Miami-based Matt Meltzer stays busy writing about journeys both at home and abroad as a writer for the Matador Network and the Globe and Mail. The journalist, athlete, veteran of the U.S. Marine Corp and former pageant judge in the Miss Florida America system enjoys covering off-the-beaten path destinations and all things fun in South Florida.
1.)Where was the first place that you traveled that made you think WOW—travel is amazing (think history book come to life or …..)
Had to be the Grand Canyon when I was like 15 or 16. We rafted the whole thing with this grizzled old guide named Shane, and everything there just seemed so other worldly. I’d never seen red rocks before, or tropical waterfalls in the middle of a canyon. And hearing the guides insane stories about the canyon helped. We also were in a group with this plastic surgeon from Florida who’s wife had clearly utilized his services a time or 6, and a Mormon family who got really embarrassed every time my family cursed. So traveling with them was an education, too.
2.)If you had unlimited resources, where would you go and what would you do?
Antarctica almost feels like a cliché answer at this point because, like, EVERYONE wants to go to Antarctica. And I mean they’re probably three years from opening their first Starbucks, but I’d still like to go because, I mean…ANTARCTICA. I guess I’d look at penguins for a while, say “Welp, I’m in Antarctica,” then get back on whatever luxury cruiseliner I came there on and eat a nice dinner. Because unless you’re monitoring glacial melt or animal populations (both exhilarating I’m sure) I’ve heard there ain’t tons to do. So maybe I’d see if I could open that first Starbucks franchise there. I dunno.
3.)What were you afraid to do and how did you find the courage to overcome it?
I have a weird phobia of animals with exoskeletons. Seriously.
4.)What apps do you use regularly that make your life easier?
GasBuddy is helpful when returning rental cars so you don’t end up driving around “transitioning” areas near an airport looking for gas stations at 4am. Also a big fan of airline apps for ease of check-in etc. Otherwise, honestly, I’m not big on them. Two I NEVER use: Yelp! because they extort small businesses and promote bad reviews if you don’t buy their ads. True story. And Waze, because making five right turns to go a block is never faster, I don’t care what your algorithm is.
5.)What place do you wish more people have seen?
Big answer, but I’d say the Muslim world. I was in Pakistan last year at a wedding and the more you meet people in that part of the world the more you realize, hey, they’re just like us with eccentric uncles and pain in the neck in-laws and kids who don’t stop screaming, and the vast majority of the people actually like Americans. I think if everyone here spent a month in an Arab country we’d settle our differences within a week.
My dad who said don’t be in a hurry to settle down and have kids, you got your whole life for that. Tied is my mom, who said the secret to a happy life is low expectations. This is why I find myself saying stuff like “I enjoyed Branson Missouri exponentially more than Paris.”
7.)When were you surprised by the kindness of strangers on a trip?
Buffalo, New York has the nicest people on the planet. My first night there this married couple just started chatting me up and buying me drinks. And you know in Florida, where I’m from, that happens and you’re just waiting for them to lure you into some weird dungeon full of whips and goats. These people were just so genuinely nice, and literally every night I’ve ever gone out in that city I end up meeting people who buy me drinks and just wanna tell me how great the city is. And that just doesn’t happen other place.
8.)What inspired you to travel for extended periods of time or live in a new country?
Man, you really oughta be charging $250 an hour if you want the REAL answer to those kinds of questions. Travel writers have issues. Bigtime. All of us. But since your readers aren’t therapists I’m just gonna give the pat answer we all give and say “A passion for new experiences and cultures and a yearning to try something new and a greater understanding of the realms of the universe” are leave it at that.
9.)I travel because….
See my answer to #8. Also because people invite me places and I’m like “Hmmm…well when am I gonna get THAT chance again?” And it gives you something to talk about with people.
10.) My favorite travel or business book is…
Hmmm….I don’t read much of either of those genres but I read a little bit of “What I was doing while you were breeding” a while back and it was pretty hilarious.
11.) How about hotels? What’s your favorite or one you’d recommend?
I mean my FAVORITE is probably Jade Mountain in St. Lucia. Although really for $2,500 a night you’d think they’d give you a fourth wall and a TV. I mean the infinity pool is nice and all, but sometimes a guy just wants to watch a little Big Bang Theory before bed, ya know?
In terms of places normal people could actually afford, ALofts are nice, I liked the new TRU by Hilton. If I’m traveling by myself and not for work, nothing beats Motel 6, I’m not kidding. They’re consistently clean and bright and you know what you’re getting. And I don’t need to be spending money on hotels in Tucumcari, New Mexico, ya know?
Lastly, can you please recommend a resource for up-and-coming travel writers; this could be a course you know, a book, conference etc.
Honestly, I know no resources. Be good at what you do, make deadlines, write copy editors don’t have to do much with, and make deadlines. Did I mention making deadlines? Do that and you’re already in the top 5% of travel writers so you won’t need a whole lot of help.
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And Matt interviewed Lisa Niver, founder of We Said Go Travel, for Thrillist about Southwest Airlines!
Our next Travel Influencer interview will be up in a week, follow the series here.