Want to know more about Matt Payne? Emmy-Award Nominated Producer and Top Photographer


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:

1.)Where was the first place that you traveled that made you think WOW—travel is amazing (think history book come to life or …..)

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.

Photo By Matt Payne3.)What were you afraid to do and how did you find the courage to overcome it?

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.

Photo By Matt Payne4.)What apps do you use regularly that make your life easier?

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.

Photo By Matt Payne

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

Photo By Matt Payne
Matt Payne took this photo of Lisa Niver, founder of We Said Go Travel, in Kenya in July 2018

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. 

Photo By Matt Payne7.)When were you surprised by the kindness of strangers on a trip?

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.

Photo By Lisa Niver
Lisa Niver took this photo in Kenya of Matt Payne

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.

2018 We Said Go Travel Photo Award
Matt Payne is a judge for 2018 Best in Travel Photo Award on We Said Go Travel

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.

Matt payne art show

Enkereri’s Windows Art Show

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. 
The show was inspired by a visit to a school funded by tourist dollars and Sanctuary Retreats. Before the school was built, class was held under a tree,’ said our guide Fred as he walked us around the various classrooms. Such a thought was remarkably humbling and hard to imagine. ‘The school’s newly constructed library doesn’t have books yet…’ he continued… And I was annoyed my iPhone didn’t work.
My images are intended to reflect that conflict of emotion, the needs of others, and a reminder that there are vast differences between our culture and others across the world. A world a part and anywhere in the world at once…


Stay up-to-date on Matt’s photos and travels through:

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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.

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Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries on six continents. This University of Pennsylvania graduate sailed across the seas for seven years with Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Renaissance Cruises and spent three years backpacking across Asia. Discover her articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site WeSaidGoTravel. On her award nominated global podcast, Make Your Own Map, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors, and as a journalist has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty-two times. Named a #3 travel influencer for 2023, Niver talks travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, her YouTube channel with over 2 million views, and in her memoir, Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty.

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