Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Life On Bitcoin: An Exclusive Update on how Austin and Beccy are Doing!

Remember the couple we told you about (here) who are attempting to live solely on bitcoins for the first three months of their married life? Well, Austin and Beccy Craig are now two weeks into their life on bitcoin experiment and we thought it was a good time to check in and see how it is all going.  This is what we discovered...

The couple from Provo, Utah have been documenting their bitcoin endeavours on their website and faceboook page and are hoping to turn the whole adventure into a documentary. So how are they coping so far and has the experiment changed the way they think about bitcoin?

Q. So, nearly two weeks into living on bitcoin, can you sum up in one sentence, the experience so far?

- We both knew "Life on Bitcoin" would be challenging, but we've been surprised at the ways it has challenged us.

Q. What has been the most difficult item/service to buy with bitcoin?

- So far, my efforts have been focused on finding a data plan for my cell phone. I'm sure there are other things that are just as difficult to buy on bitcoin, but the cell phone is critical. Kashmir Hill, the Forbes reporter who lived on bitcoin for a week in San Francisco, said "it would have been near impossible without [her] data plan". Without a cell phone, or without a digital interface, it's impossible to demonstrate the digital currency we're using. It also makes coordinating with Beccy, the film crew, and the local businesses I'm meeting with a nightmare. Once the cell phone is in place, I'm hoping things will become a little more manageable. 

Q. Is there anything critically important yet to buy?

- The aforementioned cell phone, and auto insurance. We legally have to have insurance. We've found one agency that will accept bitcoin, but we're trying to find someplace that won't break the bank. Still shopping around.

Q. What have you found to be the easiest thing to purchase with bitcoin?

- Oddly enough, food. We're not starving. La Nay Ferme is a local farm that contacted us before we even got started, and we're picking up produce from them every week. Local restaurants have been receptive, because many of them already have a smart device at the point of sale, plus in restaurant wi-fi. We thought we might starve, but I'm pretty sure I've gained weight.

Q. What has been the most surprising thing that you have found to be able to buy? 

- There are several companies offering gift cards that are usable almost anywhere, so if you're willing to use a go-between, you can buy from virtually any major store or chain. We were also surprised to see that Etsy offers payment options to their vendors to accept bitcoin. That's a site we've known and loved for years, and it's great that their opening up options for the merchants who sell there.

Q. How has trying to live off bitcoin changed the way you live over the past two weeks?

- Compared to before we started, I find myself much more tired at the end of every day. Trying to persuade businesses to accept bitcoin is a lot like sales jobs I've had. There is a lot of emailing, calling, talking to store associates, and trying to find the decision maker and plead the case for bitcoin. And it isn't over when we go home, so in that sense, we don't get any breaks. But maybe I'm tired because I just need to exercise more.

Q. What has the funniest reaction been so far when you have asked if you can pay with bitcoin?

- On our first day, when we were coming back from our honeymoon, we borrowed a phone from somebody on the train to called cab companies for a ride home from the train station. Most just said we can't accept whatever-it-is-you're-talking-about, but one person began to point out what poor decisions I'd made. "You've just come back to the United States, and you don't have any cash? Why didn't you bring any cash? You're not using a credit or debit card? That wasn't very smart, was it? Wouldn't this be easier for you if you used a card? Digital currency is fine for the Internet, but you're in the real world." It was like talking with an uncle who wants to give advice to a confused kid. 

Q. In general, how have people responded to your pleas to take bitcoin?

- In general, people are referencing whatever scant information they have about bitcoin, and they listen with a healthy level of skepticism. But we've found that new business owners are generally more ready to make changes, rather than the business that's been around for decades and have no interest in changing. 

Q. What have you discovered about the bitcoin community during this adventure so far?

- It's a fantastic group to be a part of. They're extremely supportive, smart, and they keep us focused. Feedback on what we should or shouldn't be trying is helpful, and they almost always respond well to communication from us. 

Q. How did family/friends react to your challenge and how much are you relying on them during this time?

- We're trying to not rely on them at all, but that's been one of the unexpected challenges. It's been hard to try to turn away the kind gestures of from people who care about us. We live in a tight knit religious community. Beccy and I have lived here for years, and both have a lot of friends and family here. A few days ago we caught Beccy's parents trying to stock our fridge with groceries while they thought we were gone. We made them promise not to try that anymore, but it's been a funny problem to have, trying to turn away my family, her family, and our friends, who all really want to help. 

Q. You must be having to do a lot of research, travelling and meeting people, what is the most random/funny/interesting mini adventure you have had over the past two weeks?

- Filling up with gas has been the most interesting adventure so far. My truck was getting lower on gas, and so was Beccy's car, but we had enough gas to drive to the Phillips 66 west of Salt Lake International, an hour from where we live in Provo. An employee there, Furb, agreed to help us buy gas at the station. It's at an industrial park way off the beaten path. There weren't many street lights, and we said (only half kidding) that we were going to get mugged. When we found it, we chatted with Furb for a long time about his use and involvement with bitcoin. Great guy, and very representative of what we've seen in the bitcoin community. We filled up the tank on my truck and two extra gas cans, got a much needed car wash, and grabbed as many snacks and grocery items as we could. We weren't sure it was a good idea at first, but it ended up being really fun, and hopefully we'll be back to talk to Furb again soon.

Q. Getting married and then putting yourself under financial strain would be difficult in any relationship - how are you coping and getting on as a couple?

- As a couple, we're great. Beccy is the most supportive woman in the world, and it helps that she's witty and fearless and fun too. I think our individual backgrounds help as well. She's been a small business owner for years, and I've worked in technology, entrepreneurship and marketing for a long time. We're both comfortable with changes and challenges. We wouldn't have gotten into this project if we thought it was a threat to our marriage. We know each other well enough, and have a strong enough relationship, that this won't hurt us. If anything, the hope is that the challenges we face will bring us closer together. 

Q. What are you discovering about yourselves throughout this experiment?

- I'm discovering that I'm not the salesman or techie that I wish I was (both qualities that help a lot).

Q. From what you already knew and your experiences now, do you think bitcoin has a viable future as a successful, global currency?

- I was optimistic about bitcoin from the onset, and I still am. If you looked at the Internet in the early 90s, it would look a lot like bitcoin. The users are technically capable and sometimes culturally fringe. They see the inherent potential of a new technology, a fundamentally different architecture, even if it's years or decades away. We're not even 3 weeks in to Life on Bitcoin, but we've been contacted by bitcoin enthusiasts in South America, Australia, Europe, Asia, and we're planning to contact the active bitcoin community in Africa soon. I'm very bullish on crypto-currency. 

Q. Finally, you are putting bitcoin through its paces here, is it standing up to the test?

- The technology is robust, secure, and totally stands the test. The infrastructure around bitcoin has a long way to go.

Thanks to Austin for taking time out from hunting for bitcoin data plans to talk to us and good luck for the rest of the ride!

By Louise @ Bitscan

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