Day 100. Brno, Czech Republic

 

A Farmers market around Parnas Fountain.

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.

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Jungle BJJ Brno

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 slept in a backroom with a couch. I woke to this every morning though.

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.

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A No Gi Competition near Trencin, Slovakia. 

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.

(Kubo, Michael, Me, Jan, and Petr)

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

Day 95. Bratislava, Slovakia

A summary of Bratislava. I arrived on a Monday and I left on a Monday.  I stayed in a Botel. I attended my first Polyglot Gathering. I also helped the event as a volunteer. I went on a tour of Devin Castle and a wine tour. I added a few more friends to my Facebook network. It was incredible new experience.

My room mates badge with the flags that represents that languages that he speaks.


I took a bus from Vienna Erdberg to Brastislava Einsteinova.  The worst part was if I just stayed bus till the end of the line I would have been closer to my hotel.  Since I got off a bus stop before the end I had to walk an extra 30 minutes to my accommodation.  Lesson learned for Bratislava.  It wasn’t a big deal, it could have been avoided if I possibly knew German or Slovak.  The growing pains of traveling, its almost impossible to not a make a mistake, cultural or logistics during travel.

My Botel on the Danube

I stayed in a Botel, not quite a hotel, not quite a boat on the Danube River.  It was the more economical choice when it came to lodging options for the Polyglot Gathering.  It’s location was the selling point.  It was about a 10 minute walk to the bus stop and it was a 10 minute walk from the city center.  It was very convenient for the conference.  Many other attendees or polyglots were also staying there.  My roommate was from Lithuania, he spoke many languages. We mainly conversed in English and Spanish, the only languages I can converse in.  Having a roommate made the experience better and put my whole anxiety at ease.

Richard Simcott

My first Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava, Slovakia.  I felt very intimidated because I only spoke two languages, and one of them wasn’t at a high level.  There were people there that spoke 4-5 languages fluently, then there were Rockstars in the community like Richard Simcott who can speak  as many as 20 languages.  I felt at awe when I was walking around and seeing all these people I watched on Youtube.  By the second day I realized that these people are just human beings, like me.  I started talking more as I got over the intimidation factor.

Devin Castle


Audrius and I


I helped as a volunteer since I got there a few days before the event started. As I wrote before I was apprehensive of my language skills so I decided to volunteer to help get over my anxiety. By being a volunteer you see more behind scenes and how things operate from a stage left point of view.  It’s something I learned in the Navy, by being behind the so called magician’s curtain we can see that some things aren’t that special or magical. I met other people that spoke only three languages, a few didn’t even speak English, they were from Slovakia.  I even saw Esperanto exist on a working level with the volunteers.  I enjoyed volunteering and had more one on one time with the other staff.  I was glad that I was able to help such wonderful event.

I took some tours that the organizers of the Gathering had set up.  The first day was non-stop talks in the morning and afternoon, it felt like school. My tour of Devin Castle was in the afternoon of the second day, it was a good break from the talks.  It was good to meet and talk with the other people from the Gathering in another setting. I didn’t want to go to Slovakia and not see some historical monuments. Another was a wine and old town tour. On the afternoon of the third day we walked around the old town and heard the history of Bratislava. Which ended in drinking wine in a cellar near the center. I enjoyed the tours more for the socializing with the other attendees than hearing the history, though it was interesting. I was engaged with a lot of interesting conversations about languages and where people are from.

Last night at the Slovak Pub.


I ended up connecting with more people in the end. I was able to open up more by the end of the conference. I think the tours were a good icebreaker to meet other people, especially when wine is involved.  I practiced as much of my Spanish as possible, usually when I practice Spanish it’s with native speakers. I hope meet all the people I talked to at future events.


If you are a language learner or if you are wondering about attending one of these events?  I recommend it and I plan on going to the next one.  Whether you only speak one or 13 languages, everyone is welcome.  As long as you have an openness to learn and speak. Where else would you meet people who are as passionate about learning languages, travel, food, and cultures. I’m glad I was able to stop by in Bratislava for this conference. I’m incredibly fortunate to attend all the events I wanted to do this year.

 

Farewell Picnic the Monday after the conference.

Langfest- Montreal, Canada.- August 25-27, 2017

 

Polyglot Conference, Reykjavik, Iceland.- October 27-29, 2017

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

Day 90. Vienna, Austria

My time in Vienna

 

 

Orlando Neto and I

A summary of a week in Austria. I shaved my beard and started growing it again.  I met some cool young travelers at my hostel. I trained at Roger Gracie Vienna. I met some cool Globetrotters that shared stories of the Globetrotter Camps.  I ate some Schnitzel, drank some beer and attempted speaking German.

 

 

Walking back from the gym to my lodging is one of my favorite parts about traveling.

I trained at Roger Gracie Vienna with Orlando Neto.  I trained six times there. We went over some techniques from sleeve grip from butterfly/sitting guard to a couple combinations. i.e arm bar, turnover. On another day we drilled a Fireman’s carry take down. Then open mat the last three sessions.  The people there were really friendly, like most gyms. I enjoyed the diverse culture of the city, it showed very much in the gyms demographic.  There were Germans, Italians, Brazilians, Croatians, South Africans, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and I probably left out a few. Most classes that were taught by Orlando were in English. I had a really good vibe from the gym.

 

Me, Tina and Eda on a ferris wheel in Prater.

I stayed at the Meininger hotel on Rembrandt street. It was a clean, modern hostel with wifi everywhere in the hotel. As a normal European hostel experience you meet many young travelers solo or in pairs. You exchange info and back stories. Solo travelers tend to flock together and go out together. That’s one of the best parts about traveling solo in Europe, there’s always people to go out with.  There was Tina, a German on holiday, Chase, a Canadian doing Erasmus in France, Elie, a Frenchman traveling around Europe, Michelle, a Penn college student coming back from birthright from Israel and many more people.  My life seems to gravitate towards being around a motley crew people.  Or do I gravitate towards being around several different types of people that have distinct backgrounds than my own?

 

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It’s customary to take pictures in your Globetrotter Gis. (Not sure if that’s true.)

 

Repping hard at the Dinner table.

 

 

I met Ähn and Karla, German BJJ Globetrotter veterans, at the open mat at the gym. They showed me around parts of Vienna.  We had several conversations about Jiu Jitsu. I rarely have these types of conversations outside of training, it was very enjoyable.  They shared stories of all the camps they attended and funny stories that happened during the camps.  I’ve never been to a Globetrotter camp. After meeting these two it gives me a great impression of the camp’s attendees.  I hope the rest of the globetrotters I meet love to have fun, eat, and train. I can’t wait until the Copenhagen Camp.

A good part of being in the military that was easy was not really worrying how you style your hair. There were  hair regulations and dress codes.  It was easy to adhere to those rules. I’m out of the Navy now, traveling the world, unemployed with no hair regulations. I’ve had the same hair cut for the last four years and I was not allowed to grow a beard except when I was on Leave.  I grew it for two and half months. No one would really understand this unless you were a male in the American Military.  I decided to start over and cut it all off again.  I’m searching for a balance.

 

Prater in Vienna, Austria

 

 

Day 80. Seoul, South Korea Again

Seoul is the only place I visited twice on this trip.  That is fortunate because this time my  long time friend Carolina is visiting me.  I was able to spend more time with Yun-Jin too.  Carolina and I hung out with Yun-Jin, Yun-Min, her older sister, and Catherine, Yun-Min’s room mate.  The second experience was just as memorable as the first.  I am thankful to have a guides that know the language and show me around.  The generosity of strangers continue to amaze me on my journey.

Catherine, Yun-Jin, Carolina, and Yun- Min

We went to Incheon to visit Yun-Min and she took us out to eat at a seafood place. It was delicious.  Koreans know how to eat.  Carolina and I asked if this was a special occasion kind of meal.  They said no, this is how they normally eat.  I love that idea.  We went to the beach and looked for oysters.  We also grabbed coffee/ice cream.  Then they showed us the Incheon China Town.  Hearing a little bit of the history of Incheon and Seoul was sobering.  A divided nation that has indefinite time frame of when they will rejoin, if ever.

Fish Ice Cream. Don’t judge the taste by the wrapper.

The next day Carolina and I went to Hongdae and ate American breakfast.  That was what I wanted to eat.  I really enjoy a big breakfast.  There’s a satisfying feeling when I can eat eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns and pancakes.  We went to Lotte world after that.  Lotte world is basically the Korean version of Disneyland. That was what Carolina wanted to do.  It was an interesting experience, they basically compacted an American sized theme park in a mall in the middle of a city.  We ended the night with eating Korean BBQ.

Korean BBQ with Caro

On the last day we went to eat sashimi at the Noryangjin Fish Market.  I would like to say it is a unique experience to eat fresh fish straight from the fish market.  There are many places in the world where this is possible I think.  But this is Seoul.  The experience was one of kind.  We ate an assortment of fish, shrimp and sea urchin(uni). Like most meals I’ve had in Seoul it was accompanied with Soju and beer.  We were stuffed from all that food and decided to walk it off.

Fresh Sashimi for lunch

Yun- Jin took us to her school,  Seoul National University. Carolina and I compared the feeling of being in an American College and Seoul National University.  We were seeing not as much school pride as US schools. You know ever third student you see walking by has a sweatshirt or shirt of their school name. I’m all for school pride but it gets over the top at some schools, i.e. Stanford, Cal.  She showed us her graduate office, where a couple of other master students were working on their thesis.

Yun-Min got us tickets to opening night at Jamyung-go, a Korean Opera.  I have never been to an opera before so it was a first for me.  There was an orchestra, set design and a full cast of costumes.  It played for only three nights. They had English subtitles for me on a screen above the stage.  Carolina speaks Korean say she probably followed along better than me. The story is about a magical drum that warns the city if invaders are approaching and the division of two kingdoms trying to reunite despite the opposition of inside forces.

Like most countries on my trip I say that I will return.  I really mean it for Korea.  I plan on learning Korean and planing my next trip back to Korea after my world tour.  It maybe because of the culture, a certain someone or that I didn’t train Jiu Jitsu there. Either way I had a memorable experience that I wish to have again in Korea. I recommend Korea to everyone.

The church group took a group picture with the leading lady. Jamyung-go

Day 73. Guam, USA

Somewhere between Peru and Chile I decided to take a detour and visit my old home, Guam.  I lived on Guam for 3 years when I was in the Navy.  I look back on my time on Guam as my transformation into Adulthood.  It was the first time I really was away from home.  I lived by myself without room mates.  I paid rent, utilities, cleaned my home, cooked my food, and solved my life problems on my own.  There were many ups and downs that came with the experience which is why it feels like a home.

Guam is a small island in the Pacific Ocean.  It is a United States Territory, like Puerto Rico. Citizens on Guam cannot vote during federal elections but they do have a delegate in the House of Representatives.  The US military is the islands #1 employer.  The bases cover 27% of the islands land mass. Most of the income comes from tourists that visit from Asian countries like Japan, China, and South Korea. Here is a video by Wendover productions for an overview.

It is very expensive to fly to Guam from the United States. The average round trip ticket is around $1000 USD.  I was initially going to spend three weeks in South Korea.  My thought process was that I can take a cheaper flight to visit Guam now than when I return to the States. So I took a detour and made some arrangements with some friends that were still on the island.

 

Jordan, Emily and I in front of Naval Hospital Guam

My friend, Jordan, and his wife, Emily, were hosting me during my stay.  They live in Mangilao, Guam.  They gave me my own room and bathroom.  It was a luxury that I rarely had during my trip.  Both of them were working during my stay but we caught up at night.  Jordan even let me borrow his car while he was at work.  Jordan worked during the day and Emily at night but she comes home at 8 to 9ish. At that time we would eat dinner and have catch up on life.

 

I visited my duty station, Naval Hospital Guam.  I was a Hospital Corpsman at NH Guam for 3 years.  One of the most frustrating jobs of my entire life.  Though it helped shape the person I am today because of my experiences there.  I ran into some old peers that were still there.  It felt great to catch up but it didn’t feel good to listen to the consensus of low morale.  It was a good reminder of why I left the Navy to travel the world.  I know where their dissatisfaction comes from because I lived it.  I hope they find their peace with the Navy.  I compare the hospital visit felt like going back to your old high school, if your high school took care of sick and dying patients.

Hiro(Japanese Tourist), Jordan, me and Tyler. We went sailing on Lasers. It one of my favorite past times while on Guam.

My friend told me it would be a good morale boost to be on American soil and be around friends.  I didn’t realize until I left how true that statement was.  The ability to speak English freely without thinking if the other person understood me was comfortable.  I used to live on Guam, so when Jordan let me use his car, it felt like driving around my home town.  I revisited my favorite restaurants McKrauts, Gabriels, Cafe Tu’re, Asu Smokehouse, and Pikas Cafe.  I cooked risotto for Emily and Jordan as a kind of payment for hosting me.  I’m so thankful to have friends on the other side of the world.

 

Cooking risotto while drinking. 

I trained Jiu Jitsu twice.  I went to Vida once. It wasn’t too far from where I was staying. It had a good core of students.  Some are MMA fighters on Guam.  Every night was competition training for them.  It was a good push. They waived the mat fee too. Then I trained at Spike 22 at Steel Athletics.  I had to pay a $15 mat fee for that day.  Only two people showed up for lunch open mat.  Rohin was training for a MMA fight in July and Mike was there training with him.  It was good training with heavy weights that just used technique, especially Rohin.  Rohin could have crushed me, he looked over 250 lbs.  It was a chill rolling session.  Despite the $15 mat fee and the few people it was a good experience.

 

 

Vida BJJ in Mangilao, Guam.

I went to see Gabe Baker, my coach when I trained at Carlson Gracie Guam.  We had lunch at a Thai place next to the academy.  It was getting renovated, new mats, so I couldn’t train at my old gym. Getting a one on one with my old coach was what I needed. It felt at times that I was stumbling through the dark with what I needed to work on.  He gave me some guidance that was worth more than the two training sessions I had on the island.  He had an interesting philosophy on the belt system.  I’m grateful for the training I received on Guam and I thanked him for all that he taught me.  I will visit Guam and Carlson Gracie Guam again some day.

 

Gabe Baker in Carlson Gracie. Work in Progress.

“Purple belt is the longest belt, and is the belt most people quit at.  A brown belt is just waiting for his black belt. “

Day 69. Seoul, South Korea Part I

I enjoy stories.  I believe every good story has a great beginning.  The origin of how Yun-Jin and I met has an interesting start.  We met in Spain on the Camino de Santiago.  The first time I met her was in an albergue in Pendueles, Spain. We had just finished dinner and the table started singing songs from the different countries they were from.  There was Germany, Colombia, Poland, and three old Spanish pilgrims recited a dirty song in Spanish.  Then when it was her turn, she beautiful sung a Korean song and won the prize of another carafe of vino tinto.  She, of course, shared the prize with rest of the table.

 

Yun-Jin and I in cool looking ponchos.

We ran into each other the next day on the Camino.  We walked together that day from Pendules to Po, I think.  It was a long day.  But it was full of adventure and learning from each others story and history.  There was scattered rain along the path.  At the end of the day we walked close to 8 hours.  An ice cream truck pulled up to the albergue and we bought ice cream. We enjoyed the fact that the day was finally over, while enjoying our ice cream.  I have heard shared adversity and overcoming it brings people together.  I think that its true because we both recall that day vividly.

 

We ran into each several times, obviously, because we were going to the same place.  I took different paths some days and walked at my own pace.  During the last part of Asturias and all the way to Santiago, we walked together with Thomas, from Germany.  It was mostly just of the three of us.  It was an interesting crew.  Rasmus, a pilgrim from Denmark, said we reminded him of the Harry Potter Crew.  I’ll take that reference.

 

A Korean picnic on top of a mountain.

Fast Forward to seven months later.  I’m on a Jiu Jitsu/ travel world tour.  I choose to stop in Seoul to visit Yun-Jin.  Food, hiking, and adventure were on the itinerary.  It was an amazing experience.  After getting over the initial language barrier and metro system I was able to really take it in the culture.  Especially when you have a guide. It was a busy week of activities and trying new food.

 

Some where in Yeoeuido-Dong.

 

We did many activities while I was there.  I have to summarize a lot of it. We walked around Myeoung-Dong and had ramen at a very old restaurant.  We hiked up a mountain to a Buddhist temple where they fed us lunch for free.  We took a bike ride to Yangsae-Myeon and stopped by a strawberry farm.  There was a night where we just ate chicken, drank beer, soju, and rice wine.  We saw Guardians of the Galaxy 2 in a really fancy theater.  Afterwards we ran into a music festival in Yeouido-Dong.  There were many food trucks and we sat by the river eating poutine and steak while drinking Mojitos. It was a great week. I’m very thankful I had a local guide to take me through the city.

The wall near Dongdaemon.

Currently I’m in Guam.  I will go back to Seoul for three days to finish my time in Asia.  I will reunite with Yun-Jin again and my long time friend Carolina. More to come.

How to get to Seoul:

Incheon International Airport (ICN) Bus 6002 can take you to Hapjeong station for $10,000 KRW.

A “Korean” picture for the memory.

 

Day 41. Valparaiso

One of my favorite parts of my stay.  Eating together with my Hostel. 


I finished Christian Graugart’s book this week while working reception at my hostel. One take away from the book is that it’s easy for me to be self conscious of my skills and compare myself to other purple belts around the world. By the end of my trip I will roll with over hundred different strangers from countries all over the world. It’s ridiculous to compare each other. We walk our own Camino, our on path.

Cerro Concepcion.  Looking down.


I have to enjoy to process, the journey.  With the example of the Camino.  The most enjoyable part was the day of walking.  The getting up early and packing your bag.  The walk by yourself or with people.  The evening meals with other pilgrims. Those are my favorite memories.  When I got to Santiago, the final destination. I got this meh feeling.  That’s it. I was just sad that it was over.

“If you’re an asshole when you start out and you’re an asshole when you get back,”- Yvon Chounard.

I spend most mornings going for a walk and exploring the city. I sit at a cafe and I write in my journal.  It’s very meditative.  I enjoy this slow pace of travel.  I’m reading a lot more. I have time to really immerse myself here.

 I trained last Friday at Gracie Jiu Jitsu on Pedro Montt.  Which is the picture above. Samir was the Black Belt. He is very welcoming.  First time back since my URI(Upper Respiratory Infection). I rolled mainly with Nico, a purple belt who is competing in a tournament the next day in Santiago. He submitted me many times, with many different submissions.

Currently reading: The Portrait of Dorian Gray.

I will try to blog every week.