Hi, my name’s Matthew Dyson and I’m 32 from Brisbane, Australia. Travelling has been a major part of my life for the last 10 years and cricket is my life-long passion. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to 48 countries on 6 continents. Antarctica is the only continent to elude me, but it is only a matter of time until I get there.
I’ve travelled extensively in Africa and can’t get enough of how rich and vibrant the people, countries and landscapes are. I am mindful however that the entire world has a lot to offer so I mix up my destinations to allow each place the opportunity to enhance my knowledge. I’m continually learning and experiencing something new and I plan to visit all 198 countries within the next 5 years. It might sound far-fetched but people who know me will agree that I won’t let anything stop me.
My next trip is to Bangladesh in October which coincides with the Australian cricket team tour. I find mixing my passions for travel and sport to be very enjoyable. I’ve attended several Australian cricket matches around the world and watched the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. I hope to encourage people to step outside their comfort zone, get off the beaten track and see what the world really has to offer.
What first ignited your passion for your travel?
This will make people laugh, but the truth is I fell in love with Kenya while watching season three of the TV show Survivor. I think it was the amazing locations, seeing what the contestants experienced day-to-day, but the icing on the cake was when contestants stayed at a place called Governors Camp and rode a hot air balloon across the Maasai Mara.
That was in 2001 and in 2007 I stayed at Governors Camp with my brother Justin. We did the same balloon ride, it was amazing and everything I thought it would be. Survivor is starting season 31 and I’ve never missed an episode, even while I am travelling.
How do you feel when you travel/What does travel mean to you?
It’s the possibilities, the opportunity and excitement that comes from the unknown. I know some people want to research and plan everything for a holiday, pre-arrange all their bookings and stay in a resort, they feel anxious when something unexpected happens… but that is what I embrace, that is the reason I do it. You learn so much about yourself, your abilities, resilience and resourcefulness, just surrendering to being out of your comfort zone and taking what comes to you.
You get a heightened sense of awareness and see things and experience things with clarity, you want to connect with the people around you and learn more about them and what their life is like. It’s funny how many people in western countries, with everything we have, are not happy or prepared to talk to a stranger yet in some of the poorest countries they include you in their games of street soccer, are happy, smiling and invite you to a family dinner or to stay the night.
Travelling to me is about not knowing what is going to happen next. It allows me to step away from my normal everyday life and provides the opportunity to gather experiences that will educate me further and continue to build my confidence to travel to the next new destination.
What is your favourite travel moment?
The one that always stays in my mind was the Gorilla Trek in the Virunga Mountains within the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. The mountain gorilla population is critically endangered from habitat loss, poaching, disease and war; so human contact is kept to a maximum of one hour per day.
We woke up at 4am to pouring rain, it was a miserable day to hike three hours up the mountain; that was until we finally reached a group of eleven mountain gorillas. It was at this point I realised even the most horrible day can turn out to be the best you’ve ever had, as long as you’re willing to keep going.
It’s impossible for me to explain the life-changing effect that experience had on me. Spending time in the wild with these amazing animals is something I highly recommend, all travellers should put it at the top of their travel lists. It’s astounding and tragic that there are only about 880 mountain gorillas left in the wild.
What is your dream destination?
Most people have a dream destination which may include an exotic location in the Caribbean, a safari in East Africa to see the Big 5 or a party to end all parties in Ibiza. This is because they know someone who has been there or they have read positive comments from past travellers. I have always believed that there is beauty in every single country, for some of them you just need to work a little harder to find it.
My dream destination is a place I haven’t been to yet, as no matter what happens it will be a brand new experience for me. I encourage everyone to keep an open mind. Your dream destination might be a place you least expect and you don’t realise how special it is until you’re there.
If you had to choose one song to be the soundtrack of your adventure, what would it be?
The world would be a boring place if we let all the animals become extinct. One of my finest travel moments was when I finally got to see the big 5 in the wild and I would hate the opportunity to be taken away from future generations. I believe this song sums up how I feel on the topic.
How has travel changed you?
I believe there are not many things in life that can truly change a person; however, the exception to this is travelling. The experiences you gather along the way open your mind to things you never thought possible. There is a great quote that says something like; if the world is a book then not travelling is only reading one page. I think this is a good analogy because travelling is learning, and without seeing things with your own eyes you miss out on the whole story, you also only ever see the world from your own perspective.
There is no doubt independent travelling has helped me build a high level of confidence, made me smarter and appreciate what I have in my life at home. Some people learn from books, I learn by going hands-on and seeing the world.
My backpack has become my school bag and the local people I have met along the way have been my teachers. Travelling can be the best education you will ever receive.
What would you say to someone thinking about travelling like you have, but maybe is too scared to do it?
Being nervous is natural but that’s part of the excitement. I always get a little nervous when I first arrive in a new country because I rarely have accommodation booked, don’t speak the language and don’t know my way around. But then your travel mode (instincts) kicks in and you just want to explore the country and you use your skills gained from past experiences to get you through.
I suggest starting small to gain travel experience before going to tougher and less tourist orientated countries. A good way to do this is by travelling with a close friend or family member to a country classified as safe with good infrastructure. But don’t just stay in the one spot. Practice being on the road and moving around, talk to the locals and find out what is good to do. Take public transport or hire a car so you have to make your own decisions where to go and how to get to the next location. Really, anyone can pay for an organised tour, but you don’t want to be just anyone – otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and who was it from?
Easy is boring (Gunnar Garfors – 198 How I ran out of countries)
What are your top travel tips/hacks?
- Pack light, I only ever take a carry on backpack. This will allow you flexibility during your trip.
- Never go back to the same country twice in a row. There are 198 countries in the world which means you have endless amounts of places to explore. Just because you enjoy one destination doesn’t mean you won’t find another one that’s even better.
- Always be humble and show the locals respect. When travelling to third world countries you will often be the richest person in town or at least they will assume you are rich but that doesn’t mean you are a better person than them and that certainly doesn’t give anyone the right to behave in a way that might insult the local people. You are a guest, never forget that.
- Never take photos of people unless you have their permission. Just imagine someone you don’t know shoving a camera in your face and taking photos without asking. How would you feel? I see it far too often.
- Never be afraid to say no. You will always encounter locals who want to make a quick and easy dollar off you for doing absolutely nothing. Often travellers are too afraid to speak up and just pay the money to avoid conflict. You have the right to say no and if they persist just give a firm no and continue walking. Never just pay to get rid of them because it makes it worse for the next traveller coming through, plus you will continue to do it until you have nothing left.
If you could choose your ultimate travel companion, past or present, who would it be?
Choosing a travel partner is like choosing your life partner, if you make the wrong decision it can ruin the experience and you will never want to do it again. Choose wisely as even best friends can be the travel buddy from hell.
Better yet, why not just go it alone, some of my best trips have been solo. I have been very lucky though and shared some unbelievable adventures with both friends and family members. My brother Justin would be my ‘ultimate travel companion’. We just understand each other and know when we need our own space, and trust me, having your own space is priceless.
How do you choose your next destination?
It all depends on how long the trip will be. My last trip, I only had five days so I chose Brunei. I opened a map and chose a country close to Australia that I hadn’t already visited. The whole process took about five minutes. It’s all about maximising every opportunity to travel.
For my recreational leave each year (4-8 weeks) I’ll choose a continent I haven’t been to in a while then choose countries I haven’t been to at all. I try to minimise research as that leads to planning and expectations. As all experienced travellers will testify – planning too much is a mistake and has the potential to turn your holiday into a nightmare.
Mix up your travels by choosing a different continent every time. Everyone knows that person who brags about being a world traveller, yet has only been to one continent. Don’t let that person be you as each continent and country is unique.
What has been the hardest thing you’ve come up against in your travels and how did you overcome it?
I’ve been fortunate and there isn’t any incident I can single out. Backpacking through less travelled countries presents numerous issues to overcome. It may be something as simple as sleeping in a room with the bare basics and no hot water, or taking local transport to the next city which is likely overcrowded, uncomfortable and hasn’t had a roadworthy certificate in 30 years, but it’s cheap and is going to the place you want to go so you get in anyway.
Often I’ve been the only tourist in town, which can make you feel like a celebrity but can also make you a target for some. I’ve never been robbed or threatened but it is inevitable that you come across locals that will try to hustle you.
There are numerous ways locals attempt to hustle tourists and it happens all over the world. Many travellers switch off their internal alarm systems when on holiday. In order to get out of a situation where they feel intimidated they end up paying whatever is asked to get out of it, for something they didn’t want in the first place or paying off a ‘local guide’ just because they provided directions.
The best advice I can give is to never be afraid to say no and walk away and don’t be scared to tell a hustler their assistance isn’t required. If you aren’t prepared to do these things then I suggest you take plenty of money on your next trip because you will be seen as a walking ATM.