Photo: Kyle Offutt

How Travel Influencer Kyle Offutt Made a Career While Seeing the Country By Car

Travel Jobs Road Trips
by Eben Diskin Mar 16, 2023

The profession of being a travel influencer and video creator may have its detractors. That said, if those detractors had the chance to get paid to pursue their favorite hobby, would they take it? Likely. Though ubiquitous on our social media feeds, the actual lifestyle of travel influencers remains somewhat of a mystery to many. Behind the final filtered product are logistical struggles and finely-honed packing systems that make it all possible.

Kyle Offutt is a travel filmmaker and influencer who’s been all over the United States, most often traveling the country by car. Not a van to follow that #vanlife, but a car. From Wichita, Kansas, Offutt first attracted attention on Tiktok for his unconventional travel style and has since gained hundreds of thousands of followers. In addition to posting epic travel content, he also makes videos about the road trip lifestyle, what it looks like, and how to do it yourself.

Matador caught up with Offutt to learn more about his profession, work style, and what it really is like to be a travel influencer today.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Matador: What’s your favorite trip you’ve taken so far and what made it special?

Kyle Offutt: Mostly my list of favorites just goes sideways and it’s hard to rank anything. But some standouts are an event called Creator Camp I went to last summer in Colorado where around 35 content creators got together in a giant cabin to just spend some time together without service and just connect with each other and do a ton of activities outdoors. I made a lot of amazing friends that inspire me. I was in a beautiful place with people who share my passions for art and storytelling. Another of my favorite trips was in the woods of North Carolina. I shared a tiny cabin home with some friends and made a documentary about making an album over around a month. We spent time doing arts and crafts, exploring the trails, building forts, making music, and watching movies. I felt like a little kid and was in this place away from everything for a good amount of time. I did all of my favorite things everyday with amazing people. And it was just 30 minutes outside of a very small town.

What’s the one thing you never leave home without?

@kylegoesoff Replying to @fullofskittles asking people I meet traveling to write down a piece of advice #strangers #traveling #notebook #advice ♬ Freaks – Surf Curse

The thing I never leave home without is a notebook I carry with me. Anytime I meet strangers at coffee shops, hostels, on hikes, or any random place I have them leave a piece of advice that they wish they knew earlier and sign it. Its really cool to see everyone’s unique handwriting, and a little life experience from people all over the world and all ages and backgrounds. It’s one of my prized possessions.

How do you pick the place that you want to go to next?

I always visit people instead of places because the company you keep at any place really makes the trip. If I get invited for a cool opportunity or my friends find a cheap flight and want some company I will tag along. Cost is normally a big factor for me, I cant say no to a good deal.

Is there a destination that you’ve found is severely underrated?

@kylegoesoff Will I be able to survive South America out of a backpack? 🎒 #southamerica #backpacking #patagonia ♬ Choking on Flowers – Fox Academy

Peru and many places in South America were very underrated to me. Most of the other travelers I met were European. As an American, I haven’t met many people who have gone to South America unless they have family there. It was inexpensive and so vibrant with culture. The food was amazing because of the diversity of ingredients. They had the highlands, coast, and jungle that produce so many different things. Peru is huge, so there are so many different landscapes. From the mountains with bright blue waters to an oasis in the desert and surfing on the coast, there was everything. It was easy to take the buses all over and flights were not expensive. Unfortunately political unrest right after our trip has made it more difficult to travel to recently but i’m really hoping they find peace because it is such an amazing place.

Where have you always wanted to go but haven’t made it to yet?

I’ve always wanted to go to the Netherlands, Thailand, and New Zealand. I always meet Dutch people on my travels and feel like I would fit in well with the culture. It is more expensive and I want to make an entire Europe trip if I were to go or spend at least a few months to understand how it is to live there. Thailand is a place I’ve been told I would love because of the tropical weather, beaches, and food scene. Although it is cheaper once you are there, it is expensive to get to for us in the States. Same with New Zealand. It has beautiful scenery but is an expensive country and is costly to get over there.

Where’s your next trip and what are you most excited to experience?

Right now my next trips are close desert camping and then going to the next Creator Camp in Utah. But the next big trip I have begun planning is to Alaska. In posting about eating and adventuring with strangers the most messages i’ve gotten have been from Alaska with a lot of awesome activities so I’m really excited to see the landscape and see it with locals.

Which state has the most underrated food scene?

@kylegoesoff Thai infused BBQ #kansascity #bbq #thaifood ♬ original sound – Kyle

This may be biased, but I feel like Kansas City has really developed in recent years. The barbecue is obviously great and stands out but there are so many creative things popping up and unique fusion concepts. On a recent trip I went to a barbecue and Thai infused restaurant, and it had some of the most surprising flavors and homey experience that blew me away. I grew up not far with many immigrant friends from Mexico and parts of Asia. Those food cultures and flavors have really started to appear in these cities.

Any car hacks for future road trippers?

@kylegoesoff Replying to @johhnywest another day living out of a car in NYC #carlife #carcamping #nyc #dayinmylife #nomad ♬ original sound – Kyle

Take out your seats or see if they can fold down then use a foam bed and blankets for bedding. For cars, I just found out that my front seat folds forward which gives me a lot more room. To help with cold you can use the sun reflectors for all of your windows to insulate your heat from the inside and use a reflector underneath you as well. Cracker Barrels and hospital parking lots are some of the better spots to sleep that most don’t know about. Use apps and websites like Free Campsites and iOverlander to find free spots to park. If you can sleep out of a car it makes travel waaaaay cheaper.

How did you first monetize your travel lifestyle?

At first I didn’t. Even now I don’t make a ton of money. If you think you’ll get rich doing this you’re very wrong – at least in the monetary sense. You will be very rich in experience and connection. I now have friends all over the world and many that I’m able to stay with. Now I get some money from social media platforms from bonuses and ad sharing, will license some of my content, and get an occasional brand deal. I’ve also made some free and paid guides to the places I’ve been. So far, this basically just covers my cost with a total audience of around 300,000. To get extra income I also do some filming and editing on the side for small businesses or other content creators. I know some van lifers will use things like DoorDash, Postmates, and Amazon to make money in new cities to cover their expenses.

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