First. I apologize to who ever reads this. After Porto I just go so busy. My family came to visit and I spent time with them. Then after a week of drinking I fell off. I didn’t go back to writing this blog. I was still writing in my journal and on my iPod. I will have to blog my thoughts as a back log now.
I’ve been back a week now. I’ve been trying to internalize all that I experienced and seen. It’s a weird feeling being back. I’ve never been deployed but I’ve been in the military. Coming back after 6 months of travel is weirder than leaving the military. Possibly because I’ve seen parts of the world I never thought I would have seen. I have a new perspective on life. Although I’m not quite sure how to explain it.
My family says I’m a lot thinner. I checked my weight. I weigh 170 lbs just about the same weight I was when I was most of my adult life. Before I left it was the winter holidays so probably gained weight from that.
How have I changed? Did I change? It’s hard to define.
One. My Jiu Jitsu has evolved. I still get tapped, of course. I don’t think I roll with as much ego as I once did. I just like to have fun and try some stuff I’m working on. I’m more goal oriented now. My Jiu Jitsu is influenced by my travels and the camps I attended this summer. There’s no way to plateau now. To progress in Jiu Jitsu, you just have to keep going and always be curious. Whether it be camps, privates, cross training. open mats. The community is so big and welcoming that there will never be an end to it.
Two. How do I view the world? The world is big. Depending on where we live and grow up, we only see this it through our own viewfinder. I’m not saying my viewfinder is better than most. I just can spot things that I couldn’t spot before. I think that is what travel can do for you.
Three. What now? I have a lot of debt from traveling. I saved and paid for a lot of it, but I also need to work it off. To do so I need a job. I’m really picky when it comes to work. What I found out in my 32 years on this earth. I may not know what I want to do in life, but I crossed out the shit I don’t want to do. I don’t want to be in the Navy anymore, I don’t want to work in healthcare, etc. I’m basically pursuing jobs I think are cool and if I don’t like it I will just do something else.
A few days after the Copenhagen Camp I ended up in Porto, Portugal. I wondered what I would do when I got to Porto. From the start of my trip I knew my family was coming to Portugal. I had to decide what to do before I met them in Porto. My options were I would either walk another Camino from Porto to Santiago, hang out in Porto for a week, or…. wait for it. Go to a surf school.
Porto will be an unforgettable chapter in my trip. I learned to surf and met other beginners from all parts of the world. I trained Jiu Jitsu in the afternoon and nights after surfing. I drank and hung out with cool people whose couches I could use in the future. I was reunited with my family and I had old fashion family vacation.
I booked the camp when I was in Vienna after talking to Tina, from Leipzig post, who described her love for surfing. I thought that I should try it out. One should push themselves outside of their comfort zones. How else can you grow as a person? I found Surfivor on Google. A great place with very comfortable accommodations. Bruno and Albert are very good surf instructors. It seems they still have a lot of enthusiasm for it after many years. There were plenty of beginner students just trying it out. Most nights the students ate dinner together and drank together. This experience has made me really enjoy surfing. I will continue to surf in the future.
I get my recommendations where to train from the BJJ Globetrotter Facebook Group. I simply remember or search where people go to train on the forum. So far every place I’ve trained at has not disappointed me. I account that this is also a very open community that loves the sport and showing people their love for Jiu Jitsu.
Focus Jiu Jitsu in Porto, Portugal was one of the best places I’ve trained. Manuel Neto, the head instructor, was very friendly and welcoming. Focus has Jiu Jitsu three times a day Monday through Friday with one class on Saturday. The location of the gym is located inside a bigger gym/crossfit/MMA place about three blocks from the beach. I rented a bike and it took about 15 minutes from my hostel. A large amount of higher belts, one them just came back from Worlds and was awarded Black Belt. The facilities are clean, showers and a large mat space. The majority of population of Porto could speak English and the gym was no exception. I will definitely return to this place in the future.
My family visiting Porto before they attend a wedding in Lisbon was my favorite part. I love Jiu Jitsu and surfing, but I enjoy spending time with my family. It’s a good recharge from the months of travel I’ve been through. There were many times on my journey where I get homesick. I would call my sister and see how things are doing back home. I did this more on this 4 months of travel than my 7 years in the Navy. I took them to the restaurants that Tiago, the surf camp owner, recommended to me. They enjoyed the Francesinha, Restaurante Ababia do Porto and eating at the grilled fish street. We spent roughly two days in Porto together but I instilled them the love for Porto that I felt.
My plan is to come back for a month to Porto maybe next summer. The surfing, Jiu Jitsu, and the amazing Portuguese food are a few reasons why I will return. I’m already planning my return to Portugal. I want to continue surfing when I return to California so I will be better when I come back. The lifestyle is very similar to something I imagine myself I would be when I grow older.
My first BJJ Globetrotter Camp. When I first decided to travel around the world this was the first thing I booked, it was also one of the cheapest camps. All I had to do was travel to Copenhagen, lodging not included in price. I didn’t know what to expect for my first Jiu Jitsu camp. I kept my mind open and trained as much as my mind and body let me. At the end of the camp I gained many friends and invitations to different gyms all over Europe.
Some of my favorite tips from the Copenhagen Camp Information Guide by Daniel Bertina. Pace yourself, take notes and be social. Six days of 8-9 hours of Jiu Jitsu is a lot for anyone. I didn’t want to burn myself out so I went to open mat at least once a day and I attended an average of 2.5 classes. I would have liked to have attended more classes but it will just be a goal for next time. I took notes for the classes that I did attend. A tip that I will do next time is record myself doing the moves again in sequence with a partner to accompany the written notes. I should have been more social during the camp. This is one aspect that I did not take advantage until the end of the camp which was too late. Next time I will attend the welcome meeting/ Jiu Jitsu speed dating, dinners and a few drink afterwards. The trick is to have a right balance of socializing and rest for the next days training sessions/classes. As you can tell I’m already convinced that I will attend another camp. The next important question is which one?
A rolled with the original BJJ Globetrotter on the last day, Christian Graugart. Many years ago he went on a trip around the world to train Jiu Jitsu in as many different gyms as possible. It spawned into the friendly travel community we now know. He is not the first to make Jiu Jitsu camps but his BJJ Globetrotter brand has the most amount with 10 camps in different locales around the world. I felt honored to roll with him. He rolls like a black belt, relaxed and very composed against a lower belt, like myself. Although very playful and fun. A very approachable guy, it was interesting to pick his brain about the camps and his travels.
I trained everyday during the camp. I didn’t go to every class even though I wanted to. I socialized more on the last few nights. I should have went out more in the beginning especially for the Jiu Jitsu speed dating session to meet people. I should have recorded myself summarizing the techniques I just learned. A Gopro is good but my iTouch with a tripod would have been fine. I met people from all over the world and received many invitations from gyms and gave out just as many. I wonder when and where my next BJJ Globetrotter camp will be?
How I came to visit Leipzig is one of those serendipity moments. I met a girl from my hostel in Vienna and she invited to visit Leipzig after Dresden. It wasn’t on my plan, but why not I thought. At times I think about how I travel before and how I travel now. I make more room to meet different people and have unique experiences. For example, I don’t have a concrete itinerary and I couchsurf through friends of friends. I’m glad that I had room in my schedule to see this city.
Tina showed me around her Leipzig during her off day. We had lunch then we walked around the city center. We went to a museum about the GDR( German Democratic Republic), it was all in German but I had a translator with me. While traveling through Czech Republic and East Germany/ Dresden I am learning more and more about that time. Tina said Germany is a young country when you think about the unification of the West and East sides. Germany is only 26 years old. Germany is a millennial?
She took me to see Völkerschlachtdenkmal, it’s a famous monument that symbolizes Napolean’s defeat in Leipzig. I should read more about Napolean, his legacy is still lingering in Europe. He is one of those historical figures that I studied in History but I don’t remember the details. History tends to be buried underneath new history on top of present day news. For it’s worth learning more about a continents history because in turn it affected the United States become what it is.
Music was everywhere in Leipzig. Not only can you find it walking around down town or in the park, but when I was at the haupbahnhof and a traveling choir started singing in the atrium. It was an incredible experience that I can only give thanks to letting things go and see where things end up. I will definitely come back especially since I didn’t have time to train Jiu Jitsu.
Dresden, Germany. A city famed for being bombed on February 13, 1945. I stayed with my friend, Thomas, on old Camino friend. We went hiking to Bastei and reminisced about the Camino. The weekend I came to Dresden there happened to be the biggest party of the year. I met some local Germans, had a picnic, and drank some beer. Dresden has the advantages of a small town and of a big city.
I originally heard of Dresden in Howard Zinn’s You can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train documentary. During the final weeks of the war, Dresden was bombed to great extent. The amount of casualties is still up to debate because of the amount of refugees from Czechoslovakia. Most of the old buildings were destroyed and the old town was leveled. Since the end of World War 2 and the fall of the iron curtain, the restoration has reinvigorated the old town and the city itself.
I walk with Thomas and Maria during my Camino hike last October. I visited Yun-Jin (Maria) last month in Seoul. I made a point to visit Thomas in Dresden. It was great to go to a new city and already have friends. It’s one of those things I really appreciate traveling through Europe alone. I slept on Thomas’s pull away Ikea couch. We saw another Camino friend, Louis, who studies in Dresden. It was during the biggest party of the year in Dresden. It was a great experience. On Sunday, we went on a hike to Bastei. It was good to get out of the city and see nature. Thomas had to work during the week but we hung out when he came home. We met up with Louis again my last night.
We had a picnic BBQ next to the Elbe. In central Europe it is very common to see people in the park having a picnic and drinking outside. Thomas has this small convenient grill that we used to cook some chicken, pork and steak. It was a perfect day for a picnic when the weather is perfect. I met Rebecca, Thomas’s room mate, and Thalia, Rebecca’s sister. I heard Rebecca’s au pair experience in Arizona. It’s interesting to hear other people’s travel experience of my own country. Picnics are one of my favorite things to do. I have to do more when I get back to the States.
I spent five days in Dresden, but I felt that wasn’t enough time. I saw some friends and met new people. I tried to train Jiu- Jitsu but google maps led me on wild goose chase. I was able to get some exercise by hiking and biking to the ghost gym. The weather was really excellent to enjoy with friends. I don’t know when I’ll return to Dresden but I had good memories here.
What was Prague like? It was beautiful and very picturesque. I had long term travel fatigue episode, I had coped with it. I tried out my first couch surfing experience. I’m glad I’m an older solo traveler, I can’t keep up with these young people. Meeting local people is my favorite part about traveling. I met up with a old friend from when I was in the Navy. Took a train out of Prague to Dresden. I will definitely love to come back and visit the city.
I came to Prague with over 100 days on the road. It is very tiring being a tourist. Some days you just want to go back home. Yes, even for the people living their dream there are bad days. After I had this thought of long term travel fatigue, I looked and there was already a blog post about it, here. I read this post after I recovered. What did I do to recover. I kept going, I pushed through. There are interesting places everywhere, you just have to keep looking. I went to the National Technical Museum in Prague, practically no tourists there. It was an inspiring to see different types of technology evolve with time. There is a photography exhibit, medical technology, film, architecture, appliances, printing presses and many more. Then I went to see the National Gallery. I enjoy looking at painting and modern art because I studied a little bit when I was in art school. It was really exciting to some famous artists that I admired. The title picture is a close up of a Alphonse Mucha. I love his decorative style and color palette. What got me out of the slump was to keep doing what I’m doing, keep working, keep searching, and keep exploring. Eventually it will pass. That’s advice if you need it. Please see the link above, that post is also good advice for any plateau.
You know when your friend would send you a postcard from Europe, Prague is a perfect card. Prague is located in central Europe as the capital city of the Czech Republic. It’s the fifth most visited city Europe. To say there were a lot of tourist is an understatement. When Richard Simcott, the polyglot superstar, studied here in the 90’s he described the Charles bridge as walking through a living radio when you turn the dial fast. So many people and so many languages you can hear maybe five or six walking through it. I didn’t have that exact experience, but I did hear a lot of English. Prague is beautiful but the amount of people detract from it. There are cool things to do you just have to look closer than the average tourist.
I managed to get some training amidst my slump. In fact, Jiu Jitsu is a really good way to get back into it. Exercise is good to way to move forward with a situation. I have now taken classes in Spanish, German, Czech and English. I wonder how many more languages I can learn Jiu Jitsu in. Honza Stach told me about Richard Andres at Penta BJJ. It’s great to meet people and that other people recommend. Richard spoke English very well and took time to show me certain details in English. He trained on and off in Minnesota. He is as technical as Honza said he was. I really enjoy that the network of Jiu Jitsu is just an interconnected network of people.
I met Jan through a mutual acquaintance. I was in Chile on a bike wine tour. A fellow, Matej from Slovakia, told me to check Czech Republic out and if I was going to Prague he might know someone to put me up. I didn’t think anything of it. I gave him my email address, usually nothing comes from these situations. Maybe because I’m American and people are flaky in America. I’m used to it. After a few weeks he emailed me some advice on Slovakia and Czech Republic. He gave me a contact for Prague. That is how I ended up on the Jan’s couch. It’s so great to hear the perspective of a local about their city. It’s honestly a priceless experience. I don’t think many tourists experience traveling this way. I learned a lot about the history and attitude of Czech People through Jan. He is one of the reason I want to return and really experience Czech Republic.
I extended my stay in Prague an extra day to see and old Navy buddy, Robbie. I was his LPO(Leading Petty Officer) in the department of ICU. He is now stationed in Japan.He has been traveling around Europe for about a week now. He showed me his itinerary and I managed move some things around and spend a day catching up. We went to pub crawl, urgh I thought. A bunch of other English speaking tourists. Not really my scene but nonetheless I had fun. I met some new people, I got lost, I found my friends and I had a great time. Normally I would shy away from stuff like that. The further I go along in Europe I will probably go on more drunken nights with big groups of strangers.
Overall a good time in Prague. Sometimes you feel down even in the most beautiful locations. Just keep going and learn from the experience. Keep your hobbies close so that you can feel normal even in a foreign country. It’s great to meet new friends and old friends all in the same city. Czech Republic left as space in my heart I will try to fill it some day.
My rundown of Brno, Czech Republic. It was my first Matsurfing experience. The overall level in Brno is young but promising. The hospitality of Jan “Honza” Stach amazes me. I took a private lesson for leg locks. I will like to return some day to train for a longer period. The feeling of a new city every week has itself turned into a routine, still a good routine. By the end of the week I gain new friends that were strangers at the beginning of the week. This has been a really memorable part of my journey.
If any one knows about long term travel from experience knows that it isn’t cheap, everything costs money. Europe is no exception. BJJ Globetrotters started a site called Matsurfing.org. It is like couchsurfing but with Jiu-Jitsu contacts. I booked Vienna and Bratislava months ago. Now I don’t have that much money. So I decided to give mat surfing a shot. An aspect of travel is pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. So I sent a few emails near my itinerary and Brno was the first to reply back. I plan to use it as much as I can for the rest of my journey. It was a great first experience with the site.
The overall level of Jiu-Jitsu in Brno is blooming. A very young scene in Brno at the current moment of 2017. A lot of white belts and a few higher belts instructing. That doesn’t mean to count them out of anything though. I met Michal, the instructor of Jungle BJJ Brno. He has beautiful school with a lot of hungry students. A very friendly guy, who took me to lunch after a training session. Although in general Brno Jiu-Jitsu level is low, Jan Stach at Fight Club Brno is doing tremendous things in the No-Gi realm. His beginning students have adapted his leg lock attacking style. They may not have heel hook or attempted a knee bar on me but their straight ankles are just as lethal. I’m eager to fast forward to see what five years will look like.
I arrived on a Monday and I needed a night to myself in a comfortable environment to write. I met up with Jan on Tuesday, training wasn’t scheduled for that day, but he introduced me to Jirka, a white belt who cross trains in different gyms, who took me to Jungle BJJ Brno. I trained five times that week. Jan told the other instructors about me, so they knew I would be sleeping in the gym. Jan was very helpful and available if I had any questions. There was a couch in the back room of the gym with blankets. There was also showers and toilette. A draw back was no Wifi. The gym was located right next a tram line that goes direct to the city center running every 5-10 minutes. There were 3-4 really good guys at Jan’s gym. I was schooled by the different approaches to Jiu-Jitsu.
“Teaching Jiu-Jitsu is like being a lighthouse keeper. It is a lonely job but you still have to go up there and turn on the light and be beacon for others to guide off of.” – Jan Stach, paraphrased
The No- Gi game at Fight Club Brno humbled me and my defensive skills. I normally can relax when someone gets my back but Jan and his students had implemented an arm trap system to secure the back. It’s a sequence that I haven’t seen before. Afterwards I asked Petr, a hulk of a Czech with gnarly Cauliflower ears, to teach me. I’m eager to also implement it into my game. I learned so many new techniques that opened my mind to the possibilities of Jiu-Jitsu even more. It think because of the school being primarily No-Gi. I asked for a private lesson in leg locks and Jan was happy to give it that Friday. I learned one version of his entries to his leg locking system. It is through circumstance and opportunity that I was able to train in Brno. I’m so grateful for passing through this city.
On my last day I traveled with Fight Club Brno to a competition in Slovakia. Jan, Michael, and Petr competed. I watched and recorded video. I didn’t want to compete because I didn’t want to risk getting injured, especially because my travel insurance doesn’t cover competition. Michael won two and lost in the Finals to an armbar from Jan. Petr took first place in his advanced division. Jan swept the division with submission victories. Afterwards I told him he needs better competition. Jan has only been training 4 years and competes almost every weekend. It is a testament to his teaching and his grappling style that he and his students placed in the competition.
Would I Matsurf again? Yes. I was able to meet with people and train more because I slept where I trained. The generosity of Jan and his love for Jiu-Jitsu is contagious. The only thing I can do is pay it forward. I’m excited for this pivotal time in Jan’s career and Jiu jitsu in Brno. It will be interesting to see after the scene in Brno when I return.
(I caught the last two minutes of the final. Jan’s transition were impressive.)
How to get to Brno: FlixBus from Bratislava or Vienna.
Gym Count: 13 visited in 2017
“Most travel, and certainly the rewarding kind, involves depending on the kindness of strangers, putting yourself into the hands of people you don’t know and trusting them with your life.” ― Paul Theroux