Provo couple to travel world using only virtual currency

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PROVO — A newlywed couple in Provo, who is living on virtual currency called Bitcoin, will take their social experiment around the world without cash.

Beccy and Austin Craig have been filming their lives for the first three months of their marriage while they live on Bitcoin for a documentary.

"I have become extremely sold on it as a solid, stable platform for money," said Austin Craig about Bitcoin.

The couple started shooting "Life on Bitcoin" shortly after they were married in July, but they started partially using the cryptocurrency in June. Now they've lived two months of life exclusively on Bitcoin at selected restaurants, grocers and gas stations in Utah County with merchants willing to take payment in the virtual currency.

The Craigs said that at first, buying gasoline was the biggest challenge. Each week they drove more than 50 miles to a gas station west of Salt Lake International Airport because the manager was willing to work with bitcoins.

They subsequently found a station owner in Provo who was willing to dabble in the new currency.

They exchange paychecks for bitcoins on an Internet marketplace, but it's not the same as carrying good old American greenbacks or their favorite plastic.

"We're a little limited, but we're fine," Beccy said. "We could keep eating at the places that we are eating at and keep shopping at the places we are shopping at and be okay."

Bitcoin is the first decentralized, peer-to-peer digital currency and are kept in an "online wallet."

Tuesday afternoon, one bitcoin was worth $123, which has increased 20 percent in three months.

I have become extremely sold on it as a solid, stable platform for money.

–Austin Craig, bitcoin user

"This is not really a bitcoin," Austin said as he referred to a golden-colored coin slightly larger than a quarter. "But this is an easy way to envision it and understand it by my saying there's a code on here that's valuable for half a bit coin."

Bitcoin is a virtual currency so the coins are not real currency. However, Austin said it can carry a code for a Bitcoin wallet that does hold virtual bitcoins that some retailers and individuals around the world will accept.

In Utah county, they have quickly learned how to live their lives on the virtual currency. A local food pantry accepts Bitcoin, and they bought a share of food from a farm and they receive some of their income in bitcoins.

The Craigs will test the principal of currency when they begin roadtripping across the county Saturday.

"I'm nervous about food," Beccy said. "As soon as we leave Utah County, we are starting over, we don't have food."

The couple is driving to New York, where they've already been in touch with what they describe "an active Bitcoin community." They also plan to meet with a couple of legislators interested in how the currency works from a government standpoint, and what kind of regulation might be necessary.

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"Each of these places that we're going to are places where people reached out to us to say, 'Hi, I'm a Bitcoin enthusiast, I'm a Bitcoin entrepreneur, I'm someone who believes in Bitcoin.' "

The Craigs will then fly to Stockholm, Sweden, with tickets purchased from a German travel agent that deals in Bitcoin. In Sweden, they will visit a company that makes Bitcoin mining machines, which are computers that manage the system rather than mining any physical coins.

"It's reached a point in the Bitcoin economy where people are building special computers for this, that anybody can buy, and anybody can run at home, and they are making money from the network by maintaining security," Austin said.

During their travel, the Craigs expect to discover more businesses using Bitcoin, and they'll continue to negotiate with those that don't. When they return home, the Craigs plan to end their experiment of living only on bitcoins.

"I'm super excited to go back to good old American currency, just for its convenience," Beccy said. But, the Craigs said they believe in Bitcoin and plan to make it part of their financial future.


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Jed Boal


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