult career path to follow. Sure, everyone loves the concept of it, but figuring out how to make it into a functioning career is a challenge for many people.
What’s one tip you have for readers who want to live a life like yours?
ML It’s not about emulating me. It’s about finding that one thing in your life that drives you more than anything else. It’s about connecting with your one true love and then doing everything in your power to make it your life’s work. That could mean being a doctor or an artist or a writer, but whatever it is, life is far too short not to pursue it.
What are you focusing on for the rest of 2016?
ML The year has already been a great one, but I get a special thrill when I visit new places for the first time, and there are quite a few remaining in 2016 that will all be new experiences for me. Travel is about exploration and I love that magical sensation I get when first learning about a new place.
Carolyn Crist is a freelance journalist based in Georgia. She writes about travel, health and business for regional and national publications.