Bald and Bankrupt is the YouTube channel name of Benjamin Rich, an English former businessman, and vlogger who found recognition through his travel vlogs. His YouTube channel has amassed over 595 million views and over 3.85 million subscribers in about five years of infrequent uploads, inspiring his online moniker, Mr. Bald. He wanted to visit unknown parts of remote countries, often requiring him to venture into dangerous areas. However, through his charisma and warm personality, Mr. Bald showed that not all people seek to profit from tourists, sometimes through scamming and false stories. People who only knew him for minutes readily invited them into their homes, offered him a meal and guidance, and shared their often challenging life stories.
Mr. Bald initially focused on visiting former Soviet Union states such as Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine because he spoke Russian fluently, and knew minute details of the Soviet Union’s history. Contrast allowed him to find a global audience; he was from the UK and lived in the Western World for a long time. Here’s how Mr. Bald found his niche and how much he earned.
Bald carved his path
Many travel vloggers stick to visiting eye-catching tourist destinations such as Bali and the Maldives or sights such as The Colosseum in Rome, Italy, or the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. Mr. Bald was different. He branched out to countries tourists rarely visit, are inaccessible without a permit, or don’t officially exist, such as Transnistria in Moldova. He also went to isolated parts of large countries such as India and Russia.
While there, Mr. Bald focused on the residents, thoroughly researched the location’s history, and occasionally rewarded people’s fairness and generosity monetarily. He found that people with little to offer in terms of money seem content with what they have, and have much to teach viewers at home. Mr. Bald recognized that, since his journey started when his business collapsed and he was marked with the uncertainty of life. In his case, that included nearly dying, being arrested, and barred from entering Russia. On a positive note, he made more than enough money to fund his travels, and has a net worth of up to $2 million.
A failed business started it all
Benjamin Rich, born on 1 July 1974 and known as Ben, established his online presence on YouTube as Bald and Bankrupt on 12 June 2018. His shaved head was the apparent inspiration for the channel name and his online nickname. An undisclosed failed business venture, which forced him to file for bankruptcy in the UK, inspired the ‘bankrupt’ part.
That failure prompted him to try low-cost travel while he got his life on the right path, and he headed to India. His first videos involve his admiration for the culture, adoration of female law enforcement officers, and equal interest in seeing tourist spots such as the Taj Mahal, but also remote, poverty-stricken locations. From the get-go, Mr. Bald displayed his warm personality as he efficiently communicated with English-speaking Indians he met on the road. After he admitted that he hadn’t been to India in 20 years, some took him on road trips to places that foreigners never see, from villages to lesser-known temples and monasteries. Others invited them into their less-than-modest homes that housed two or more generations. Mr. Bald also impressed residents and YouTube viewers with his two-part series about learning to speak Hindi, and his knowledge of the country’s religious and caste systems.
Is Your Country This Crazy? 🇮🇳
Posted by Bald and Bankrupt on Monday, September 5, 2022
Soviet Union content
From the beginning, some viewers could glimpse Mr. Bald’s fondness for the Soviet Union. This transcontinental country existed between 1922 and 1991 and involved up to 15 Soviet Socialist Republics with Russia at the helm. That was unsurprising, as terms such as ‘babushka’ meaning ‘grandmother,’ borscht soup, and random Russian words slipped into his vocabulary.
Mr. Bald visited Belarus and Russia in August 2018, and began filming reviews of hotels and restaurants built or popularized during the Soviet Union era. However, he was already familiar with the region, as he promoted his book, “The Burning Edge: Travelling Through Irradiated Belarus,” published under the pen name Arthur Chichester, on 12 April 2018. On that note, Mr. Bald also went to the most dangerous and poorest towns in Dagestan and Chechnya, and visited Lake Baikal for the general audience.
Returning to India
Mr. Bald spent the second half of 2018 in India, but introduced a novelty; he began collaborating. He met Harald Baldr, a fellow travel vlogger from Norway with over 2.35 million YouTube subscribers in September 2023. Karl Rock, a New Zealand blogger and YouTuber living in India with his wife, whom Mr. Bald considered an acquaintance, was often referenced in their videos. That’s because Mr. Bald and Harald ran into scammers, beggars, and dishonest people trying to take advantage of them, and Karl’s content focused on unveiling India’s swindlers. The two vloggers traveled by motorcycles, buses, rickshaws, and trains, and stayed at various hotels and motels to show breathtaking sights and meet good-hearted people.
Mr. Bald published two videos, “10 Things I Hate About India!” and “Avoiding Religious Scammers And Touts In Varanasi,” in December as a wrap-up on his journey, and a warning to viewers who want to retrace his steps. He headed to Burma, returned to India, and stayed in Belarus afterwards. During that time, the New Delhi publication, The New Learn, praised his videos, thanking him for ‘introducing the world to an authentic India, where people still open up their lunch boxes to strangers, tea is the beginning of lifelong associations, trust means more than money, and vibrancy is everywhere.’
By May 2019, Mr. Bald had visited Moldova and Transnistria, the unrecognized part of Moldova with a separate government, military, parliament, police, and currency. After that journey, he once again arrived in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. However, this trip marked another turning point for his YouTube channel. He introduced his female friend, Alina Adzika, whom he called ‘Alinchik.’ They explained that they were equally fascinated by the ways of the gopnik subculture of the youth in Russia and Belarus, and wanted to learn more. They mentioned some stereotypes of a male and female member, gopnik and gopnitsa, such as eating sunflower seeds, wearing Adidas and Puma tracksuits, listening to hard bass and chanson music, and doing the so-called Slav Squats in groups. That position involves a person in a deep squat, with their butt almost touching the ground and their knees reaching their chest.
They explored Belarus, Russia and Georgia for a few months until Mr. Bald went to Bolivia. During that time, the viewers speculated whether the two were romantically involved, which was intentional. However, people who bought his 2018 book ruined the guessing game; Mr. Bald wrote in the Acknowledgements sections that he ‘turned to his girlfriend Alina, whom he knew he could rely upon for brutal Belarusian honesty where it was needed.’ In the “Cold Ones” podcast episode from July 2019, Swedish YouTuber PewDiePie, among the platform’s most subscribed users, said that Bald and Bankrupt is his favorite YouTube channel.
Mr. Bald traveled to Chechnya, a Russian republic, in November 2019, and had a wonderful time for the most part. However, he slipped up and referred to one woman as ‘a Chechnyan chick,’ prompting the Chechen authorities to call out his disparaging word choice, forcing him to apologize publicly. He escaped that situation unscathed, and went to Khalmykia, Azerbaijan, Cuba, and Mauritania, but nearly died afterwards. Mr. Bald traveled to Serbia in May 2020 to avoid rigorous COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, and live comfortably for a few months.
However, he inexplicably vanished shortly afterwards, starting rumors that he’d passed away. Mr. Bald resurfaced online around August, saying that he nearly died from coronavirus because he didn’t take precautions, then disregarded increasingly dangerous symptoms for 10 days before he sought help. A weeklong stay in Serbia’s ICU (Intensive Care Unit), organized by the Russian Embassy, saved his life, as he had multiple organ failure, low blood oxygen, and could barely breathe. He urged his viewers to take the coronavirus seriously, but later deleted the video, a decision that many criticized.
Mr. Bald is in Georgia. pic.twitter.com/q0Z4Euq3qG
— Bald and Bankrupt (@baldandbankrupt) March 20, 2022
He cannot return to Russia
Mr. Bald escaped with his life and reconnected with Alina on some trips, visiting the Czech Republic, Albania, Mexico and Kyrgyzstan. He also went to Estonia, Ukraine, Lithuania and Siberia. He made a considerable mistake in May 2022, shortly after uploading the video “Entering A Mysterious Exclave You’ve Never Heard Of (In A Soviet Bi-plane).”
News surfaced that he’d visited the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and was immediately arrested by Russian police for unsanctioned entry to a guarded site. He wanted to see the Buran spaceplane, the first plane in the Soviet Buran space program, and the country’s first operational shuttle orbiter. It completed one spaceflight in 1988, but was destroyed in 2002 after its storage hangar crumpled.
Mr. Bald posted a 31-minute update video on 1 September 2022, explaining that it would be his last from Russia. He clarified that authorities immediately grabbed him and Alina at the Cosmodrome, and questioned them for about seven hours. They released them after each paid a fine of about £50 or around US$62, but that wasn’t the worst. Mr. Bald said that his love for Russia began at 17 in teacher Anna’s Russian class, which he explained to the authorities, but he had been banned from entering the country for three years. He previously described Vladimir Putin as crazy, and was raising funds for Ukraine after the war broke out on 24 February 2022 following Russia’s invasion. Additionally, the video description suggests that he doesn’t plan to return after the ban expires.
Mr. Bald relies on YouTube
Mr. Bald’s primary source of income is his proceeds from YouTube. He didn’t quit filming after the problems with Russia, and instead visited Afghanistan, Japan and Vietnam. He then headed to Peru, Laos Colombia, and Mongolia in the first half of 2023. Almost exactly a year after he was banned from Russia, on 4 September, Mr. Bald posted a video from Bangladesh, where he plans to stay for a while. Although Alina wasn’t by his side, friendly locals made up for that, and Mr. Bald visited the country’s mighty rivers, and was shocked by the affordability. For instance, although expensive by the country’s living standards, he found that a VIP ticket on a cruise ship was only US$12. He could afford it many times over.
According to SocialBlade.com, Mr. Bald made up to $70,000 between late August and mid-September 2023. However, the result is skewed by an algorithm change that reduced his total view count by 12.5 million on 7 September, and increased it by 15 million on 11 September. If we assume that he gained 2.5 million views in those few days, Mr. Bald made about $22,000 in about 15 days, and earns about $44,000 per month, so he could make over $520,000 in 2023.
He could be a millionaire
Mr. Bald regularly gets between 1.5 million and 5.5 million views on each video, and has amassed over 595 million views in five years. We can utilize SocialBlade’s default CPM (cost per thousand) range of $0.25 to $4 per 1000 impressionable views. With those numbers in mind, Mr. Bald’s made between $150,000 and $2.4 million from his YouTube career.
He briefly mentioned that some places that he visited ‘looked better than his apartment in Britain,’ but it’s hard to tell if he genuinely owns one or is being witty. If so, he likely rents it while he’s gone. His operating costs are low; Mr. Bald films the videos, and only has living and traveling expenses. He carries a laptop and presumably edits videos as he travels. Considering that the places he visits are in third-world countries, Mr. Bald probably kept most of the profits.
He also sells merchandise
Mr. Bald has a line of T-shirts that he sells for between $22 and $26; however, he launched the designs in collaboration with Creator Spring. Hence, the company usually takes a cut for printing, packaging, and shipping the T-shirts. Creator Spring uses a slightly different model; it’s free to use but calculates a base service cost, allowing the creator to determine a profit margin. If we assume that the base cost of a T-shirt is $10, which Creator Spring uses as an example in their pricing strategy for shirts, Mr. Bald earns between $12 and $16 for every product that he sells.
However, his designs are full-color, large and quite complex, so he realistically makes under $10 per T-shirt. Unlike other YouTubers, he rarely wears or promotes his creations, and online records indicate that he created the store in 2021. Therefore, we can assume that Mr. Bald’s made approximately $200,000. Also, other sellers use the Bald and Bankrupt name for their designs on Redbubble.com and SharkShirts.in and Amazon.com. Mr. Bald can only pursue them in court if he trademarked the phrase or the logo, but he might get a cut of the profits.