In the early days of Bitcoin’s infancy when the elusive Satoshi Nakamoto announced Bitcoin to the Cyperpunks world, and the likes of Hal Finney, Martti Malmi, and Gavin Andresen helped to work on improving its code, not many would have thought it possible to travel around the world using Bitcoins.
That was until programmer Felix Weis wanted to find out the answer. However, the only way to find out was to undertake the experiment himself, and that’s exactly what he did.
Originally from Luxembourg, but living in Berlin, Weis first discovered the digital currency in 2012 when his trust in the banks diminished after the financial crisis. Yet, despite people telling him back in 2014 that Bitcoin didn’t have a future, he was fascinated about the possibility of a currency that isn’t controlled by a government and that is immediately available to any country.
With the world trip experiment still in his mind, he converted all his savings to Bitcoin – securing them on his newly bought Trezor wallet from SatoshiLabs in Prague. Packing his bags, Weis began his adventure on January 12, 2015. Since successfully completing his adventure, he managed to visit 27 countries and 50 cities in 18 months using only the digital currency to get around. Naturally, he is of the opinion that Bitcoin is a global currency.
Speaking to Cointelegraph, Felix Weis says: “I was able to use it in 27 countries in whatever form and, for me, that makes it a global currency.”
Even though Weis visited countries such as Israel, Turkey, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Ireland, North America, the United States, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, England, and Finland, he states that it wasn’t all plain sailing along the way.
When he was visiting Romania he explained that he was stranded for two days with no way of paying for anything after the guy he agreed to meet up with, didn’t show up to trade Bitcoin for the local currency.
“I was able to pay the hotel through Expedia, which had a breakfast, but for the rest of the day I couldn’t get any food. He eventually showed up and bought me food and explained what happened.”
After this he found a website similar to Groupon in Romania, which accepted Bitcoin, allowing Weis to buy vouchers with the digital currency before heading to various places where he could pay for food with his vouchers.
Even though this was a time when Weis was tempted to cheat and pay with cash he explained that before setting out on his trip he had put three simple rules into place to ensure that he wasn’t tempted to use fiat money. He couldn’t use any banks, no currency exchanges from one country to the next, and no credit cards. Cash could only be traded for Bitcoin, and Bitcoin always had to come first whenever possible.
Weis explains his reasoning:
“Banks are very dangerous and poisonous because they are so deeply wired into our economy. I wanted to find out whether it was possible to live without a credit card, so I cut my credit card up and didn’t use my bank account for the whole time.”
Of course, websites such as Coinmap made it easier for Weis to figure out which places to visit where Bitcoin was accepted before moving on to another country.
At the time of Weis’s trip the price of Bitcoin had been declining at the end of 2013 after reaching the $1,000 mark and had dropped below $200. However, the more countries Weis visited over the 18 months, Bitcoin slowly gained momentum allowing him to experience unique moments.
In Turkey Weis was able to complete a scuba diving course paying for the entire course through Bitcoin. He does admit, however, that it took him three days to convince the owner to accept Bitcoin as he didn’t know anything about it.
“Once I showed them how to sell it and get the fiat money into their bank account they allowed me to pay for the whole scuba diving.”
On another adventure he was able to go skiing while visiting a family in Hong Kong who had heard about Bitcoin, but didn’t know what it was. After explaining it, but not able to pay for anything with his credit card his family offered to pay for the skiing trip with Weis then wiring the amount in Bitcoin to them afterwards.
With so many interesting experiences along the way picking the most stand-out experience can be hard, but Weis narrowed it down to his visit to the Yap Islands, between the Philippines and Guam. There the Yapese people used huge stones as the local currency, which were scarce and, therefore, valuable, but as they were not easily movable, when someone new owned them the stones remained where they were, but it was known throughout the land who owned what stone. Weis says that this is similar to how Bitcoin works when the transaction is broadcast on the network.
“Money is a huge construct as it can be whatever people want it to be. It’s something that happens over generations and I don’t see why Bitcoin can’t be the same. The fact that I was able to use it in 27 countries makes it a global currency for me.”