Michael Wigge is a German television journalist by trade. If at any point he loses that job, his experiences will serve him well until he can find a new one. Wigge covers stories on travel, in the fashion of Michael Palin’s “Pole to Pole” or “Full Circle” documentaries, but Wigge’s approach is slightly different, in that he travels for free.
By “free”, I don’t mean that he tries to cut costs; rather, he attempts to spend no money at all on his treks, and he is typically completely successful. Here’s a clip from the tonight show, where he explains that a fifty cent charge to use a private toilet was just too much for him to bear.
It’s worth noting that his efforts to keep costs down aren’t always safe or legal… he admits to dumpster diving in many of the more developed countries, which is usually against the law and always a health risk. For the most part, though, what carries him through is preparation and a willingness to commit to hard work. For larger journeys, such as the trip of more than 25,000 miles (including through Antarctica) he managed in 2010, he’s spent months beforehand attempting to line up jobs which can take him between key points in his travel, forging friendships with philanthropists and bartering screen time in exchange for goods. Sweat equity, positive feelings and brushes with fame are used, as well as simple item-for-item trading… but not cash.
He even wrote a book about the experience… the paycheck and royalties for which he kept. He’s not averse to having money, he was merely attempting to see if he could overcome the challenge.
He’s since worked through other challenges… including a trading challenge, where he started with an apple and worked his way up to owning a house in Hawaii. That is where he currently lives, occasionally giving a motivational speech or a TED talk.
As with most of the “man alone” types of efforts, there were backups in place in case things went wrong in addition to the months of planning, so it’s not accurate to say he could have succeeded had he started with no cash or fame. But it is a reminder that people can achieve amazing goals if they dedicate themselves to their efforts, and a practical demonstration of the power of an unrestricted free market.
Question of the night: What is a challenge you have set for yourself and subsequently acheived?