Bartering Around the World

by Michael Wigge / Jan 29, 2014 /

I traveled through 14 countries to barter an apple for bigger and better goods until I finally reached my goal - a house in Hawaii.
So that I was always trading up, I had to develop certain strategies. One such strategy was to change countries. I would take my “good” from one market and enter a market in which this good had a higher value. 


How to Barter for Paradise


For example, I bartered for 250 feet of fine silk in India. The market value there wasn’t more than $200 for that amount. So I took the silk to Australia, where its market value was nearly $2000 because Australia generally imports silk rather than produce it.

Actually, looking at the world and its income and price disparities from country to country is depressing. Our capitalist structure means poor countries with a low price levels stay poor—compared to industrial countries with extremely high price levels like Japan, the UK and Australia. So my bartering continued by jumping from poor and producing countries to rich and importing countries.

Morally, I felt ok about using the unbalances in the world economy for my bartering experiment, especially since imports from countries like China help the poorer areas rise as well (otherwise China wouldn’t be called the upcoming world super power of the future).

Other examples of bartering during my trip include turning a painting from the Ukraine into a watch in Portugal, and a travel voucher from Tanzania into gold in the U.S.

But I also tried it vice versa: I got certain barter goods in Switzerland—one of the richest countries in the world— and took them into India, a poverty-stricken country. I actually turned my Swiss goods into a three-wheeled, motorized Tuk Tuk that held a much higher value.

The key: These goods from Switzerland—a hand washing machine, for example—normally aren’t available in India, so it was considered “exotic.” Not to mention that washing clothes is a very important and frequent custom in India, as people change clothes at least once a day.

Tuks Tuks, on the other hand, can be found on every street corner in India and are produced very cheaply. So, if you go from rich to poor or poor to rich, people can always get something great out of your barter deal while you barter for bigger and better.

I am sure that the Swiss hand washing machine is still a great and exotic attraction in the streets of southern Indian Cochi, and that the people I bartered with feel they got a great deal. I know I do!


Michael is the author of How to Barter for Paradise and How to Travel the World for Free. More on