Getting Away from SRS (Spaced-Repition) For Vocabulary Learning

Ok. I admit it. I have a problem.

I use spaced-repition software (flashcard software) way too much when studying Chinese.

And, I always have. Ever since I started learning Chinese.

I wasted way too much time on Memrise, Anki, Skitter, Pleco Flashcards, the flashcard/testing feature on FluentU and even the Remember the Hanzi flashcard site.

Way too much time. Much of it useless.

Countless hours. Hours I’ll never get back.

I first fell in love with the notion of spaced repetition software back when I first heard about Memrise before I moved to Japan a little over 3 years ago. I used the Memrise site – basically just a website to aid with mnemonics and spaced repetition – to learn Japanese kana (both hiragana and katakana) in a little under 3 hours.

It felt like a god-send. I never would’ve learned two new alphabets that fast with out it.

I did pretty good then though, at least with that “deck”, or set, of “flashcards”. After I initially “learned” the two kana alphabets, I never reviewed that deck again. I didn’t have too. Kana was everywhere in Japan – I could reinforce it by reading menus at coffee shops, reading Dragonball Z manga, or anytime I looked up, or studied a new Japanese word or vocabulary list.

That was a good use of spaced-reption. I used it to be more efficient, and then no longer used it when it was no longer efficient. That was good. That time. For that set of cards. That “deck”.

After that, I wasn’t so good. And that’s when the inefficiency started. The countless hours of lost time.

I poured through the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) vocabulary list on Memrise until I “planted all the plants”. When I wanted to move more into grammar and sentences, I actually wound up abandoning Memrise for Anki – which was more customizable in what you could do and test yourself on.

When I decided to move to Taiwan and began studying Mandarin in Aug of 2013. I started with Anki, and Anki flashcard decks in Chinese.

Then, I switched to Pleco, then to FluentU, then I read Remember the Hanzi (RTH) and used a website that was an SRS system built for helping you remember your RTH stories/characters. Then, I switched to Skitter.

Then, most-recently, after about a month of being back in Taiwan I realized something. (I came back to Taiwan in November 2015, after being gone for over a year and a half)

I had a deck of cards in there, in Pleco, from the last time I was in Taiwan. A deck of cards I had built from words I came across back then. I looked through that deck and 1.) realized I didn’t know most of those words, and 2.) couldn’t even think of what context I’d come across them in, and couldn’t even think of what context they would even be useful.

So, I just deleted that deck. “If they are useful words, I’ll come across them again.” I thought.

A smart move. A step in the right direction.

The next step in the right direction was the next thought process. “Should I move the card decks I currently have in Skitter over to Pleco? (from Remember the Hanzi, recent ChinesePod lessons, etc.)?” “No, if I need those words, they will surely come up again in my studies.”

But, you know what they say: two steps forward, three steps back.

And, before you know it, I was reaching a point where I had 400+ vocabulary reviews a day again.

And I was saying things to myself like “Alright, I’m going to listen to this new ChinesePod lesson, right after I get these reviews out of the way.”

Only I would go through the reviews – and get a substantially large percentage of words wrong!

That’s not how SRS is supposed to work. You shouldn’t be getting 50% of your words wrong. Some words were just not sticking. Why? I started to dig deeper.

Luckily, I was putting words into different categories based on where I came across them. And, one thing was noticeably clear: words I learned from my girlfriend and her mom were sticking. I learned those words quickly, and tended to know them better when they came up in reviews. Words from other sources (reading material, ChinesePod lessons, even sessions with iTalki teachers) – not so much. Some of the words were sticking – but a lot of them weren’t.

Why is this? The biggest difference is that the words that were sticking were the words that were useful. Ie: they were the words I actually used after learning them. Because, they were words I actually learned. Words I learned in context, understand how to use in context, and then later actually used in similar context.

Other words weren’t. They were just words. Words from a list. A list my iTalki teacher gave me at the end of a session. Or a list of words from a chapter in a book. Even, if I was a list I made myself. It’s still just a list. And, a list is a devoid of a real context.

A vocabulary list is not a language.

So these lists were quickly becoming similar to the old list I found in Pleco, from two years ago. Lists of words, where I couldn’t even remember the context in which I added the words.

So, then, I abandoned SRS. For two weeks. I still studied Chinese, still spoke Chinese everyday, still did iTalki lessons, still (tried to) read the newspaper. I even still looked up words in Pleco and added them to lists.

I just didn’t study the lists. I didn’t do any flashcard reviews.

And what happened? I forgot everything and my Chinese atrophied to nothingness.

No, not really. Not much happened. My Chinese actually still probably improved. I still learned new words. Remembered some of them, even.

All that really happened was there was a couple of times, maybe three, maybe four. Four times, max, in two weeks, where I heard a word or came across a word in context where I felt like I know that word, but can’t remember what it is. Maybe if I had reviewed my flashcards I would’ve known those three or four words better.

Maybe not. Maybe I still would’ve struggled with them. It’s a toss up, really.

So, I’m getting off of SRS. Getting away from it, really.

Not entirely. It still has it’s use. One particular use case I’ve found, is to review words before and after a session. For example, I’ve noticed that if a review the vocab from a ChinesePod lesson, before listening to the lesson – I’m able to follow along with that whole particularly ChinesePod lesson much better than if I don’t.

So, yeah, SRS is useful in small limited doses.

But, SRS is not language learning.

(Also, see Hacking Chinese’s great post on this: If you think spaced repetition software is a panacea you are wrong)

Getting Away from SRS (Spaced-Repition) For Vocabulary Learning

Being Excited about Textbooks & Dictionaries (And, a Run-down of the Resources I Use to Study Chinese)

I don’t know what’s happened to me. But, you know something has changed in life when you are excited about new textbooks and dictionaries coming out. Seriously.

I’m excited about the new, updated edition of the Routledge: Comprehensive Chinese Grammar, which just came out in a few months ago – in October. I recently ordered it, just waiting on it to show up in the mail. I’m also super excited about the Outlier Dictionary of Chinese Characters coming out in May this year. These guys raised over $90k on Kickstarter last year. I’ve pre-ordered mine already.

That said, I thought I’d give a quick run-down of everything I use (or have used) to study Mandarin.

What I use now, on an almost daily basis:

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    • Pleco – mobile app. Pleco is probably my number one/ go-to Chinese app. On the surface its a Chinese-English, English-Chinese dictionary, or really a dictionary portal, where you can add various other supported dictionaries to it (and search multiple dictionaries at once). It has many good free dictionaries, but also several paid add-on dictionaries as well. (Soon to be including the Outlier Dictionary mentioned above, coming in May) It also has a lot of add-ons, some free and some paid, including a pretty comprehensive and customizable flashcard section, an OCR image reader, document and web reader, male and female audio pronunciation, etc. It’s just a great resource for looking up new vocabulary very quickly. I recently made the Taiwan Ministry of Education dictionary my main dictionary on Pleco, which is actually a Chinese-Chinese dictionary. I did this both get away from Chinese-English dictionaries a bit and delve more into Chinese definitions for Chinese words, but also because I trust the Taiwan Ministry of Eduction more on characters, tones, and word choice when it comes to usage in Taiwan than I do some of the other dictionaries which may tend to favor Mainland China usage (There are some noticeable variations here – think British English vs. American English).

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    • ChinesePod – I’ve used ChinesePod before, but I’ve ramped up my ChinesePod usage this time since being back in Taiwan. This is mainly due to a recommendation from my friend Sia – who recommends ChinesePod heavily both on his website and in his book. It’s about $30 a month for full access, but it’s worth it, especially if you can find the time to listen to it everyday. I mainly use the mobile app – which allows you to quickly and easily listen to all of the lessons. Every lesson centers around one short conversation in Mandarin, and then a much longer explanation of the words, grammar, and usage in that conversation. For the first three levels (Newbie, Elementary, and Intermediate) these explanations are mainly in English, with more an more Mandarin being used as you move up in level. By the time you get to Upper Intermediate, the explanations are almost all in Mandarin.

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    • iTalki – iTalki is my favorite resource for easily finding one-on-one language tutors. The site also has a language exchange partner section – but I don’t really use it for that. I use it only for the paid teachers (basically I just don’t feel like teaching English, in exchange for someone teaching me Mandarin – I’d rather just pay money and only speak in Mandarin). All of the lesson from iTalki teachers are done over Skype – so I can wake up and have a Chinese class while I’m still in my pajamas. You just can’t beat that kind of convenience. The biggest downside for me is there aren’t really any full-time Taiwanese teachers on the site, so I have to use Mainland China-based teachers and then double-check all the new vocabulary I learned afterwards with Taiwanese friends to see if that word is actually used in Taiwan, or used in the same way. This could actually be a positive though, as I’m getting a deeper understanding of the language, by getting better glimpse at usage and differences on both sides of the Straight. I also use iTalki for the journal feature – where I can write a journal entry in Mandarin and native speakers can help me by correcting my grammar and word usage.

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  • HelloTalk – HelloTalk is an mobile app for finding language exchange partners. I like it because it seems to have a lot of Taiwanese users, so its a good resource for quickly picking up new and useful vocabulary that is actually in common usage. But, mainly I just like the features around the app – you easily translate words or convert characters to Pinyin, and you can easily correct your language partner’s sentences. Mainly because of this sentence correction feature, my girlfriend (who is a native-Mandarin speaker) and I have actually moved to using HelloTalk as our main messaging app (instead of Facebook Messenger, LINE, or WhatsApp), because I can easily correct her English words/grammar and she can easily correct my Mandarin words/grammar right there in the app and doing so doesn’t impede on the conversation at all.

Other resources I use occasionally, or have used before:

Video-based material:

FluentU

  • FluentU – I’ve always been a big fan of FluentU and the concept behind it. They use Youtube videos in the native language to teach you the language – this starts with commercials mainly at the lower levels, some segments from shows aimed at children like Sesame Streets, and then moves up to music videos and later into News programs and TED talks. Great idea. And, great resource. I used to really use it heavily – and still remember a lot a words and phrases because of it. I don’t use it so much anymore, mainly just because I do a lot of my Chinese studying on the go now (on my mobile) – they have a mobile app and it works well – but, honestly, because their platform is based around streaming YouTube videos, it’s really just a battery killer for me. This is also because I have a really old phone. I plan to upgrade to a newer phone soon and when I do so, I hope to be able take another look at the FluentU app and use it more. The other downside to FluentU for me is that they built their platform using simplified characters first, and then somehow converted to traditional for the users who would rather use traditional characters. Because of this, there a lot of errors in the traditional character set. They are good about responding and fixing these errors when you point them out, and I’ve personally helped them fix dozens of them already, but it still is a downside knowing that the traditional character set is not to be trusted and any new word learned must be double-checked using other resources.

 

Spaced-repition Flashcard programs and apps:

Anki-the-Best-Way-to-Learn-with-Intelligent-Flashcards.png

    • Anki – Anki is the popular open-source space repetition flashcard program. I used it initially when I first got to Taiwan. SRS has its uses in language learning – but I’ll get to that more in another post. Anki is great for what it is, but personally I prefer Pleco’s built-in SRS flashcard system more, just because of the easy integration with searching the Pleco dictionary.

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    • Skritter – Skritter is another popular spaced-repition app that I’ve used on and off again over the past couple of years. It focuses on writing Chinese characters particularly, but also has modes for testing for character recognition, definition, and tones as well. I like it, because it really just feels like a game when you use it – they’ve really kind of gamified the writing character experience. It’s also nice because it has a lot of useful vocabulary decks already available – including decks for all of the ChinesePod lessons if you have ChinesePod account. I don’t use it currently, because I’m both pushing myself to get away from SRS and flashcard systems and also because its fairly steep at $14.99 a month, especially if you are not focused on learning to write characters at the moment.

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  • Memrise – Memrise was really my first love when it came to spaced-repition programs. I used it very heavily when I studied Japanese a few years ago. I like it because it combines a game-experience with spaced-repition with mnemonics – and the idea behind it is really heavily on the mnemonics, such that you can use mnemonics created by other users to help you remember things. I used it heavily when I studied Japanese – but with Chinese I really only used it to learn Bopomofo, as I never really liked any of the Chinese vocabulary lists that are already on the platform.

 

Textbooks/Books

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    • Practical Audio Visual Chinese series This is a five-part textbook series for learning Mandarin used heavily in Taiwan. I went through the first two books in the series with a Chinese tutor a couple of years ago. It was a good foundation. After that, I tried to go through book 3 on my own, but quickly got bored of slogging through a textbook on my own and didn’t get very far. I would recommend the first two books for the basics – they do a great job at introducing basic important vocabulary and grammar. But, after that, I’m not neccassirly sure going through all 5 books is worth the time and investment of slogging through a textbook series.

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  • Remembering the Traditional Hanzi – This is a method of learning Chinese characters, originally introduced by James Heisig for learning Japanese actually, and the Remembering the Kanji books are very popular amongst Japanese students. I of course, first heard about the books when I studied Japanese. The Mandarin version is a two-part series, with book one meant to introduce the most common 1,500 characters and book 2 meant to get you up to 3,000. I made it through book 1 and the first couple of chapters of book 2 a couple of years ago (while using Skitter to supplement). It’s a decent system for what it is – but is has its limitations. For one, the focus is around mapping the characters to an English keyword to understand their meaning. Personally though, as I know more about Chinese and how the language works, I’m actually against this approach. Yes, it may be useful for creating mnemonics and some memorization, but it actually overlooks sound components totally and misses out on a lot of the logic already built-in to the Chinese language by forcing these sometimes rather obscure English keywords onto them. Personally, if you’re looking to get into learning Characters – I’d recommend holding out until May for the Outlier dictionary mentioned above. I think that will ultimately prove to be the much better system.

 

Learning Tones

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  • The Mimic Method: The Flow of Mandarin – tones are best learned through hearing and mimicking native speakers. Idahosa’s Mimic Method course covers all of the ones and all of the sounds in Mandarin and gives a great solid introduction to the flow of the Mandarin language. Coupled with one-on-one feedback and always focusing on the sounds and tones giving you the most trouble: one of the best things I probably ever did for my Mandarin was starting with this course first when I got to Taiwan back in 2013.

 

Conclusion

That’s pretty much all of the resources I use or have used for learning Chinese. I’m still looking for a good resource for reading native material (i.e.: not a textbook), and I’m currently experimenting with reading books by English authors translated into Chinese, and reading both the Chinese book and the English book at the same time. Let me know if you know of anything good for reading Chinese material – preferably something mobile based. If I don’t find anything I like, I may just be forced to create a new app myself.

Being Excited about Textbooks & Dictionaries (And, a Run-down of the Resources I Use to Study Chinese)

Being Busy, Daily Practice, and 750 Words

Sometimes I get “so busy” that I forget my own personal goals or habits. I’ll look back and realize I haven’t read a book in months, or I haven’t been to the gym in a couple of weeks.

For me, my personal goals are simple and straight forward, its really the habits I want to build and foster, which there are really 4:

1. Read everyday 
(Always be reading a book. I’m trying to mix in more fiction – I’ve always been a big non-fiction reader, ie: authors like Malcolm Gladwell or Michael Lewis)

2. Write everyday
(I try to have a goal to write ‘Morning Pages’ every morning. 3 pages, stream of consciousness, popularized by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way. But, I don’t always do it.)

3. Exercise 
(Mainly Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, with occasional yoga to supplement BJJ for flexibility and injuries)

4. Study something
(Whether it’s Mandarin Chinese, coding Python or Swift, or just some random history or philosophy class from HarvardX, I try to always have one skill or something to be working on)

On the writing goal, I just recently found out about this website called 750words. Apparently 750 words = 3 pages. So, it’s just an environment to actually do the ‘Morning Pages’ in. I tried it this morning. What’s cool about is the stats it gives you about your writing as soon as your finished. http://750words.com/entries/share/4970544

It only took me 12 minutes. I really should do this more often.

Being Busy, Daily Practice, and 750 Words

#UpsandDowns

time-heals

You wake up in the morning in a new apartment, but you don’t have anything: no comb, no toothpaste, no clothes. You just signed a lease late last night and crashed, because you were too tired to leave and go get your stuff.

There’s also no coffee in the apartment yet – which is probably even worse than having no comb, toothpaste, or clothes. You wonder, “Did I make the right decision? Do I even want to be in this city anymore?”

“Should I just jump ship and go to Austin, Boston, or San Francisco?” Two of those cities you love like they’re your second home. One of them you’ve never been to, but you just dream about constantly.

Then, you feel depressed. You feel stuck. This shit sucks.

It’s hot as hell outside, and you’re stuck moving your belongings. Then you forget something important, and have to go back.

Now, you’re covered in sweat. Even though you just took a shower a couple of hours ago. And half of your day is gone and you got nothing accomplished work-wise.

Damn. This shit sucks.

You finally get to the office around 4pm – everyone else is leaving, or about to. You sit down, fire off some emails, set up some meetings with potential clients, brainstorm with your business partner about your upcoming product launch, work on some powerpoint slides, and generally just get shit done.

After a few hours, you head off to jiu-jitsu, still responding to emails from your phone the whole way there.

Then, you roll around for a couple of hours. You know you have to not just be so content with having an annoying guard, but you have to actually start sweeping people more, and getting to advantageous positions. So you work on that. Hit a couple of good ones. You dominate a couple of guys bigger than you, just because they’re newer to the sport than you are. The bigger they are, the more susceptible they are to half-guard recoveries from side control, like “goddamn it! How the hell did he get his leg back in there?”

After training, you’re hot as hell again. Sweaty. Tired. Your right knee is tweaked. Your left pinky might be broken – its swollen, and you’re kind of sure it shouldn’t bend like this. But, you kind of don’t care. Because its your pinky. On your left hand. Probably the least important finger you have.

You go into the locker room and take a shower, and apparently take one of the longest showers out of anybody, because you’re one of the last guys to leave the gym. Then again, not everybody showers at the gym after training. You wonder “how could they do that? How could they go home sweaty?” Then, you remember that you’ve done it a hundred times, but part of the reason you shower at the gym now – if you’re really being honest with yourself – is because there’s soap and shampoo already there. And the more showers you can take at the gym the less often you have to buy soap and shampoo at your own place. Because that’s what your life has come to: pinching pennies on frivolous bathroom supplies.

Then you head back to the office. But, on your way back, you stop and get some dinner. And, even grab a beer, because, “hell, why not?”

Then, you eat your dinner. You take a sip of your beer and have a conversation with yourself about the direction of your company. Yeah, you talk to yourself when no one else is around. Just like crazy people do.

Then, you take another sip of your beer. And, you smile. And, you think to yourself, “Damn, my life is great. What the hell was I depressed about this morning?”

#UpsandDowns

#UpsandDowns

The Importance of Passion and Hustle

When it comes to building a startup, its not just the idea that counts. Your idea should be good of course, but its far from everything. Even a great idea doesn’t equal future success.

Execution is far more important.

Which is why your team is so important. Are you right people to pull this off?

A good mix of past experience and raw talent is important. They help you have the confidence to step into the role you are now have to play. They help you put people in the team into the right positions.

I honestly think Malcolm is the most talented app developers around, and I think I am the one of the most talented business minds around, especially in relation to business strategy and strategic moves.

But, that only gets us in the door. That only helps shape our roles. It says nothing of how well DineMob will do.

We have to execute.

Execution

Execution really comes down to three things: passion, hustle, and an open mind.

There seems to be one alumnus in particular with a certain aura of respect about him in the Tech Wildcatters headquarters, and that’s TK Stohlman of FanPrint. From what I gathered just from his speeches and anecdotes on an alumni speaker panel here at TW a few weeks ago, is the dude pretty much embodies passion and hustle.

Passion comes first. You have to believe in the idea and have that passion for it. You have to want it succeed. Passion is the quality that drives people to do something “crazy” by others’ standards: like leaving a 6 figure job to start a new company and take $0 in salary for months to get things up and running, or like flying halfway around the world and setting up shop in a new city at the drop of a dime, because you feel like “I need to be here. For this. Right now.”

Passion drives hustle. Nobody hustles for something they don’t really believe in.

DineMob
DineMob co-founders William & Malcolm

 

The hustle is key

Here’s a quick humble brag: I graduated in the top 10% of my MBA class at Hult in 2012.

But, it gets more interesting.

At least 50% of our grades throughout the whole program came from team projects. The other 50% came from individual projects.

I’ve seen plenty of smart people go through that program and make excellent grades on individual assignments (exams, papers), but fail to graduate in the top 10%. Their most common excuse: they were on “weak teams” (they had weak teammates).

That’s not the case for me. My situation is almost the opposite.

My individual grades during my MBA program (exams, papers) were good, but often not great.

My team grades carried me into the top 10%. My teams always finished at or near the top of every class project.

In every class. Different teammates. Still at or near the top.

I’d like to think of myself as the common denominator here. Maybe I am. Or maybe I just got lucky and had great teammates.

The truth is: I hustled, and busted my ass for every team I worked on, led by example, and my teammates did the same.

Throughout the MBA program, no matter which course, my teams were often the last to leave the building.

We worked hard.

Now, at the helm of DineMob, here at Tech Wildcatters, I’m seeing similar scripts play out.

Investors, mentors, advisors, other teams, staff here at TW…. I’m starting to feel it: an air of respect, and notion that DineMob is at the top of their minds, and they are on board with what we are doing.

It’s the same kind of respect a white belt in jiu jitsu gets when he steps on the mat with a black belt and shows he’s willing to hustle and he’s willing to learn.

It gets noticed. It gets respect.

But, even more than that, it gets results…

 

– William Peregoy

co-Founder @DineMob

The Importance of Passion and Hustle

Big News: I Moved Back to Texas (Alternative Title: I Co-Founded a Company – DineMob)

Big news.

I’ve moved back to Texas.

It seems like everything happened pretty quickly. A few weeks ago, Malcolm Woods and I got a chance to pitch a start-up idea to the top investor and incubator program in Dallas.

Only the top 4% of applicants get in. And we got in.

Tech Wildcatters, is the #1 B2B Start-up Accelerator in the US, it consistently ranks in the top 10 for incubators overall – by Forbes, TechCrunch, Inc

It’s a tremendous opportunity for us. It gives us a little bit of seed funding to go out and test and validate our idea and it also gives us a tremendous opportunity to be a part of the program over the next 3 months. It will be really intense and we’ll get to learn from successful entrepreneurs and investors – how to start a company, sell our products, and talk to investors.

I’m extremely excited. It’s always been a goal of mine to run a company.

And the start-up scene in Dallas is really getting underway – I’ve just spent a bit of time here so far – but I must say I’m extremely impressed with the start-up atmosphere in the city.

So. I’m here. Back in Texas. In Dallas this time around. For at least the next 3 months. And, now’s the time to make DineMob happen… look out for more news from us coming real soon.

http://dinemobapp.com/tech-wildcatters-class-of-2015/

dinemob at tech wildcatters
DineMob, front and center at Tech Wildcatters QuickPitch
Big News: I Moved Back to Texas (Alternative Title: I Co-Founded a Company – DineMob)

Headed to Copenhagen; Finally Read the Book

I like books.

When I travel to a new city, I always wind up popping into random bookstores I see along the road and look around. Even if the books are in another language and I can’t read a thing. It doesn’t matter. I still look through them.

I also take note of interesting books and add them to my Amazon Wishlist. To come back and read some day. The number of books on that list just keeps growing. And growing.

I will never read all of them. Lots of interesting books.

I don’t really carry physical copies of books around with me anymore. Its a lot easier to just carry a Kindle. 50 books in my pocket.

One of those books is ‘The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Globetrotter’ by Christian Graugart. It had been on my Wishlist ever since Masa first told me about Christian and his trip well over a year and half ago. Before I even knew much about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).

BJJ Globetrotter by Christian Graugarrt
This one

But, I never bought it. I thought I had. I looked through my Kindle, but it wasn’t there.

I had read a few travel memoirs before and the idea of traveling and training at various Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gyms was interesting to me.

In fact, I even started doing it myself. I started training BJJ in September 2013 when I was in Taiwan. Since then I’ve trained in 10 different gyms in 7 different countries.

I joined Graugart’s BJJ Globetrotters team when I first heard about it, and I’ve even used it to find places to train at while I travel.

But, I still hadn’t read his book. It just sat there on my Wishlist: one of those things “I really should read one of these days” along with the many other books on that list. They pile up like documentaries in a Netflix queue.

Flight ticket frustrations and change of plans

Last month, after a couple of weeks of surviving solely on espresso shots and Pastels de Nata, and in between blowing up eggs in the hostel’s microwave (true story), I got paid for a project and decided to sit down and figure out my travel plans. I could buy my flight tickets and finally get back to Texas for the holidays, after two and a half years of not stepping foot in my home state.

Pastel de Nata
Everyday in Portugal

My original plan was to go from Portugal to Ireland, spend about a month in Dublin working and training BJJ and then fly back to Austin. The reason I had this plan was because I thought the flights from Dublin to Austin were fairly inexpensive.

They weren’t.

All the prices that were being shown were lies. Completely untrue. No matter the flight aggregate site: Momondo, Skyscanner, Kayak. They were all lying to me about the price of this ticket. It looked fairly inexpensive, but every time I went to buy it, it jumped up 250 Euro (about $300) from the advertised price. I eventually figured out why. The airline was pushing half the price of a roundtrip ticket to these aggregate sites, rather than the true price of a one-way. So, the prices that were being shown were prices that didn’t actually exist. I’m not paying this much. I refuse.

I start looking for cheaper alternatives. I still wanted to get to Texas for the holidays, but now I didn’t know how. It took almost a whole day of searching and playing around with alternative routes, but then I stumbled on fairly cheap flights being offered by Norwegian Airlines.

Extended layovers: one of my favorite travel tricks

Whenever I find a certain airline offering a good price on a route I usually look into doing an extended layover in the country they are based in, just so I can see another place. This is how I visited Seoul (Korean airline flight from Shanghai to Singapore), Dubai (Air Emirates flight from Singapore to London), and even Dublin the first time in 2012 (cheapest route from UK to Boston).

So, now I’m looking at Air Norwegian flights. Do I want to spend a few days in Norway? In December?

It sounds cold. And dark. Only a couple of hours of daylight. I don’t even have a good winter coat. I had one when I lived in Boston, but I left it in the US when I bought that one way ticket for Singapore. No winter coats are needed by the equator.

Then, another thought occurred to me: all of Scandinavia is pretty much the same, maybe the flights would also be cheap if I did a layover in Sweden, Finland, or Denmark, instead of Norway?

Yep, they were.

Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway
Thanks Google

I’ve gotten a lot better with world geography over the past few years as I’ve traveled, but I still knew nothing about Scandinavia. After a quick brush up familiarizing myself with the major cities there, I was reminded that Oslo is in Norway, Helsinki is in Finland, Stockholm is in Sweden, and Copenhagen is in Denmark.

Copenhagen? Oh, that’s where the BJJ Globetrotters guy has his gym.

Now, I had an idea. No. Now I had a plan.

I booked the flights and emailed Christian. He told me I picked good dates and invited me to his Christmas party. Traditional Danish Christmas food on deck.

I should probably read his book before I get there.

It’s been on my reading list for awhile. So, I bought it and read it while I was traveling around Ireland (and training BJJ at academies around Ireland).

The book inspired me

It inspired me to keep training. It inspired to me to keep traveling.

But, mostly, it inspired me to start writing again (Hence, the blog is back)

I knew about the hospitality of BJJ guys around the world, having experienced a bit of it myself while traveling. But, its always interesting to see someone else’s take on his own travel experiences. It was really interesting to see Christian reflect on his trip and how it shaped his life thinking even after returning home.

Overall, I just like to hear other people’s stories and experiences, and this book had plenty of that.

It’s a book that should inspire you. Whether you train BJJ or not. You can still take on the world. And win.

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Mentioned in the post:

‘The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Globetrotter: The true story about a frantic, 140 day long, around-the-world trip to train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ‘ by Christian Graugart.

Headed to Copenhagen; Finally Read the Book