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International Game: My 2015 Travels, Ranked

I started really traveling in spring 2014, taking my first trip abroad and exploring five different countries in Europe. I took a brief excursion to Mexico with my girlfriend at the time in the fall.

But with my 2015 travels, I took it to a whole new level, with six trips in total. Four trips were for absolute pleasure, while two of them were primarily trips for work, with three or four days tacked on to the tail end for fun.

The six trips were:

April – Budapest with Jeremy Sploosh and Lucky Lothario.
May – Indiana for the Indianapolis 500 with my dad, for his 50th birthday.
July – Chicago with my no-longer girlfriend.
September – Pittsburgh (work) and Montreal (play).
November – Washington DC (work) and New York City (play) – this trip was originally supposed to happen in October.
November – Miami to see my childhood hero’s last race (and some parties), and then on to Colombia with Masculine Profiles and El Conquistador.

All in all, it’s been a hell of a year. I’ll go home to Northern California for Christmas for about four days, but after all of the November travel – I decided I’m driving. I’ve had enough of airline delays and bullshit for this year.

With that being said, here’s how I’d rank my 2015 trips, from last to first.

I’ve also included a brief cost breakdown of my 2015 travels to give you guys an idea of how easy it can be to travel for very little. Included in this breakdown is just the price of the apartment or hotel, as well as flights. I go out to eat and drink often at home anyway, so in most cases (exception: New York City, Miami), I actually am saving money by being in cheaper places and going out.

#6 – Pittsburgh, USA & Montreal, Canada


2015 Trip #6 – Montreal

The funny thing is that I actually liked both of these cities. You can read the posts about them below:

The Player’s Guide To Pittsburgh
Field Report: Robbed By A Stripper

This trip worked out well – it was cheaper for me to fly back from Montreal than Pittsburgh, so work paid for it. All I had to do was cover my $95 flight from Pittsburgh to Montreal.

The reason this trip comes in dead last is because of how brutal work was in Pittsburgh. I had a plethora of problems come up in regards to my project, and I worked at least 10+ hours a day nearly every day I was there – including one day that started at 9:00am and ended at 4:45am the following day.

I did go on some dates with some very attractive girls – turns out, being in a small college town as a successful young professional puts you in a great spot. But…I didn’t get any notches – just tantalizing close with a girl who was studying abroad from Belgium.

Montreal would actually be my second or third favorite city out of all the ones I visited, but I was simply so exhausted from working in Pittsburgh that I didn’t get to enjoy it as much as I’d like. I did explore most of the city, ate some good food, and managed a notch with a stripper when it was all said and done. She then robbed me.

Length of Trip: 13 Days (9 in PGH, 4 in Montreal)
Cost: ~$500

$400 for my apartment in Montreal and $95 for my flight. I went out every night but didn’t spend more than $100 on drinks for the weekend.

#5 – Chicago, USA


2015 Trip #5 – Chicago

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have gone on this trip.

I wasn’t happy with my relationship at the time, and I think I was just going through the motions because I didn’t want to lose the money I had spent on this trip. The proof is in the pudding – we broke up a week after we returned from Chicago.

Rather than getting to explore the locals stuff, I was basically dragged along to every tourist destination possible. Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing some of it, but day in and day out was just too much for me.

I did get to meet up with Matt Forney for a drink and get away from it all, which was nice.

Most of this trip though I was pretty miserable. My girlfriend at the time had let herself get out of shape, and I just couldn’t stop looking at her in disgust as she took selfie after selfie to show off on Instagram.

Frankly, it was a toss-up between #5 and #6 for worst trip. If I’d worked just a normal eight hours a day in Pittsburgh I would easily rank it above Chicago.

As a final note, the only time I’d been to New York City (see below) was with this girlfriend, too. Then I did it without her and had a great time – now I feel the need to head back to Chicago and give it a fair shot without a girl in tow.

Copyright: Nakai Photography info {at} nakaiphotography {dot} com 312-298-9721

Waldorf Astoria in Chicago

Length of Trip: 5 Days
Cost: ~$700

I used a companion ticket which allowed me to get her flight for just $100 + tax. Mine was about $370.

I stayed at the Waldorf Astoria for two nights for free because I used free night certificates. The other two nights we stayed at a Holiday Inn – I used a mix of cash and points and paid roughly $70 a night.

I don’t even want to think about how much I spent on tourist attractions.

#4 – Washington D.C. & New York City

Again, DC was for work so it automatically lowers the enjoyment level of the trip overall.

2015 Trip #4 - NYC

2015 Trip #4 – NYC

I had a blast in New York City with some of the forum guys – huge shout out to Goldmund, Law Dogger, Clint Barton, and everyone else I met that made the New York City leg of the trip special.

Length of Trip: 10 Days (7 in DC, 3 in NYC)

Cost: ~$450

It’s hard to calculate this cost. I had a flight to DC, and my train ticket to NYC was just $82. It would have been far less if I had booked earlier.

I decided I would rather use miles and points to fly back from NYC as opposed to trying to get back to DC to make my flight home (work wasn’t willing to pay for me to switch it). I have almost 300,000 American Airline miles to burn, so I booked a first class one-way ticket from NYC to LA. I got to check out a cool new plane in first, which was nice.

I definitely spent more on food and going out in NYC than I do on average in LA, so to be fair I’ve added a few hundred bucks on to the total cost.

My hotel was free for two nights off of points, and I paid $160 for the final night.

#3 – Indianapolis, Indiana for the Indy 500

Indianapolis 500

2015 Trip #3 – Indianapolis 500

Probably the most special trip because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do with my Dad. And frankly, what an experience. I love racing. Nothing like 500,000 people packed into the same area for the same event.

Ironic, too – Indiana is by far the least desirable destination out of all of these trips, but was the most expensive trip for the length and what I got.

Length of Trip: 4 Days
Cost: ~$1,500


  • The tickets were about $250 in total – but very good seats.
  • The hotel I booked almost a year in advance and got a good rate of $150 total for three nights.
  • My flight was a whopping $600 round trip, and my Dad’s was close to $800 (my mom bought his flight).
  • We had no choice but to rent a car which was $200, plus gas.

Add in eating out for three days, souvenirs I purchased, and other miscellaneous expenses, and I easily topped $1,500 when it was all said in done.

A hell of an experience – a memory I’ll cherish forever with him.

We both agreed it’s a little too much (both monetary and energy-wise) to do on an annual basis.

#2 – Budapest, Hungary

Could easily flip a coin over these last two. Miami/Colombia is a bit more recent, so it may be why I’m giving it the win – but Budapest is easily one of my favorite top three cities in the world – so far.

Things To Do In Budapest - Architecture

2015 Trip #2 – Budapest, Hungary

I had a great time with the girls, but overall I found the girls and people of Budapest were not as friendly as say, South America. But the talent – good lord. Makes me want to go make $1,500 a month teaching English and live like a king in Budapest.

Length of Trip: 12 Days
Cost: $900

My flight was $700, and we paid a total of $500 for our two bedroom, city center apartment for 10 days. I paid about $200 of this.

As far as food and drink goes, it’s so cheap that I’m not even going to bother factoring it in. I could drink out at high end clubs every day for a month in Budapest with five nights of LA drinking money – maybe less.

#1 – Miami, USA and Barranquilla & Santa Marta, Colombia

As I said, I could flip a coin between these last two.

Colombia wins out slightly because I just had such a great experience with my Colombian girlfriend for the week. I’ve talked about it more than enough already recently, so rather than continue to dive in depth I’ll just leave you to explore the following posts:

Length of Trip: 12 Days (3 in Miami, 9 in Colombia)

2015 Trip #1 - Miami & Colombia

2015 Trip #1 – Miami & Colombia

Cost: ~$1,500

  • $600 total for all flights with the stop in Miami included (LA -> MIA -> COL)
  • ~$150 for my killer AirBNB in Miami. I got a smoking deal because it was a new property, I think. It was $35 a night, but came out to a little more when you added up the AirBNB and cleaning fees. I posted a video on Twitter of my apartment there (below)
  • $150 for my race ticket
  • $150 for my room in the Barranquilla apartment – we did get a deal as the other two are staying for a whole month.
  • $100 for our beach apartment (two nights) in Santa Marta, Colombia. I paid this in it’s entirety but we had four people in the place.

As you can see, the above total only comes out to $1,000. Miami drinking and partying is expensive as shit, so I just added an estimate of what I probably spent for those nights, as well as eating out a few times.

In Colombia I barely managed to spend $350 total for the week, and that included five dates, bottle service two nights, plenty of meals out, a gym membership for a month (even though I just used it for the week), a jet ski excursion, and a private shuttle to Santa Marta from Barranquilla. Hell, even $75 of that came from when I bought dinner for my little Colombian girlfriend and the guys at a restaurant on the cliffs overlooking Santa Marta.

Well worth the view:


Santa Marta, Colombia

All in all, I hardly spent more than I would in Los Angeles for a normal week. In LA, it’s not uncommon for me to spend $50 a week on groceries alone. Add in two dates at $35 a pop (nearly impossible to spend less), and we’re already approaching the $150 mark just to eat at home and drink out. Add in a dinner out with friends, (minimum $25 in most cases) or taking a girl I’m actually dating out (minimum $50 in most cases), and you can see how much cheaper life is when you’re not in LA (or NYC, or Miami. Hah!)

Total Spent, 2015 Travels: ~$5,550

As you can see…if you play things right, travel is not that expensive. I have a lot of knowledge about how to use airline miles and hotel points effectively, which helps too.

Do you guys want to see more posts on how to do this? Leave a comment below if you are.

To wrap up my travels for 2015, here is how I’d rank the cities (rather than the trips and experiences themselves, which can be largely influenced by your company and your successes and failures) in order from first to last.

I’m ranking these purely off of personal opinion.

The best way to read this list is this: #1 means that I would absolutely move there, in a heartbeat. As you go further down the list it becomes more along the lines of, “Fuck no, I would never move there in a million years.” This is very true for Washington D.C.

In addition, there’s three numbers besides every city, with a 1-10 scale.

A: Affordability
G: Girls
Q: Quality of Life

New York City (A:1, G:9, Q:6)
Budapest (A:10, G:8, Q:9)
Montreal (A:5, G:8, Q:7)
Chicago (A:6, G:6, Q:7)
Barranquilla (A:10, G:10, Q:1)
Pittsburgh (A:8, G:5, Q:7)
Santa Marta (A:10, G:4, Q:6)
Miami (A:3, G:9, Q:5)
Indianapolis (A:10, G:N/A, Q:5)
Washington D.C. (A:4, G:3, Q:3)

What do you think of my list?

Future post coming about the why – I’ll break down all of these cities in a paragraph or two each.

Here’s to great 2015 travels, and an even better 2016.

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