Drew Binsky got paid to travel the world
Drew Binsky was able to travel to all countries by taking 1,458 planes and 1,117 bus and train rides.
It took him less than a decade.
CNBC spoke with Binsky nine hours after he touched down in his last country — Saudi Arabia — about how he financed his 10-year travel spree.
You’ve visited 197 countries according to your records. Which country do you think is the best?
Right away, you’re coming at me with a very hard truth. This is very political. It has 193 countries recognized by the U.N. I add four to that — Kosovo, Palestine, Taiwan and Vatican. These are the U.N. observer countries and are the most well-recognized of all unrecognized countries. It seems like I am the 250th person ever to have visited every country.
Do you have a name to describe this group?
Club “everycountry”. It is small and only about 20 members of the club are my friends. There is a lot to it. This is like saying, “You really haven’t been to North Korea since you only visited the South Korean border.” It’s not something I want to be involved with.
Your plan is to visit Saudi Arabia for two week. Which country did you spend the longest time in?
On average, it takes about one week. A total of 10 countries were visited by me more frequently than I did in the previous three years. In addition, I was able to visit Vietnam, Thailand, South Korea, South Korea, Vietnam, Philippines and South Korea for more than six months.
But some of them — Luxembourg, Monaco, Liechtenstein, and there’s a couple of countries in the middle of South Africa — you can go in and do everything you want to do in 24 hours. Because you really can soak it all, I’m planning to stay at least two weeks in the future.
What are your tips for organizing your visitors?
This may sound shocking but I have no plans. Being spontaneous is what I love. It’s when you are willing to step outside of your comfort zones and don’t know what the next thing will bring you.
Because I am reliant on local friends and my social media followers, I have an unusual way to travel. I am picked up by them and shown my country. Most nights, I am not sure where I will be sleeping the night I get there.
Binsky stated that getting visas for places like South Sudan is one of the most difficult parts of travel planning.
It’s not difficult to plan.
The single most difficult task is getting visas. It was a blessing to be able to travel in 160 different countries, without the need for a visa. But the 40 visas that I needed — Iran, Turkmenistan, North Korea, South Sudan, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria — they’re hard for political reasons.
How many countries were you able to save up for the last?
Since I was shooting a series, I selected six countries that I would like to see. We did Ghana, Ecuador and Venezuela.
What did the pandemic do to your plans?
Six countries were left by me in March 2020. I was planning to travel there in twelve weeks. Now, 18 months have passed and I’m finally done.
Over the past 18 months, I have had approximately 80 Q-tips pushed up my nose. But I did manage to visit 20 countries: Mexico because they were the only country open in June 2020, then Egypt, Afghanistan — pre-Taliban takeover — Iraq, Dubai, Turkey, Tanzania and Dominican Republic. While it’s been hard work, the battle was enjoyable.
Binsky travels while working, as shown here in Myanmar.
Do you confirm that you were in 20 countries during this pandemic?
Yes, which is crazy — fourteen were revisits, plus my final six countries.
What about Covid?
Yes, I did. It hasn’t been discussed publicly. It was found in Iraq. I discovered that it wasn’t something I could smell or taste. I tested negative in Iraq, but they barely put the Q-tip in my nose — it was like a fake test. I didn’t get very sick but I had to stay at my hotel for 7 nights. However, I did not want to spread the disease.
Which are your main sources of income?
In Korea, I began teaching English. Housing was provided free of charge and I earned $2,000 per month. It was amazing when I was 22, so it was great at that time.
I then got an advantage on Snapchat, 2015, by being sponsored and promoted by many brands. To make Snapchat stories, I was paid $5,000 for my trip to Rio de Janeiro’s Olympics. Snapchat was my main source of income for a year. When you consider that I was a backpacker on a tight budget, $30,000 is quite a bit.
My travel blog was also used to help reduce travel expenses by working with budget airlines and hostels. In 2017, I began making videos. After 300 videos I did, I barely made a cent. It was slow.
While living in Bangkok, Thailand, I also made a number of other important decisions. a video about this guy who makes these really good burgersIt is free. You pay whatever you want — there’s no price. The video was viewed more than 7 million times. It was $10,000 that I will never forget. It was incredible! I worked for five hours.
That was actually the maximum I had made in 18 months from any video. It was still a good sign of how Facebook ads can bring in a lot.
Binsky said that a large portion of his travel style is based on meeting locals.
I then started. posting on YouTubeIt now earns between $20,000 and $40,000. If you have a great month it can be even more. Facebook has a similar system.
It sounds expensive, but it is not. It isThis is a huge salary. However, I now have 23 employees so my salary is quite high.
Have you considered other sources of income.
This is just ad revenue. Brands that I have worked with charge me between $15,000 and $30,000 for each video. My merchandise is also not very profitable. This is more to grow the community. Travel hacking classes are also available for purchase at $150 per person. There are many streams of income.
Are you meticulous in recording your travel expenses?
Yes, I do not nickel-and-dime myself. That kind of spoils the fun. I am still very frugal. I won’t spend any money on first class tickets without having points. Even though I still enjoy street food and sleep in small hotels, I do not stop eating it. I do not need to appear flashy, even if I earn 10 times as much now.
Are any of your travels comped?
I come out of pocket and pay for almost everything, except with tourism boards — they cover everything. Most often, I receive a sponsorship payment when working for a hotel. A hotel might offer me two nights in a nice room, but I would rather pay than post.
Is there a memory you will never forget?
This is probably because it has spent at least 24 hours in Central African Republic with the pygmy tribal. They have the longest genetic lives in the world. To get to Bangui from the capital, I needed to take an 8-hour taxi into the middle and then walk for 2 hours through the forest.
On the way, we met a guide from nearby. I was told by them that they hadn’t seen any white people and they also had never met a non-pygmy. They never went outside their tribal territory to explore the city.
Binsky stated that he began recording his travels when he received a camera for Christmas several years back.
Do you have a favorite memory that you don’t want to remember?
Food poisoning. Yemen is the country where I have experienced food poisoning my worst. About 30 occasions have I been poisoned. Also, in India and Iran I became very sick. However, I also eat food that I am aware is dangerous. You can lose 10 pounds, then move on.
Binsky said that Yemen was the site of one of his worst cases of food poisoning.
The Docuseries will be about every country we visit. A book and NFT project are coming soon, which is something I am really proud of. My goal is to create meetups around the globe. However, I do not want to loose the essence of getting out and meeting new people.
Editor’s note – This interview has been edited to ensure clarity and length.