"The Master Plan was simple: eliminate all debt and simplify our lifestyle to the absolute minimum..Then we packed our lives into two large backpacks, took a cliché selfie at the airport visibly showing our passports, and then we were off to train Jiu-Jitsu around the world."
At twenty-three years old, I wanted nothing more than to see the world and practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I couldn't have cared less for any sort of security, structure or safety net in life. I just wanted to be anywhere else other than where I was. I wanted to explore as much of this planet as possible, and I was willing to give up everything to do it. I believe many people carry a sense of wanderlust with them but perhaps tuck it away in the back of their minds, because they feel it is not obtainable or beneficial.
The passion I have for travel and martial arts was planted in me at a very young age. When I was a child my father would take me to the library where we would thumb through travel books and scan maps of places we could only dream of visiting. He and I both loathed Oregon but could only ever afford to make ends meet. We weren't in a position to move.
To cope with the grey, cold winters and our lack of financial means, we would sit in cafes for hours discussing in great detail where we would go and how we would do it if we ever got the chance. We took pleasure in researching the best deals on train and airfare. Every time a new travel show aired, we’d watch in awe and converse about all the places we could never afford to go. My dad, also a martial artist, would always make sure to point out the most commonly-practiced martial art in whichever country we were currently interested.
As time went on our dreams slowly withered away, becoming just that: dreams. He never forgot, though. He’d talk as if we would disappear and begin our voyage tomorrow. My dad would have been overjoyed to find that someday I was living as a vagabond, collecting just enough cash along the way.
As I began my adult life, though, the dream slipped further and further away. I had bills to pay and classes to take. Still, I would continue to Google Image exotic, far away places and the people that lived there monotonously every single day. I studied maps of the world, memorizing the names and locations of different countries, cities, and islands I hoped to venture to someday. I suppose the dream was never completely ever lost for me, either.
Years later, I would find myself sitting on the steps of university in tears just moments after being told I could no longer afford to take classes. I would have had to quit work to become a full-time student, living on loans that would take years to pay off just to finish a degree I wasn't even sure I really wanted/needed.
That was the day I decided to turn my dreams into my reality. I was tired of buying frivolous things; I was angry my life had started this way and I was exhausted from constantly feeling trapped. I desperately needed to hit the reset button.
I left school, formulated a crude plan and drove home to share it with Zach, to ask him if he would leave everything he knew to pursue this crazy adventure with me. To my surprise, he said yes. The only problem left to solve was how to get out of the debt my equally Jiu-Jitsu-obsessed husband and I had started our marriage with.
The Master Plan was simple: eliminate all debt and simplify our lifestyle to the absolute minimum in order to save as much as possible while gradually selling everything we owned. Then we packed our lives into two large backpacks, took a cliché selfie at the airport visibly showing our passports, and then we were off to train Jiu-Jitsu around the world.
Of course, life is not a movie, and you can’t montage through the less-exciting times. For about a year or so we rented out a closet of a room from a half-deteriorated trailer just begging to slide off the edge of the muddy hill it was built on. I often had dreams of it collapsing and slipping into the pond that lay below.
I fondly remember watching Zach serve up the third rotisserie chicken of the month after a long day working two jobs and coaching Jiu-Jitsu classes. Those summer nights we had no cable, no reception, no Internet and no dollar that didn't make its way into our savings account. In lieu of any real entertainment, we would watch the sun go down, talk about our big escape and point out stars and constellations we didn't know the names of.
When the trailer walls were covered in mold, and dirty rain water leaked in through the roof, and the power would short out when the dryer and microwave were on simultaneously, and things seemed unbearable, Zach would say, “Don't worry, it’s just like camping.”
The day finally neared when we would embark on this voyage. We were clear of almost all debt and had $22,000 USD sitting in the bank. I understand that’s not much for some, but at the time, it was the most we ever had.
I will admit, there are much more responsible things to put that money toward other then jumping on a plane to anywhere and hoping for the best. I knew the urge to bail would be tempting, and that our friends and family may try to talk us out of leaving. So I took the liberty of purchasing our first set of tickets out of the country months in advance.
It would all be worth it.