Live on Bitcoin in Japan for 30 days series #1 - How the GFC and high banking fees led me to attempt this project.
The leadup to the Global Financial Crisis
It was December 2008 and I was about to embark on my first real adventure, which was to ride a motorcycle from Santiago de Chile to the USA. I had spent 2 years saving for my trip and within 2 months of my departure date my savings had shaved off 30% of their value in the fallout from the 2008 global financial crisis. Australia was one of the better countries to live in during this time due to their strict banking regulation however there was much uncertainty about whether or not the banks freeze funds (eventually this did occur - but thankfully I was unaffected).
Crossing the Chile/Argentina border on my motorbike
Running through my mind was how do I protect myself against this? Do I buy gold for emergency and carry it with me in case I get locked out of my funds? I was already quite fearful about riding a motorcycle around South America due to the many lies I was told prior to my departure let alone doing it with a pocket full of gold. Eventually I chose another route, using Travelex cards to store an emergency fund in case I became locked out of my other cash. Not perfect but at least offering some amount of hedged protection.
The bank charging me $20 per withdrawal and a ridiculous conversion fee
In 2015 I landed in Bogota, Colombia with the intention of becoming a fully independent freelancer. I left in a bit of a hurry and didn't scope out the best banking solution for international transactions. Before I knew it I was being raped at the ATM in the form of fees. This is initially what led me to Bitcoin, as I was paying a ridiculous amount to the bank for basically nothing, as described in this old post of mine.
Bogota, Colombia where I had established myself as an independent freelancer
Here's a small breakdown of how I was being pillaged by the bank taken from my analysis in the above Upwork link:
I'm a digital nomad. I can't open a local bank account because I'm not a citizen. My money goes from Upwork wire transfer -> My home country bank account -> Foreign ATM in my current country. This assumes the following: Bank currency selling rate: (based on yesterday's withdrawal): 68c Bank currency buying rate: 76c. Let's say I transfer $700USD Cost of wire transfer: $30USD Cost of ATM withdrawals for $700USD: $30USD Total loss on currency conversion: $35. Total loss on withdrawals: $95
So for every $700 I was out of pocket $95, this was a staggering 13% of my freelancer income going directly into the banks pocket.
This had me thinking
Have you ever wondered if it would possible to travel somewhere, while doing all bartering with Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies? No currency conversion, wire transfer or VISA/Mastercard fees, no worrying whether the ATM will/will not accept your card, no spending half a day to line up at the ATM (looking at you Argentina!). No getting ripped off by the currency exchanges at the airport, no calculating exchange rates every day, no large amounts of cash at risk of being confiscated. Sounds perfect right?
Why was Japan selected for this project?
Japan is one of the worlds leading crypto-countries (I'm coining this phrase!!!). Japan recognizes Bitcoin as an official currency, and they are even launching their own national crypto-currency J-Coin. Japan is in the midst of a huge Bitcoin PoS (Point-of-sale) roll-out, with Bitcoin due to be accepted in 260,000+ stores. It is a country that is completely foreign to me and I don't speak the language but Bitcoin is universal and this will prove it.
I've just purchased our plane tickets with Bitcoin (I'll blog about this in my next post) and we're due to depart in just over a month.
We have a lot of planning to do in the meantime, be sure to follow as we share everything that we learn on this rollercoaster of an adventure.