Expanding Horizons: Our First International Romantic FI Adventure Trip & An Introduction To Travel Hacking & Travel Fitness

Perspective. Such a powerful thing. One of the reasons I love to travel so much. And one of the reasons I love to fly my drone so much!

By creating temporary distance from our day-to-day life we are able to examine it from a more macrocosmic perspective, contrast it with our temporarily newfound life while traveling (or flying), and recognize all the awesome things and not so awesome things in our regular occurring life.

This process creates space to ignite healing, cultivate growth & ultimately transform our lives for the better in many ways! From the areas of love & intimacy to our mindset, spirituality, work, career, money, health, fitness & more!

My Phoenix & I recently got back from our first international trip together since we’ve been together formally. In full transparency, it was our first multi-day trip that was just for us. All of the many prior trips were either day-trips or multi-day trips that were for work or for family.

Taking the time, energy & money to invest in our relationship & invest in our lives through a romantic FI* adventure was one of the best things we’ve done all year! So much healing, growth & transformation occurred during our time in Mexico and it came home with us too!

And I’m so grateful that my FI wife empowered us to make it our first international FI adventure trip! We did the whole weeklong trip for less than $750 total—including airfare, accommodations, food, activities & gifts for the both of us!

Here is a a breakdown of our Travel Costs with some additional notes:

The infamous Dragon Bowl Salad made it’s debut in Mexico w/ a delicious fried egg & veggie carne asada topping!

The infamous Dragon Bowl Salad made it’s debut in Mexico w/ a delicious fried egg & veggie carne asada topping!

  • Flights: $170 roundtrip from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta for two using Southwest Points & Companion Pass**. This was airfare taxes & fees ($85 per person).

  • Airbnb: $303 for 7 nights in a large beautiful flat. We actually had the whole floor to ourself and it included a massive kitchen, patio, dining room, reading room, bedroom, bathroom & had a rooftop with an incredible view, a small pool and a BBQ. And it was a 10-minute walk from the center of the city and a grocery store.

  • Uber/Bus: $61 ($76 minus $15 monthly Uber Credit from Amex Platinum).

  • Dining out: $43, we only out twice. One was expensive—$33 for a touristy beach front dining. And one was crazy cheap $10 for dinner for two plus tip in the amazing beach town of Sayulita. The rest of the time the Phoenix cooked her version of the local faire (vegetarian carne asada, tostados, refried beans, etc) and I made my customary massive Dragon Salad Bowls and put her cooking on top of it.

  • Groceries: $100, we shopped at the “Ley” grocery store closest to our Airbnb (it was within walking distance). Grocery shopping while traveling is a key component of my FI/Fitness 2-punch combo.

  • Gifts: $64 for a beautiful Mexican blanket ($14) for our home & some awesome handmade leather shoes for the Phoenix ($50).

  • Grand total: $741 

Further Down The Travel Hacking Tarmac:

Thanks again to our Amex Platinum we had free access to some pretty sweet airport lounges in both Oakland & Puerto Vallarta. Prior to this trip we’d never been in an airport lounge. They are definitely an Oasis in a normally somewhat chaotic place. On both sides of the trip the lounges provided plenty of free food. In the Oakland Escape lounge I even made myself two sandwiches to-go for the flight and ate those in the “free” Uber ride from the Mexican Airpot to our Airbnb. As mentioned above the Amex Platinum comes with A LOT of perks—$15 monthly Uber credit, a priority lounge pass, & more.

What’s even crazier to think about is that with a little more Travel Hacking*** & FI saviness we could have completely erased the Airbnb fee by using points to book a hotel. That would have brought down the total cost to $438 for a weeklong trip to Mexico for two people!! That’s $219 per person!

Dragon & Phoenix enjoying the sunset view from our Airbnb.

Dragon & Phoenix enjoying the sunset view from our Airbnb.

I usually prefer to stay in an Airbnb because I love the infusion into the local community it provides as well as it just feels so much more creative to me so we optimized for that experience during this trip. I also prefer to save my points for airfare because you usually get way more bang for your buck (or points).

For the record, I did just sign up for our first Hotel Points Card just this morning! I chose the World of Hyatt card for its 50K bonus ($850 value) after you spend $6,000 over six months. Here is my referral link (I’ll get more points if you sign up), but feel free to just google it if you don’t want me to benefit.

This Hotel Card Points decision was based on two important factors: (1) the Phoenix loves being treated to a nice hotel room on occasion (and so do I to be honest) and (2) it’s nice to have hotel points on hand just in case we ever need them in a pinch. I also think having at least some hotel points in your Travel Hacking Toolbox is a great way to have more optionality when booking your next trip.

We could have taken it even further and used an additional credit card bonus to wipe out the ancillary travel costs (airfare taxes & fees, uber/taxi) with a card like the Capital One Venture that allows you to erase travel costs from your monthly statement (airfare taxes/fees & taxi/rideshare count). That would have brought our total trip cost down to $201, or $100.50 per person for a freakin week in Mexico! I’m still new to Travel Hacking so I forgive myself for not maximizing savings and instead I continue to be inspired by others who have already done even longer & wilder trips for free or with ridiculously inexpensive travel budgets. I’m definitely motivated to take my Travel Hacking skills to the next level on the next trip!

We still have the Chase Southwest Companion pass until the end of 2019 so our next trip will be planned around one of the many exotic locations that airline flies. Please comment or PM me on social media if you have any great Southwest Airline destination suggestions! Maybe we will even book a hotel with points for that trip!

Now that I’m 1.5+ years into my FI Journey I’m pretty damn stoked that I’m learning the Travel Hacking Life Hack—I’ve always loved travel, but I never loved how much money it cost. Now I can explore the world with my love and do it practically for free!

A big reason I took this Instagram Post and expanded it into an introduction to Travel Hacking is because (a) I firmly believe everyone benefits from travel in the form of rejuvenation, healing, growth, transformation & consciousness expansion and (b) I deeply believe Travel Hacking is a skill everyone can learn and should learn.

I found that I had infinitely more fun planning this trip & living this trip while trying to figure out how to do it as frugally as possible. As I mentioned in the Reshaping My Money Story article when you approach things with a FI/Frugal mindset you end up having waaaaaay more fun AND save tons of money which you can instead invest to create even more freedom in your life. Freedom & fun are my two top personal values & I think everyone benefits from them.


I’ve been a longtime proponent of using travel as an excuse to get even more fit. This is in stark-contrast to what I see most people do when they travel—eat like shit, drink excessively, not exercise & destroy their health. Instead of rejuvenating & encouraging new growth many unfortunate souls do exactly the opposite and come back in worse shape (mentally, emotionally, physically, & spiritually) from their vacation. I stand for the possibility that we can use travel to heal, grow & transform us for the better. When it comes to fitness & travel I take a contrarian approach & combine it with a FI Mindset. Here is how approached my physical training while in Mexico:

Since I was staying in an Airbnb I did consider paying to go to a gym so I could workout daily while on the trip, but ultimately I asked myself these questions:

What will make me grow the most?

What will I remember more?

What will my future self thank me the most for?

My sweet jugs for sumo deadlifts, squats, stair climbing & calf raises on Leg Day in Mexico.

My sweet jugs for sumo deadlifts, squats, stair climbing & calf raises on Leg Day in Mexico.

So instead of taking the easy/convenient route of spending money to go to a gym I made the choice to grow more and I utilized the incredible rooftop our Airbnb had and I used the jump rope & resistance bands I brought for exactly this reason. I doubled down on this FI/Fitness love and got even more creative—using the door frame for pull-ups, the stairs to the rooftop for sprints, and even utilized some giant water jugs for a savage leg day. It was awesome working on my sweet tan and pushing myself to creatively devise 40-60 minutes workouts each day. And I got to do it with an epic view of the city & beaches!

When it came to getting around We optimized walking everywhere whenever possible. Even up the ridiculously steep multi-block hill to get to our Airbnb. This was especially fun when we were carrying lots of groceries. I considered it part of my Spartan Training for the trip. By taking this approach to emphasizing muscle over motor I easily logged 10K-20K+ steps a day.

I also happened to bring Spikeball along for the trip and randomly recruited the first couple we saw on the beach. We taught them to play, enjoying several rounds of Spike, & ultimately having a grand time on the beautiful beach of Puerto Vallarta. They had so much fun they even ended up inviting us on an epic hidden beaches guided group hike the following day (which we went on of course!!).

Colomitos Beach, Puerto Vallarta. A “hidden beach” only accessible by boat or by hiking in (like we did).

Colomitos Beach, Puerto Vallarta. A “hidden beach” only accessible by boat or by hiking in (like we did).

Funny enough, I even got to workout in a hotel gym (for free) on one of the days because by pure chance one of my good friends was also visiting Puerto Vallarta so we linked up and crushed a workout together in his hotel gym. This backs up another one of the interesting features behind approaching life with a FI/Frugal mindset—if instead of just spending money for convenience I choose to wait & open myself up to the infinite opportunities of the Universe what I originally wanted gets delivered to me for free (or at a radically reduced price). Good things really do come to those who wait.

On the morning of the last day I wanted to maximize my fitness & maximize my experience so I took a run through the city with my drone in my running backpack to scope out some parts of the city that I’d only flown over (like the Spire in the title photo). It was so invigorating, fun & a perfect way for me to close out an epic trip.


Heck! I’m still having fun & feeling even more free just reminiscing about how I optimized this trip & thinking about how I’m gonna optimize the next trip even better!

I highly suggest everyone get on the Travel Hacking bandwagon (more guides/resources below)! I implore you to make life an adventure, invest the time/energy into learning an amazing skillset that will serve you for the rest of your precious life & radically increase the freedom & fun in your life while you are at it!

On top of that, I encourage everyone to learn & practice healthful eating & exercise in a diverse array of ways so that no matter what environment or life-situation you are in you can have fun challenging yourself to maintain & even increase your physical fitness! This will also increase your freedom, fun, creativity, and when you do it with a FI mindset it will speed up your path to FI.

Happy Travel/Fitness Hacking Everyone!

Your Life Alchemist,


P.S. Below is a list of the credit cards & sign up bonuses with referral links that I’ve gotten so far (I started this endeavor in December of 2017). Please note that with some of these links I will get additional points if you sign-up using my referral link. You’re welcome to google them if you’d prefer me not to benefit personally from your signup.


  • *FI stands for Financial Independence which is a cultural movement, a money mindset & a life philosophy. Read more about it in my “Reshaping My Money Story” article.

  • **The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to designate one person as your companion and they can fly for free with you on any flight you book with cash or points on Southwest until the end of the following year. You have to earn 110K points in one calendar year to qualify for this, but if you optimize to hit 110K points in the first part of say 2020 then you’ll have the companion pass until the end of 2021—that’s practically 2 years of having your “other person” fly for free with you anywhere you go!! Here is an article that teaches you how to earn the Southwest Companion pass for 2-years (hint: it’s easier than you think).

  • ***Travel Hacking: Using miles & points achieved through credit card signup bonuses & other Financial Independence strategies to travel for radically reduced cost or even for free. Please note that Travel Hacking is NOT for people who don’t pay off their credit cards every month, are in debt, or have messy personal finances. Read my “Facing Financial Shame” article if you are still on the road to financial recovery.

  • Massive thanks to the ChooseFI community for teaching me the savvy ways of Travel Hacking! Here is another great article from ChooseFI to get you started on your own Travel Hacking journey.

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