Paris, France

I went to Paris, France as my last leg of this European trip.  I spent 5 days there.  I decided I would go to see Paris back in September of 2019.  The last time I went to France was around 2006.  I had such a bad experience  with France that time.  This time I tried to go with an open mind.  I also used six months to learn some of the basics of the language.  I am in no way conversational.  I went to see a friend who I really enjoy talking to.

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So the last time I was in France I had such a bad experience.  There were several factors that contributed to my bad experience.  First, it was my first time traveling to Europe, I mostly touristy things, like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. Secondly,  I didn’t speak the language, not even a little bit.  Parisians are known for not being very nice to tourists.  Let’s flip the perspective and see it in their eyes.  If someone comes to your city and speaks another language, that’s not the official language of the country, how would react to them?  I think the reaction is pretty universal.

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Before Sunset

Instead of going to see usual things I went to see the locations I wanted to see.  I enjoy Rodin’s sculptures, so I went to his Museum.  I really enjoyed the Tecahnical Museum in Prague, so I thought the Musee des Artes et Metiers would be cool.  I enjoyed the models and architecture of old buildings.  The movies I enjoy in Paris that I know of are Amelie, obviously, Before Sunrise, and Inglorious Basterds.  I went to the bookstore in Before Sunset and I went to Brasserie in Inglorious Basterds.

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The cafe in Inglorious Basterds. Bistrot La  Renaissance 

I think that’s what makes me enjoy traveling more as I’m older.  I cater traveling more to my interests and feelings.  I try to see things and subjects that I have a general interest in.  I keep returning to Europe because I find it’s history amazing.  I also don’t try to rush so much activities in my day.  I just try to enjoy myself and go into a book shop, and relax.  If the weather was better I would be outside drawing all day.  Here are a few of my sketches from Paris.

This time I learned enough to get by and see what I wanted to.  I learned how to order food, coffee, and my check.  I felt good that I achieved these small steps.  I felt that I was received way better by the restaurants when I spoke french.  The first time I went to Spain, ordering food and interacting with the language on a daily basis was the first step as well.

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I think Paris is a great city to hang out in and take your time in.  There are so many cafes and places to see.  I did get to see my friend, if only for one night.  There was a strike so traveling was difficult the entire time in Paris. She couldn’t hang out the second day. But through coincidence or serendipity  I met a very Australian lawyer in Montmartre. I remember her henna tattoo from breakfast at the hostel. She was sitting at the same table I was sitting at. No one at the table was conversing except the Peruana and Espanola, which I was eavesdropping on the conversation. Fast forward to the afternoon and  She was having a cafe and a smoke outside in front of the Sacre Coeur. We had really deep conversation about her countries history and politics. Later that night we met again at the hostel and had another conversation on life and 2019 over some beer and bar food.

Overall a good experience in Paris, France.

 

Dunkerque and Calais, France

 

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I did one day stops in Dunkirk and Calais before Paris. Dunkirk was famous for the allied retreat during World War 2.  It was made famous by Christopher Nolan’s movie, Dunkirk.  It was made in 2017.  I actually saw it while I was in Edimburgh.  It brings a different feeling when you watch a movie in the U.K. about the U.K. Then I went to Calais.  I only knew Calais from the sculptures by Rodin, Les Bourgeois Des Calais. Then I went to Paris.

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The promenade in Dunkirk

I got to Dunkirk by Flixbus from Bruges.  It was only an hour until you are in another country and they speak another language.  Most Americans don’t really understand how crazy that can be. Not to mention Dunkirk also has several ferries a day to Dover, England.  The location of this city makes it special.  The cinematography in the film of Dunkirk is what captivated me. The massive beach and old hotels.  Sadly, I didn’t get really explore the promenade because it was getting dark, misty and cold. It appears to be a beach vacation spot for tourists on summer days.  The promenade is very modern, I assume a lot of digital enhancing was used in the movie.

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This is where I stayed. Hotel de la Plage. Nice people.

I went to Calais the day after via Flixbus.  What surprised me is the immigration issues in 2016 in the city.  There was small immigration encampment called the jungle of Calais.  I’m often so surprised of how closed off I am from the news of the world.  For example, The fires in Australia. There is strong similarity to the feelings of immigration at the time and with how the U.S. feels currently.  I don’t think anyone wants criminals coming into their country and doing bad things. The immigration encampment was eventually dismantled by the government here.  If you wish to know more, here is link of one of the videos I saw on Youtube.

Next Paris

 

Bruges, Belgium

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The Christmas Market in Bruges, Belgium

I went to Bruges after Antwerp.  I have heard it was one of the prettiest cities in Belgium.  The movie, In Bruges, is one of my favorite Colin Ferrell movies, probably the only. I did my reading assignments for my college class.  I went on a Spanish walking tour. I drank two beers, texted some friends and family then I went to sleep for New Year’s Eve. Not the best time, but not the worst time in Bruges.

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The famous red umbrella.

I did most of my reading assignments while I was in here in Bruges.  I stuck to myself and read my textbook on my phone.  I did the assignments and discussions from my laptop. I wonder if anybody else at Lonestar College is doing online classes outside of the country?  If you can work online doing freelance and be anywhere in the world, couldn’t you travel and finish college from anywhere in the world? Just a thought. We are now in the year 2020. ( A legitimate school would probably not go for that, huh?)

I took a free walking tour in Bruges.  Leonie, my German friend, whom I met in Antwerp has some influence in this.  I wondered if I could take the tour in Spanish.  So took the tour in Spanish. Did I understand all of it? No.  This was a big shocker to me.  I had to really concentrate to understand the guide.  There were so many ambient noises, people talking, cars, as well she was speaking to a group.  My comprehension was truly tested.  I can have one on one conversations but taking a tour is a challenging situation.  I wish to improve in this area.  I wonder if people that study English who think they got it down like me. Then they go on a tour and they get lost in the tour guide’s language speed or accent.  

I spent New Year’s Ever by myself in the Hostel Bar.  I drank a couple of beers then I went to sleep.  I reflected on the past year and past New Year’s Eves in general. Most of my New Year’s are pretty uneventful.  I think it just depends who you spend it with.  Unfortunately my family in California never does anything besides go to sleep or work, that is why I left to see somewhere else for New Years. I do like this tradition of being somewhere else for NYE.

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Happy New Year. Prospero Ano.

Antwerp, Belgium

I spent roughly 3 and half days in Antwerp, Belgium. I went on a walking tour on Saturday. I went to a jazz club and I drew and sketched more than I did my entire trip. Why did I go to Antwerp? I had the time. I knew nothing of the city besides it being in Belgium. It was cheaper to see more Belgian cities than spend more time in Bruges and Brussels.

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Museum aan de Stroom on the roof.

I went on a walking tour, from the recommendation from my German hostel room mate. I used to go to a walking tour where ever I went. Then I got tired of walking and listening to someone talk. After giving it another try, its good to take a walking tour. You kill 1-2 hours, get some exercise, and you get someone information on the city you are visiting. During that time I used that time to draw and I got some ideas of the places I wanted to return to after the tour was over.

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De Muze is a jazz club in Antwerp. There was a calendar of live music every night. With my new friend, Leonie, we tried a few different beers. Mort Subite was a sweet cherry beer. We went to this jazz bar two nights in a row. We did look at other options the second night. It made me think about the bars that have live music in Houston. I didn’t know. I also never watch live music in California, besides the occasional concert. Maybe I should look into this more.

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I hung out with my German hostel roomate, Leonie. We spent a day and a half together. We were tourists together. I think that the serendipity factor of traveling is a one of the most unique things to traveling. I would never meet certain people in my life, if I wasn’t traveling. Some of these people whom I met only a short time has a made profound impact on me or even given me important life advice for that moment in my life. I’m glad to have met her.

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Sketches

Brussels, Belgium

I spend Chrismas in Belgium.  It was my first time traveling to Europe in the winter, much less during the holidays.  It is an interesting experience.  I would like to say that the crowds and tourists were not as much.  The popularity and vibe of the Christmas Markets attract many, especially at night.  I did ate at the Christmas Market in Brussels, visited the Cartoon Strip Center, and I visited the Magritte Museum.

 

I enjoyed the Christmas Market because of the activity and people. It felt I could watch people, eat food, and drink all day.  A few of the foods I had were Argentinian empanadas, white wurst from Germany, Tartiflette, and Tsukune(Japanese Chicken Balls.) I drank some of the Belgium beer, which is quite high in alcohol content, Delirium Tremens and Duval.  I walked around the market drinking vin chaud. Although it was cold for me.  I had a very good experience in the Christmas Markets.  I hope my family can join some day.

This was my favorite place in Brussels.  I love art. I wish I

I went to the Comic Strip Center in Brussels. I enjoyed myself so much. Most of the comics were in French. I admired the art, aspects like line quality and watercolor. I was reading the history of the comic strip. The museum subtitles were in three languages. I was first reading in English then in French, then I gave up reading altogether. Even for an artist, a museum can be too much to take in. It really did inspire me to draw more on my travels. I bought a french comic book, I will steal was much technique from it. I will put the title later on.

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I went to the Rene Magritte Museum on my last day.  When I was in high school, he was my favorite painter.  As a fan of surrealism, I don’t think Magritte gets as much exposure as he should.  When people mention surrealism they usually think of Salvador Dali.  I also enjoy Dali, but Magritte’s paintings have more nuance. I enjoyed the museum, but I get really bored fast. I went through the museum in an hour.  What I took from the experience was the simplicity of his compositions and ideas. I think even his painting skill didn’t blow me away.  He is better than me.  I do think with a few years of constant practice, I can paint as well or better than him in oil.  I say this because I can actually get up close to the paintings and see each brushstroke. Most of his paintings are large i.e. 5ftx6ft.  When you see an image shrunk down from a large picture it hides a lot of the craftsmanship of the artist.  Now I want to visit more museums of my favorite illustrators like  J.C Leyendecker, N.C. Wyeth, and Norman Rockwell.

Valencia, Spain

A week at Taronja…

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La Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias designed by architect Santiago Calatrava. I first wanted to visit because of this building.  It is also portrayed in the Disney movie Tomorrowland.

I spent a week in Valencia. I enrolled in the Intensive and conversation classes at Taronja this week. I never been to an immersion language school. I met people from all over the world. I will most likely come back.

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Taronja is orange in Valenciano

My week in Valencia consisted of class Monday through Friday. The class schedule alternated from the afternoon and mornings. Every day I had conversation class as well. That class consisted of speaking on topics extemporaneously. ( Spoken or done without preparation. I’m trying to use this new word I learned in public speaking class.) The entire experience was great. It felt like I had 5 hour long italki lessons that didn’t stop. For the most part I enjoyed every bit of it. I think my level is at stage where I can live without too much effort. Could I work efficiently in this language equally to my mother tongue? No. Hopefully some day. I enjoyed the consistent curriculum at the school as well. The class I jumped in was covering imperfect, indefindo preterito, imperatives-positves/negatives, preterito perfecto and pluscuamperfecto. I have heard, read, and spoken these tenses before. It was a review but I needed it. There is so much nuance to using these grammar tenses than the English past tense.

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Left to Right. Me. Guy. Andrea, our teacher Alberto.

I felt bad for some of the students who had to digest the language faster. For the most part my classmates did very well. I think the advantage I had was my time in the language because I have been learning it so long, 5 years. This year as well I started to use italki consistently. The trick with italki is…. you can’t stop using it. Maybe when you get competent enough and achieve your goal. If you the time, money and freedom I would have done this course a long time ago. I didn’t have all those resources. I also have a philosophy that one can learn a foreign language on your own. That is another blog post.

I will most likely come back to the school because I had so much fun. I had fun during the class, with the social activities after class, and the city of Valencia. The last time I was here I only saw the arts and science museum. I didn’t even go in the city center. This time my apartment was right across the street from Mercat Central. I will probably come back May of 2020 or winter of 2020 and spend the whole month in Valencia. The class sizes at the school were smaller and very intimate. I was able to ask all the questions I wanted, at times we had friendly debates.

I met some cool people as well. All the professors were very friendly. I felt they were generally interested in me. Even though I was just passing through the school a week. As a traveler, you can get incredibly jaded from meeting new people. There were times I felt it. The professors really cared about teaching and helping their students. As an aspiring teacher I saw that quality. I met and had some interesting conversations with the becarios(interns) at the school. Stefano, the head becario, spoke 5 languages and hailed from Switzerland. There were also a handful of Italians which made the vibe quite warm and fun. (I don’t know why I feel Italians do that). Andrea,(Italian male name), who was in my class this week, always came in late. Although that was a stereotype characteristic, he always brought something to the table when we were learning. Guy, Australian, was in my class as well, he has living in Valencia for some months now and has about 10 more. Though we are not compatriots, we both speak English as our mother tongue. In that sense I felt bonded more with him than the other students. I wonder if that is the way how most people feel when they speak to people from other countries, the common mother tongue.

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Waiting for the train at Valencia Nord.

I’m going to try to blog when I leave a location.

Sidenote: Urgh.. I got my grades for the Fall Semester. All A’s except a C in Introductory Algebra. I went to the stages of grief fairly quickly. Denial. I don’t believe I got a C. I went to every class, asked questions, and I did fairly well on most tests. Anger. I thought my professor took a shine to me as well. I’m never going to be nice to teachers. Bargaining. Maybe I can email her and ask how she tallied the score up. Depression. I’m so stupid. (sigh) Acceptance. C’est la vie. I guess I just have to double down on my weaknesses. So I can crush college algebra next semester.

Truth be told. I’m still on Bargaining,

Traveling for Winter

 

Let’s do 500 words.

I know I haven’t blogged very much. I can make excuses, but I won’t. I just choose do other things than blog.

My goals for this Europe trip. First, Improve my Spanish and receive a baseline for my level. If don’t receive this I’m going to get during 2020 somewhere. Secondly, I taking an online course for school, Federal Government. Thirdly, improve my French, I learned the basics in the last 6 months. The last few things is visit a few friends in Paris and draw and water color more.

I choose to go to Europe because I find being in the United States quite boring. I love my family but I saw them on Thanksgiving already. I also feel Christmas is overhyped holiday in the United States. We, as a society or just Americans, are too materialistic. I want to get away from that next year. I’ve never visited Europe in the Winter. It has always been the summer when I visited. Which is always the best time to visit a country, but I like to change it up and experience something different.

I’m in Valencia, Spain right now. I’m taking a Spanish course. Hopefully it can jump start my learning to a new level. I’m here for a week. I hope to take an exam to finally get a baseline on my level. Then I can better evaluate where I am. “If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.” – Peter Drucker.

During all this traveling I’m going to do a college course online. One might think why are you taking a class while you’re traveling in Europe? I say them Why not? I am school again. I can say honestly I’m not in love with living in Texas. I might as well just keep going to school and enjoy myself in the location of my choosing. We are lucky to live in a time where we can go to school online.

I held off visiting France for over ten years. My first experience was very off-putting. I made an unconscious decision to not visit France ever again. Then over the years I’ve met many cool French people. Those experienced change my opinion on French people. They can’t all be bad I thought. So I decided back in September to visit again during winter. My experience from the first time will not be repeated. A key to the story was that I was monolingual, immature and young. I learned a little bit everyday for 6 months. So hopefully I will have a better experience.

Afterwards I will go to Belgium. I’m going to visit a few cities during the Chrismas Holiday week and New Years. I’m going to visit Brussels, Antwerp, and Bruges. Finally Paris, France. I will end in Madrid to fly back.

I have two transfers on my flight back, which I will not enjoy. MAD- AMS. AMS- ATL. ATL-IAH. I use airport code because it is just easier to write especially if you’re a traveler. There is probably a better way to write it.

I got an Idea with my language learning. I listen to podcasts on Spotify. There is speed option on the application. To increase my comprehension. I will listen to the podcasts three times. (thrice) Once at 0.8x, the second time at 1x(normal time), and the third time 1.2x. I can also do this on Youtube.

Edinburgh, Scotland

 

My friend Joao and Jenna talking to a performer on the street.

just came back from Edinburgh, Scotland. I volunteered at Edinburgh Festival Camping from 29 July to 17 August, roughly 22 days in country. It was my second time volunteering with this company. The first timie was in 2017 during my around the world tour post Navy enlistment. Unfortunately I didn’t blog it. I stopped blogging about my trip in Portugal. I regret that. I blame my lack of discipline.

The Campground is located near Edinburgh International Airport, in the Royal Highland Center. The campground is only open during August, during that month the population of Edinburgh doubles in population because of the Fringe festival. ” It is the world’s largest arts festival, which in 2018 spanned 25 days and featured more than 55,000 performances of 3,548 different shows.” -according to Wikipedia.  Most accommodation is marked up because of the high demand.  The campground is one of the cheaper options during the festival.

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I managed to draw and water color a bit while I was in Scotland. It was very relaxing. 

I came back to Edinburgh because I remember that I had a good experience. I met people from all over the world, usually people that are traveling. This year was no different. As volunteers we shared experiences of our travels and exchanged cultural ideas. There were people from England, Germany, France, Spain, Brazil, Austria, Belguim, and The Netherlands.  There were many that were practicing their English.  We were given large tents and a roommate. My room mate was Nicolas, a trained chef from a city near San Miguel de Tucuman, Argentina. We spoke Spanish to each other maybe 60 percent of the time. I invited him to Houston if he ever gets a chance and he invited me to his city as well. These exchanges were quite common. Most volunteers would share a bond, a camaraderie from the experience. Especially for the Europeans, they very well could visit each other easier than I or Nicolas could.  It was refreshing to meet so many people from so many places in such a relaxed atmosphere.

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My room mate”tentmate” Nicolas making pizza for pizza nights.

I also saw people I met last time I was here in 2017. When you go to a place even though its similar to your last experience, there is still a degree of uncertainty of meeting new people. It was good to see some familiar faces among the volunteers. Most of the staff I seen from the time I was here before. It was refreshing to see and reconnect with people you met once before. It’s like catching up with an old family member or childhood friend whom you haven’t seen in years.

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This was 2017.

Will I return next Year? I don’t know.  There is a strong possibility that I will.  Honestly I this entire week I’ve been back I have been looking for ways to go back to Europe for work or at another volunteer capacity.  I can’t deny that there is a feeling or energy that comes from a place when a bunch of strangers meet then become friends after a very short time.  There’s something that I don’t get when I travel around in the US that happens when I travel in Europe or even elsewhere.  I’m not sure what it is but the feeling just compels me to keep coming back to Europe.  I’m not sure if it’s the diversity of languages all on one continent, different cultures just hours apart from each other, or the people who live differently than me but still want the same things in life.

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One of the volunteer nights in 2019. 

Day 135. Porto, Portugal

Surfing, Jiu Jitsu and Family

Bruno, our surf instuctor, helping out Svenja with standing up.

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.

How long does it take to not be self conscious in a wet suit?

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.

Food brings people together. Argentina, USA, The Netherlands, Germany, South Korea, and France.

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.

Gabriel from Romania. He just finished the Camino Frances.

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.

After 4 months of traveling I am reunited with my family.

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.

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Day 122. Copenhagen, Denmark


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.

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Peter from Sweden, Nick from Wisconsin, Patrick from London,

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?

Nikita from Ukraine and Brian from the US.

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?

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