How to Live Like James Bond for a Weekend

Kamb.

Steve Kamb.

When I started traveling the world back in January, I became fascinated by the concept of actually becoming James Bond/Jason Bourne – no, not the “kill lots of people” part, but rather the “go anywhere at a moment’s notice, speak multiple languages, be in peak physical condition, well-trained in martial arts and special forces tactics, and have multiple passports and bank accounts” stuff.

Sounds ridiculous right? Believe it or not, all of the things above are absolutely possible and completely legal with enough time, money, and effort.

Who says nerds can’t be secret agents? 🙂

To jump start my “Become James Bond” quest, I decided to live the life of James Bond for a weekend while in Monaco, a tiny principality on the Mediterranean Coast of France. If you’ve ever heard of the place, then you know what to expect – unreal scenery, untold luxury, and one of the world’s most famous casinos. What better place to become 007 than in Monaco?

I’m going to tell you how I did it and how you can do the same, even if you’re on a tight budget. Because I love you that much.

Here’s the full mission debriefing.

How it happened

Two weeks ago, I decided to radically adjust my plans and come to France instead of heading to Scotland. I figured I could spend a week in Paris crossing off a number of things on the Epic Quest list, before moving onto Monaco.

Thanks to Alex and Morgan of Wellicient.com who showed me all around Paris and helped me cross off four things from the list (climb the Eifel Tower, climb the tower of Notre Dame, visit Versailles, and see the Louvre).

After a week there, I hopped on a train down to Nice, a city on the French Riviera just twenty minutes away from Monaco.

Now, as I’ve said previously, Monaco is ridiculously fancy and thus quite expensive, with the nicer hotels costing anywhere from $300-500 per night for their cheapest rooms.

Now, and I’m sure this is a real surprise, but $500 per night to sleep in a bed is just slightly outside of the budget I’ve set for myself on this trip; thus, I figured my best plan was to stay in Nice and travel to and from Monaco for the night.

Or so I thought…

My first order of business was to track down a tuxedo – I can’t gamble like James Bond without looking the part, right? Upon arrival at my place in Nice, I met a great girl named Hannah who was fluent in French.  After a comical “um, can you help me become Bond?” she agreed to help me find a tuxedo.

The next day, Hannah and I went exploring Nice (which is also stunningly beautiful, by the way) until we found a costume shop that seemed promising when I checked it out online the day before.  Welp, this store was full of gag gifts, novelty items, inappropriate costumes, and not much else. Damn.  The only thing I could find that would help me in my quest was a cheap  bow tie!

Completely depressed and disheartened with no other hope of a decently priced suit, I walked to the counter with Hannah to pay for my bow tie and then move onto plan B. I asked Hannah if she could just ask the people behind the counter if they rented suits – a complete long shot, but we had already walked all the way there

“Oui! Right this way!”

And just like that, we were whisked away to a back room full of ludicrous animal costumes…and tuxedos! Within thirty minutes, I had a tux that fit surprisingly well despite coming right off the shelf.

The best news? It was only 65 Euros to rent for 48 hours – tres bien!

My rental did not come with shoes, so I walked down the street to a Chinese shoe store and picked up some fake fancy black shoes and socks – 22 euros for the shoes, 3 euros for the socks.  After the weekend was over, I donated my shoes to a homeless man begging for money – the look on his face was absolutely priceless).

All in, my James Bond costume cost me 90 euros, a small price to pay for the story that would come with it..

Go big or go home

 

After securing the tux, it was time to plan out the rest of my trip to Monaco. I continued to look online for hotels with my jaw on the floor as I looked at prices for even the cheap rooms at nice hotels.

It was at this point my travel hacking skills kicked in.

Back in June I had signed up for a Citi ThankYou Visa credit card for the lucrative bonus they were offering (50,000 Thank You points). I honestly had no plans to use the points any time soon, but I knew they were versatile and could help me with my travel in some way.

So, I hopped on the Thank You Network to see if I could use my points to book a hotel in Monaco….

Jackpot.

For 23,000 points, I could book a decent room at a less-than luxurious hotel at the top of the hill. I then noticed that for 47,000 points, I could book a room at the Fairmont Monte Carlo, one of the nicest and fanciest hotels I’ve ever seen, situated literally ON the Mediterranean in Monte Carlo, a mere two minute walk from the Casino Monte Carlo.

Looks like I was spending a night at the Fairmont.

Now, you’re probably thinking “Steve, you’re an idiot, 47,000 points for ONE NIGHT in a hotel? You can use those points for more travel!”

Fair enough…but hear me out. I currently have 430,000 points scattered across different airline and hotel programs, enough to keep me traveling to ridiculous locations for months and months and months.

On top of that, I signed up for two additional cards right after booking my hotel room that will net me an additional 150,000 American Airline miles, which is coincidentally the same number of AA points it cost me to book my round-the-world adventure.  Don’t worry, I’ll tell you which cards in a minute.

You know the saying “go big or go home?” Considering I don’t actually HAVE a home, big was the only option.

Bring on the Fairmont!

Arriving in Monaco

The next day, I hopped on a train to Monaco in a t-shirt, flip flops, shorts, backpack and a suit bag with my tux. I arrived and immediately started giggling like a school girl – “this is actually happening” was the thought constantly running through my mind.

As I walked past Ferrarris, Rolls Royces, Aston Martins (Bond!), and so on…

…and then past the harbor, housing boats like this…

…I strolled into the Fairmont like I owned the place.

I have to say, it’s quite fun approaching the front desk of a hotel like this, looking like I did, and getting to say “Yes, I have a reservation for tonight.” After hearing “yes Mr. Kamb, right this way” and “what else can I get you Mr. Kamb?” I couldn’t help but crack a few smiles.

I checked into my room, which was incredibly nice:

And then spent the afternoon reading at my rooftop pool overlooking the ocean.

Mind you, at this point I’ve still been giggling like a school girl for approximately six hours.

I lounged around til the sun set over the mountains and took a stroll from one end of the country to the other (yeah Nate, that’s right…I walked a whole country and it only took me an hour and a half). It was then time to track down some liquid courage and some dinner…

After that, it was James Bond time.

I set up my laptop to play Casino Royale in the background while I put on the tux and drank my beers, and followed that up with my iTunes “pump up mix” (yes, I have a pump up mix) and proceeded to blast the two songs that would set the tone for the evening: “All I do is win” and “I’m so paid” (that’s for you, Mikey and T!)

Around 10pm, I headed out for my night on the town. I looked like (and felt like) a million bucks walking around that city with my head held high and the James Bond theme song playing in my head. I casually rolled into the casino like I belonged and started the search for what game to play. Although I was disappointed to not find a Baccarat table (they must have been in the back rooms reserved for the high rollers), I decided to set my focus on Blackjack as it’s a game I know quite well.

The cheapest table was 25 euro per hand, more than I had paid for my previous night’s lodging in Nice – go big or go home, right?

I took out my predetermined amount of money from the ATM, put on my metaphorical hard hat, and went to work.

Over the next four hours, I hung tight, played by the book, doubled down when necessary, split when I could, and made big wins while minimizing losses. My bank roll slowly increased, and then went for a major ride on one hand came that raised my blood pressure by 500%:

I had bet 30 Euro and was dealt 8-8 against the dealer’s 4. I split my 8’s, got dealt a third 8 which required me to split again. The first card dealt on my 8 was a 3, prompting me to double down. All told, I had 120 euro scattered across my three hands.

It was at this point that the guy at the end took a hit when he shouldn’t have and I almost jumped over the table and punched him.

Public service announcement – if you’re going to gamble in a casino where other people depend on your play (like in Blacjack), spend an hour or two beforehand learning how to play properly, or ask the others at the table for advice so you don’t screw them over.  We gamblers thank you.  The more you know…

Fortunately, the dealer ended up busting anyways after drawing four more cards, netting me a victory of 120 euros on a single hand.  BOOYAH.

While gambling, I made quick friends with two young irish couples next to me as we discussed my previous month jumping around their country. At 3AM, the casino closed down, allowing me to leave with more money than I came with, an absolute victory.

The Irish couple invited me to 5th wheel it with them to a club down the street, and I quickly agreed under one condition:

They had to film and photograph me in front of the casino doing the requisite James Bond pose (first picture of this post)…and maybe some one handed push ups too – not bad at 3AM eh?

One-handed push ups at the Monte Carlo Video

So, it was off to Johnny Z’s! Or Jimmy Z’s! Whatever. I don’t remember the name, only that it was incredibly expensive and a complete circus inside. After a few hours of people watching (incredibly wealthy fat old men and their incredibly attractive and far too young dates) I returned to my hotel at 5AM, exhausted, excited, and inspired.

I lived like James Bond for a night in one of the most expensive countries in the world – not only had I not gone broke, but I actually MADE a few bucks on the experience.

Impossible is nothing

As my good friend and arch-nemesis Joel Runyon will tell you, nothing is impossible.  I am a firm believer that given enough time, money, connections, and/or effort, even the most seemingly impossible task can be accomplished provided that you BELIEVE it is possible.

For this reason, I’ve added a new section to the epic quest list: Master Quests. Like my night as James Bond in Monaco, these are items that require a significant amount of either time, money, connections, and/or effort), so they will net me 100% experience instead of the usual 20% on my quest to level up.

I am a normal nerd – I graduated with a degree in Economics and immediately took a desk job.  A few years back, I started Nerd Fitness as a hobby because I liked helping people.  When I quit my day job last summer to focus on NF full time, I had less probably 3,000 dollars in the bank and no money coming yet in through the site!

Two days ago, I lived like a prince in one of the most luxurious countries in the world.

Anything is possible – you just have to BELIEVE it’s possible, and then find a way to make it happen.

“This sounds great Steve but I can’t because blah blah blah”

I hear you.

But I don’t believe you. 

Let’s say you want you (and your friend/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/whoever) want to be Bond and Bond girl, Bond Girl and Bond Girl, Bond and Bond…whatever.

A long weekend in Monaco wearing fancy clothes and acting like royalty.

Sounds out of reach, right?

1) Flights:  Travel-hack your way to two business class tickets to Nice, France. Sign up for the Citi Visa and Citi American Express cards on the same day (Read post #2 here). Buy regular things until you hit the spending threshold ($1,500 for the visa, $4000 for the AmEx) within six months (while paying off the card in full each month), and you’ve just racked up 150,000 American Airline miles.

  • Flying solo? That’s enough points for a business class ticket, maybe even first class depending on where you go.
  • Two people, four cards total? Enough for both of you to fly business class from the states to Europe.
  • Two people, one set of cards? Fly economy at 50,000 points per flight. Still gets you where you need to go!

Simply use your points to book with one of the One World airlines that services Europe – American Airlines, British Airways or Iberia.  You can see who flies where here, and how many points you’ll need to spend to get there.

Oh, and a train ride from Nice to Monaco? 3.50 Euro!

2) Hotel:  Travel hack your way into two or three nights at a hotel in Monaco. Again, how many nights you get will depend on how many cards you have any what type of hotel you want to stay in. I could have used a combination of airline miles and hotel points from various cards to spend more than a few days in Monaco. Like the Chase Premier Card (50,000 points – which is enough to book two nights at the Fairmont and have points left over).  If you and somebody else BOTH have points, then you could book nicer rooms or spend more nights at the hotel.

3) Gambling:  If you are going to gamble, learn how to play right and minimize the risk (though not completely negate it). Buy a book on blackjack or a book on craps (my FAVORITE game) so you can learn proper betting and play strategy. Don’t spend money you can’t afford to lose, play at a limit that you’re comfortable with, and walk away from the table when you’ve lost a certain amount or won a certain amount.

Oh, and do you think James Bond would pump quarters into a slot machine? Nope, and neither should you 🙂

But what about my credit score? Isn’t signing up for credit cards bad?

Credit cards can actually HELP your credit score in the long run, as long as you are paying them off in full each month 0n time.

Sign up at CreditKarma.com; it’s free – it keeps track of how many accounts you have open, your credit history, inquiries, and more. This site has proven invaluable to my travel hacking, as I check my score at least once a month.

Yes, your credit “history” will take a few points dive for two reasons:

  • Your average credit age now being younger (having just activated a card or two).
  • The increased number of inquiries on your credit report (which stick around for 6 months I believe).

However, your credit utilization will go UP as will “total number of accounts,” both of which positively impact your score. If you cancel those cards after hitting the bonuses and before they charge you the yearly fee, as long as you have been paying them in full each month and carry no balance, your credit score will be unaffected.

I have signed up for more than a half-dozen cards within the past four months and my credit score has only dropped 5 points, keeping me still in the “excellent” range, and I’ve racked up an additional 350,000 points.

No obviously I wouldn’t recommend signing up for ten cards right before you apply for a home or car loan, but if you are not in the market for any big purchases, a few cards can give you an adventure of a lifetime.

Now, this type of travel hacking is more difficult if you don’t live in the US – you can still earn miles with cards throughout the rest of the world, they just usually don’t carry such a high sign-up bonus.

If you want to learn more about travel hacking, check out Chris Guillbeau’s Frequent Flyer Master – the book that got me started on travel hacking – or free sites like FrugalTravel Guy, One Mile at a Time, and the Points Guy for more info. I visit these sites daily.

What’s your story?

Your turn!

I encourage you to stockpile memories from events and adventures that will make you say “I can’t believe this is happening” or “I will never forget this.” Do not stockpile regret; there’s far too much that going around these days – “remember when I/we did that? That was awesome!” trumps “I wish I had done that” 100 times out of 100.

I’ve lost two grandparents in the past year – my grandfather taught me the importance of a life worth living, and my grandmother taught me that anything is possible.

Life is short, so start planning today – what is one story you hope to have, and one step you can take today to get closer to making it happen? “When I have enough money” or “when the timing is right” are just excuses to keep you from putting real effort towards making things happen. Yeah, you might need to work smarter or harder, you might need to make some sacrifices or changes, and you will probably need to take a few risks, but the experiences are worth the effort.

Start planning out the specifics of what you want to accomplish by putting a concrete value on it:

  • How much time will it take?
  • Exactly how much money will you need to save?
  • Who do you need to contact?
  • What skill do you need to learn?
  • Are there any shortcuts you can take?

Take your goals and dreams from the abstract and make them as specific and concrete as possible. Let me know how I can help – nothing makes me happier than helping other people get what they want out of life – I live for this stuff.

SO STOP WAITING AND START DOING.

Tomorrow never comes; eventually never happens.

Today.

Now.

-Steve Kamb, 007 in training.

###

All of my photos from Paris, the Catacombs, Versailles, Nice, and Monaco are up on my Flickr stream

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125 thoughts on “How to Live Like James Bond for a Weekend

  1. Wooooot.  You look good in that suit, Steve, and mega points for literally living the dream.

    Math nerd comment: the only casino games where “strategy” really matters are poker and blackjack.  In all other games, the house always has the edge, so the longer you play the more you will lose.*  Strategy merely tips the odds closer to neutral, letting you play longer, but it’s still a negative investment.  Look on it as entertainment which costs money like any other amusement, if play you must.

    * Actually the house normally has an edge in blackjack too, but you can cut it almost to nothing with good strategy.  Turning the odds to positive requires a thoughtful play style that casinos don’t like, and they will throw you out if they realize you’re winning too consistently.  In poker, the house gets a cut of every hand, but you’re playing for other people’s money, not against the house, so you have a fair chance to actually win — IF you’re better than them, and/or if your luck is good that day.  But as Obi-Wan said, “In my experience there’s no such thing as luck.”

  2. Fantastic post bro! Another fun adventure is renting a convertible (~$60 euros/day) and making the trip from Nice to Monaco (possibly even the Italian border if you have time). Gorgeous scenery and sweet curves! Pura vida!

  3. I  am Ryan  "Energizer" Ehmann, owner of Altitude Fitness and I’ve been out  of shape several times in my life, so beat down – tens of thousands of dollars  in debt, depressed and my self-esteem so crushed that I was afraid to go out in  public. I turned to the fitness industry as the vehicle to heal my mind and  body, and that’s when my dreams began to become a reality. The power of a proven fitness program is life changing so  just imagine how much more you could give to your family, career and friends if  you were on top of your game?
       
      There is a champion in  everyone…including YOU!
     
      If you’ve ever wanted to lose that extra 12, 18, 24, 36 (or MORE!) inches of Body Fat off your frame and experience the  benefits of a healthier lifestyle, then this message will cut to the chase and  give you the answers you’re looking for. My fat loss training system have taken me 28,882  hours and 10 years of personal training to Master it so years ago I quit working at Gold’s Gym as the Fitness Manager and opened a small, private  workout facility to educate people about foods, fitness and lifestyle. Altitude fitness is a fun family atmosphere  that people come as they are in grey sweets, white T-shirts, no make-up and  they are accepted as a team member who want to learn and get in shape. No one  is judged, it’s not a fashion show and no matter your health or fitness shape you are a part of  the Fat Loss Team working together.
     
      I promise my "Fat Burning Zone"  training program will get you to LOSE 12  inches in 12 workouts, Energize your mind, shrink body fat, sky rocket your  confidence, increase your self image of yourself, improve the quality of your  life and people will be saying, "WOW, you look AMAZING and have a GLOW of  happiness! This will be the last fitness program you ever  do……………Wooo Hoooo

  4. I  am Ryan  "Energizer" Ehmann, owner of Altitude Fitness and I’ve been out  of shape several times in my life, so beat down – tens of thousands of dollars  in debt, depressed and my self-esteem so crushed that I was afraid to go out in  public. I turned to the fitness industry as the vehicle to heal my mind and  body, and that’s when my dreams began to become a reality. The power of a proven fitness program is life changing so  just imagine how much more you could give to your family, career and friends if  you were on top of your game?
       
      There is a champion in  everyone…including YOU!
     
      If you’ve ever wanted to lose that extra 12, 18, 24, 36 (or MORE!) inches of Body Fat off your frame and experience the  benefits of a healthier lifestyle, then this message will cut to the chase and  give you the answers you’re looking for. My fat loss training system have taken me 28,882  hours and 10 years of personal training to Master it so years ago I quit working at Gold’s Gym as the Fitness Manager and opened a small, private  workout facility to educate people about foods, fitness and lifestyle. Altitude fitness is a fun family atmosphere  that people come as they are in grey sweets, white T-shirts, no make-up and  they are accepted as a team member who want to learn and get in shape. No one  is judged, it’s not a fashion show and no matter your health or fitness shape you are a part of  the Fat Loss Team working together.
     
      I promise my "Fat Burning Zone"  training program will get you to LOSE 12  inches in 12 workouts, Energize your mind, shrink body fat, sky rocket your  confidence, increase your self image of yourself, improve the quality of your  life and people will be saying, "WOW, you look AMAZING and have a GLOW of  happiness! This will be the last fitness program you ever  do……………Wooo Hoooo

  5. You’re exactly right, though I would note that there is actually a combination of table rules in blackjack that actually confer an advantage on the player (assuming basic strategy). Naturally these are rare.

    Another nit: it doesn’t matter what players ahead of you do. There is an equal chance of him saving you from a card that would have hurt you through his bad decision – the feeling that he screwed you is just a product of confirmation bias.

  6. Well, I am in Afghanistan right now, and stumbled upon to this site through my friend Malini…  I have to say “good on” anyone taking risks and following their dreams. I decided when I was around 13 to see the world, and tried numerous creative ways to make that happen. Once I got tired of trying to stow away on ships and the like, I decided the Navy was for me (and wouldn’t get me into so much trouble). I joined for mainly patriotic reasons… duty, honor etc… but I would be lying if I said that travel wasn’t a factor in that decision. I have been in the Navy for eight years, done two tours in Afghanistan, and I have still found time to travel and do everything I’ve ever wanted to do in life so far. Soooo, I’m wondering does that make me a bad person? Or does that make me a good person? Or am I right down the middle? Who knows? All I know is you get one shot at this life, and then you’re out. Do all the good that you can, by all the means that you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times that you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can. That includes yourself; for if you are happy, it’s much easier to make others happy. Just two cents from someone who (after only one article so far) is impressed with the site, and is glad to see someone encouraging people to do what Ive been saying for years… get off yer bum, see the world, experience differing viewpoints and people and places. You will be all the better for it.

  7. I didn’t see your post before I responded to Disappointed… but yeah… you’re right… all the guys I lead too

  8. I didn’t see your post before I responded to Disappointed… but yeah… you’re right… all the guys I lead too

  9. Gizmodo’s article states that you’ve traveled 35,000 miles on $418 and posted a travel map. I get that you are using frequent flyer miles gained from credit card sign ups. Where exactly did you spend the $418. Based on your travel map I have a hard time believing that you traveled all those places on frequent flyer miles and only had to pay $418 in fees and surcharges… if you don’t mind giving more details… as all the travel blogs you listed would detail what they paid in fees for their trips.. except lucky over at one mile at a time.

    Just think you should be upfront and honest in your blog posts… correct me if I’m wrong here.

  10. Hey Bren

    I’m fairly confident I was upfront and honest – I booked my trip, 15 flights, 35000 miles of flying, using 150,000 AA points (which I earned without any excess spending) – and then it was $398 in taxes, and $20 for a booking fee. 

    While on the trip, I’ve purchased small flights, bus tickets, and train trips to jump around and see more off the path of my OneWorld award, but those weren’t part of the 35,000 miles of flying which I wrote about.

    The itinerary shown in that gizmodo post did in fact cost $418

    cheers!

    -S

  11. Hey Bren

    I’m fairly confident I was upfront and honest – I booked my trip, 15 flights, 35000 miles of flying, using 150,000 AA points (which I earned without any excess spending) – and then it was $398 in taxes, and $20 for a booking fee. 

    While on the trip, I’ve purchased small flights, bus tickets, and train trips to jump around and see more off the path of my OneWorld award, but those weren’t part of the 35,000 miles of flying which I wrote about.

    The itinerary shown in that gizmodo post did in fact cost $418

    cheers!

    -S

  12. You would like 4 hour workweek by tim ferriss!! but this still begs the question, how do we FINANCe these trips??

  13. You would like 4 hour workweek by tim ferriss!! but this still begs the question, how do we FINANCe these trips??

  14. Steve, I am the female Asian version of James Bond. You ready for this?

    Not only do I know martial arts, have multiple passports, am fluent in languages, have secret skills that are supremely adaptable in most situations, and can shape-shift, but I also am a highly self-aware nerd. :DEvery time I watch Bond, I want to be like him. This includes all the hot ladies. Same goes for watching any martial arts movie. Or post-apocalyptic movies where survival is key to the fate of the entire human race. Zombies? Not if I parkour off their dead heads and ninjitsu their ass!

  15. that is crazy bro doing that one arm push up right in front of monte carlo.  i think you’re my new hero.  that was so cool how you got to look at those cars which other people in monte carlo can drive.  i was really excited JUST reading your post.  it was cool when you got to watch what was going on inside of the club IN MONTE CARLO all night.  can’t wait to read more.

  16. I’m a little late in response to this, but I have to thank you Jarred, for writing this post.  I’ve been following this site for about a month and I’ve truly been inspired. Revamped my bucket list, my life, everything. But one thing I was concerned about was that my military plans would interfere with the things I want to do.  After reading your little tidbit, that really puts me at ease.  Thank you.

    And thank YOU Steve for this awesome article.  It’s hard reading this so late at night, because I get all motivated to change my life, and then I have to sleep and go back to the daily grind and forget about the inspiration.  Should start reading this in the morning rather than the evening.
    Regardless, thank you.  Great post.

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