When I first decided to throw away all the material goods of my 20+ year career and travel the world training Jiu-Jitsu, I did a lot of research. Where would I go…where would I train…and how would I afford it.
Well, one of the first sites I ran into that held a lot of information was Matt Kepness’s sight: Nomadic Matt. Matt has been travelling for around the world for around 7 years now and he wrote a book called Travel the World on $50 Dollars A Day”.
I bought Matt’s book and went through it a couple of times. (I also did a whole lot of other research as well.) While I am not going to do a full review on his book, I did set a goal for myself to live under $50.00 dollars/day while travelling the world AND training Jiu-Jitsu. After one FULL year of travelling (including flying home and visiting with friends) this is a report on how that worked out.
First off – I won’t keep you waiting: I DID IT! I managed to travel the world for a full year, AND train BJJ for less than $50.00 dollars a day!
But, because I don’t want to be some guy throwing bullshit at everybody, this post is going to give an accounting of HOW I did it, including the pros AND the cons!
So…first detail: What was my scope. Well, I had a few plans going for 2015 and they included: Live in Mexico for approximately 4 months, attain my PADI Open Water SCUBA Diving Instructor certification (Hey, no harm in having a plan B 🙂 ) and train BJJ while there. The second half of my plan was to live in Rio De Janeiro and train with one of my idols: Professor Ricardo De La Riva. All along growing my online Kimono business at www.yolobjj.com.
In the end I was able to accomplish all of these goals AND get home to my home school in Columbus, OH, AND spend the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years holidays with family and friends!
So, what was the overall verdict? Well, from Jan 1, 2015 (actually two weeks before I left the USA) through December 31, 2015, my wife and I spent a grand total of $32,911.55 US dollars (including travel costs). That breaks down to $45.08/ea. per day (ALL-IN).
Success! I actually had estimated around $61.00 per day after cost of travel (those plane tickets will kill ya!). So…How did I do it?
Well..there were some sacrifices to be made, and honestly, a LOT of help from our friends! Here are the biggest things we did to make this past year sustainable.
- We stayed long term: One of the biggest cost for anyone travelling is the actual plane, train, bus, or taxi costs to get from one place to another. The longer you stay in one place the less you pay for transit!
- We rented long term: Staying short term you will pay more than if you commit to a long term. Yes, staying in hostels can be cheap…but when you spread a $12 hostel bunk across 30 days it works out to $360 per month (per person) By renting an apartment for five months in Cozumel, my wife and I stayed for around $5.25 per night (each). Almost 1/3 of the cost!
- We ate at home a lot: If you think travelling and training BJJ is going to be a vacation, well…honestly, it can be but you won’t manage the $50.00 a day rule. In Mexico and Brasil, there are great deals on dining out to be found (See Brasil Here and Mexico here) but the cheapest way to go is buying groceries and cooking at home. I actually took up a new hobby of learning how to cook Mexican and Brasilian food!
- How about training? Well, In Cozumel, I worked out a deal with Raul (who runs Barra Cozumel) Since we were the same rank I agreed to teach some classes each week in lieu of tuition. That worked out great because I absolutely loved training with those guys anyway! Teaching class was a lot of fun! In Brasil, because I could sign up for four months up-front, I got a lower rate ($240 Rais/mth – about $60.00 US/mth or $2.00 per day!).
- We stayed with friends: When we came back to the U.S.A. we didn’t rent an apartment or hotel: we stayed with friends. This was a HUGE savings! If not for family and friends willing to put us up for between 4 days and 4 weeks at a time there is no way we could have met our goals for cheap travel. Big shout out to my Mom, Dad, In-Laws, and our friends for being such amazing hosts!!!!
So what were my biggest expenses?
- My SCUBA certification cost me around $3500.00 US. (ouch)!
- Traveller’s Insurance ran me about $1200.00 for the year (You just can’t take the risk without it, especially when you are training a combat sport! – ps, someday I will write about the “active Intruder” and Mexican Justice that we experienced while living in Cozumel…) * Note- I use World Nomads because it is the best value for coverage I could find. (No, I don’t get any kind of reimbursement from them for saying this…but if they wanted to give a thank you… 🙂 )
- Rent! Even at around $5.00 a day, you do it every day so it is going to add up. In my opinion, if you are going to try and travel cheap for the long term, lodging costs has to be a top concern (We keep a “Less than $10 each” rule).
- The U.S.A. : Man, I gotta tell ya, The U.S.A. is expensive! Even with free lodging with friends and family…everything is expensive! driving a car? Expensive (luckily gas dropped jut before we came back). Go out to eat?Expensive!!
So, what are some of the sacrifices?
- T.V. : Not gonna get U.S.A. TV unless you pay a lot for it! We cut the cable cord years ago and had been using Amazon Prime for our TV viewing needs (along with over the air broadcasts) for a couple of years before ditching the american dream…but, almost all viewing services don’t work outside of the U.S.A. No Amazon Prime, No Netflix…unless you want to pay monthly for a “Proxy” server…we opted to go without TV…no regrets there!
- Training: Honestly, after travelling the world for 365 plus days and training at some of the best academies and some of the top Professors in the world (see my “Legends” page), I can tell you…nothing beats consistency for improving your BJJ!
So what is the take-away? Well…the lesson is this: YES! You can travel the world and train BJJ for under $50.00 a day! Is it the best thing for your BJJ? I would say no. Is it the best thing for you? Who knows…depends on you, I guess…For me, I have come to think about the path of the Buddha…At first he took the highest path, with pleasures and luxuries…then he tried the lowest path, of suffrage and poverty…then he realized that the middle path was the path to enlightenment. Not luxurious, not poverty, but a place in-between where his needs were met, even as they slowly disappeared … Reminds me a bit of Jiu-Jitsu, No?!