“I can tell you the license plate numbers of all six cars outside.
I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs two hundred fifteen pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is the cab or the gray truck outside, and at this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Now why would I know that? How can I know that and not know who I am?”
I remember watching The Bourne Identity years ago and instantly fantasizing about what life would be like as rogue agent badass, Jason Bourne. Sure, James Bond is the man (and I’ve even lived a weekend like him!), but he’s got the power and pull of the British Government at his service.
Bourne, on the other hand, exists outside of the system, hunted by the very people who trained him. Ultimately, he’s a human swiss army knife:
- He has multiple passports, and can go anywhere at any time.
- He has the skills necessary to defend himself.
- He can blend into any crowd and disappear.
- He speaks multiple languages and can navigate any situation.
- He’s in peak physical condition, prepared for any scenario.
If you’re anything like me, you read that and went: “holy crap, I wish I could do all of that!” Well, as a professional nerd, I took it upon myself to find out just how much of this list can be completed in real life.
Other than the “assassin” part of Jason Bourne’s profile, all of the above can be done legally!
By the end of today’s article, you’ll know the cost and time associated with becoming Jason Bourne. Seriously.
Just how deep down this rabbit hole you want to go is up to you.
Peak Physical Condition
“At this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking.”
Before we get into ANY other aspect of Jason Bourne’s life, we must first start with his physical fitness. Here’s a man who has been trained to operate at a peak physical level, prepared for any and every situation thrown his way.
Whether he’s scaling walls to chase down attackers, using parkour to efficiently move across rooftops, or relying on incredible grip strength to successfully climb down the side of a building, Jason is built for efficiency.
On top of that, Jason is probably the most antifragile character ever created. The more chaotic the environment around him, the more he thrives.
If you want to become Jason, you must train like the man: functional movement, efficiency, speed, and muscular endurance. Because he’s always on the run, Jason must be able to train anywhere and everywhere, and be prepared for anything.
The best way to do that? Train out in the environment:
- The Beginner’s Guide to Parkour
- The Nerd Fitness Playground Workout
- How to Stay in Shape While Traveling
- Interval Training
Take a strength training routine (like the Playground Workout) and complete it every other day. On off days, spend time doing interval training, sprints, and parkour practice.
The strength training (with an emphasis on pull ups and push ups) will build muscles required to hoist yourself over any obstacle, while the sprinting and parkour will allow you to evade capture or chase down your target.
Want to make yourself truly antifragile like Jason? Try the 60 day PLP challenge. You need to consistently introduce stress and chaos to your system so that your body gets more and more accustomed to the challenge, and rebuilds itself in a way that it’s prepared for anything.
TOTAL COST: $0.00
In one of the earliest scenes in the movie, we realize there’s way more to Jason Bourne than we (or he) originally thought. When he’s harassed by members of the local police force in Switzerland, he quickly takes control of the situation when a gun is shoved in his face, disarming both guards and knocking them unconscious.
The most impressive part of this scene was certainly the speed in which Jason disarmed his assailants. This is recurring theme throughout the movie: When Jason is attacked he quickly dispatches the enemy with brutal efficiency.
In searching for a real life equivalent, My research led me to three particular disciplines that stuck out:
Krav Maga: “…a self-defense system developed for the military in Israel that consists of a wide combination of techniques sourced from boxing, savate, Muay Thai, Wing Chun, Judo, Jujutsu, wrestling, and grappling, along with realistic fight training. Krav Maga is known for its focus on real-world situations and extremely efficient and brutal counter-attacks.”
Systema: “Training includes, but is not limited to: hand-to-hand combat, grappling, knife fighting, and firearms training. In Systema, the body has to be free of tensions, filled with endurance, flexibility, effortless movement, and explosive potential. It focuses on breathing, relaxation, and fluidity of movement, as well as utilizing an attacker’s momentum against him and controlling the six body levers (elbows, neck, knees, waist, ankles, and shoulders) through pressure point application, striking, and weapon applications.”
Wing Chun Kung Fu: Along with Systema and Krav Maga, one could consider Wing Chun Kung Fu, which focuses on both striking and grappling while specializing close-range combat. Bruce Lee said it best: “Wing Chun Kung Fu is a very sophisticated weapon, nothing else. It is a science of combat, the intent of which is the total incapacitation of an opponent. It is straightforward, efficient and deadly.”
In this nerd’s humble opinion, Systema + Krav Maga + Wing Chun = real world Jason Bourne martial arts. All of the studies emphasize self-defense, counter-attacks, and finishing fights as quickly as possible. If you’re on the run from the attackers, you don’t have time for pretty movements – you need to end them quickly and disappear before more trouble arrives.
Here’s a good montage of Systema training:
Krav Maga instruction is far more common in the United States than Systema, though the latter is becoming more popular. I recently took a private Krav Maga lesson for $50, with options to buy extra lessons or participate in a group class for far less. This is one area I would certainly recommend paying for an instructor rather than trying to learn from a book, as nothing beats actual training when it comes to martial arts.
TOTAL COST: ~$50 per private lesson, or ~$70-$200 per month for group instruction.
Be prepared for anything with a bug out bag
Sometimes, you need to get the hell outta Dodge VERY quickly.
Maybe the secret government agency that’s hunting you down has discovered your location. Maybe there’s a mission on the other side of the globe and a plane that leaves in 30 minutes. Whatever the scenario, every second counts, and getting the hell out of harm’s way as quickly as possible should be your primary goal
This is why it is recommend you build yourself a Bug Out Bag: A 72-hour “ready for anything” bag that you can grab at a moment’s notice.
You have a few options when it comes to getting started:
1) Buy a pre-made Bug Out Bag – This is a big no-no according to all of the true survivalists, but if you’re convinced you’re going to become Jason Bourne in the next 48 hours, check out the Guardian Bag and have it delivered in the next two days (thank you Amazon Prime!).
2) Construct your own – This is the preferred method to becoming Bourne: when you pack your own bug out bag, you’ll know EXACTLY what’s in it, where it’s located, and how to survive. If you’re wanting to really delve into this stuff, follow the rules from the books “Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag,” and “How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It.”
If you’re just looking for the basics, know that your pack should contain twelve types of supplies: water and hydration, food and food preparation, clothing, shelter and bedding, fire, first aid, hygiene, tools, lighting, communications, and protection and self-defense. You can find more specific and detailed information at these resources:
- 7 Types of Gear You Must Have in Your Survival Bag
- Building Your Own Bug Out Bag
- Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag Book
This bag should reside in your apartment or home, and be properly packed and ready to go at any time.
TOTAL COST: $100 – $500+ depending on the quality of the bug out bag and materials.
Obtain multiple passports
Believe it or not, it’s actually possible to have 2-3 passports, and it’s completely legal.
When I tell most people this, their first thought is: “yeah but what’s the point of having multiple passports all in the same name?”
If you do a lot of work (or travel) or travel internationally, having a second passport open doors that might have otherwise stayed closed.
For example, if you’re an American looking to visit other countries, you’re often charged quite a bit more than citizens of other nations:
- China ($140 vs. $30)
- Russia ($160 vs. $35)
- Brazil ($180 vs. no visa needed for many countries)
There are also many international businesses and banks that refuse to do business with citizens of the United States, and some countries that are illegal to visit as citizens of the United States. A second passport will help bypass these issues.
There are three ways to obtain a second passport, all of which vary in costs, time commitment, and difficulty. Although Simon Black over at Sovereign Man has compiled some great info about all of this, I’ve summarized below:
1) Have relatives from the right country. Did you know that if you have parents or grandparents that were born in Ireland, Italy, or Poland, you could be eligible for dual citizenship and a second passport simply by filling out some paperwork? Contact your local consulate or check their websites for more information.
Do you have children? If you happen to give birth to a child while in the country of Brazil, you automatically become the guardian of a Brazilian citizen and can obtain citizenship within 1 year.
So, check your family tree and see if this is an option for you.
2) Buy a second passport. As referenced in Neil Strauss’s Emergency (an absolutely fascinating and fantastic read), if you have $300,000-$400,000 lying around, you can purchase your way into a second passport in some countries (specifically St. Kitts, Nevis, and Dominica). Most of these countries require a significant financial investment, or donation to the local government in order to obtain citizenship and a passport.
3) Obtain residency in a 3rd country and go through the whole process. If you happen to spend a lot of time outside of your home country, there are certain countries that will allow you to apply for residency after a certain amount of time, and then eventually citizenship. Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Panama all offer relatively quick (four years in some cases) pathways to citizenship should you meet their obligations.
Okay, so you’re armed with a second passport, a bug out bag, and the ability to extricate yourself at a moments notice should get you started…but what happens when you land in that foreign country?
TOTAL COST: Minimal up to $1,000,000+ to buy citizenship outright.
Speak Multiple Languages
What good does it do you to be able to jet off to any location around the globe if you can’t speak the language of the country in which you’re trying to hide?
In becoming Jason Bourne, I would recommend that you speak at least two languages, each of which gives you a fantastic opportunity (and wide geographic range) in which to hide:
- English: An obvious answer, though can very easily give you away as a foreigner.
- Spanish: Will allow you to function in Central America and most of South America.
- Mandarin: The most widely spoken language in the world in sheer numbers. It will get you through a significant portion of China, but is a much more difficult language to ‘fake’ compared to the Romance languages.
- French: Will allow you to operate in France, Monaco, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Belgium, and Canada, and more. It will also be helpful in many African countries and in parts of Southeast Asia (which used to be French territories).
- Arabic: A vital skill set if you find yourself in the Middle East and throughout much of Asia.
Although learning a language might seem daunting, there are some excellent resources out there which have distilled this task down to small, effective, achievable steps.
Here are favorite resources for learning languages quickly:
- FluentIn3Months.com: Run by my friend Benny Lewis, which focuses on speaking a new language from Day 1. Benny puts himself in situations where his only option is to learn the new language. His recently released book, Fluent in Three Months, is a solid resource as well.
- italki: Learn languages with a private instructor for a minimal hourly cost. This is the site more recommended to me by polyglots than any other site.
- Verbling: Think chat roulette, but you get paired with people who are native speakers of the language you are looking to learn.
A few notes about language learning: the faster you can force yourself to start conversing with locals, the more likely you’ll be to adopt their dialect and be able to blend in more quickly.
Get started today.
TOTAL COST FOR THIS SKILL: $0 – the cost of any educational books, a class, or personalized instruction.
Have Foreign Bank Accounts
While trying to figure out who he is, Jason Bourne stumbles across a bank account, apparently in his name, located in a highly secure vault in Switzerland.
Upon opening his vault, Jason discovers he has money in multiple currencies. He’s set no matter the country he’s in!
Which is good, because I’d guess Jason’s home bank account has been frozen 🙂
You might be wondering the benefits of a bank account in a second country. Here are a few:
- You get to say things like “Oh, it’s in my foreign bank account.” Nobody needs to know you only have $1,000 in it!
- Financial diversification: If you keep all of your money in a single country, that country’s banking system could run into issues, confiscate your savings, or put a freeze on your accounts. Not cool!
- Currency diversification: Should your home currency suddenly become devalued overnight, keeping some of your money in various currencies (or gold!) is a safeguard against having your savings severely diminished or inflated away.
- Banking diversification: Not only do banking systems and national currencies fail, but specific banks can fail and do go bankrupt. By keeping your money in multiple banks scattered throughout the globe, you’re less likely to lose everything should the sh** hit the fan.
You don’t need to be a millionaire to have a foreign bank account. Heck, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your home:
- Some banks in certain countries (HSBC in Hong Kong, or banks in Australia – as of Aug 2014) will allow you to open bank accounts as a US citizen by filling out the required paperwork and paying the required fees.
- Other banks might require you to actually visit the bank branch and meet with the bank in person. Note: this method can be MUCH faster (though more expensive) than filling out proper paperwork and mailing it back and forth.
Both Singapore and Hong Kong are the recommended locations for international Jason Bournes, as they have a history of financial stability, a high level of liquidity, and general political stability.
Just remember to file the proper paperwork with your own government come tax time!
TOTAL COST FOR THIS SKILL: $1,000-$10,000 deposit depending on the bank plus applicable fees.
Blend in like a local
To reference another Nerd Classic, remember when Indiana Jones (falsely) talks about the ability of his friend Marcus to blend in?
Well, Jason Bourne can actually DO that. I’m reminded of my friend Benny who was able to blend in while in Egypt, despite being a relatively pale Irishman!
Here’s how he did it:
My hat, “fabulous” shoes, video camera, whacky t-shirts, bright shorts, backpack and any fun accessories I may have, all stayed at home. I shaved my goatee to a moustache, cut my hair shorter, put a jumper/sweater and heavy jeans on even though it was a sunny day, and wore my less comfortable dull black shoes.
While walking, I kept a confident posture, and when I met anyone I would not shake their hand firmly (Egyptians have the least firm handshake I’ve ever come across), but let my arm flop around a bit, and I’d walk fast enough.
For my first days, I definitely noticed that people would glance at me as they walked past me because I’d be standing out as a foreigner or simply visually different. It’s just human nature that the more different something is, the more it gets our attention. If you have weird hair, weird clothes, weird equipment around your neck and walk weird… then you are going to attract attention, plane and simple.
So when I say that I want to blend in, I don’t claim that people will all think I’m Egyptian, especially those looking at photos of me online when they already know I’m Irish – it’s about standing out less.
The same is true for body language and gestures. While you’re in a foreign country, notice how others act, what sort of mannerisms they use, and what their body language is like.
The more you can imitate a local, the more likely you’ll be to actually blend in, avoiding the watchful eyes of people looking for trouble!
TOTAL COST FOR THIS SKILL: $0
Follow the above and you’re well on your way to blending into ANY situation, escaping any danger, and vanishing without a trace. Take that pursuers!
Now, there are some other great skills possessed by Monsieur Bourne that could also come in handy, which I’ve highlighted below:
- Know your surroundings and assess potential threats: Any time Jason enters a situation, he’s always assessing the potential dangers, necessary escape routes, and anybody that could be suspicious or pose a threat. This is what Mac talks about in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but you know…actually having some skill.
- Work on memory recall: Practice memorizing license plate numbers as you walk down the street. Step it up further: learn to memorize a deck of cards quickly, and apply that talent to other situations.
- Evasive Driving School: In case you ever need to properly evade a pursuer in a vehicle, they actually have really cool driving schools you can attend. Check “Evasive driving school + your state” and see where you can train.
- Emergency/First Aid: Learn about proper disaster training and emergency first aid by doing a search for an Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program in your area. At the very least, taking a CPR/First Aid class could be the difference between life and death while living off the grid!
- Expert Marksman: Jason is one hell of a shot, and you can be too. Search for a local gun range, and speak to them about basic handgun safety, shooting classes, and more.
- Pick your way out of handcuffs: My friend Brett over at Art of Manliness has a handy (pun intended) guide on how to get out of cuffs should you find yourself locked up.
So, I realize this is a MONSTER article, but hopefully it provided you with plenty of entertainment and education as to what life is like as a real life Jason Bourne. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably want to put on Moby’s “Extreme Ways” and walk down the street like a badass.
What sort of questions do you have on becoming Jason Bourne?
photo pin: Nathan Rupert: Runner, Republic of Korea: Martial Arts, J Aaron Farr: Passports, Bourne Wiki: Bourne Sniper, Bourne Wiki: Bourne and Nicky, Bourne Wiki: Bourne, woodleywonderworks: language, Hindrek Sijens: Cubbies, mr.smashy bag