We had the good fortune of connecting with Matt Kirouac and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Matt, career-wise, where do you want to be in the end?
I want to continue to write about travel in a way that inspires others to step outside their comfort zones, feel seen, and feel inspired to explore. Ultimately, I’d love to write more books tied to travel. I want to write a memoir about traveling in an RV full-time as a gay man, highlighting the ups and downs along the way, the lessons learned, and the magic of travel. Considering I essentially lived the gay version of “On the Road,” and I have the same last name as Jack Kerouac (basically), it seems too fortuitous not to write. I’d also love to write all sorts of other travel-related books, from travel guides and more memoirs to fiction — I’ve tinkered with the idea of Agatha Christie-esque mystery novels, set in unexpected settings like national parks. By the end of my career, I want my work to have left an impact on someone. Maybe inspired them to leave a job that was making them unhappy, or tackle a bucket list they’ve been procrastinating, or help an LGBTQIA+ teen feel hope, and that there’s space and support for them out there. As long as my fingers can type, these are the goals I want to continue achieving.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m a travel writer with a particular passion for national parks, independent restaurants, LGBTQIA+ community, and the sense of discovery that comes with venturing off the beaten path. I didn’t start my career here, though. I moved to Chicago in 2006 to attend culinary school, but I fortuitously started writing for my college newspaper in my first semester, when a literature professor took me aside and suggested it. That single moment shaped the rest of my life, frankly. I completed my culinary degree, but rather than cooking, I used it as a knowledge foundation for writing about food, restaurants, and chefs, which I’ve been doing for 13+ years. Making a living as a writer full-time isn’t easy, and there was a lot of struggle along the way, including working for a company that paid bare minimum while overworking me to the point of near-daily tears. When I quit that job after four years, I went into freelance full-time, which is notoriously difficult to make financially viable. But through networking, hustle, and drive, I’ve made it work. I’ve met amazing, supportive people over the years who have come to trust me for my dedication, my writing style, and my above-and-beyond efforts. I’ve always refused to accept defeat, or let society tell me to throw in the towel and try something different, no matter how scary or rough it got. If something makes me unhappy, I change it. At all costs. I’m proud of how I’ve persevered, and I hope to be able to share more of that ethos with readers in more of my future work and writing. Especially as I continue to work on a memoir about traveling full-time as a gay man.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
After living on the road in an RV for two years, my husband and I settled in a city we found to be unexpectedly awesome, diverse, and metropolitan: Oklahoma City. I take great pride in showing off this under-the-radar city to new visitors, who are always blown away by how different it is compared to their preconceived notions. If a friend was visiting for a week, I’d want to take them to all my favorite neighborhoods, restaurants, bars, and attractions. We’d need to visit the new First Americans Museum to take in all the incredible art and harrowing history of the 39 tribes of Oklahoma, then eat at the on-site restaurant, 39, which utilizes indigenous ingredients. We’d also need to get espresso martinis and breakfast tacos from Stitch Cafe, see live music and eat chicken-fried carrots at the gorgeous Jones Assembly, and drink in views and cocktails from Vast, a stunning restaurant on the 49th floor of the Devon Tower. We’d go vintage shopping and gallery-hopping in the Plaza District, home to the Plaza Walls murals, Dig It thrift shop, Bad Granny’s Bazaar, and Empire Slice House for killer slices and beer. We’d need to hang out in Midtown to go bowling at the ’70s-chic Dust Bowl Lanes, then head upstairs for sausage and steins at Fassler Beer Hall. We’d also visit the city’s first coffee roastery, Elemental Coffee, for vegan pastries and seasonal lattes, then shop for books about Oklahoma at Commonplace Books. Another must-visit neighborhood is Stockyards City, the historic home to Oklahoma’s cattle stockyards, and an area preserved in cowboy culture. There’s the century-old Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, excellent cocktails at McClintock Saloon, cowboy boots for days at Langston’s, and indie movies at arthouse theater, Rodeo Cinema. Some of my other favorite go-to spots: the gay bars in the 39th Street Entertainment District, Thrown Design & Wine for housewares and esoteric bottles in the Wheeler District, Grand House for dim sum in the Asian District, Prairie Artisan Ales for rich stouts and funky sours, and Factory Obscura, an immersive art museum filled with Instagrammable moments.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I can’t imagine what my life would look like, or where I’d be or what I’d be doing, if it weren’t for my husband, Bradley Kirouac. He’s the one who inspired me to sell our loft in Chicago, buy an RV, and experience the greatest travel adventure of my life, opening up endless opportunities and experiences along the way. He’s my biggest cheerleader in anything I attempt, and always supportive of my endeavors, no matter how exhausting or stressful they can be. Not only does he directly inspire and support me, but he’s generally a person who is pure good, with the warmest and most giving heart. His passion for community, uplifting others in any way possible, leaves me in awe.