The Story of Paco de la India and His Bitcoin-Fueled Adventure
Our lead writer Jackson Rickun interviewed Paco de La India about his experience traveling the world with only Bitcoin. From couch-surfing to crowdfunding, read about his relentless curiosity and passion for travel as he finishes his goal of visiting 40 countries.
Paco de la India, a traveler and avid couch-surfer, has been on a journey to travel the world using only Bitcoin. His story started in 2013 when he said a compelling air of wanderlust had taken hold of him, which is when he began a journey of couch surfing and exploring the world.
But wanderlust doesn't even begin to describe his passion for travel; for him, it's more the stuff of relentless curiosity, an eagerness to suck the marrow from every experience, learn, understand, and live without limits.
Paco speaks with unbridled, hyperactive enthusiasm. He waxes poetic with torrents of ideas that all seem to pour out of him at once. And it's understandable — travel has been his lifeblood for over ten years. He's couch-surfed with over 400 families, forged deep connections with people from all walks of life, and gained an invaluable understanding of the world.
I spoke with Paco in early January of 2023, when he was well into his journey, having visited 25 countries — a feat he achieved by crowdfunding his entire journey using only Bitcoin. His journey with Bitcoin began in 2021 when a friend introduced him to the world of Bitcoin and the concept of crowdfunding his travels. He remembers it fondly. On a full-moon night in August 2021, a friend gave Paco the book, "The Bitcoin Standard," by Saifedean Ammous, and suggested he marry his passion for travel with the power of Bitcoin.
It was a ludicrous request, and Paco wasn't immediately sold on the idea. That was until he actually read the book. Then, it suddenly all made sense.
"I read the book, and I was just blown away," he said.
Within three days, Paco was on board. In the following 21 days, Paco connected with as many people as possible, sending over 1000 direct messages on Twitter, asking for advice and guidance as he put together his plan. Paco said he received about 45 responses out of those thousand, which was more than enough to get him started. His love for running led him to the idea of creating a Twitter handle, @RunWithBitcoin, where he would run in every city he traveled to, promoting the use of Bitcoin as a means of financial support.
He said the goal was to visit 40 countries, a somewhat random selection, as he wasn't sure what response he'd initially receive. So he sold his furniture for $200 worth of Bitcoin and set out on his journey on September 17th, 2022.
"At one meetup, somebody gave me $200. At another, somebody gave me $500. And then $1,000. Things just picked up, and I started traveling," he said.
As he traveled, he was met with support from various sources, both financial aid and the kindness of strangers. The entire journey was crowdfunded with the support of companies like Bitrefill and Liminal, but mostly through the generosity of random individuals. By the time he reached South Africa, his 25th country, he had hosted 68 Bitcoin meetups, opened over 3000 wallets, and assisted over 100 businesses in accepting Bitcoin as payment.
But Paco's journey hasn't been without its challenges. He has faced bear markets, harsh weather, and a global pandemic. Despite these odds, Paco said he has managed to stay afloat, thanks to the support of the Bitcoin community who have come to his aid during his travels. When he was in the Central African Republic, someone sent him $2,000 to help him continue his journey.
"I was mugged in Johannesburg, and the guy took away my phone and money. And in two hours, the community got me a new phone. Let's go back to another week ago. I was running, and my GoPro fell down from my back pocket. But in 24 hours, A pleb got me another new GoPro," he said.
But even with his run-ins with bad luck, Paco said that he has been able to continue his journey, helping people learn about Bitcoin and how it can be used as a means of financial support. No matter the obstacle, he said that he always finds a way forward.
"When that happens, I feel this journey is destiny. Because Bitcoin has come out of nowhere, it feels like there's this magic Satoshi cloak that is guiding this journey because the bigger purpose is just showing people that Bitcoin is money," he said.
As the world hurtles towards a digital future, where the movement of money and people grows increasingly restricted, Bitcoin holds enormous promise. Paco said that, through his travels, he saw how it can bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds, providing a means for people to move value freely and quickly, regardless of class, religion, or color.
For many in Africa, the impact of Bitcoin has been nothing short of transformative. In countries plagued by inflation and devaluation, such as Zimbabwe and Zambia, Paco saw firsthand how people spend hours waiting in line just to access their own money loved ones sent from abroad. However, Bitcoin can bypass these obstacles, enabling people to move money with ease and speed.
"There's a saying here: Satoshi is black. Africa needs it. Bitcoin was made for Africa because you're unable to move money. And I really see Africa spearheading the adoption," he said.
However, Paco said these capabilities are lost on the West. He said that the West's conception of Bitcoin comes from privilege, evidenced by how they view it as a means of financial gain — prices "going to the moon" — without considering the positive impact it can have on people living in the Global South. The focus on profit and investment blinds them to the true potential of Bitcoin as a tool for financial inclusion and economic empowerment.
"You know, the West has been blessed. America is and Europe is, and they see it as an asset class, an investment. But in the Global South, it's a way of moving money," he said.
The critique of the ecological ramifications of Bitcoin mining often neglects how it has the potential to grant access to financial services to marginalized and disenfranchised populations. Financially privileged countries don't have to think about access to banking because the infrastructure is already in place. For those in countries where access to financial services is restricted, Bitcoin can be a way to gain access to the same services that would otherwise be inaccessible. For example, Paco has personally seen how Bitcoin can facilitate international remittances and provide a lifeline to many people in poverty.
Paco's journey is far from over. He's visited 25 countries and said he has 15 remaining. The last leg of his travels will find him couch-surfing Latin America, working his way from Mexico and Trinidad to Tobago, Jamaica, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.
Paco's journey is a testament to his resilience and determination. He has used Bitcoin to travel to 40 countries, and he is determined to keep going to prove that Bitcoin is a viable currency. He wants to spread the message that Bitcoin is money, regardless of a person's race, religion, or class. He believes that by using Bitcoin, we can help bridge the gap between the West and the Global South and demonstrate the power of Bitcoin to those who may not have access to traditional financial systems.
Paco said he’s experienced the power of community and the impact of Bitcoin as a means of travel and financial support, and he hopes to continue spreading awareness about this revolutionary technology's potential.
As his journeys conclude, Paco said he hopes to continue to inspire others. Paco's journey isn't just about traveling the world; it’s about spreading the message of financial freedom and empowerment through Bitcoin. While Paco enjoys seeing the world, he said spreading that message is what's most fulfilling.
"I don't know, man. I cannot put it into words, but it's like I was supposed to do this. I'm alive. My health is good. And I'm still pushing," he said.
Although his travels will soon end, it seems Paco's journey with Bitcoin is just the beginning.