We Said Go Travel is honored to have Matt Payne as a judge for our 2018 Best in Travel Photo Award.
Learn more about him in this Travel Influencer interview:
I remember arriving to London as a 19-year old. We got into the city early in the morning. I was from Oklahoma City so the volume of people blew my mind but more so, the different kinds of people. I’d never seen so many cultures all hustling around together. Strolling through Regent Park I was floored by all the beauty. The buildings felt so substantial and stately. The food seemed wild! Money was different. Cars were different. I could drink beer at 19 while England impressed me, it was talking travel with other travelers staying in the same hostel we were that blew my mind. They’d been everywhere, it seemed. I knew I’d begun a journey that has taken me around the world many times over.
2.)If you had unlimited resources, where would you go and what would you do?
If I had unlimited resources, I would love to spend time visiting remote cultures either in Africa or South America. I’m a passionate wildlife and nature lover but what I love more than experiencing natural wonders, is learning about how that natural world has emerged throughout different cultures over time.
I was afraid that travel required millions of dollars and free time. I got into travel and photography before the whole ‘influencer’ movement, but I found other ways to get around the world. Public transportation, volunteering, cheap hotels…. There were so many ways to get out there and I tried to document and share my experiences in a meaningful way that inspired others to do the same.
I’m an Instagram guy when it comes to finding places to travel and things to photograph. Before I go somewhere I love to see what other people have photographed and/or enjoyed. Just Ahead is a terrific National Park app and because I’m a photographer, I use Photopills and The Photographer’s Ephemeris.
5.)What place do you wish more people have seen?
Eastern Africa is my favorite place in the world. From wildlife to landscape, people and culture to the music, it is life changing. I also wish more people saw the town they live in the same way a visitor migh
6.)Best advice you have been given and by whom?
The best advice I’ve ever been given was from an Emmy-winning television producer when I was 22 years old. He was an executive producer of the show 24 and I was a brand new production assistant. I was super envious of all of his success and wealth and one day, he looked at me and said “I’d give it all up to be your age again. To see the world with young, ambitious eyes where everything is about having fun and trying to figure out how to do what you love.” My goal was to hold on to that as long as possible. Easier said than done but I did manage to make my career out of living the best imaginable life and I think it started there.
Once I was photographing a tiny Guna Yala village in the San Blas Islands and realized I’d left my passport on the plane. There was no phone, no internet and no way to get back to a place where I could track it down. Through pantomime and panic, the indigenous community, and with a chance encounter with two moron missionaries, I learned my passport was safe and sound in Panama City.
8.)What inspired you to travel for extended periods of time or live in a new country?
This is actually not something I’ve done and if I could offer one bit of advice to travelers it would be to do this. Immersive experiences, to me, are how you really get to know a place. Learn the language, get a favorite restaurant and go back again and again. I hope that when I’m older and my daughter has moved on into her life, that we can spend a long period of time in a new place.
9.)I travel because…. it helps put the rest of my life into context. It helps me to see the good in what is around me every day. That realization was a big change for me. We travel to realize that we are different, but more so to realize, that in the most important ways, we are the same.
10.) My favorite travel or business book… are the ones by the greats. Theroux, Cahill, McCarthy, Bryson. I love people that bring themselves into their work. In terms of travel books, in an informational way, I’ve never much used them.
11.) How about hotels? What’s your favorite or one you’d recommend?
That’s a tough one. Recently I’ve loved Las Clementinas in Panama City. I stayed there before setting off on a trip to the San Blas Islands and thought it was excellent. The rooms felt like you were in an upscale apartment and there was an awesome rooftop with a great view of old town and the Panama City skyline. In Sydney last month, I stayed at The Paramount House Hotel and thought it was amazing. Very cool hotel with an incredible breakfast. Stateside, I love the Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado. Last year I stayed at the Duniway in Portland and it was superb.
Lastly, can you please recommend a resource for up-and-coming travel writers; this could be a course you know, a book, conference etc.
Don’t know of many conferences but my advice to writers would be to read as much good and bad travel writing as possible (see list above). Learn to know the difference. Learn what you like. Learn what moves you. Go to places that call you but when you find yourself in a place you don’t like, that writing is probably where you will learn the most. Write for outlets but also write for yourself. Don’t worry about the story you feel like you are supposed to tell. Tell the story you want to tell and let that inform the informational part of the narrative.
I’ll be having my first art show featuring images that I took on a recent trip to Kenya and Tanzania. It will be Monday, August 27th from 6-8pm to hosted by SixTwelve Gallery at Tower Theatre. The name of the show is Enkereri’s Windows: A Visit to Kenya’s Enkereri School above the Masai Mara and will run from August 27 – October 26.
Stay up-to-date on Matt’s photos and travels through:
We hope to see your photos in our 2018 Best in Travel Photo Award!
Our next Travel Influencer interview will be up in a week, follow the series here.