Drew Binski was paid to travel the world

It took Drew Binski 1458 flights, 1117 buses and trains to reach his goal of traveling all over the world.

And he did it in less than ten years.

CNBC spoke to Binski nine hours after he landed in his last country – Saudi Arabia – about how he financed his 10-year journey.

Visiting every country in the world

By your count, you have visited 197 countries. How do you define “country”?

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

Is there a name for this group?

Every country club. This is a small community and I am friends with about 20 of them. There’s a lot of drama there. It’s like, “You haven’t really been to North Korea because you just got to the border with South Korea.” I don’t get involved in all this.

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

On average, about a week. I spent over three months in about 10 countries, and over six months in Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea and the Czech Republic.

But some of them – Luxembourg, Monaco, Liechtenstein and there are a couple of countries in the heart of South Africa – you can walk in and do whatever you want in 24 hours. In the future, I plan to stay at least two weeks, because you can really get through it.

How do you organize your visits?

It may be shocking, but I have no plan. I really 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: I rely on my social media followers and local friends. They pick me up and show their country. Most of the time I come to the country, I don’t know where I sleep that night.

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

Courtesy of Drew Binsky.

So planning isn’t that hard?

Getting a visa is the biggest challenge. I am very lucky to have visited 160 countries without 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 have you saved for the end?

I chose the last six countries because I’m filming a documentary series and I wanted the last six to be different. This is what we did in Ghana, Ecuador, Venezuela, Palau, Jamaica and Saudi Arabia.

Travel during a pandemic

How has the pandemic affected your plans?

In March 2020, I have six countries left that I planned to visit in twelve weeks. So 18 months have passed, and I finally finished.

Over the past 18 months, about 80 cotton tips have been stuck in my nose. But I managed to visit 20 countries: Mexico, because they were the only country opened in June 2020, then Egypt, Afghanistan (before the Taliban came to power) – Iraq, Dubai, Turkey, Tanzania and the Dominican Republic. It was a battle, but it was fun to fight.

Binski works while traveling, as he does here in Myanmar.

Courtesy of Drew Binsky.

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

Yes, it’s crazy – fourteen were return visits, plus my last six countries.

Did you catch Covid along the way?

I did. I have not spoken about this publicly. I bought it in Iraq, and then in Afghanistan I realized that I do not smell or taste. In Iraq, I tested negative but had difficulty inserting a Q-tip – it looked like a fake test. I was not very sick, but stayed in my hotel for seven nights, which was quite a shame. But I didn’t want to infect anyone.

Earnings on the road

What are your main sources of income?

I started teaching English in Korea. I was making $ 2,000 a month and the accommodation was free. I was 22 years old, at the time it was cool.

Then in 2015, I got a head start on Snapchat and was sponsored by a bunch of brands. I was paid $ 5,000 to travel to the Rio Olympics to write Snapchat stories. For a whole year, I’ve been making a living on Snapchat. I made $ 30,000, which is a lot for a budget traveler.

My first 300 videos, I didn’t make a dime.

Drew Binsky

Travel blogger

I also used my travel blog to cut down on travel costs by working with hostels and low cost airlines. Then in 2017 I started filming video. My first 300 videos, I didn’t make a dime. It was pretty slow.

While I was living in Bangkok I did video about this guy making these really nice burgers… You pay what you want – there is no price. This video has received about 7 million views. I will never forget looking at the profit and there was $ 10,000 in there. I thought, “Oh shit!” It was five hours of work.

Well, it turns out to be the best thing I’ve done from any video in the next 18 months. However, it was a sign that a lot of money could be made from Facebook ads.

Much of Binski’s travel style depends on meeting locals, he said.

Courtesy of Drew Binsky.

Then I started posting on YouTube, which now ranges from $ 20,000 to $ 40,000 per month. There could have been more in a really good month. Facebook is similar.

It looks like big money, and this is much money. But now I have about 23 people in my team, so I pay a big salary.

Do you have other sources of income?

This is just ad revenue. I charge the brands I work with between $ 15,000 and $ 30,000 per video. Then there are my products, which are actually not that profitable. It’s more for community growth. I also sell travel hacking courses for $ 150 apiece. There are many different sources of income.

Do you record your travel expenses carefully?

No, I myself am not a nickel and not a dime. It kind of spoils the pleasure. I’m still pretty humble. I’m not going to waste money on first class tickets if I don’t have points. I still eat street food and sleep in humble hotels. Even if I make 10 times what I do now, I don’t have to be flashy.

Do you have any of your travels?

I go out of my pocket and pay for almost everything except the tourism commissions – they cover everything. Usually, when I work with a hotel, I do paid sponsorship. If a hotel offers me a really nice room for two nights, I would rather just pay for it and not write about it.

The Ups and Downs of Travel Blogging

What memory will you never forget?

He probably spends 24 hours with a pygmy tribe in the Central African Republic. They are genetically the lowest human beings in the world. I had to fly to the capital Bangui, take an eight-hour taxi ride off the beaten track, and walk two hours through the woods.

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

Binsky said he began recording his travels after receiving a video camera as a gift a few years ago.

Courtesy of Drew Binsky.

How about memories you wish you could forget?

Food poisoning. Probably the worst thing I had was in Yemen. I’ve been poisoned about 30 times. I became seriously ill both in Iran and in India. But I also eat what I know is risky. At the end of the day, you just lose 10 pounds and move on.

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

Courtesy of Drew Binsky.

What’s next?

We make really cool TV shows about visiting every country. I will soon have a book and an NFT project that I am very excited about. I hold meetings in different cities around the world. But I don’t want to lose the meaning of going there, meeting people and inspiring people to travel.

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

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