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Thought leadership | 09/29/2020

Traveling with Crypto: An Experience to Never Forget

Travel with Crypto

Many of us out there are always looking forward to their next adventure, the next trip you’re going to take during your vacation. However, did you know that you can travel with crypto? Let’s dive into the experience of traveling by paying with cryptocurrencies.

Travel with Crypto

Vacation! That magical word we all long for – even for the lucky ones that absolutely love their jobs. A time to not worry about anything, except for what trip to take on next or whether you’d like to have a pina colada or a freshly made smoothie while lying at the beach. 2020 has been a bit different due to the pandemic, altering quite some plans. That said, it’s not going to stay like this forever. 

And when that day comes, you can start thinking of that dream trip you’ve always meant to take. Finally going to see the Aurora Borealis or seeing the impressive ruins of Machu Picchu – or whatever it is that your heart desires. The excitement of a vacation can just be the trip itself, rather than the destination – like an amazing road trip. How about making the ride of your life, by not paying a single Euro or US dollar for it? 

Enter the crypto holiday! 

Planning for a Trip is Half the Fun

It’s a cold January day in 2021. The Christmas holidays and new year’s celebrations have just passed by and now things have turned back to normal. Always kind of a weird few weeks right after those wonderful times, not too much to look forward to. I check my phone and see my friend Dan texted me.

“Hey John, how’s it going? I was just thinking, why not plan something for the summer already? It’ll give us something to look forward to. Lemme know what you think!”.

Like he read my mind – typical Dan. I texted him back to let him know I’m in – we’ll be heading to Rome, Italy. We both always wanted to see the Colosseum, and this would be our chance. Then I remember something… I read this article about a guy called Felix Weis, the guy that traveled around the world only paying with Bitcoin. It sounded crazy to me at the time, but I’ve seen more places nearby starting to accept it as payments. After a bit more research, I text Dan:

“Hey Dan, I’ve got a crazy idea for our trip. You remember those Bitcoins that we bought a few years ago? What if we’d only use Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to pay for everything? I’ve been doing some digging around and it actually looks possible. I know it’ll be a bit tricky, but it’d make it one heck of an experience. Plus it could save us some money on exchanging our Dollars to Euros.

In typical Dan fashion, he replied “heck yeah, sounds awesome!”. It probably helped that the Bitcoin we bought back in 2015 for just about $300,- each could now easily fund the entire trip. If only we had bought more.. Oh well. 

Did you Pack your Toothbrush?

Alright, details set. We know where and when we’re going. Time to start actually making this plan happen – and the first hurdle was in sight. We need to get our plane tickets and hotel booked. I agreed I’d get them for both of us. Thus, Google was opened. “Buy Plane Tickets with Bitcoin”. Enter. Thus, the search began…

Looking around, I was genuinely surprised how many different companies were catering to this though I didn’t know any of them. They could be good, but I preferred certainty so I had to look a bit further. I see that Expedia used to accept Bitcoin in the past. After a lot of research and checking Trustpilot, I ended up going with Travala. They actually support many cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and XRP as well as Bitcoin. That’ll do it for both the plane tickets and the hotel. 

Ok all set, ready to make the booking. Now I started wondering… Normally I’d have to give my bank a call first. My credit card doesn’t allow me to make purchases of over 2000 US Dollars, and this’d exceed that. As a matter of fact, this’d have been downright tricky. But I’m not using my credit card – I’m using Bitcoin. 

Alright, let’s see then. I’ll choose Bitcoin as the desired cryptocurrency for the payment. Ok, so it gives me a window of 10 minutes to send 0.231 BTC to their address. I open my own Bitcoin wallet and copy the information. Let’s just make sure I’ve entered everything correctly. Check. And all the booking details are correct? Check. Well then, here goes nothing… Send.

Payment received, confirmation e-mail’s popping up in my inbox. It took a bit of time researching and I had to figure out how exactly the payment system would work, but it was pretty smooth looking back. The biggest nugget was that there was no bank which’d usually stop the payment – I actually had full control over my own money instead. Man, that felt like an accomplishment, my first-ever purchase of anything with cryptocurrencies. Quite some more will soon follow.

Bitcoin, Pizza and Old Meets New

Months later, the big day finally arrived – the crypto trip is starting! Everything from the plane ride to the hotel check-in was business as usual, no different than if it had been paid through Euros or Dollars. Well, there was a small difference: I usually exchange my US Dollars at the airport for whichever currency I need at my destination. It felt a bit strange to skip this usual ritual, but definitely kind of freeing. As a matter of fact, I saved some conversion fees there – sweet! “Huh.. Bitcoin is kinda like an international currency”, I thought. 

John, getting kinda hungry, what do you say to a pizza? I mean we’re in Italy after all.

“Sure”, I replied, “I found this website called Coinmap, which shows every place worldwide that accepts cryptocurrency payments.

There was a Bitcoin ATM close by that could swap our Bitcoin for Euros, but we opted not to use it. Kind of felt like we would be cheating then, since we’d end up paying in Euros. Looking at Coinmap, we quickly discovered that there weren’t that many places accepting Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies directly. I suppose we still have some ways to go in that.

Still, after enough looking around, we did find a restaurant that accepted Bitcoin through Coinmap. Thus we had our first Italian pizza – and it was absolutely delicious. I can definitely see why they take such pride in their real, Italian pizza, we’ve got to step up our game. It was a little bit of fiddling around with the bill – I think the staff wasn’t too used to working with Bitcoin payments. The system to pay for the bill was pretty similar to the booking on Travala, except this time I scanned a QR code for the correct Bitcoin address, rather than copy / pasting it. Having paid for a pizza with Bitcoin felt like a small victory as well, making the moment even more memorable.

Hey Dan, this was pretty sweet. There aren’t that many places that accept cryptocurrencies directly, unfortunately. We should just use our crypto debit cards, otherwise we’ll spend half of our vacation looking for places to buy food. I mean that way we can use our crypto literally everywhere, rather than needing to look around.

Sure enough, we both had our crypto debits cards already all set. I made sure to load it up with enough crypto before we left for our trip. While I first had to figure out how exactly they work for a bit, they are pretty convenient. I actually had another cryptocurrency called Ethereum as well, which I used to top up the balance of my crypto debit card. It’s pretty sweet to have the freedom to determine how much I can spend by myself this way, rather than having a bank decide that for me. 

The next day, it was that time. Both of us got up early, excited for what’s to come. The visit of the ancient Roman Colosseum. Used our crypto debit cards to pay for the entry – once loaded up it really works no differently than any normal debit card. What an incredibly beautiful place! To imagine that the Colosseum is about 2000 years old! We were consistently in awe, mouths wide-open. This was a moment that will stay with me forever – and it was all made possible thanks to cryptocurrencies. Imagine that… going to one of the oldest remaining structures on earth thanks to one of the most modern technologies. 

The Aftermath

The trip was incredible, we both had an amazing time – definitely one to remember. However, the experience with cryptocurrencies has been absolutely life-changing. I’ll never be able to look at money the same way since. I mean why don’t we already have an international form of money like Bitcoin? Using it in the United States or in Italy was no different. Also why can’t we have total control over our own hard-earned money? I mean with Bitcoin I was able to set my own rules. On top of this, cryptocurrencies actually enabled the entire trip – from A to Z.

It’s also quite a story to tell. I can’t wait to talk to my family about the amazing adventures we’ve had in Rome, from the incredible food to the gorgeous Colosseum. Though the thing I’m most looking forward to is seeing their faces when saying that I did it all without spending a single Dollar or Euro. That’ll give a nice little table topic during Thanksgiving.

In the end, there may have been some challenges like exactly how these transactions work or the research it took to make this trip happen, but I’d say they are outweighed by the advantages. Saving money on exchange rates was great, but for me the real game changer was having complete control over my own money. I had the freedom to do with it whatever I wanted, rather than being limited in my choice. On top, the experience of paying with cryptocurrencies kind of made me feel like a pioneer of this new technology, discovering this brand-new form of payment. And as for those challenges: who knows where we’ll be in the next five years? They certainly have gained a lot of popularity and an increasing amount of use-cases. For all we know, they might become the new Visa or PayPal.

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