Driving Bitcoin Adoption: Family Documents Second BTC-Only Road Trip
John Bush and Catherine Bleish were traveling in Los Angeles, on the 10th day of their second all-Bitcoin road trip, when I spoke with them on November 19.
On their East Coast trip in June, they paid for their expenses entirely from their own pockets. After they documented and shared the successes—and sometimes their struggles—on that first trip, several sponsors reached out and offered to support them on this one.
“It’s great because we were probably going to be using their platform anyway,” said Bush. “Now they’re just helping us to get here. . . . It’s really rewarding for these businesses to support us and believe in what we’re doing and help us fund our way out here. It helps give us more time to get the word out about these products and about using Bitcoin.”
The couple and their two young children are traveling the West Coast this time. They set off on November 9 and will return home after three weeks on the road. This time they’ve brought their dog along with them, making them a family of five. According to Bleish, things are going “really well”:
“It has been “much less stressful than the first time. We got the hang of how to do everything. We know which companies are easiest to use, and we haven’t had any major issues like we did on the last one.”
“We haven’t had any late-night arrivals at hotels because of problems with the systems [this time]. It has been a little bit harder with the dog, having to deal with pet fees and the limitation on hotels that will allow dogs.”
On their first Bitcoin-only trip in June and July of this year, they experienced difficulties after booking a hotel room through Expedia. Their confirmation didn’t go through and, even though Expedia had recently started accepting Bitcoin for payment, the company hadn’t trained their staff about the option. The family communicated with numerous staff, not all of them friendly, before they finally settled down that night, well into the early morning. They ended up using a credit card to book a room the following night when the refund voucher that Expedia gave them didn’t work.
For the first trip, they used a Bitcoin company called CoinFueled to buy gas cards. They had to plan ahead and order the cards through the mail. This time around, CoinFueled didn’t respond to inquiries and the couple believes the company, which was in beta, may have gone out of business when they couldn’t handle the volume of interest they received following media attention.
For this trip, they’ve had to find another option. They are using prepaid Visa cards to buy gas. Bleish explains:
“This time, we used a proxy to get Visa prepaid cards so that we could buy gas on the road, and that actually worked out a little bit better than doing the straight gift card purchases to the gas stations themselves because when you buy it for specific gas stations, you’re limited to where you can stop. So we had a few close calls last time where we almost ran out of gas and we couldn’t find a gas station that worked for us. This time, that’s been much less of an issue.”
Bush says the Visa cards have been “the only [area] that has been slightly gray” in their attempt to live 100 % on Bitcoin. “We’ve been using the Visa prepaid gift cards for gas and for occasional outings, but we did acquire [them] with Bitcoin. I’d prefer if we weren’t using that work-around, but it has enabled us to spend in Bitcoin.”
I asked Bush what his kids think of Bitcoin. The couple’s son is only 18 months old, but their three-year-old daughter “didn’t like it because it took up so much of our time. I was having to explain to her that it’s helping to pay the bills and helps put food in your belly.”
After the success of the first 4,400-mile trip, during which they spent US$6,000 in Bitcoin, Gyft, CheapAir, and Airbitz jumped on board to sponsor them this time. Gyft has been the family’s biggest saving grace allowing them to maintain a healthy diet. “They’re bridging the gap,” said Bush. He continued:
“Things would be much harder without Gyft. We would have to totally rely on picnics and eating out of the ice chest for a large chunk of the travel. When we traveled through the Southwest, we called it a ‘Bitcoin food desert.’ There weren’t very many choices for restaurants that took Bitcoin.”
His kids received one lesson on the trip that he didn’t want them to learn. “We came across a checkpoint when we were coming in through the mountains of California. We don’t appreciate our children having to go through that and think it’s normal. That was [also] funny because we were actually in the middle of a podcast.”
Bush and his wife release daily episodes of Bush’s podcast, Sovereign BTC. The show received nearly 47,000 listens during the East Coast Tour. This time, they are sharing the podcast on the Let’s Talk Bitcoin network. Daily episodes include details of their travels, as well as recordings of speeches they are giving at various events along the way, including the Alt Expo in Austin, the Libertopia Conference in San Diego, Liberty on the Rocks in Denver, and at Bitcoin meetups in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.
The family is conducting interviews with Bitcoin companies and activists. The podcasts “seem to be getting some pretty good volume and traction” this time as well. “One [episode] has almost 12,000 listens,” said Bush.
“One of the things that we’re trying to do—in addition to educating the general public about how great Bitcoin is [and] inspiring the Bitcoin community to use more of their Bitcoin and contribute to the Bitcoin ecosystem—we’re also trying to go out there and put Bitcoin to the test to see where there are holes, to see where there is a demand for services and user optimization, to see what we can do, and what other people can do in order to help further the growth of [Bitcoin].”
As of the time we had talked, they had helped five people that they’d met along their travels create Airbitz wallets and get started using the cryptocurrency, including two waiters.
“There weren’t any mechanisms in place for the waiters to be tipped. I assume most people would just tip in dollars and pay the bill in Bitcoin, but we weren’t able to do that, of course, because we were doing this Bitcoin-only thing, so we managed to convince two waiters to set up wallets and we tipped them pretty nicely so they could ... have fun with their first Bitcoin.”
Bush said Airbitz’s business directory has helped them find good places to eat, where employees even in the Bitcoin-friendly establishments often welcomed further education in the cryptocurrency. Bush ended with these comments, to summarize the family’s trip so far, along with their overall goals:
“It’s really important for people, if they want to see Bitcoin grow—for philosophical, or political reasons, or for their own self-interest because they’re holding Bitcoin and they want to make money—it’s important for all of us to do our part to get out there and demonstrate the efficacy, the ease of use, the reliability of Bitcoin, and to also show some love to those early pioneers that are adopting and accepting Bitcoin when it’s still seen as kind of strange by the mainstream. All of them, pretty much across the board, just about anyone, has shown that [using Bitcoin] has been fun and successful.”
[Note from the family: Readers can use coupon code “UNCOIN14” at Gyft.com to receive US$5 off a $25 purchase of gift cards.]
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