A Bitcoin Globetrotter Covers 27 Countries: How He Did It, What He Learned

Lester Coleman
3 years ago

Felix Weis, a Berlin programmer, visited 27 countries and 50 cities in the past 18 months only spending bitcoin. He related his 18-month story in Forbes to a reporter, Laura Shin. Weis wanted to prove that bitcoin was not dead, as many people were claiming at the end of 2014.

Image via Twitter/Felix Weis

He also believed that if bitcoin was, in fact, a world currency as advocates claimed, then someone should be able to travel the world only using bitcoin.

He made it a point to use bitcoin whenever possible, and only to use cash by exchanging bitcoin for cash. He used LocalBitcoins.com to find people to exchange local currency for bitcoin. There were cases when he had to help people get bitcoin so they could exchange his for cash when he needed it.

Weis often needed cash for hotel deposits and incidentals. His cash use ranged from 20% to 80% depending on the country. His cash use was lowest in North America, highest in Asia, and mid-way in South America.

No Banks Or Credit Cards

He did not use a bank account or a credit card during his 18-month sojourn. He took around 200 Euros and bought a rail pass for the train. He paid for the pass with All4BTC.com, which allows an Amazon link and other links that allow payment in bitcoin.

Weis could not have picked a worse time to begin the trip; bitcoin’s price fell to under $200 shortly after he began. In the course of his trip, the price recovered.

He used coinmap.org to find restaurants in the countries he traveled. He paid for all hotels and airfare with bitcoin.

First Stop: SatoshiLabs

He first went to Prague and visited SatoshiLabs, the maker of the Trezor wallet, a hardware device that stores bitcoin. Weis wanted a Trezor wallet to protect his bitcoin. He had put all of his savings in bitcoin.

An early version of the TREZOR hardware wallet.

He kept his savings in Trezor and used a mobile wallet for daily expenses. He sent funds from Trezor to the wallet as he needed it.

Had he lost the Trezor, Weis said it would have been possible to restore the private key without Trezor hardware.

Weis interviewed bitcoin startups worldwide to get their insights about bitcoin. He did not wish to reveal his findings at this time.

The tour was interesting, but it took a lot of work. Weis had to find places that take bitcoin and where to get cash when he needed it. He said traveling the globe on bitcoin is possible, but it is not convenient.

Bitcoin Research Takes Time

Researching a country’s bitcoin options can a full day, he noted. He originally planned to visit 21 countries in 365 days, but he only visited 17. He said he found it unsettling moving to the next country since he would have to begin the process of finding places to use bitcoin, finding places to get cash, and finding bitcoiners.

Every time he arrived at a train station or airport, he had to figure out how to find someone who wanted to trade for bitcoin. Some airports have bitcoin ATMs, he noted.

Weis did not visit any city that didn’t have at least one business listed on LocalBitcoins or coinmap.

Grexit Beckons Him Back To Greece

He went to Greece before the Grexit fiasco. When Grexit came, he decided to go back to Greece, knowing the banks had closed. People in Greece were only allowed to withdraw 60 Euros, and wire transfers were banned.

Bitcoin ATMs were not bound by the Euro withdrawal restriction, so Weis showed people how to withdraw 120 Euros. People could wire money from their bank account, buy bitcoins on the Greek Bitcoin exchange, then withdraw the money from bitcoin ATMs.

One woman moved to the Czech Republic and transferred her savings there using bitcoin.

Weis printed flyers to advise people about bitcoin and promote a bitcoin meetup. He created a bitcoin QR code and posted it on a sign that got media attention. He received gifts of more than one bitcoin, and he donated it to the bitcoin meetup group.

Ancient Currency Resembles Bitcoin

Weis celebrated his one-year trip anniversary on the Yap Islands between Guam and the Philippines, where people use large, analog currency with a long history that bears some similarity to bitcoin and the blockchain.

The coins are made from a limestone on Palau, which is 200 miles from Yap. Over the years, the stones took on the properties of money but were not fungible because of their size. The stones remained in the same place as their ownership changed. Like bitcoin, transactions of the stones were public.

Inflation Lesson: Venezuela

Weis went to Venezuela to learn about bitcoin’s benefits in a country beset by high inflation. People in Venezuela trade bitcoins since they don’t lose value and bitcoin is the only way to wire funds across borders.

He met bitcoiners there who allowed him to exchange bitcoin for Venezuelan currency. Four years ago, 100 bolivar was worth $30. That amount is now worth 10 cents on the black market. Weis paid 10,000 for two pizzas ($10).

One benefit in Venezuela is cheap electricity. Weis met some Ethereum miners who took advantage of not having to pay market price for electricity. The miners had ASIC miners in their homes. He noted that miners in Venezuela buy used mining machines that miners in other countries won’t buy.

Cuba: No Bitcoin

He was only able to get to Cuba through someone advertising that he wanted to buy bitcoin in that country. The man claimed no one on the island had bitcoin. The man agreed to pick Weis up at the airport and let him stay at his house for a week.

Weis did find any bitcoin businesses in Cuba and not many people have heard of it. Most people do not have the Internet.

Weis was only tempted to cheat when he went to Romania and couldn’t find anyone to trade bitcoin with. He later found out about a Groupon-like site that accepts bitcoin for vouchers.

Also read: Top 10 (or 11) bitcoin-friendly cities

Most Bitcoin-Friendly: San Francisco

The easiest place to rely on bitcoin was in San Francisco, which has numerous restaurants and hostels that accept bitcoin. Weis also used Gyft gift cards, which can be bought with bitcoin.

Weis learned about the many uses of bitcoin. In Hong Kong and the Philippines, people use it to send money to relatives. In Venezuela, they use it to hedge against inflation and profit from cheap electricity. In New York City, people are interested in using it to speculate. In Austin, people use it to protect themselves from excessive government taxation.

Bitcoin has all the properties of money, Weis said. He was able to trade or purchase using bitcoin in all 27 counties. He concluded that bitcoin is, in fact, a global currency.

Featured image from Twitter/Felix Weis. Images from Shutterstock and Trezor.

Last modified (UTC): October 21, 2019 08:54

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