Your personal travel coach: Meet travel blogger Nomadic Matt

This undated photo shows Matt Kepnes on a hike in Iceland. Kepnes is a travel expert known to his fans as the blogger Nomadic Matt. (Matt Kepnes via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — Matt Kepnes had a desk job in health care with two weeks’ vacation a year when he took a solo trip to Costa Rica and “fell in love with travel.” The next year he went to Thailand and “met five backpackers who were living my dream.”

“I grew up in an environment where travel wasn’t a thing for my family, it wasn’t a thing for my friends,” he said in an interview for the AP Travel podcast “Get Outta Here .” ”I had always assumed … that travel was expensive. Here were five people proving me wrong.”

He quit his job to travel in 2006 and created the popular Nomadic Matt blog , offering tips on budget travel and what to do in destinations as well as the motivation some of us need to get out there and see the world.

Kepnes spoke frankly about a point in his career when he was “having terrible anxiety and panic attacks.” It came to a head in Argentina. “The guys in the hostel saw me working and said, ‘You want to come get some wine with us?’ I said, ‘No, I gotta work.’ They looked at me and they said, ‘Did you come to Argentina to work or did you come to drink wine?'”

That led him to take a “mental health month” where he realized “the world did not end because I didn’t tweet or update my blog for a couple weeks. Most people were very supportive. They were like, ‘Go! This is why we read your website so we can get travel tips.'”

Here’s more from his interview.

YOUR PERSONAL COACH

“For many people, travel is easy. You just got to go. If you’re like me, you decide on a beach, quit your job to travel. Other people, they need a shove. … They need to know everything is going to work out, it’s going to be OK. For a lot of people even taking a two-week vacation with your family seems like a pipe dream. I want to get people in the right frame of mind and have them say, ‘What can I do today to be one step closer’ (to financing a trip) whether that’s walking rather than Uber, one less Starbucks. Anything you can do today to build that positive momentum, every step you take after that becomes a lot easier. A lot of people need that push. That’s a very big component of what I do. I’m not Lonely Planet that publishes straight-up guides. I’m your personal coach.”

TO TRAVEL CHEAPLY, TRAVEL LIKE YOU LIVE

“We imagine travel to be expensive because we imagine it to be hotels, fancy meals, expensive tours, resorts, cruises, expensive flights. Now is the golden age of flight, so many amazing flight deals going around now. You can fly pretty cheaply. You can get tons of credit-card bonuses, miles and there’s just a lot there.”

“When you’re in a destination, travel like you live. Stay in an Airbnb. Hostels have private rooms. Check for budget hotels. Go to the market for food. Take local transportation. Google free things to do. There’s so much information available on the internet now. It’s really easy to find deals and everything. If you just go travel and do what you do back home, you get into the local rhythm a lot easier.”

HOW HE MAKES A LIVING

“Most of my income comes from writing books. I don’t do sponsored content. I don’t do ads. I started this to become a travel writer. That has always been my goal. I wanted to write guidebooks so I wrote my own guidebooks. I have eight destination guides, a couple of longer-format books on specific subjects and my New York Times best-selling book, ‘How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.’ Besides book writing, the other way I earn a living is people booking their travel through my website. People come to my website to book a flight, book insurance, book a hostel.”

PICKING A DESTINATION

“I go online and look for the latest flight deal and I just kind of go. I travel offseason. … Where haven’t I gone and out of all those destinations, what’s cheapest. That’s where I’m going next.”

___

Listen to the interview with Nomadic Matt in this week’s AP Travel podcast “Get Outta Here!” http://bit.ly/2vfc3hn

The Iowa State Fair is opening. Time to visit the Butter Cow

In this Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, photo, the Butter Cow displayed at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa. More than 1 million people typically visit the Iowa State Fair annually, and sometimes it seems like all of them are clustered around Butter Cow. The creamy creation has been among the state fair’s top attraction since 1911. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Aug 16, 2017 10:16AM (GMT-07:00)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — More than 1 million people typically visit the Iowa State Fair each year, and sometimes it seems like every one of them is clustered around the Butter Cow’s climate-controlled glass enclosure.

Here are some details about the creamy sculpture that has been an essential part of the fair since 1911.

WHY A BUTTER COW?

Butter cow sculptures appeared to have started with the Ohio State Fair in 1903, and the first one was displayed at the Iowa State Fair eight years later as a way to promote dairy products in one of the country’s leading agricultural states.

IS IT REALLY MADE OF BUTTER?

It’s not solid butter. The core of the cow is composed of a wood, wire and steel mesh frame, and that structure is then layered with about 600 pounds (270 kilograms) of Iowa butter. It’s a big sculpture but not as hefty as an actual dairy cow, which typically weighs about 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms).

THAT SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF BUTTER TO WASTE

The state fair estimates it’s enough butter for 19,200 slices of toast, but even fairgoers with grumbling stomachs probably wouldn’t want to dig into the sculpture. Most of the butter is reused from year to year, and some of it is up to a decade old.

GIVEN IOWA’S STEAMY AUGUST HEAT, DOES THE COW MELT?

Fairgoers often swelter in the heat and humidity, but the Butter Cow looks out of a glass enclosure kept at a chilly 40 degrees (4.4 Celsius).

WHO DOES THE SCULPTING, AND DOES THE COW HAVE COMPANY?

Sarah Pratt, of West Des Moines, has been forming the cow and other buttery creations since 2006, making her only the fifth sculptor in 106 years. This year, she’s also creating of sculpture of Laura Ingalls Wilder in honor of the “Little House on the Prairie” author’s 150th birthday, as well as a replica of the Solheim Cup trophy, awarded to the winners of a golf tournament held this summer in Iowa. Previous sculptures have included Elvis Presley, John Wayne and Leonardo DaVinci’s “The Last Supper.”

DO OTHER STATES HAVE BUTTER SCULPTURES?

Yes. They’re particularly popular in the Midwest, with sculptures in Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin. They’re also a part of state fairs in other regions, including New York, Texas and Utah. Not all are of cows, though. The Minnesota State Fair’s sculptures are especially beloved, as each year a dairy association’s Princess Kay of the Milky Way and her court have their likenesses carved into 90-pound (40 kilogram) butter blocks.