An Interview with Matthew Bailey
Home Base: Calgary, Alberta
Blog: Live Limitless
Connect With Matthew
My name is Matthew Bailey and I live in Calgary, Canada. After an incredible adventure in "Australasia" (New Zealand and Australia) back in 2009, my passion for travel grew exponentially. Over the next six years, I explored six continents, 35 countries and over 200 cities while hiking, scuba diving and learning about life and various cultures. Throughout that time, I became interested in writing and started a blog called LiveLimitless.net to inspire people to explore life’s possibilities. A passion for travel hacking also lead me to creating CanadianFreeFlyers.com and ZerotoDreamTrip.com, which are two services that help people become travel around the world for next to nothing. Lastly, I also have a passion for Canada and the incredible adventures that are right here in our own country. Having explored all the provinces, I started MustDoCanada.com as a way to share the wealth of activities from coast to coast. It's amazing how varied and diverse this massive country is.
When and how did you discover your passion for travel?
I fell in love with travel after my first long-term solo-backpacking trip to Australia and New Zealand in 2009. It was a big trip for a number of reasons. First, it was a destination I had been dreaming about since I was 17 but had kept putting it off and waiting for friends to join me. By the time I hit age 24, I knew I had to either take the trip alone or not take it at all and so I booked the flight and went. Second, it was a trip that made me much more courageous and bold. Up until that trip, I was slowly making myself more adventurous by trying new things but this trip allowed me to expand much more quickly. I went from a relatively shy and unadventurous guy to jumping out of a plane, bungee jumping into the sea, scuba diving with sharks and jumping into cars with strangers to road trip around a new country. I truly felt alive. Lastly, this trip also brought me to Indonesia, which is what really made me want to start exploring the developing world.
How has travel changed your life?
It’s made me much more adventurous, independent, bold, appreciative, and open. I’ve realized how much I truly love thrills and testing my limits. I’ve seen so much of the world’s beauty and have come into contact with so many cultures that my mindset has forever been changed. I’ve learned that my way of life (and of the Western world in general) is not the only way. It’s just one way. There are many different ways to look at things and many different ways to look at life. At the same time, I’ve also learned that everyone around the world shares in common the fact that we all just want to be healthy, happy and able to raise a family.
What is your biggest pet peeve while travelling?
There are two types of travellers I dislike the most. Those who travel to developing countries just to get drunk and party and those who travel to developing countries and penny-pinch their way through without giving much back to the people who need it the most. I’m utterly shocked when I see young people drinking and puking all over the streets in a place where locals barely make enough to survive. I simply can’t believe the ignorance and it bugs me just to think about. Likewise, when I see travellers who come from rich countries doing all they can to save 25 cents or really trying to spend the absolute least they possibly can, it bugs me as well. Save money while your home and then help support the people in the developing countries you’re visiting.
What is the one thing you absolutely never travel without?
I always bring earplugs and an eye mask. These two simple items have helped tremendously on airplanes, buses and in not-so-quiet accommodation. Another great travel item is a headlamp. I can’t count the number of tomes it’s come in handy, particularly if you’re doing any trekking.
What is the most unique experience you've ever "accidentally stumbled upon" while travelling?
There are so many unique experiences I’ve had, which is what I love about travel. One of them was when my wife Karla and I were on a remote island in Indonesia exploring stunning volcanic crater lakes. The village was super small and over the four nights we stayed there, we ended up being invited to two local weddings. Being surrounded by locals and witnessing such a unique ceremony was incredible but what particularly stands out was jumping around to System of a Down during the party. It just reminded me how similar we all really are.
If you were going on a one-week rest and relaxation vacation somewhere you've previously been, where would you go and why?
This is another tough question but I find myself leaning towards Ixtapa, Mexico. Since Karla is from Mexico City, we spend a lot of time in the country and I’ve been to Ixtapa (and neighboring Zihuatanejo) a number of times. It’s also where we got married. It’s a very laid back town with many nice beaches. There’s something about beautiful hotels with sea views, Mexican food, Piña coladas, and fresh coconut juice that scream relaxation.
With the Canadian Dollar being a little weaker than it once was, what is something unique you do to stretch your dollars while travelling?
There are not a lot of tricks I’ve done but even though it does hurt the wallet right now, I don’t let it affect my travels. There’s no telling how long it could be low and I’d hate to limit my adventures due to a weak dollar. If you want to stretch your dollar in general, I suggest visiting developing countries where the value is much greater. Southeast Asia is a great place to start.
If you could pack only a carry on sized backpack for an extended trip, what would you pack?
Minimal clothing, a camera, paper and a pen, earplugs, an eye mask, a headlamp, sandals, sunglasses, a smart phone and my computer because I need it to work. If you don’t work from a computer, leave it at home! Many things can be bought on the road if needed.
What kind of mistakes did you make when you first started travelling?
Some of my biggest mistakes became blessings in disguise. For example, I was so ignorant on my first trip that when I went to Indonesia, I didn’t even know that I needed a visa. Luckily, I could purchase it at the airport. I didn’t do any planning either, which was good and bad. On the plus side, I had no expectations and was open to all adventures. On the down side, I didn’t maximize my time and missed out on a number of things. Lastly, I didn’t check about the tap water situation either and after brushing my teeth with the water for a few days, I became quite sick. It took me 5 days without food to recover.
What is your most embarrassing travel story?
In all honesty, I don’t have any embarrassing stories I can think of other than drinking the tap water in Indonesia and practically living on a toilet for the next few days. One story that comes to mind though is a trip we made it to the Golden Rock in Myanmar. It was three hours away and we thought we could do it as a day trip from Bago. We paid two motorcycle taxi’s to take us there and that’s where the adventure began. First, being on the back of a motorbike and dodging cows at 100 km/h was terrifying and made the three hours seem like forever. Then once we got to the mountain, we had to wait for a shared truck to bring people to the top. Once we were at the “top”, we had to hike uphill for another 45 minutes. This is when a torrential downpour came. After the next two hours, we were completely drenched and starving. Karla fell on the way down and really hurt her elbow. Then when we got to the truck, we had to wait for it to fill up but since we didn’t know when that would be, we couldn’t leave to eat because it was the last truck of the day. It ended up taking hours and once we got to the bottom it was getting dark. The guys who brought us there were nervous to bring us all the way to the hotel on the back of a bike but we tried. After maybe 30 minutes, the rain was too much. It hurt the face at the speed we were going and it was difficult to see. The drivers brought us to a roadside restaurant and began trying to find us a hitchhiking opportunity. By now, we looked terrible. My pants had ripped from the crotch all the way down the leg and both my wife and I looked like we had been swimming in a lake. One of the ladies at the restaurant felt sorry for Karla and gave her some extra clothes to wear. We were so happy to eat and this was a great moment to witness the friendliness of the Burmese people. After a couple of hours, the motorcycle drivers found us a truck willing to bring us back to Bago where our hotel was. We finally got back to the hotel at midnight (we began the trip at 8 AM) and had a cold shower waiting for us. In the end, we laughed about the day and found it so heartwarming that our motorcycle drivers were so determined to get us home safe. Myanmar is magical.
What's the craziest thing you've ever eaten while away?
Without a doubt, fried tarantulas in Cambodia. I read about them before visiting the country and really wanted to step out of my comfort zone. After two weeks in Cambodia, I finally stumbled upon a street vendor selling friends Tarantulas on my last night in Phnom Phen. Mentally, it was very difficult to put a big hairy crunchy spider in my mouth but the taste wasn’t that bad. It was somewhat comparable to a chicken wing and made for a great photo op.
What is the most exciting thing/craziest story that has ever happened to you when travelling?
Great question and again, I could list so many. Let me give two quick stories. Many of my exciting moments have been animal encounters. In the Philippines for example, Karla and I went diving off the island of Malapascua and as soon as we descended into a shallow sandy area, two huge Thresher sharks came and started circling us. Words can’t describe how beautiful the moment and having them look me in the eye as they slowly checked us out has forever been embedded into my memory.
But it’s not always animal encounters. Another exciting time was on a road trip through California when my wife and I were walking down Hollywood boulevard just when the Green Lantern was having its opening night. We had no idea what was happening but saw Ryan Reynolds walking down the red carpet. It was cool to catch this spontaneously and then a random man offered us two tickets to the screening. Next thing we knew, we were being ushered in and ended up sitting about 10 rows in front of the cast and crew. It was an incredible experience that happened out of nowhere. Too bad the movie was crap.
Of all the places you've been, what was your favourite destination and why?
I get asked this question a lot and find it difficult to answer because I love all the countries I’ve been too in different ways. It’s impossible to pick just one. I would say that Asia and North America are my two favorite continents, although there’s so much of all the continents left to explore. Asia is full of culture, fantastic food, great value, and spectacular scenery and overall just feels like a different world compared to Canada. Some of my favorite Asian countries that come to mind are Myanmar for it’s super friendly people and the feeling like I was going back in time, Thailand for its jaw-dropping beaches, delicious food, and great value, Indonesia for its incredible volcanoes, scuba diving, and landscapes, and Japan for its incredible culture, great food and fantastic people.
On the other hand, North America has a lot to offer as well. Canada is perfect for raw nature, the USA has world-class cities and beautiful national parks, and Mexico has almost everything a traveller could want with some of the worlds best food, beaches, colonial towns, jungle and ancient ruins.
Want to learn more about Matthews's adventures?
Check out his blog, Live Limitless.