Residing on Bitcoin for a Week in San Francisco


After I determined, perhaps towards my higher judgement, to dwell on bitcoin for every week, the plan was met by a mix of cautions and jokes from buddies and family members: “Simply don’t starve,” “Effectively, it’s the New Yr, an ideal time to begin a brand new weight-reduction plan,” “Will you have the ability to eat?”, “Have you ever actually thought of it?”

I had “actually” thought of it and it appeared not solely wise however mandatory. Nakamoto’s white paper calls Bitcoin an “Digital Money System,” and I hadn’t confused the cryptocurrency’s utility as an precise methodology of cost.

My experiment would probably validate the sturdy opinions of skeptics (to whom bitcoin is both some nebulous rip-off at its worst or an outrageously valued trinket for prodigal hobbyists at its finest) and that camp of maximalists who imagine that bitcoin isn’t and by no means was digital money.

It’s an issue that Kashmir Hill bumped into when she did her personal experiments, extra so in 2013 than 2014. In 2013, her ultimate conclusion was that she had “survived” the week, however by 2014, she had herself a ball spending bitcoin. She went from conquering San Francisco’s hilly panorama on foot and bike in 2013 (and the occasional, easy pleasure of pizza and cupcakes) to the luxurious of Uber rides, wine excursions and even a strip membership go to only a yr later.

She did nicely for herself the second go at it. I would like to have the ability to do even higher.

That as my mindset going into my very own model of the experiment, selecting up 5 years later from the place Hill had left off. If she survived on her first try, then I rattling nicely ought to have the ability to thrive, I believed, going into it.

Boy, was I useless improper.

A day or two in was all it might take to interrupt this expectation as I quickly discovered that my expertise can be not like both of Hill’s. I anticipated nice service provider adoption and with it a higher number of providers by which to make use of my bitcoin. I believed I used to be strolling right into a extra vibrant Bitcoin scene than half a decade in the past, a chance wealthy with methods I might offload my coin.

As an alternative, I discovered (a minimum of in San Francisco) that fewer retailers take bitcoin now than they did earlier than and that the Bay space’s Bitcoin group, excepting these nonetheless lively in it, had receded into altcoin enthusiasm and the flowering business of “blockchain not Bitcoin” that had change into the brand new darling of tech VCs and entrepreneurs.

These nonetheless concerned in the neighborhood took care of me although, and the week was simply as simple or as tough as I needed to make it.


Living on Bitcoin Day 1: “That’s Not Going to Work”

I got down to dwell on bitcoin for every week in San Francisco.

Living On Bitcoin Day 2: Being “Unbanked” Has Been Easy … But Also Hard

On Day 2 of dwelling on bitcoin experiment in San Francisco, I'm going on the hunt for some bitcoin-friendly eateries.

Living on Bitcoin Day 3: Brother, Can You Take a Sat?

I desperately comb the streets of San Francisco, hoping to seek out somebody — anybody — who will settle for cost in bitcoin on Day three of my experiment.

Living on Bitcoin Day 4: The Uphill Climb

Residing on bitcoin has been a little bit of an uphill battle. On Day 4, I check out some present card choices and transfer into the Crypto Fort.

Living on Bitcoin Day 5: An In-Store Buy At Last (Spoiler: It’s Pot-Related)

I lastly make a point-of-sale buy with bitcoin, hunt for Coinbase’s headquarters and chat with a younger entrepreneur.

Living on Bitcoin Day 6: An Artist, a Dev and a Moon Boy Walk Into a Bar…

I proceed my San Francisco experiment, spending bitcoin and attending a meetup in a crypto-friendly bar with some nice, various firm.

Living on Bitcoin Day 7: A Supposedly Fun Thing I’d Definitely Do Again

I lastly wrap up my week of dwelling on bitcoin in San Francisco with visits to 20 Mission and bitcoin artist cryptograffiti. However first, I’ll need to survive a storm out on the Bay.


Saying that I thrived whereas on bitcoin can be pushing it, however saying that I survived can be an embellishment.

So I’ll put it one other manner: I subsisted. Plain and easy, I bought by with out shopping for right into a strip membership’s tit-for-tat (tit-for-bit?) or splurging on a high-dollar meal like Kashmir Hill did in 2014 (although I might try this right here in Nashville, dropping fats sats for a meal at Flyte). Positive, the drinks at Stookey’s weren’t low cost, however they weren’t a bottle of Dom both. I bought by with out even shopping for a meal from a service provider throughout my journey, counting on bitcoin-bought Uber Eats credit score and buddies to maintain me fed.

My expertise was each anticlimactic and blindsiding. I might have carried out it wherever, one thing that I describe within the write-ups as fascinating and irritating on the identical time. I didn’t want San Francisco to spend my bitcoin (a metropolis that, the week made fairly clear, didn’t actually need my bitcoin). Bitcoin didn’t want the retailers, although, to be helpful; infrastructure, like Paxful and Bitrefill, made it helpful.

Because the collection unfolded on social media, loads of different bitcoin-to-gift-card providers, like Fold App and Bidali, reached out to me on Twitter, reaching for an opportunity at a PR plug (don’t get me improper, although — I respect the hustle). I used what I knew going into the experiment, although out of the three exchanges that I demoed (Paxful, Bitrefill and Gyft), I caught with Bitrefill for its comfort and effectivity.

I most likely ought to have tried a few of the different choices, and I absolutely assist any firm constructing this infrastructure as a result of, with out it, the experiment would have been over by day two (or I'd have needed to swallow the chance of a seven-day quick as I wrestled with how a lot I cared about my journalistic integrity).

So I discovered that this experiment is both too simple or too unimaginable, relying on the way you body it. What else I discovered (in a strictly Silicon Valley context):

  • Most people’s enthusiasm for Bitcoin has been dampened with the market.
  • Curiosity in altcoins and blockchain has, partially, changed this enthusiasm.
  • Due to this curiosity, there’s a minimum of one place (The Boba Tea Store) that accepts a motley of altcoins however not bitcoin.
  • Fewer locations settle for bitcoin now than in 2013–2014.
  • Locations stopped accepting bitcoin both as a result of their cost processors went below or as a result of transaction instances and costs had been outrageous throughout the peak of the 2017 bull run.
  • Transaction instances had been fairly fast and costs weren’t excessive (none of my transactions took over a minute the entire week except I opted for a low payment).
  • Even when service provider adoption has waned, infrastructure utilizing bitcoin to leverage providers (e.g., Bitrefill, Paxful, and so on. for getting present playing cards) has progressed.
  • Bitcoin ATMs aren’t as cool as they sound.
  • Retailers who don’t settle for bitcoin will both be aggravated/amused/confused whenever you ask in the event that they do.
  • An unlucky variety of locations that used to just accept bitcoin don’t exist anymore.
  • You continue to can’t purchase espresso with bitcoin (except you purchase a present card first).
  • Just about all assets for finding bitcoin-accepting venues (like coinmap.org or Edge pockets’s service provider finder) are outdated.
  • Cell wallets are nonetheless too clunky and unreliable for mass adoption.
  • You don’t want a cost processor to do some extent of sale and I want companies would perceive this.
  • Bitcoin OGs are nonetheless round.
  • In the event you determine to dwell on bitcoin for every week, they'll aid you out.
  • You would get hammered on bitcoin in San Francisco with liquor-by-the-drink (or bottle).
  • Bitcoin is (clearly) finest as a retailer of worth.
  • Due to this, it has its faults as a cost methodology, however the group is conscious of those faults.
  • Coinbase has change into a monolithic entity that's onerous to penetrate.
  • This experiment isn't all-encompassing and would play out a lot in a different way elsewhere.

That final level may be a bit foolhardy to make earlier than I really strive it, however I used to be advised on day one by a Czech sales space exhibitor that Prague can be a breeze. Aaron van Wirdum corroborated this declare, including that his house within the Netherlands (particularly Amsterdam and Rotterdam) can be an amazing testing floor for the experiment. Jared Harrell, a group supervisor at Quantstamp and Canadian native, advised me Vancouver can be price visiting whereas pouring reward on the Canadian bitcoin group’s structure and significance (my editor, one other proud bitcoin Canuck, has additionally implored me to have a go at it in Canada).

I’ll get there finally (I hope). I intend to copy this science experiment to get a bigger pattern dimension, and I've a hunch that I’ll get completely different leads to completely different jurisdictions. For now, New York, Canada (Quebec/Ontario), Czech Republic (Prague), Netherlands (Rotterdam/Amsterdam) and the U.Okay. (London) are on my listing of check topics, and, for the brand new experiments, I’ll try a heightened degree of problem for the variables (together with not utilizing Bitrefill, Paxful, Gyft, and so on.).

Latin America is one other place that involves thoughts, most likely the place that finest exemplifies why this experiment is worth it. Because the financial and political conditions in Venezuela worsen, bitcoin’s relevance within the area is on distinguished show, and its utility is infecting neighboring international locations as a diaspora of Venezuelan refugees pours throughout the economically battered nation’s borders.

On the finish of my experiment, I had the privileges of eschewing my bitcoin pockets in favor of my actual one and I used to be elated to get to make use of money (whether or not bodily or digital) once more. For these (and so they’re on the market) dwelling unbanked or below the duress of a faltering financial system, the experiment by no means ends — it’s a wrestle they reckon with day by day.

So I additionally discovered that, over the course of the week, I didn’t must dwell on bitcoin, so the selection to was gratuitous and a bit opportunistic (it gave me one thing fabulous to write down about and has equipped my cocktail-party-conversation reserves with limitless new materials). However I additionally discovered that, if I wanted to, I might dwell on bitcoin, simply as a rising inhabitants of underserviced and financially uncared for residents throughout the globe might proper now.

Bitcoin is financial sovereignty, and this experiment is being stress-tested day by day.

You didn’t want me to indicate and inform you that however that additionally doesn’t imply I received’t do it once more.

In case you have ideas or locations you suppose Colin ought to go to, drop him a line on Twitter (@AsILayHodling) or e mail ([email protected]).

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