World traveler professor visits 154 countries with 41 more still in sight

Anna Podshivalova

September 11, 2019

At the age of 19, his interest in traveling led to one of the most memorable adventures of his lifetime.

After his first year of college, he set out to travel across the United States on his bicycle.

“I was interested in seeing new places,” geography professor Matt Ebiner said. “I was in good shape so I decided to ride my bicycle across the country.”

His adventure started from the Mexican American border of Pacific and 48 days, 4,000 miles later he finished at the American Canadian border of Atlantic.

“I did it by myself,” Ebiner said. “I did not have much money so I’d camp down in people’s houses.”

With no knowledge on who lived in what house, Ebiner added that he would knock on random houses and ask to camp out in their yards for the night.

“I met a lot of people and saw a lot of things,” he said. “I may be realized that the USA is a miracle country with all different landscapes and nice people we have.”

For more than 30 years, Ebiner has been teaching geography at El Camino College and has visited a total of 154 countries, but his goal is to visit all 195 countries in the world to share the experiences with his students.

ECC geography professor of 30 years, Matt Ebinor, points to where the Namibia and South Africa border is located during one of his geography lectures on Tuesday, Sept. 3. When Ebiner is not teaching at ECC he organizes tours to different countries. “It keeps me busy and is a kind of extension of my geography teaching,” Ebiner said. Photo credit: Anna Podshivalova

But with plans to visit all the remaining countries, it requires a lot of time.

“The next country I am not sure yet because in my free time I am leading the trips for other people,” Ebiner said. “Maybe I will try to go to the Maldives, also I haven’t been to East Timor yet.”

Ebiner has been to places like Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and even Iceland.

“I really like New Zealand; a lot for its nature, but there are so many countries that I enjoy,” Ebiner said. “I enjoyed Iceland’s beautiful nature and culturally I am interested in India.”

Ebiner’s passion for travel led him to create his own tour company, GeoTours, which organizes tours to different countries for everybody.

He founded his tour company in 2010 and characterizes his business with his second full-time job.

“It keeps me busy and is a kind of extension of my geography teaching,” Ebiner said. “It is a way for me to use my knowledge and experience to have a business, but it is very rewarding because I can get a share with other people.”

ECC geography professor, Julienne Gard, met Matt Ebiner in 1999 through Los Angeles Geographical Society.

“Matt [is] the most travel[ed] person I have ever met,” Gard said. “He is probably the best lecturer and storyteller; he can weave a narrative in this gentle soft-spoken way and it is captivating in something so magical about his presentation in class.”

Gard added that she went with him to Iceland in 2012 and is going on her next trip to Cuba, in February, with Ebiner through GeoTours.

“It is a smaller group, great adventure with an educator,” Gard said. “He is there explaining everything in a political and economic way, texture and the landscape.”

After Cuba, Gard plans on going to Peru with Ebiner as well.

Ebiner’s interests don’t just stop at traveling, but he is also interested in photography and uses his photos in geography classes so that students better perceive information.

“He is an A-class photographer and has been published in magazines,” Gard said. “Of course in his class setting, as well with all photographs that he takes by himself, you feel like you have been in these places when you attend one of his lectures.”

ECC earth and science professor, Joseph Holliday, who worked with Ebiner for 28 years said he is a very well-liked professor and students are happy to attend his lectures.

“He is very enthusiastic and students like it,” Holliday said. “He is always the No.1 that students look for, as teachers and professors.”

Holliday added that Ebiner is very organized for his classes and it even helps international students because he uses presentations with photographs to understand better material.

“He organized his classroom with guides and notes,” Holliday said. “Projector notes [help] for students whose English is a second language, so they really like his class.”

His colleague Holliday has also traveled around the world with Ebiner.

“I traveled with him during vacations,” said Holliday. “I have been in Guatemala, Central Asian like Kazakhstan, Serbia, Montenegro; it is fun.”

Ebiner wants to get more people involved with being more aware and interested in the world around them through his class.

“I like to share what I think is important as a teacher,” Ebiner said. “My teaching hopefully helps people better understand the world.”

With hopes on more people joining geography, he said he wants people to be more excited about the world they are living in.

“People so often focus only on work and school, it is a very tiny area they spend their life, but there are so many other experiences waiting for them.”

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