Providing more services based on convenience to guests — such as rental properties providing the ability to have groceries delivered upon check-in, helping to arrange transport from the airport, etc.
As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Travel Content Creator Matthew Schueller of Michael and Matt.
Based in Portland, Oregon, Matt and Michael are two travel obsessed husbands, experts in all LGBTQ+ travel from destinations to tips and tricks. Best recognized from their YouTube channels & blog, the “love at first vlog” couple lets fans into their daily lives as individuals, a couple who’s helped each other on the road to coming out, marriage, and now the process of growing a family, owning their first home, and careers.
Aware that coming out would be a life-shattering experience, Matthew Schueller truly could not prepare himself for what his experience would lead him to. After owning his truth via his YouTube channel, the video quickly went viral, getting attention and praise from those who suddenly felt inspired to follow in his steps. After a year’s passing, Matt knew it was vital to touch on the subject again, this time around receiving a response video in return. Over 1,300 miles away, Michael Lindsay stumbled upon this life-changing video which not only inspired him to come out himself, but reach out to Matt — someone he knew he could really resonate with. After a quick encounter that turned into a whirlwind romance, the rest is history.
Together, through trials and tribulations, they have continued to grow and showcase their lives in hopes of inspiring others around them, regardless of their personal lifestyles. Hoping life never settles, Matthew and Michael look forward to continuing their travels while sharing more of themselves with the world on their day-to-day journey through life.
When they aren’t working or traveling, they can be seen advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, spending time with those closest to them, and giving their two pups, Avi & Nori, plenty of love.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Matthew: I often get asked about my career path and what I do for work, but the truth is that I have multiple careers. I’m both a nurse, and I work in the creator/influencer world. I’ve always been caught in between the sciences and arts. I went to undergrad for a bachelor’s degree in physiology — virtually, pre-med. I was applying for medical school when I first met my now-husband, Michael. He was just about to start his four years of dental school in Nebraska, and I had to decide whether or not I would continue my applications to medical school or see where this relationship went. The decision to stop my medical school applications was easier than I thought it would be. Throughout college, I maintained my YouTube community and continued to dive deep into photography.
I wanted to learn more, and ultimately, I wanted to work as a travel photographer, so deciding to not go to medical school and chase my dreams (and a boy) is what led me to exactly where I am today. Working as a freelancer in photography and advertising, I grew increasingly lonely while working from home. I loved the artistic nature of it all, but it felt like I didn’t have any balance in my life. I was working all of the time and never had a day off. It felt like something was missing. I realized that having only one career path is just a myth. If I really wanted to, I could pursue both science and art. So in 2020, I decided to go back to school for nursing. Now I’m working in a hybrid type of way — some days on photography and advertising, and other days on nursing. I’ve never been happier with the work I’m doing.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Matthew: It’s nearly impossible to point to one moment in my career and name that as the most interesting thing that’s ever happened to me. There have been countless instances traveling with Michael that we’ve looked at each other and questioned, “What in the world is happening!?” It’s been hilarious and amazing. I think one of the most interesting and, I would say, reckless times of my life occurred when I had just completed my junior year of college. It was the first time I had the opportunity to travel abroad for my photography and videography work. The job was to travel in Europe for three months with a small group of video bloggers and capture and share as much as possible. We traveled from Ibiza to Italy to Croatia to France — staying at hostel after hostel. I was 21 years old. It was the first time in my life that I was receiving an entirely free trip to hang out and explore with others in their early 20s. The first couple of weeks were incredible, but as we spent more and more time together, the wear-and-tear of travel began to weigh on us. Additionally, I had just come out as gay and went through my first breakup. In a nutshell, I was a hormonal and emotional mess, let loose in Europe with a group of YouTubers that I didn’t get along with. The chaos of that summer was relentless, and I just laugh looking back on it. I got food poisoning in Scotland, where I vomited on a bus in front of an entire tour group. I got robbed in Amsterdam while attempting to kiss a boy I met in a random park. I spent the night trying to sleep in a public restroom in Germany. It was WILD. Looking back, as immature and crazy as I was, I really see how I learned a ton and became my own person on that trip. I learned how to travel independently, better look out for myself, and grew a larger sense of respect for the work I do.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Matthew: This was a VERY long time ago, but when I first started filming YouTube videos as a high schooler, I agreed to create videos for a small comedy website. In exchange, the website owner offered to pay me $30 per video. I thought, “I can get paid for making videos!? That’s incredible. Of course, I’ll make these!” The videos that I was hired to make were on B.S. Sex Advice. No doubt, as a 16-year-old who at the time looked like he was 12, this must have been hilarious and also incredibly creepy. I laugh looking back, but honestly, some of the topics were very cringy. My boss went as far as to send me a blow-up doll in the mail that I could film with. That’s where I drew the line and resigned from my position as a teen B.S. Sex Advice educator. Thankfully, all the videos are off the internet now. Those are videos I’d hope never to see the light of day again! The lesson I learned was to know your worth. Don’t undersell yourself. Whether someone is offering you $30 or $3000, it’s worth it to say no if the work doesn’t respect you or your work. Over the years, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that the more I consider my work of higher value, the more others will consider my work as higher value, thus paying me what it’s worth. Respect yourself, and others will follow.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?
Matthew: Find what you are passionate about and create content around THAT. I’ve heard time and time again from people who just want to become influencers for the sake of being an influencer. I don’t recommend anyone to do that. More so, I think individuals who have a passion for something and simply use social media as a tool to express that passion tend to find success as influencers. That’s what Michael and I do concerning travel and hospitality. We have a passion for travel, so we use social media to share the best of what we see and experience. And what we love most about travel is the ability to develop a community around the world through the action of traveling, much like we can share and build community online. Because our work is deeply rooted in something that we love to do together, we’re able to dive into our projects with an extra push of motivation because we’re actually really proud and excited about the art we create. It’s also important to decipher your boundaries between work and personal life. It’s incredibly difficult when working for your own business. The lines between work and personal quickly get blurred. In 2019, we were traveling together in Spain with a couple of friends, and we were really struggling to decipher how we could get work done and still have a great time on our vacation. Some days, we spent way too much time creating content. We’d take thousands of photos, tour around the entire day, and never really stop to soak in the surroundings. By five days into the trip, we truly felt spent. In Grenada, in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods we’d ever stayed in, Michael and I got in a heated argument about whether or not we were going to go out to take sunset photos or find a place to eat with our friends. After some contested discussion, we landed on setting 15 minutes aside, getting our photos out of the way, and then putting the work equipment away for the night. Good riddance! In this case, it worked, and we were able to compromise in a way that helped us to actually enjoy where we were and still get our work done. But it’s not always easy to put work aside. It’s just something that takes continual re-assessment. Michael and I now check in with each other more often on how we’re really doing when we travel together. We have to gauge how much work the other can take on and decide when to put the electronics away and do what’s best during travel — relax.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’d like to express gratitude to my parents. Overall, social media and the arts are an incredibly competitive industry, and at the same time, very misunderstood. When I started making YouTube videos and video blogging from my childhood bedroom, my parents undoubtedly thought I was insane. My mom was so afraid that I’d meet some crazy stranger online who would abduct me… not far from the truth, that is how I met Michael — and though he didn’t abduct me, he did somehow manage to convince me to marry him! So my parent’s fears weren’t too far off; it’s just the love interest online turned out to be a very positive thing.
Spending hours and hours a day, skipping my high school social activities and parties to stare at my computer screen… my parents thought something must be wrong with me. Yeah, I grew an obsession for YouTube and online video, but that obsession turned into my life’s passion to create content — developing photos, videos, and written blogs on everything from gay travel to self-development. I grew a love for storytelling, which slowly became my life’s work overtime. Had my parents deep-down not believed in me or what I was doing, they would have pulled the plug on my ambitions over 15 years ago. They believed in me because they could see the fire I had for it. My dad taught me to do my absolute best in everything I do because there’s no point in “half-assing” anything. He was hard on me when doing chores, working for the small restaurant and rental property businesses he owned… but looking back, I see he was hard on me because he wanted me to succeed. It was never about the sweeping or washing dishes; it was about the amount of effort I’d put into the work and believing that I could do it. He ultimately taught me how to work incredibly hard to achieve what I want in life. My mom taught me that “if I don’t try, I’ll never know what could be.” She taught me to take well-measured risks. She reassured me that the worst thing that could happen is that “if it doesn’t work, I could always just move back home.” THAT kind of support, knowing that I could try my hardest and give it my all, and if it all fell into pieces, I could still come back home was life-changing for me. My parents were quite literally telling me that if I failed, they’d still love me. The sheer amount of self-doubt and frustration I felt during countless moments while building my business, that support and encouragement from my parents helped me push through and see where things would lead.
Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?
Travel and hospitality are deeply personal. Why do we travel? Because we want to see the world, connect with others, and even more so connect on a deeper level with ourselves. All of these things are intertwined with storytelling. In comparison, I think the travel and hospitality industry has focused on the luxury of it all for a long time. Advertisers make locations out to be some kind of dreamy escape. While it’s certainly tempting to escape from the world and just relax on a beach for endless hours… that’s never why I chose to travel. When planning something for a trip, the first thing I do is look at the pictures and read the reviews. I love to hear and see the authentic experiences of others. This is paramount in the travel industry. We’re finding more and more that what people are interested in when it comes to travel is hearing the stories and feeling a connection with others who have done the same. So Michael and I are putting a face to those stories. We’re sharing our real-life experiences to give our readers a holistic perspective of how we’re growing in our self-development, as well as how that relates back to our travels. Because travel and life at home are never independent of each other. Our experiences abroad influence our experiences at home and vice versa. Traveling for the first time changed my perspective on the world forever. It changed how I view my community and how I view myself. I can’t ignore that. It’s the same reason why I don’t like following businesses on social media but love following creators. I want to hear their stories from a personal point of view. If you’ve ever had the experience of meeting someone abroad and engaging in storytelling, whether it be at a random bar, the hostel lobby, or a hike up some mountain — those are always the things that are least forgotten coming home from a trip. We apply the same thing to our business. The goal of our photography and videography is not to tempt with the most luxurious hotel room or the most extravagant spa but to impress upon the viewer a sense of authentic experience so that they see and feel what we see and feel. It’s traveling through our eyes and being able to follow along through our personal stories.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?
While we’re working with various travel organizations, we sometimes have difficulty landing on the same vision. We see some travel companies continually use the content we produce but depersonalize it. Removing the stories from the imagery is like viewing it completely out of context, and it just doesn’t have the same meaning. Our photos or videos are taken at face value as just a pretty picture instead of a part of a larger story, and to me, that means the real value is lost. An example of this is when companies request Michael and I act more as friends than spouses. Not only is that simply not true, but it lies to the viewer in depicting something that isn’t real. I think people see right through it, and whether consciously or self-consciously, the viewer isn’t impacted in the same way by whatever marketing material it may be. People are pretty good judges of authenticity, and in a world where social media grows more and more by the day, we’re getting quicker at judging authenticity in an ad.
We can’t forget to mention the 70 countries where homosexuality is still criminalized. To travel to these countries as a gay married man, I am in a position in which I must lie about who I am and deny my marriage to my spouse. It’s truly painful to think about the oppression faced by the LGBTQ+ communities within those countries. How can our stories reach those people? And how can we work to achieve equality not only for the people living in those countries but for better treatment of the LGBTQ+ people still wishing to travel to those countries?
How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
The more stories we share about gay travel, specifically to gay-friendly places, the more these stories become commonplace in the travel industry at home and abroad. I hope that what we post turns up the heat on the parts of the world that force LGBTQ+ people to deny their identities. As more stories of queer people are shared, and the world becomes a more accepting place, it will become harder and harder for antigay nations to hold on to their bigoted policies of the past. The countries with antigay rhetoric are missing out on tons of dollars from LGBTQ+ wallets, and this only becomes more obvious the more we travel and share.
As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share 5 examples of how you believe travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?
Matthew: Better access to sanitary supplies such as disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, and masks.
Carrying a higher sense of awareness of sicknesses in circulation in the area of travel.
More priority on providing open-air spaces for guests to enjoy. A rise in alfresco dining. Spacing tables and seats out more in the lobby area.
Providing more services based on convenience to guests — such as rental properties providing the ability to have groceries delivered upon check-in, helping to arrange transport from the airport, etc.
Pivoting to smaller-group excursions as opposed to enormous venues packed with people or cruises.
You are a “travel insider.” How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
Matthew: The more immersed into a culture I can feel, the better my experience when traveling. My favorite moments from travel have come when I’m off the grid, when there’s no cellphone service, and the wifi is unavailable. I love arriving at a place that is not only full of natural beauty but is so culturally rich that it blows every expectation or pre-conceived thought I ever had about the place. I love trying a fruit or vegetable I had never heard of before, picking up even just a few words of the local lingo, and experiencing the day-to-day life just as anyone living there would. We travel to learn and experience things that are outside of our own world, so when I actually get the opportunity to digitally disconnect and just experience everything to the fullest, it’s like my senses are on fire. I live for those moments!
Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.
Matthew: Every time Michael and I travel somewhere new, I feel like my sense of the world expands a little bit farther, and my idea of who we are as a community of humans grows too. It’s like discovering that what you thought about the world was incomplete and adds a missing puzzle piece to a mural you didn’t know you needed. Traveling also helps me better understand myself. Sometimes, removing ourselves from routine and landing in a completely unfamiliar place gives us the space and disquiet we need in order to contemplate and reflect. It’s kind of like an act of meditation — hopping on a plane, flying hours and hours away to the point where you’re physically exhausted, then arriving to a place you’ve never been, only to be overcome with a waterfall of new stimuli that overwhelms the senses. It’s in these moments that I can feel my spirit lift as if I’m taking a huge drink of water after hours of thirst. There’s many strange moments that stick out in my memory, like sitting on a baron beach in Mexico, being mistaken as a local while people-watching in a plaza in Spain, standing in the middle of Shinjuku Station in Tokyo — closing my eyes and feeling the rush of people pass by me. The crazy thing is, thinking about it, I can remember what I heard, felt, tasted, and smelled — I can transport back to those moments, and there’s nothing that makes me feel more connected to the world than that.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We need to continue to make the world a more open and accepting place for LGBTQ+ people. This is why coming out is so important. It’s not a movement I started, but it’s certainly one that I actively participate in. This is why storytelling is so important. Sharing our stories removes the mystery and scary unknowns around growing up gay. The more we share, the more we empower others to do the same. I see this movement of coming out and storytelling and how it started out as a whisper in a dark corner of the world. It started as a whisper, and over the last several decades, we’ve seen it form a collective roar. As a result, we see the passing of gay marriage in my home state, then the U.S. — and a change in public opinion that you’d have to live through and see for yourself to believe. The movement that will bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people is simply being vulnerable and sharing the things that you are most terrified to share. Because someone out there is scared too, and you never know who you might inspire to come out of the dark.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Matthew: You can find us at @michaelandmatt on Instagram and YouTube! We are also on TikTok at @michaelandmatt1, and Facebook at @itsmichaelandmatt. For all of our travel tips and more of our stories, make sure to check us out on https://michaelandmatt.com! We’re super communicable online and love engaging in conversation with our community on our socials!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!