It’s easy to see why Newcastle duo Matt and Brett make such good travel companions.
Not only are they easy company with a natural curiosity and a can-do attitude, but they also tend to seek out the best in any situation.
The pair, who have been together for more than two decades, has just signed on for another season of Nine’s Logie award-winning show Travel Guides.
And, after four years and 30 destinations in the role, it is Newcastle that is still coming to grips with their celebrity status.
“We get stopped when we’re going for a walk in Newcastle and people say to us ‘How are you enjoying Newcastle?’, Matt says.
“We love it. They think we’re on holiday but we’re actually home and, I guess that’s the point – it’s a great place to holiday.”
During a rare, brief stopover in their hometown, Newcastle Weekly journalist Rebecca Riddle sat down with the delightful duo on Darby Street to find out how they rate their new-found celebrity status – and, yes, there was a frozen margarita involved.
How did you end up on Travel Guides? Too many drinks on a Friday night is the correct answer. We had friends that were applying, and they encouraged us to apply as well. We filmed their video for them and they filmed ours for us. We submitted it and carried on with our barbecue and didn’t think anything more about it, until we got a call to say we’d like to talk to you further.
Had you done much travel before the show? We had been overseas twice. On both occasions we took three months off work and bought round-the-world tickets in a choose-your-own-adventure style of holiday. Before that Brett didn’t even have a passport, he was never into flying but he’s fixed that.
How many stars do you give Newcastle and why? Newcastle is definitely a six out of five. That’s why we live here. Newcastle has clean, award-winning beaches. We’ve got Merewether surf reserve, we’ve got The Bathers Way, there is so much you can do to be active in Newcastle and then there’s this proliferation of funky places, great bars, we’ve even got rooftop bars now, it’s a great place. You could come for a weekend, just to make a list of the things you would have to come back and do. It’s a little bit of everything. Darby Street is a little bit of Melbourne, the east end and the laneways, you can have a beach holiday by stopping all the way along the coastline. All the things we search for in a holiday we’ve got right here at home.
Food, adventure, comfort, climate – what are your ‘Must Haves’ on a holiday? We just like interesting things to do. Even when we go to a resort destination and we’ve laid around the pool and we’ve had our cocktail, Matt goes “right, let’s go and explore the island”, so we end up heading off to see what we can find. We like to explore.
What’s your dream destination? There are so many places that we want to go that we haven’t been to. I don’t think there could be a standout. We’ve got lots of ideas about where we’d like to go back to. That’s what we’ve learnt from this travel. You have a great experience somewhere and while you’re there you’re adding to the list of where you want to come back to. Now we both want to go to Sicily because we’ve just watched White Lotus. Cuba is probably at the top of our list, too.
Any advice for other travellers? When we arrive at a new city we like to check in and then go out and walk around. That’s when you find where you want to go for dinner, and you find a bar and stop for a drink and it all sort of evolves from that. We like to go without a plan and see where we end up. [Our advice is] even on your normal travels be a travel guide, even without the cameras. You’ll have just as much fun just less people will see it. Take lots of selfies.
Do you find travelling exhausting? Travel is exhausting but it’s happy exhausting because you’re getting to see and do so many things, you can rest when you get home. Travel is like a feast for the senses and we tend to overeat.
And the filming, is it intrusive? You get used to the cameras. It’s not super-intrusive. You forget they’re there. We’re not actors, so we’re not looking out for the cameras or what to say and when. It’s just us being us.
Let’s talk about the Cambodia episode when you were both brought to tears. Oh, we were in tears, the cameraman was in tears, the crew were in tears. There are things that you experience that don’t make it to television. A man had just shown us a room where his family had died. Those moments are so special, you feel so privileged to be sharing his story that you forget that the cameras are even there. The good, the bad and the ugly crying is all us.
Is it tough being away from home so much? It’s nice to come home. Every time we come back to Newcastle, it reminds us how lucky we are to live here. There’s something new every time we come home too. There’s so much changing here.
Roll or fold?
Brett: That’s a Matt question. It takes Matt a whole day to pack and he’s spread out across three rooms.
Matt: No, I do not roll. If you roll you still have to iron. I fold and everything goes into clip lock bags, packed as outfits. Then I know what’s clean and what’s used. There’s nothing worse than being on holiday and not having the right outfit to wear. Once I am packed, I am relaxed and ready.
Is it hard to juggle your full-time jobs and your role on Travel Guides? We don’t have children and I feel like what we do is a lot easier than having to juggle children. We have a shared calendar and that’s the only way I can keep up with what Matt has organised for us. We finish our trips and go back to work and the experience becomes a blur until we watch it on tv. It’s like a high-quality home video.
What has been one of your favourite destinations? One of the most amazing places we got to go to on Travel Guides was the Kimberleys. We always thought one day when we’re pensioners we’ll sell the house, and we’ll do that part of Australia, but we were really lucky we got to go in our first season and it was just incredible. It should be on every Australian’s bucket list. You can’t explain it until you’re there. It’s an incredible place. The horizons go on forever. We had to keep pinching ourselves reminding ourselves we were actually there. We stayed in this amazing place called El Questro. I remember we were the last guests to stay before the wet season, and they told us that in a few months they’d have to drain the pool because it would be filled with crocodiles.
But, every holiday has its highlights. There’s no such thing as a bad holiday. We’ve never had a dud holiday, we’ve had holidays where things haven’t gone quite to plan but you just adjust, after all you’re on holidays. When you’re on holidays you’re not talking about work, you don’t worry about getting the groceries, the washing can get washed when we get home, you just enjoy it, and we get to spend all of our time together when we’re on holidays, which is great.
Has the show changed you? Being on Travel Guides has changed the way we view the world. We’re a lot less stressed about the logistics of travel. If you miss a plane today there’ll be another one tomorrow. The cumulative effect is amazing. We’ve done things we’ve never thought we would do or ever could do. It’s pushed us out of our comfort zone.
Matt and Brett will return to Travel Guides in 2023. The show that features interstate and overseas adventures is now in its seventh season. The pair will return with other favourite travel critics including Newcastle’s Fren family, jet-setters Kevin and Janetta and best mates, Kev, Dorian and Teng. While cowgirl Mel takes time off to be with her baby, twin sister Stack is joined by their younger brother, Josh. He’s never been overseas before and has his passport packed, along with an extra pair of jocks. Each episode sees the travel guides share their unfiltered, honest reviews of bucket list destinations as they each experience the same week-long holiday. Opinions always wildly differ, often leading to outrageous reviews as the guides rate each holiday out of five stars. Narrated by popular Aussie comedian Denise Scott, Travel Guides is produced by Nine.
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