Drew Binsky acquired paid to journey the world

It took Drew Binsky 1,458 flights and 1,117 buses and trains to reach his destination of traveling to every country in the world.

And he did it in less than a decade.

CNBC spoke to Binsky nine hours after landing in his last country – Saudi Arabia – about how he funded his 10-year travel frenzy.

Visit any country in the world

According to your balance sheet, you have traveled to 197 countries. How do you define “country”?

You hit me right away with a hard one. It’s very political. The UN has 193 recognized sovereign states. I’ll add four – Kosovo, Palestine, Taiwan and the Vatican. Some of them are observer states of the UN, and they are also the four most recognized of all unrecognized “countries”. I think I am the 250th person to visit any country.

Is there a name for this group?

The “every country” club. It’s a small community and I’m friends with maybe 20 of them. There’s a lot of drama. It’s like, “You haven’t actually been to North Korea because you just went to the border with South Korea.” I don’t get involved in any of this.

You plan to stay in Saudi Arabia for two weeks. How much time did you spend in each country on average?

The average is around a week. There are about 10 countries that I have been in for more than three months, and I have been in Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea, and the Czech Republic for more than six months.

But some of them – Luxembourg, Monaco, Liechtenstein, and a few countries in the middle of South Africa – let you do whatever you want in 24 hours. In the future I plan to stay at least two weeks because you can soak it up so properly.

How do you organize your visits?

It may be shocking to hear, but my plan is not to have a plan. I like to be spontaneous. The best moments in life happen when you step out of your comfort zone and don’t know what will happen next.

I have a unique way of traveling by relying on my social media followers and local friends. They pick me up and show me their country. Most of the time I arrive in a country that I don’t know where to sleep that night.

Binsky said getting visas to places like South Sudan (here) is the hardest part of planning a trip.

Courtesy Drew Binsky

So planning isn’t too difficult?

Getting visas is the biggest challenge. I am very fortunate to have traveled to 160 countries without the need for a visa. But the 40 visas I needed – Iran, Turkmenistan, North Korea, South Sudan, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria – are difficult for political reasons.

Which countries did you save for the end?

I handpicked my last six countries because I’m doing a documentary series and I wanted the last six to be different. This is how we did Ghana, Ecuador, Venezuela, Palau, Jamaica and Saudi Arabia.

Travel during the pandemic

How has the pandemic affected your plans?

In March 2020 I had six countries left that I wanted to visit in twelve weeks. Here we are 18 months later and I’m finally done.

I’ve shoved around 80 Q-tips up my nose in the past 18 months. But I managed to visit 20 countries: Mexico because it was the only country that was open in June 2020, then Egypt, Afghanistan – before the Taliban takeover – Iraq, Dubai, Turkey, Tanzania and the Dominican Republic. It was a fight, but it was fun to fight.

Binsky works while traveling, like here in Myanmar.

Courtesy Drew Binsky

To confirm this, did you visit 20 countries during the pandemic?

Yes, that’s crazy – fourteen have been back visits, plus my last six countries.

Did you get Covid on the way?

I did. I haven’t spoken about it publicly. I took it with me in Iraq, and then in Afghanistan I found that I can’t taste or smell it. I tested negative in Iraq, but they barely stuck the cotton swab up my nose – it was like a fake test. I wasn’t super sick, but I stayed at my hotel for seven nights which was pretty miserable. But I didn’t want to infect anyone.

Earn money on the go

What are your main sources of income?

I started teaching English in Korea. I was making $ 2,000 a month and the apartment was free. I was 22 years old so it was great then.

Then I got a head start on Snapchat in 2015 and was sponsored by a number of brands. I got $ 5,000 for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics to do Snapchat stories. I lived on Snapchat for a whole year. I made $ 30,000, which is a lot if you are a budget conscious backpacker.

I didn’t earn a cent for my first 300 videos.

Drew Binsky

Travel blogger

I also used my travel blog to cut travel costs by working with hostels and low cost airlines. Then I started making videos in 2017. I didn’t earn a cent for my first 300 videos. It was pretty slow.

While living in Bangkok I made a video about this guy making these really good burgers. You pay what you want – there is no price. This video received approximately 7 million views. I’ll never forget when I looked at the receipts and it was $ 10,000. I was like ‘holy crap!’ It was five hours of work.

Well, it turns out that was most of what I made out of a video over the next 18 months. Still, it was a sign that there was a lot of money to be made from ads on Facebook.

Much of Binsky’s style of traveling is based on meeting locals, he said.

Courtesy Drew Binsky

Then I started posting on YouTube, which now ranks between $ 20,000 and $ 40,000 a month. It could be more in a really good month. Facebook is similar.

That sounds like a lot of money, and it’s a lot of money. But now I have a team of about 23 people so I pay a lot of salaries.

Do you have other sources of income?

That’s just advertising revenue. I charge brands I work with between $ 15,000 and $ 30,000 per video. Then there is my merchandise, which is not really profitable. It’s more about growing the community. I also sell travel hacking courses for $ 150 per person. There are many different sources of income.

Do you record your travel expenses meticulously?

No, I don’t nickel myself. It kind of spoils the fun. I’m still pretty frugal. I will not spend money on first class tickets unless I have points. I still eat street food and still sleep in modest hotels. Even if I make ten times as much as I make now, I don’t have to be conspicuous.

Has one of your trips been compensated?

I come out of my own pocket and pay almost everything, except for tourism associations – they cover everything. When I work with a hotel, I usually do a paid sponsorship. If a hotel offers me a really nice room for two nights, I’d rather just pay and not have to post about it.

The ups and downs of travel blogging

What is a memory that you will never forget?

He probably spends 24 hours with the pygmy tribe in the Central African Republic. They are genetically the smallest people in the world. I had to fly to the capital, Bangui, take an eight-hour taxi ride into the middle of nowhere, and walk through the forest for two hours.

On the way we found a local guide. They told me not only had they never seen a white man, they had never seen a non-pygmy either. They had never left their tribe to go into town.

Binsky said he started recording his travels after being given a video camera as a gift a few years ago.

Courtesy Drew Binsky

How about a memory that you would like to forget?

Food poisoning. The worst thing I have ever seen was probably in Yemen. I’ve had poisoning about 30 times. I got really sick in Iran and India too. But I also eat things that I know are risky. At the end of the day, you will only lose 10 pounds and move on.

One of Binsky’s worst food poisoning attacks occurred in Yemen, he said.

Courtesy Drew Binsky

What’s next?

We’re doing a really cool documentary about visiting each country. I have a book and an NFT project that I’m very excited about. I build meetups in different cities around the world. But I don’t want to lose the core of going out and meeting people and inspiring people to travel.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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