4,400 miles across the country on zero U.S. dollars. (Thinkstock)
Each June, John Bush packs up his family truckster (a Honda Odyssey) and drives with his wife, Catherine Bleish, and two young children from San Marcos, Texas, to the Porcupine Freedom Festival in Lancaster, New Hampshire.
This year, Bush decided to do things a little differently. As an experiment, the Bush family is trying to use nothing but bitcoin, the digital currency, to pay for everything on the road, including hotels, meals, gas, and even tips at hotels.
“We’ve been into bitcoin heavily for about six months, and we thought this would be a good opportunity to use travel to inspire people about the practical uses of bitcoin,” Bush said.
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Bush, who uses Blockchain as his virtual bitcoin wallet, detailed for me the trials and tribulations of taking a road trip using a currency that has yet to reach mass-market acceptance.
The Bush family will find creative ways to travel, eat, and sleep without using dollar bills. (Catherine Bleish)
So far on their nine-day journey, the family has managed to use bitcoin for absolutely everything except for paying for the toll roads in New York.
“We probably could have mapped around them, but it got really late,” Bush said.
The family will spend about $6,000 total over the course of the trip. Traveling on bitcoin alone requires a lot of advance planning and some creative hacks. Here’s how they’re paying for things:
Gas: The family thought that gas would be the biggest hurdle, until they found a service called CoinFueled.com. You send them bitcoin, and then two weeks later the service sends you gift cards for specific gas stations. This meant the family had to map out the entire trip (gas stations included) in advance. On the way up, there were a lot of ExxonMobil stations, and on the trip back they found a lot of BPs, so they had two different kinds of cards delivered before they left.
CoinFuel allowed the family to pay for gas using bitcoin. (Catherine Bleish)
Bush and family hit a small snag in Asheville, North Carolina, when he says Coinbase took an additional 30 minutes to process his purchase.
“By then the hotel had sold out of the room we reserved, and all that was left were smoking rooms,” Bush said. After hopping on the horn with Expedia, the family was able to find a new room.
They will be trying to book hotels using CheapAir.com (also accepting bitcoin) in the coming weeks.
Booking hotels has been surprisingly easy during the trip. (Catherine Bleish)
At the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C., Bush was worried about how he would tip the bellhops. He circumvented the roadblock by borrowing three singles from his friend and then reimbursing him through his bitcoin app.
In New York, the family stayed at the Holiday Inn in Park Slope, which is part of a pilot program of hotels accepting bitcoin that was created by entrepreneur Charlie Shrem.
Food: Gyft came in handy once again to buy gift cards at a number of chain restaurants along the road. Bush says he’s able to order Gyft cards about as quickly as it takes the server to bring the check.
For snacks, they have been purchasing a lot of Whole Foods gift cards from the service.
Both the tray and the flaxseed cookies were purchased using bitcoin. (Catherine Bleish)
The family also searched CoinMap.org to find restaurants that accept bitcoin. In Washington, D.C., they discovered the restaurant Thomas Foolery, and in Brooklyn they were presented with a plethora of options close to their hotel, including Lean Crust and Oxford Kitchen.
Bush found this D.C. restaurant on CoinMap. (Catherine Bleish)
Their most sinful stop on the trip so far, according to Bush, was a meal at Cracker Barrel.
At the end of the day, even though the trip has had its pitfalls, Bush, whose family is working on a reality TV show called Sovereign Living, has been pleasantly surprised by just how possible the entire thing has been. He hopes it will become even more possible by the time the family makes this 4,400-mile trip next year.
“Every year more and more businesses are catching on,” Bush said. “I really feel like this whole thing is just going to get exponentially easier.”
You can follow their live blog over at www.uncoinventional.com.