Lately over the past few months I’ve been noticing a disturbing alarming trend on the internet from people who have embarked on long-term journeys on a bicycle (and I’m sure this is occurring with other methods of movement). It’s becoming more frequent, and I felt it was time to stand up and voice my opinion publicly in an attempt to open some discussion with others. I call it Digital Panhandling. Surely this is going to cause some commotion, but what do I have to lose?
Services like Indiegogo, Kickstarter, GoFundme are sites setup for inventors, idea makers, product designers, to use as a mechanism to gauge interest on a tangible project/object, offering interested parties to “Back” the project by providing payment hereby showing their support. They call this crowd-funding, and some amazing products by independent designers have had their chance to make it to the market, giving customers and tech seekers alternate products offered by the major dominating corporations. We’ve seen museums been built to honour the late Nikola Tesla, Computer games, and then there is even projects for hungry bicycle tourists wanting to cook delicious recipes. Obviously Crowd funding works. People want to back new and wild ideas and it’s more often than not the initial fund target are well met, and sometimes doubled, tripled and then some. If you have an idea, try it out!
Here’s where it gets weird. Some (no names required, I don’t want to single anyone out) bicycle tourists have been using this service as a mechanism to support and fund their bicycle trip. OK – great, You have a huge following, and you’ve decided to embark on a long journey. If you are raising money for a cause, fantastic – Your readers should expect to see some sort of financials and proof that the money collected is going to the intended destination. I’ve got no issues with that sort of thing, I’ve crowd funded even on this website in the past, but won’t do it again for reasons I’d care not to discuss at this time. What I’m talking about are ones who are not providing anything in return other than a thanks to help them live the dream by riding a bicycle long distances, staying in hotels, eating food, and drinking beer. What’s going on here?
First off – If you are setting off on a long journey, and you don’t have the money to do so in the first place – have you thought long and hard about your idea? Bicycle Touring is hard work, you need to put a lot of food in you, invest in a significant amount of equipment and be ready for anything to come at you, most of the time this needs money. In 2009, I planned that I would need on average $15 USD a day to make it around the world, over the course of three years. Well, I’m well past the three-year mark, and my estimations are still pretty on track. You can visit my Statistics page and see just how much I’m spending (even though some of these numbers are skewed, as I refused to note how much money I was spending on cigars and cigarettes). But definitely, am on track due to careful monitoring of my funds and budget. Living cheaply, spending time with locals, using hospitality networks for lodging, and sleeping in the bush has drastically kept my expenses down. Yeah, it’s a lifestyle change, and it takes work to keep it together, but isn’t what we signed up for? But still, I’ve even asked for help when I’ve needed it – I’m trying to keep my costs down and look into alternate solutions to get parts and products to and from different parts of the world, as the shipping costs equate to a full 2 months of bicycle touring. Something I can’t justify, being the penny pincher that I am. If it gets to that point where there is no option but deal with those high shipping prices, I guess that’s something I’m going to have to swallow eventually, but it doesn’t hurt to try to put some effort into finding contacts who may be able to assist. I’m not saying that what I’m doing is write, especially when you read the end of this and find out that I’ve got my own mechanism in place here.
My issue is those who have “exhausted all other avenues of income generation” and turn to crowd funding to support their lifestyle. The funds requested are huge, some in the 5 figures, yet seem to be bringing in backers daily to realize their dream. It’s great that people want to help, but it’s certainly not doing anything good for the reputation of long-term bicycle tourists who saved their money, sold their possessions, and budgeted along the way to make sure the trip was going to finish. I’ve seen it first hand, when setting forth on an epic journey with another traveler. When faced with a minor meltdown, I watched an online pouting session to fund the replacements, when so early on in the trip they had more than enough funds in order to repair it in the first place. I let them go on their own the next day.
Here’s an avenue, go back home and live with your parents (no matter how old you are) and work for 1 year – See how much money you have saved throughout that year and recommence the journey. Another bit of advice – It’s really not that hard to make money while on the road. Meeting people along the way who need help doesn’t need to be always about currency. Write reviews on your website of your gear, and create partnerships with various manufacturers and retailers so then when you blow a tire you can get it at a cheaper cost. Trade some labour/skills for food/water/lodging. It’s easier to the person requiring as it’s something they already had in the first place, and both parties feel satisfied that an effort was put forth to assist some ones needs. Offering the opportunity to one of your “backers” the ability to come riding with you and ‘become a part of the journey’. $600 dollars to take someone around on a bicycle for two days with their own gear is about $600 too much. Bring them along for free – let them discover the joys of bicycle touring without having to feel like it’s a high-priced ticket to the upper echelon of the elite. We’re guys (and gals) who like being outdoors, crave adventure, and enjoy challenges. Not superstars.
A can of jam, a spreadsheet chronicling how big your muscles changed,nor a postcard does not equate to a tangible product to support an extra long vacation/self centered adventure, and I’ve become quite bitter at the fact that it’s being used this way over and over again, repeatedly. I can’t tell you to not support them, as that’s your own perogative. But it certainly doesn’t mesh well into my mechanics and upbringing, where I had to bust my ass as early as 8 years old to get what I wanted.. Write a book, sell a calendar, sell your photos, for gosh sake put some effort into it. What’s happening now is no better than someone sitting on the side of the road with a cardboard sign looking morose and hoping to capitalize from pity alone. I fail to see where those who left careers from working in IT (what’s that a minimum of $40,000 all the way to over $100,000 a year), working as doctors (*cough* six figure salaries anyone?), artists, photographers, and inventors (all make their own respective set of income based on the amount of effort put forth) have really messed up that badly and don’t have any money to put food in their guts.
The problem is, is that these cries for help are working, and I think this is only going to get worse. This spoiled way of travel is going to become more popular, with those who think they are greater than oneself ‘truly changing the world’ by going on a bike ride. It’s not that hard. It’s ridiculous, in insult to those who know how to plan, budget, and know when to admit defeat, or at least put things on pause, in order to realign priorities and finances without having to be some sort of cheap bum pretending that it’s a matter of life or death if you don’t get to your destination. Give it a rest?
Ironically, I’ve got a donate button hidden away on this site. I battled back and forth in August of 2011 if I should put it online after repeated pestering from friends. Am I pushing it hard and in your face, no, not so much. Do I make anything from it? A couple bucks a month, where it goes directly into a beer fund, and I send the donator a gift, a thanks, or a copy of a product I’ve created. I don’t need the money, So should I still keep it up? Am I just throwing myself into the same category with the “like the blog, buy me a beer” to the “Fund my Vacation?” Am I too harsh on this?? Am I just jealous that I didn’t think or this master plan to pad a bank account before anyone else did? I’d love to hear your comments. You’ll decide the fate of where this is going in the future.