MrGoAbroad’s alternative career path includes traveling world


Photo Courtesy of Matt Schultz

Illinois graduate Matt Schultz poses for a photo during his solo trip around Central America.

By Lily Dolan, Staff Writer

Matt Schultz recently graduated from the University with degrees in political science, Spanish and French. When his plans to study abroad in Senegal fell through, he instead decided to embark on a solo trip around Central America, mostly Mexico, starting in August of 2020. His experience during the pandemic has brought a wealth of traveling knowledge, including how he travels on a budget.

Matt documents his traveling on his instagram @MrGoAbroad where he hopes to show that solo traveling is much more attainable than people realize. He sat down with The Daily Illini to share some of his experiences. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The Daily Illini: Could you talk about what you do when you’re abroad and how you move around? 

Matt Schultz: is one of the websites that allows you to do a part-time volunteer work position in exchange for room and board. There are some other ones like WWOOF where you can “pay” by working for them, and that was the deal that I did. It’s really up to each Hostel owner for what they want to use the volunteers for but mostly I did reception work, cleaning, and some like handyman type projects. Before I came home for the holidays a few weeks ago, I was in Mexico since August, so it had been like five months. It would be really expensive to try to pay for a hotel or hostel for that long. 

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DI: Since you have been in Mexico since August, how has COVID affected your travels? What are the restrictions between different countries?

Schultz: When I left the US in August, Mexico was one of maybe five or six countries that were even allowing US citizens in, so I think it actually is an outlier in terms of not putting a lot of restrictions for traveling. For most of my trip, everything was open, but people do wear masks everywhere you go and people are handing you sanitizing gel, so there are those kinds of restrictions. In terms of things being shut down, it wasn’t until later in my trip in Guadalajara that there was actually a shut down.

DI: What is your favorite thing to do in each destination you go? 

Schultz: Meeting people is always my favorite thing to do and that’s the huge value of hostels. Whether you’re working in them or just staying in them, there’s always a ton of people around you who are also traveling, so it’s easy to get a group and go do things together. By meeting people and hearing their stories, you can hear a lot of interesting perspectives and career paths.

DI: How do you navigate the feeling of being a local versus a tourist? 

Schultz: I think it’s a state by state thing in Mexico in terms of the touristy versus “normal” activities. I spent around a month near Cancun, and by the end of it I was so sick of people coming up to me on the street trying to sell me tours. In other places, like Mexico City for example, no one bothers you. You’re just another person on the street. 

DI: What are your goals for your Instagram or traveling in the next couple of years?

Schultz: I wish I started posting on Instagram or sharing my travel experiences a lot earlier because all throughout college I was studying abroad. I was planning on studying abroad in Senegal, but of course it got cancelled for COVID so I decided to travel to whatever country was open. I really want my Instagram to be focused on learning, including posting about some of the cultural aspects and the history of the places I visit. Also, my goals are to keep a budget conscious philosophy where I show that other people can do this and it’s more accessible than people think.

DI: What is some of the most crucial advice you would have for traveling across the world?

Schultz: I would say Workaway is a great place to start. I would recommend having some savings before you before you just go, but (Workaway) can really cut the costs. You’ll meet people that have been traveling for a lot longer, so it’s a smart thing to ask them for their advice, but if you just watch how they spend money or listen to how they’ve been traveling you can learn how to do it. Safety is really important when traveling so my recommendation to anyone before going anywhere would be to check the State Department website. Know what you’re getting into, because I think that’s that’s the most important thing is to understand where the danger is and avoid it right. Knowing those things helps keep you safe. Also stay in the group as much as possible. Even though I was on a solo trip I would usually try to hang out especially if I’m going out at night, with other people from the hostel.

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