29 Living Off Index Funds – Competitive Tennis and World Travel with Tanner Combias

Alone with Peter Season 2, Episode 12 Living Off Index Funds - Competitive Tennis and World Travel with Tanner Combias
Alone With Peter
29 Living Off Index Funds – Competitive Tennis and World Travel with Tanner Combias

Entrepreneur and Owner of Hostel Mate, LLC; Tanner Combias is back on Alone with Peter for part two of his interview. Tanner is a financial advisor with a degree in Finance & Masters in Accountancy. He spent five years working at PwC, one of the largest professional service firms in the world before he decided to quit his job to pursue competitive tennis and travel the world.

In this episode, we will dive deeper into Tanner’s tennis journey. As you may imagine it is highly irregular for someone to join a tennis academy after college, even more so if they are not already a pro. In his late 20s, Tanner didn’t let that deter him from pursuing his dream. After nearly a year in the competitive camps, Tanner decided to switch focus to travel.

In this episode, we will also discover how he was able to budget for three years of tennis and travel without having a job. The answer might not be as far out of reach as you think! This one is for tennis lovers. It’s also for those looking to be smarter with their money and understand how to budget (especially for world travel!)

After his stint in the competitive camps, Tanner visited 16 countries and over 70 hostels from 2019 to 2020. He was able to fund his travels around the world exclusively through savings and investments in index funds. Tanner documented his experience extensively on his blog tennisthentravel.com which I highly recommend you check out!

Stay through to the end for a sneak peak at our third and final interview with Tanner Combias.

Alone with Peter airs Mondays at 7 AM PST. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform so you never miss another episode!

Tanner Combias – Financial Advisor, CPA, Entrepreneur, and Traveler Blogger

Website: hostelmate.app

Travel Blog: tennisthentravel.com

Instagram tennis_then_travel

Please enjoy part 2 of our interview with Entrepreneur and Owner of Hostel Mate, LLC; Tanner Combias

*Transcripts may contain a few typos. With interviews ranging from 1-2 hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors.

29 Living Off Index Funds – Competitive Tennis and World Travel with Tanner Combias

Peter Kersting: Welcome back to Alone with Peter. This is part two of my interview with Tanner Combias. Last week, we talked about what it was like for him growing up, having big aspirations in small pockets, being a CPA, having a degree in finance and accountancy and how he looks at money, how his experience in Corporate America, working for PWC. One of the big fours helped shape the way that he looks at money. And ultimately how his experience in the big four and in that environment led him to leave Corporate America and to start his own thing.

Peter Kersting: We got a little bit of a tease of tennis and travel. He ultimately went off to spend an entire year just playing tennis for going off to travel. And so welcome back to the show Tanner, and I want to jump straight into this. This is not the typical career move people make from making a $100,000 a year to saying, “I’m going to throw away my job so I can go try to play tennis,” when you’ve never played on a professional level. So walk me through this a little bit, what that looked like for you.

Tanner Combias: Yeah. Yeah. So it’s good to be back. It’s not a traditional path and it was scary. It was scary suddenly leaving my job, but it wasn’t like I was just throwing out the window and could never go back. So just to include that in there, I left on a good note. I worked really hard at the company until the end and maintain those relationships so that if I do want to go back, I can. So yeah, it was definitely a leap, but yeah. Yeah, so I moved down, I did some research and I decided I’m going to move down to Florida. And some of the best tennis in our country is played in Florida and in states where the weather is pretty good all year round.

Tanner Combias: And so I remember I took this funny picture where it’s just me and my garage and a suitcase and my tennis bag and pillows. And I was like, “This is all I need for the next year. This is it.” So yeah, I moved south and I joined a tennis academy in Florida where it was fun. It was kids who were probably 10 years younger than me on average from all over the world. And some of them were the best youth tennis players in their country or some of the best players at least. And yeah, we would just train going from accounting and finance every day where I was…

Peter Kersting: Just sitting and sitting in a cubicle to playing tennis for what, like six hours a day, four hours a day? How many hours do you play tennis?

Tanner Combias: Yeah, it was probably five, six hours a day of tennis and then throwing there some workouts and runs and yeah, it was a lot of training.

Peter Kersting: What was your mile time going in and was your mile going out? I’m curious. Do you know? I feel like you’re the person that would track that.

Tanner Combias: No, that’s a good question. I don’t know what it was going in and I should have done a little bit more of that statistics, but I do know that my two mile… We used to run the two miles… Funny. We’d run the two mile every Wednesday with the kids. And it was so funny because some of them were like 18, 17, somewhere coming back from college, training but a lot of… Some of them were like 14, 13, it’s 90 something degrees, ridiculous humidity in Florida and we’re running on the pavement for two miles. Kids are throwing up off to the side. I’m laughing at them but yeah, I think my two mile got… At least after training for three hours in the morning in that, we’d go run two miles before the afternoon session. And I think it was down 12, 12 minutes after the three hours training.

Peter Kersting: 12 minutes for the two.

Tanner Combias: Yeah.

Peter Kersting: 12 minutes for the two miles. That’s not bad, man.

Tanner Combias: It wasn’t bad but room for improvement but…

Peter Kersting: Are you still running at all? Are you still playing tennis?

Tanner Combias: Yeah, I play. I’m living in New York City right now. The level here… It’s not as easy to find good players as it was down there, but I do play every Thursday in Central Park. So I’m trying to keep the [crosstalk 00:04:35].

Peter Kersting: Competitively?

Tanner Combias: No. No. I mean, I found a friend that found a kid who’s in tennis, so it’s fun. I get on my little city bike and we ride up to Center Park to play at eight in the morning, every Thursday morning. Yeah, I wish I could find more, but yeah… I mean, we’ll talk about it more but after my year of tennis and then travel, it was time to…

Peter Kersting: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So before we get to the then travel part, I want to ask you just a couple quick clarifying things about this. So, clearly a huge time commitment, also a really big monetary commitment. So, tell me a little bit about that. It was not just a leap of faith and that… I mean, I appreciate that you give the clarification that you could go back to your job, but clearly it’s a leap of faith, clearly you had to have some goal going in about why this was so worth it to you. So first of all, why tennis and what did you want to get out of that? What made that a success? Did you have something in mind? A, if I can do this, it’s successful.

Tanner Combias: Yeah. So, I always tell people I failed in my tennis aspirations, which they get upset with and they start being like, “Oh no, you didn’t fail. You didn’t fail.” But I failed in my opinion. So why tennis? I love playing tennis and I never tried to push myself competitively at intense. And I played club lacrosse in college and I’m a solid athlete, but I never focused solely on my body working out, training for one sport, eating well, sleeping well, putting, having my life revolve around tennis, a sport is so different because I’m very focused. And when I worked, all I did was work. And when I was in college, I had a good time but I worked. The focus was accounting and finance.

Peter Kersting: It was still work. Yeah.

Tanner Combias: Yeah. So for the first time ever, it was like, “Let’s not just do work. Let’s have… Do something you really enjoy and are passionate about and see how far you can go.”

Peter Kersting: I laugh because your idea of doing something fun is to go work at it. Even with the tennis, you’re like, “I can go spend six hours a day, every day, training, eating, sleeping, drinking tennis, basically.” That’s not the average person’s idea of fun. It actually sounds really fun to me, but…

Tanner Combias: Right. Yeah, no, it’s definitely a certain type of person. You’re right. And it was weird. Like I was spending a lot of money to train. I was willing to… I budgeted and determined how much I thought it was going to cost. And it was super expensive to train with these very good instructors all day. So, I’m training and working my butt off every day and the kids there, they don’t understand that their parents are just sending them away and giving them… Paying a ridiculous amount of money and they are not appreciative of the opportunity that they have. So, I think the coaches really liked having me. It was funny because… And they wanted me to succeed because I worked so much harder than anyone else. And it was… Yeah.

Peter Kersting: Can you tell me a little bit about that, what that experience was like? First of all is it… I’m imagining it’s uncommon for someone who’s 28 to go to that camp. Is that fair to say?

Tanner Combias: Yeah.

Peter Kersting: Tell me a little bit more about that experience. Did you feel old? Did you feel younger and revitalized? What was that competition like? Because you documented this really well.

Tanner Combias: Yeah. So, it was hard off of bat because you’re right. These academies don’t look for people who are out of college to train. Maybe if you’re a tennis pro and you want to stop buying academy, they’ll let you hit with the pros but they don’t want some random kid who has no experience, just showing up and making a mockery of what their livelihood and being a distraction to these kids who are trying to all get D1 scholarships. So, it was a little interesting and I got connected to an academy and they were… I talked to them on the phone and I think they were a little bit worried and A, they liked my attitude. They liked like, “Oh, this guy’s, he’s not joking. He’s got, “Oh.” if we tell him to run suicides until he throws up, like he’ll run suicides.”

Tanner Combias: And so that was good. And then I went and once they saw me, they weren’t impressed by necessarily my swing. I think they needed to see that I was at a certain level that I was good enough to be able to play with the kids. Like, not necessarily the best of the kids in the academy, but compete. And they needed to see that, I said, “Yes.” And never complained and was a good example. And after the first day they were like, “Hey, we’ll take his money because he’s paying and he’s working his butt off and hey, we’re going to root for him because he’s working harder than any other kid out here.” So yeah. So good questions. I mean, going back to… It was bizarre going every day and hanging out with teens and it got… In the beginning, the first four or five months were the best months of my life.

Tanner Combias: That’s how much fun I had training, but it got frustrating and I didn’t have expectations in the beginning. I was like, “It’s going to take time.” I don’t expect to become overnight nasty at tennis, but it was frustrating being… I love being with kids all the time, but their kids and I would know about their crushes. I would know about… Most of them did homeschooling or it was a bizarre of world that I never know anything about. A few of them went to classes for a couple hours a day so I know about what tests they had. I know about gossip, all this stuff. But it was a little frustrating. I wish sometimes that there were college players or people who were a little bit more serious and mature, but it was still a blast.

Peter Kersting: So… Hold on a second.

Tanner Combias: Yeah, go ahead.

Peter Kersting: The first four months, how many months were you in the academy?

Tanner Combias: In total was probably 10 months of playing. I got a little injured a few times. I think I pushed too hard. It’s hard. Even if I was younger, I don’t think it make any difference. I was just so excited that going into it, people gave me suggestions about how hard I could push, maybe add 10% every month, every week. Maybe you can spend another hour out in the court the next week. But I was so excited and wanted to get better that I sometimes worked a little too much and my body… I got injured a little bit especially towards the middle and end, but in all, I’d say it was around 10 months. Okay.

Peter Kersting: What was your goal going in? You said you didn’t have stronger expectations for yourself, but you must have had some kind of goal. What did you want to accomplish?

Tanner Combias: Yeah. So, again, in the very beginning, I wasn’t sure exactly what goal I had. It was just so hard to come up with a specific goal because I wasn’t used to the tennis world. I didn’t know what I was up against. I knew that my chances of being a professional were 1%, whatever less but I knew that if I trained really hard… I mean, I didn’t know this but I was hoping that I get to a high level. And as I started to train, I learned the different levels and the different tournaments they had. And basically, they have this level it’s called open tournaments. It’s the highest level that if you’re just a recreational player, pretty much you play in. A lot of college players will come and train in the opens during summer breaks or before college.

Tanner Combias: Very competitive. And my goal was to get far in those tournaments, that became my goal and I failed. I played in a bunch of open tournaments and want to imagine to, but I was not ever making it far on any draws. Honestly, I think I would’ve gotten there in another year or two. I would’ve been… I think that I could’ve been winning these opens maybe or getting top the opens, but I never would’ve been a top 100 players. I certainly would never be 100. I don’t think I would ever be a pro ever.

Peter Kersting: So you realizing this probably what, like month eight, month nine, month six, somewhere in there?

Tanner Combias: Yeah.

Peter Kersting: Does that alter your drive to do this? What ultimately made you say, “10 months, this is enough. I’m done.”

Tanner Combias: Yeah. It hurt because I don’t like failing. And also I was convinced that I was so close to getting to the next level that I didn’t want to give up. And I said, “Oh, I wish I just did another year or two,” but it was expensive. And my goal going into it was like, “Hey, do a year of this and then go and travel. That’s your other dream.” And also I think waking up every day and getting to the courts at 8:00 A.M. and training, I’ve suddenly noticed, I don’t know, around 10th month or right around there that I wasn’t as excited to lace up my shoes and I didn’t mind when they were like, “Hey, we’re running right now.” I was like, “Oh, well, I’m going to do whatever they tell me to do.”

Tanner Combias: I didn’t mind that at all, but I wasn’t as excited. And that’s when I was like, “Hey, I uprooted my life. I moved from New York. I moved to Florida to play tennis. If I’m not loving every… And I’m paying a crazy amount of savings… If I’m not loving every minute, it’s time to go travel. If I want to come back to the courts, I can but it’s time to go travel.” And it was hard for me because yeah, I knew that I was in the best shape of my life that I’ve ever been which is very fun for me.

Tanner Combias: And what’s fun also is people in New York who said, “Tanner, you can’t do it. You’re too old. You’re too small. You’re too short or whatever.” They were wrong. It wasn’t a physical thing. I could outrun every kid there in a suicide. I had no issue competing with all the kids who were going D1. No problem. Lifting. I’m not huge tennis players, they don’t lift that much. I held my own in the gym. That was fine. It was the swing, the fluidity of the swing, the kids who had been training since they were 6, 7, 8, 9, it was better. They had a better shot. I struggled in certain areas that they were just better at.

Peter Kersting: Tennis is a very technical sport with the forehand, backhand serve, especially. And I hesitate to compare at all. I’m not actually to your experience, but I played tennis for the first time really in college as this class for fun. And I liked it so much that I ended up trying out for the tennis team and making it at the junior college. My very last semester of eligibility and I played. I made the team, I was working part-time, I actually never got a play in a tournament or anything, which is really sad because my eligibility ran out as I was happening but whenever I could compete for the seventh spot, I wasn’t able to put in the same amount as the other kids. But I was really proud of the fact that I made the team just off the street as a 25 year old at the time.

Tanner Combias: Yeah. [inaudible 00:17:07].

Peter Kersting: So I know a little bit of how you feel about that and also about having a bigger expectation for yourself than anyone else does. And I think that’s something that drives you to success. So, I guess I just want to say that because I’m seeing that is true of your tennis experience, but I think there’s no way it’s not impacting your experience as an accountant and later on as an entrepreneur. But before we talk a little bit about Tanner the entrepreneur, I want to talk about Tanner the world traveler. Because you spent 10 months… Correct me if I’m wrong with the timeline here, but you spend 10 months, you leave Corporate America, you leave PWC one of the big four. You say, “I’m going to go play tennis in Florida.” You spend 10 months, you lay it all out there and you realize, “All right, I got to make a change again. I got to pursue the next thing.”

Tennis, Now World Travel

Peter Kersting: Now you go into travel the world and you spent… You can tell me please, how long but seems like you’ve been all over it. You’ve been to Patagonia, you’ve been to Tasmania, Argentina, Laos, Cambodia, you and I both have been to Vietnam. How did you… Excuse me. How did you decide where to go? How long to stay. How much money you had to do this? What was your plan going in? How did you budget for all of this? Especially after spending so much time and money on the tennis academy, how are you affording all of this? You haven’t been working.

Tanner Combias: Yeah. Yeah. So, I guess one thing they said to me in New York and I quit was they’re like, “Why did you try to do this three years ago now?” I was like, “Well, I haven’t saved any money.” I want to be able to do what I exactly what I want to do, but I need to have some money saved. So, just going back to what we talked about before, like saving every penny when I was eight years old. Even though I lived in New York for a good portion of my career, commuted at first to save money, commuted home to New Jersey but I saved a lot of money when I could in every way, in simple ways in New York. And never taking cab, but with subway. Rarely going out for drinks, that kind of stuff, still having a fun time, but being very careful and saving all the money so that I could do what I wanted when I turned 28. And it just so happened that I had this revelation that I needed to quit and play tennis.

Peter Kersting: And you had the freedom to do it because of that.

Tanner Combias: Yeah. Yeah. I had the freedom to do it.

Peter Kersting: Sorry. Didn’t mean to interrupt you but what were you doing with your money up to that point? Because I think somebody else might hear this and go, “Well, that’s nice but you were making six figures.”

Tanner Combias: Yeah.

Peter Kersting: But I think it’s a lot more to do with the mindset that it is to do with the amount of money. So, could you please explain you weren’t just not spending money. You were also making money. So, how are you doing that and saving it and making sure that it was actively invested or whatever else you were doing?

Tanner Combias: Yeah. No, that’s good. So yeah, I was definitely careful with my spending. A big huge thing was where I was living right. Never a single apartment, always with friends, all the people but everything that I was saving… You’re right, I was investing. And you don’t need to be crazy brilliant. You can just pull the warm buffet and put it into the S&P 500. I’ve kind of stock nerdy. I’ve been trading or trying to understand the market. You always try. No one really on… No one is an expert, but since I was in middle school so it was nice to have that background. And even in as accountant, you’d be surprised. None of the accountants that I worked with [inaudible 00:21:07] to saving money or investing their money to be honest with you.

Peter Kersting: That’s great.

Tanner Combias: Yeah. So, you don’t have to… What I’m saying is you don’t have to have that background and you don’t have to work in that environment to save. And to your point when you said, you’re making six figures, that was only my last year. Out of college, I did well but not that much for living in New York. And it was about spending less than I was making and immediately putting all that money into the market. The market was really good during that time, right? Like exceptional, but that’s really what came down to, and I knew when I quit, I could spend X amount for tennis and I budgeted and I did some research and you know what? I spent right in that number, right? Right where I expected. And then I was like… At the end, I was like, “I’m going to go travel.” And I’m not sure how long I’m going to go travel but one thing I do know on the outside periphery is, I want to have a left over when I’m done so that I’m not living at home as a 32 year old.

Peter Kersting: Yeah. For two or three or four years, just because you spent all of your money. Okay. So before we get into the nitty gritty, because I do want to talk more about specifically the travel.

Tanner Combias: Yeah.

Peter Kersting: And because I think that really leads into your entrepreneurial pursuits that are happening right now. But I want to ask you a little bit about… I’m getting a picture here of the way that you think about budgeting. You’re being very aware of the amount of money you currently have and then also what your immediate expenses are, meaning the things that you have to pay for to get by. And then you’re also getting an accurate assessment of what you think things will cost. And you’re getting close enough that you can have some confidence in that future budgeting planning. That is not easy to do if someone has not done it before. So, maybe you could give me an idea… Is it as simple as, “Hey, you just got to start doing it. And as you do it, you figure out how much things actually cost to do and you learn just what you really are spending and what you need to spend. Is it as simple as just doing it more or are there some things that people should be keeping in mind?

Tanner Combias: Yeah. If everyone’s different and it’s not easy, it’s not easy. Especially if it’s not something that you’re used to doing. I think my upbringing definitely influenced me appreciating a dollar, but also… Yeah, if you really want to start saving and be able to get that financial freedom, some of these things sound obvious, but you really need to step back and think about everything you’re buying. And like you said, I liked what you said, separating out your needs and then, “Hey, this is what I need to spend. Okay. Here’s here’s the leftover that I’m spending. Do I… What am I spending this on? Is it subscriptions? Is it beer?” Whatever. People go to the bar all the time in New York and they just throw it on their card and they have no idea when they walk out of there, how much they spent. They have no idea.

Peter Kersting: It makes me nervous, just hearing you say that because I’m intensely aware of the limits of my funds. So when I see people doing this stuff or even think about doing it myself, sometimes I go as far as like, “I’m just not going to do that.” And I think there’s something negative about that as well. But there’s so many practical things that I’d like to touch on in part three. So if somebody’s hearing this stuff and like, “Yeah, I really want to know what you think.” Stick around for part three of this interview.

Tanner Combias: Yeah. I have a few tips, few idea.

Peter Kersting: Yeah. No, I would really… I think there’s some really actionable stuff people can be doing and from you, I think there’s a lot, they can learn from your process. It doesn’t matter what level their income is. It’s about to process more than anything, and obviously you need to be making money but you just change your expectations, I think based off of that. So I’d love to talk more about that. But before that, so you spend this… How many years? Was it a year traveling? It was more than that, right?

Tanner Combias: It was probably actually… Because I kept coming and going and I had to go to a wedding and come over Christmas. It was probably 10 months on the road in total but like you said… I mean, I had saved enough and it’s all about the experiences. And when I traveled, I didn’t need to stay in five star hotels. I love the hostel life and I don’t need to buy… I don’t know if I bought a single souvenir in 10 months. Like I just… What? I’m going to carry it around with me? I don’t need that stuff. I want to go to museums. I want to go out and see things that I won’t be able to see in the States. If I go on hikes things that aren’t expensive that are out of this world experiences. And so, it was nice to be able to do what I wanted. I had saved enough, but a lot of the stuff that I wanted wasn’t that much.

Peter Kersting: I want to talk about this concept of spending versus saving in regards to this, because I think it’s a really interesting point. When you are budgeting for a certain place that you went and you’re say, “I could do this experience, but it’s going to cost me money to do.” How do you decide how important it is to be pinching pennies in this situation versus experiencing the thing and having to pay for the experience, being willing to do that and allowing yourself to do that. Because when I get in the mindset about budget, budget, budget is how much money I have and I need to spend in this amount. Sometimes I’m like, “Oh, I can’t do that. That costs money.” And that’s the hardest part about budgeting, I think. And I don’t know of where the line is. So I became curious what you think.

Tanner Combias: It’s tough. It’s tough. I had quit my job and save enough that I didn’t want to hold back from doing stuff. I was traveling to experience stuff. So a good example would be, I went to Slovenia Lake Bled, which is unreal. I don’t know if you been there yet?

Peter Kersting: No, no. There’s so many in the places on your list that I have yet to go, especially in South and Central America, I’m pretty jealous but Slovenia sounds… I’m guessing pretty gorgeous nature.

Tanner Combias: Right. Your spot. I mean, I think for half the country is forest. So anyway, you stay near this lake where there’s an island and a church, unreal but there’s a lot of collectivities there. And to your point, some of them are expensive. And I remember there was canyoning where you go and jump into these canyons. And I thought to myself, “This is sick. Where else can I do this?” And I’m in Slovenia and this is what people do this here. Can I do it anywhere else? I don’t know. So then all of a sudden it be… “Wait a second. I can’t just do this somewhere else that makes it, I might need to pay this amount of money.” Then it’s like, “Am I going to sacrifice… Am I not going to be able to do other things if I spend the money on this?”

Tanner Combias: Right? So I remember I was in Lake Bled and I wanted… Usually you want to get some hostel friends to be like, “Yo. Let’s do canyon.” No one wanted to do the full day canyoning or whatever. And I said, “No, I don’t care. I’m going to do it by myself.” Like this… I’m paying for this. It’s reasonable. I can’t do it anywhere else. It looks amazing. It’s incredible experience. You do this. I know it’s a lot of like calculations, but you’re doing a lot in your head to make sure you can do it. Because you know those experiences, they mean a lot. If you transition… I know when I went to New Zealand. It was the last place I visited. They had a lot of cool activities and a lot of the cities like Queenstown had, you can go skydiving, you can go motor boating.

Tanner Combias: There’s 15 different activities. And some kids in the hostels were signing up for every single one like crazy. And I was like, “I’m not going to go pay this to go on a speed boat. I know it’s beautiful but I can go on a hike here and get a better view and hanging with hostel kids and I could do this somewhere else and it’s a lot of money. So, in that situation I waited and I was like, “I don’t need to do…” And I was funny because I actually ended up doing none of the activities there, none. I just went on hikes and I had no regrets.

Peter Kersting: You don’t look back at that at all ever and say, “Man, I wish I had the coughed up the money for that.”

Tanner Combias: I have not a single regret. There was one kid, James. He was out on a blast. He went to every one. He was like, “This is the coolest thing.” But he had his bucket list like, “I really want to go skydiving.” And New Zealand’s a very cool place to go skydiving. Me, that’s not as high up on my list so I didn’t prioritize it. So that’s where the difference was. Yeah.

Peter Kersting: When you’re working through your budget, then there’s a couple different things you’re considering, it sounds like. One is how you want to travel? And what are the things that you like to do? I’m curious though… And that makes a lot of sense to me, right? Different people are going to want to travel different ways. And if you’re somebody who needs to have a more bougie experience to enjoy it, to relax and you might have to budget differently than someone who’s willing to rough it a little bit, right? And the hostel experience, not that hostel are necessarily roughing it anyway. I mean, sometimes they are but I just curious when you’re making those mental calculations, what are some of the factors? You touched on it a little bit like, “I can’t do this anywhere else. Would I regret and a not doing it?” But what are the things that you’re keeping in mind, especially since you’ve already made a budget you’re already there. Now this thing, this opportunity comes to you that you hadn’t budgeted for. How do you decide?

Tanner Combias: Yeah. No, it’s good. It’s really situational. It’s tough. So people always say in America, in the states, they’re always wondering hostel life and a lot of our friends, at least colleagues in New York, they want to go and education somewhere pretty luxurious and say, “Nice places is it? And I get that, you work so hard in this rat race that we talked about that you only have a couple weeks off and you want to just live a free life and get your bed made for you and enjoy chocolates on your pillow and I get that.

Peter Kersting: Yeah.

Tanner Combias: But on the other side, a lot of it had to do with, “I wanted a long term here. This is different.” Right? This is a long term experience. I don’t care at all about that stuff.

Tanner Combias: I’m not going back to the… I don’t have a two week time limit. I want a place to lay my egg. And that’s when… Staying in a hostel is going to save you a crazy amount per night versus a hotel. I mean, that was huge as far as budgeting, right? And when I say it’s situational, I thought to myself, “How long am I going to go traveling a year, a year-ish? Do I plan on having to work during my year to travel to support what I wanted to do?” Because all these people I met in Australia, New Zealand, that’s what they did. They worked so that they could travel more. So those a huge thing. So in my situation, I didn’t plan on working. So it was, “Okay. I need money for a year.”

Tanner Combias: So I budgeted loosely for the year. So I know that it would be comprised of places that are more expensive, like Europe and New Zealand or Australia than places that are way cheaper, like Eastern Europe or South America or even Asia as you know, where you can go much. So you definitely, it’s hard to answer in a succinct way. I’m sorry but it’s so broad. And just walking you through that process that went through my head like, “Oh, it’s a year. I’m not going to be working so I need my savings to support my year. What countries do I plan on going to? Are they all expensive? Are they not all expensive? That’s going to dictate how I spend my money. And then what’s more important to me and how we talk about how experiences trump all.

Peter Kersting: For me. Yeah. I felt exactly the same way. To me, the experience was much more important. When you go somewhere, I never really think about where I stayed as being part of the barometer of, “Did I enjoy it?” And sometimes it does. For example, when I was in South France, I was lucky enough to have a friend who is from there. And so I stayed with his family and it was a really unique experience because the family had built their chateau 400 years ago and I got to stay and a chateau.

Tanner Combias: I mean, that’s the dream.

Peter Kersting: Of course stay in a fricking and French castle is a unique experience, a part of what I enjoyed about South France.

Tanner Combias: Yeah. You can [inaudible 00:34:52] that. I’m sorry.

Peter Kersting: Yeah. But that mainly because of the fact that it’s a friend of mine gave me a place to stay and the place was so cool for that reason, it was not a monetary decision versus, “Did I enjoy Vietnam less because I didn’t stay someplace super nice?” No, I probably enjoyed it a lot more.

Tanner Combias: More. Yeah.

Peter Kersting: Because I could do it for longer. So I do appreciate you taking the time to talk about the idea of where you wanted to go, how long you wanted to be there and how are you going to fund it because those things factor in. Now, I think we’ll keep the rest of that for part three. I want tease really quickly before we conclude this part of our interview. You have, as we mentioned in the beginning, a lot of experience with hostels, a lot of experience with hostels and that experience has actually positioned you to pursue what you’re trying to do right now. So I’m wondering if you can give us a tease of what Hostel Mate is and what you’re trying to do with it?

Tanner Combias: Yeah, sure. So thanks for bringing it up. Yeah. So I traveled all over. I think it was during that 10 months, a year of travel… It was 10 months. Yeah. I traveled, I think to maybe 14 countries, something like that. I didn’t really have a plan. Certain places I wanted to hit, certain places I just heard about from Delaware travelers and went to. And I stayed at hostels because they were inexpensive, but also just meet good people and learned about the secrets of the place I was visiting from fellow travelers. And I became obsessed with hostels and I stayed at 70 hostels during that time period which thinking about that is absurd.

Peter Kersting: 70 hostels 14 countries.

Tanner Combias: Yeah.

Peter Kersting: That’s a pretty big sample size.

Tanner Combias: That is quite large. So, when I returned home and… I mean, I had some good stories actually, I don’t need to go into them but I got stuck in New Zealand with COVID and worked on a vineyard and anyway, I came home after all this journey and I’m still not sure what I want to do with my life, but I think it is good to… If you’re going to try to start something, it be entrepreneur to focus on what you know. What you know better than other people. Not only what you’re passionate about, but what do you actually know. And I was like, “70 hostels. I know hostels here. Who has been to 70 hostels in the last year?” In all these different locations. So I decided I wanted to create Hostel Mate, which is an app and the thought behind it was… I’d show up at a hostel and it’d be late at night and there’d be no one around or I’d go…

Tanner Combias: And I often would stay in the eight person dorm, a minimum eight, just to really try to meet people and you’d show up in a dorm and no one would want to talk to you and that would be terrible. And you’d be like, “Well, maybe the dorm next door, maybe they’re awesome. Maybe Peter’s over there in that dorm.” So I thought to myself, it would be sweet if I could just take out my phone and select the hostel I was staying at, maybe put the password that they given me and have an app where I can chat, send a message to the whole guest list at the hostel and say, “Does anyone want to grab a drink? Does anyone want to go on a bike ride? Does want to go canyoning Slovenia tomorrow?” And then, I thought that’d be a great way to connect.

Tanner Combias: And so much of your experience at hostels is driven by the connections you make and I think the app would facilitate that. So that was the… That’s why I built it and I added a bunch of other functionalities and stuff, but that’s the dream behind my business Hostel Mate. Yeah.

Peter Kersting: If you’re enjoying this episode of Alone with Peter, as much as I am, you’re going to want to stick around for the next episode coming out next week as we conclude our conversation with Tanner Combias. We’ve talked a lot about travel, budgeting for travel, tennis, his blog, Tennis Then Travel. If you’re interested in checking him out there, please don’t forget to do that at tennisandtravel.com. And you can also find on Instagram @tennis_then_travel. And also if you’re interested in seeing what his website is like for his new business Hostel Mate, go to hostelmate.app, A-P-P. And as I said, stay tuned for part three because this is where we’re going to get into some actionable tips for you as we break down a little bit more about what Hostel Mate is, what he’s trying to do with it, and how can you budget for your travel, your trip, your business, whatever that may be. So, stay tuned for the next episode of Alone with Peter.


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