Select Page
HotelsCombined / Blog / Walking on the Wild Side: Expert Vagabond Matthew Karsten Talks Adventure Travel
Matthew Karsten

Matthew Karsten, a.k.a “The Expert Vagabond,” makes some new friends in Guatemala.

Matthew Karsten’s blog, The Expert Vagabond, is not for the faint of heart. In it, the professional photographer details his hair-raising travel experiences which include the likes of downhill mountain biking, skydiving and canyoning (he also doesn’t shy away from getting up close and personal with local wildlife). Truly, this daredevil nomad is not one to shy away from excitement.

Because we have our fair share of adrenalin junkies within the HotelsCombined community, Matthew was recently kind enough to take time out from his exploits to share his thoughts on the true meaning of adventure and his tips for newbie thrill-seekers:

You mention on your site that “adventure travel is so much more than just participating in extreme activities.” What does the term ‘adventure travel’ mean to you?

For me, adventure includes a physical and/or mental challenge and some adrenaline. When you include the term “travel”, it needs to be located far away from home, with an element of local culture or nature. I want to learn something about the area I’m visiting when I’m rafting down their river, or jumping out of an airplane over their islands. Even eating can be adventurous! Just try snacking on fried bugs while exploring markets in Southeast Asia and tell me you don’t get a thrill doing it. I’d argue that attempting to find a bathroom in a foreign country can easily become a cultural adventure.


Exploding volcano in Guatemala

Matthew was crazy enough to camp on an erupting volcano in Guatemala!

What would you say is the craziest thing you’ve ever done while on the road?

I’ve done my share of crazy things while travelling that’s for sure. Some of my favorites include camping on an exploding volcano in Guatemala, making out with an ostrich in South Africa, and getting kicked out of a remote village in the Darien Gap.

You’ve tried everything from hitchhiking in Mexico to kayaking with crocodiles. Have any of your travel experiences frightened you?

While trekking solo through the jungle in Costa Rica, a crocodile actually surfaced in front of me as I waded through the river. That was scary. I was also pretty nervous to go shark diving without a cage in Fiji, but you soon relax and marvel at their beauty & power.

Is there anything you definitely WOULDN’T try while travelling?

Nothing that is obviously beyond my skill level or requires a lot of previous training/experience that I don’t have. I love adventure & challenges, but I don’t want to injure myself doing something that’s over my head.

What advice would you give to a novice traveller about to head out on a round-the-world adventure?

Patience and a relaxed attitude are a traveller’s best friends.

Travel with an open-mind! Don’t judge other cultures because they do things differently. Try new things, embrace the challenges, and remember that everything usually works out in the end. Patience and a relaxed attitude are a traveller’s best friends.

Are there any fellow bloggers who inspire you?

Plenty. Erik Gauger’s stories, illustrations, and photography on Cass Gilbert’s bicycle-touring adventures on Dave & Deb from are always doing something inspiring.

Skydiving Fiji

Matthew gave skydiving a whirl for the first time when in Fiji.

What travel experience is still on your bucket list?

I’ve actually never been bungee jumping before. I’d love to buy a horse in Mongolia and ride it across the steppe for a few weeks. Take a small boat down the Mekong river. Ride a camel through a desert. Hike to Everest base camp. Sail around the Mediterranean. My bucket list is endless.