Featured traveller: Kyle MacQuilliam – BJJ Globetrotters

Kyle MacQuilliam - BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 29.99 (30 on June 24th)

Belt: I paint my toenails purple, as I am more often not wearing belts.

Profession: I am more or less unemployed, with a decent share in some local real estate, as well as stocks and cryptos that I’ve been letting accumulate. I genuinely attest my good fortune to manifestation, or for the less spiritually inclined you can just call it dumb luck.

How many years in BJJ: tl;dr 15 years no-gi / 10 years gi.

My sophomore year in high school was when I stopped playing soccer, upon realizing the necessity of faking falls and injuries to tip the odds in one’s favor. That same year my childhood TaekwonDojo started an MMA class run by the owner’s son, Michael Visitacion – at the time a BJJ blue belt, but now a black belt under Noel Smith, who is under Renato Tavares. It had the first elements of Jiu Jitsu, or any grappling for that matter, that I had experienced. I remember practicing each of the moves the next day with friends in gym class. About 4-5 years later, after doing mostly MMA, No-Gi and Muay Thai, I bought my first gi and began training more traditionally.

Other martial arts: I mentioned a childhood TaekwonDojo, but that was more my older sister Samantha’s bag. For me it was more getting the snot kicked out of me each Friday during sparring night. I still remember rotating partners and seeing that grin on her face before she would bow and punish me until I cried. Needless to say, I was not so interested in martial arts as a kid. It was actually Samantha’s death that spurred me into trying to find a healthy coping mechanism to let out my frustrations with the world.

After my initial MMA classes, I was fairly passionate about Muay Thai, as kicking felt more natural with the Taekwondo seeds planted in my youth. Still to this day I will consider myself a kicker more than a grappler, though I’m unsure how true that holds with most of the last six years being heavily Jiu Jitsu focused.

Where do you live: I live in Maryland, USA. Smack in the middle of Baltimore, Annapolis (our state capital), and DC.

Where are you from: I have been living more or less in the same area my entire life, surprisingly. Aside from being an expensive place to live relative to much of the country, it’s a nice enough little world with a lot to offer — but I’ve mostly stayed to have homebase near family.

Other fun or curious information you would like to share: Six years after entering UMBC for Computer Science, I left with a Bachelor’s in Philosophy with a minor in Psychology. I played rugby for all six years, starting at wing and working my way up to flanker where I was a starter during my senior years. I was always the aloof spiritual stoner guy of the team, and with my shoulder length hair my first day of practice I earned myself the nickname “Sunshyne” – a reference to Remember the Titans. I hadn’t seen the movie at the time, but after doing so loved the name and proudly accepted it; I modified the “i” to a “y” to because I am just so unique☺️

I’m still pretty close with some of my team, and play at each year’s Alumni game – except the last three due to Camp (‘21 & ‘22), and Covid (‘20) – and was MVP my last two outings. Some other awards I had earned during my years on the team were “The Grassy Knoll” award and “There in Spirit.” I juggled my martial arts with rugby pretty well, I think, and when I showed up for rugby matches I would walk around the pitch several times in a poncho, holding a runed skull in one hand and burning sage in the other. I thoroughly enjoyed painting a target on my back for the other team in exchange for their mental space.

Kyle MacQuilliam – BJJ Globetrotters

Tell us what inspired you to travel and train?
I was fortunate enough to grow up traveling quite a bit with my family. Summers always came with in-state and out-of-state family beach trips, and in the winter we would fly to Colorado for snowboarding.

My awareness of a need for travel first reared its head in middle school, when I had to choose between Spanish or French class. French students got to take a trip to Montreal, whereas Spanish students didn’t have a trip. I now have about 7 years of French courses under my belt, but my French is still quite terriblé. After my high school graduation our family took a cruise around the Mediterranean, which expanded my horizons further and kept the itch going.

After graduating from college I took my first big solo adventure, spending two months in Koh Samui, Thailand training Muay Thai. I ended up taking a fight one of my last days there in order to pay for my rent. I got the money regardless of the outcome, but I was happy to walk away with a second round knockout against a Thai; this was definitely the early capstone to my martial arts travels.

Tell us about your most recent travel and your upcoming travel – where have you been and where are you going?
Most recently myself and my fiancée, Larissa, got back from USA Camp in Maine, and a few weeks prior we were in Italy for Castle Camp, as well as an additional week in Rome. Between those camps and the two weddings before and between, it was actually a slow start to our upcoming summer plans.

Tomorrow (at the time of this writing) we leave for my current favorite place in the world – Iceland. We will be there for camp, and then another week and a half for my 30th birthday. I’m quite excited, as I even convinced my parents and my recently [high school] graduated little brother to fly in. From there we spend the next two months going to Copenhagen, then to Oslo and adventuring a bit through Norway to Bergen. We then fly to Stockholm, where we’ll stay until we fly into Estonia for Pärnu Beach Camp. Afterwards we spend two weeks in Turkey, where Larissa has family, and then we make our way back through Copenhagen and over to the Faroe Islands for our last camp of the year. Then we will mostly be home, with the exception of ADCC in September and two more weddings come Fall.

Kyle MacQuilliam – BJJ Globetrotters camp

What are the things you enjoy about travelling?
I love damn near everything about traveling. The local foods are always a must, though I do tend to find a favorite place wherever I go that I will visit again and again (but not exclusively). I also enjoy learning the basics of the local language. Many people I meet traveling know more than one language quite well, but my aim is to know enough to get by everywhere around the world. I generally aim for hello, thank you, the best insults, and I love you – in no particular order.

Of course making new friends is great, especially because you never know if, when, or how these people may enter your life again down the line. This past trip to Italy, totally by “coincidence,” me and two other friends I trained with in Thailand were all in Rome at the same time – and this is just the most recent instance. You also never know whose dreams may align with yours, and making friends across the world is really a great way to both broaden the scope of one’s dreams as well as narrow in on who or what is needed to create them – though even simple, more mundane connections unrelated to your self can be quite enlightening.

Can you give us some examples of experiences you had that makes it worth traveling and training?
Honestly this is an experience that makes it worth traveling and training. Just by doing what I have grown to love I am given an outlet to share some of my travel experiences and advice. Connecting with the world around us in all of its forms and the people within it are what we have; it’s nice to share and be heard, as well as listen and observe. This is the human experience. I’m sure just from this I’ll meet someone down the line who knows a little bit about me, and may even relate to some of my more unique experiences to which we can share a drink or a doobie over.

On the training front, you can’t get rounds in at your home gym the way you do traveling. People grow accustomed to your style, or worse – your style becomes stale and stops evolving. Somebody at your gym has to be traveling, or learning from someone somewhere else in some manner, otherwise you’re still drilling the same techniques day-in-day-out with no exposure to the ever-growing world of martial arts. “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”

What has so far been the most surprising experience for you when traveling?
This is going to come off a bit corny, but how easy it is to make people smile. This is really the most surprising thing I could think of besides that one time in Thailand that I won’t mention here. It’s somehow much weirder in America, or at least in the clustered parts I am accustomed to, to be very outwardly friendly to strangers. This isn’t always the case, for sure, and there are many more variables that certainly come into play, but I’ve definitely seen how simple it is to be in another country, covered with tattoos and dressed like a total goober, and then saying “I love you” to a foreign military officer in their language and walking away. They light up with an astonished smile, it’s great every time – allegedly.

Kyle MacQuilliam – BJJ Globetrotters camp in Iceland

Are you a budget traveller – and if so how do you plan for a cheap trip?
Yes and no; I generally budget, but I’m moreso into ballin’ on a budget. If I’m going to be spending money traveling the world doing martial arts I might as well get the best experiences I can within reason. I will always do at least one fancy meal, although my favorite spots tend to be the cheap ones.

I generally like to stay at places that are average in pricing, but on long travels I will go a little cheaper. It’s nice to dip into a culture and then find where their local-ish vacation spot is, and then have that be your two-night recovery time. Treating myself to a nice bed, or a spa day is essential to keep me from falling to pieces, and if done right doesn’t need to break the bank.

I do usually spend a great deal of time looking into trips before I travel. I will plan times, prices, potential sights, must-have foods; the works. It’s quite funny to me because of how loose I can be during travels, but I like to have a very precise plan to float around. This all helps me keep within that ballin’ budget, have time managed well enough to feel I immersed in the destination, and also feel free to do everything or nothing with minimal stress.

If you were to pass on travel advice to your fellow Globetrotters, what would it be?
Do the thing. A general rule of thumb I use is “Hell yes, or no.” If a potential whatever has you saying “Hell yes” in your head, heart, or otherwise – do it. You will most likely regret it if you don’t, and will learn something along the way. In the past few years I made a vow to never go back on a trip I commit to. If you get that “Hell yes”, seriously.. commit to it. I find there is usually a deeper calling in those feelings, and what good is life without living it the way your inner, truer self wishes. Those spur of the moment decisions that risk surface level “things” in exchange for happiness… always worth it.

Thank you to Kyle MacQuilliam – BJJ Globetrotters for making this interview!