Dotan Negrin is a traveler. And a Piano player/ street busker. And he combines the two while on the road, as he brings his piano along and plays on street corners. His mission is to play his upright piano in as many extraordinary places as possible.
In April 2011 Dotan Negrin took all his savings, bought a truck, and hit the road for a grant trip around the USA. He took his 450-pound piano and his dog as his companions.

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He explains what motivated him:
I did it because I wanted to find meaning to my life beyond the monetary. I did it because I wanted to be challenged. I did it because I wanted to see what life is like in the rest of the world, to meet all kinds of people, to see if I could sustain a living doing what I love most: Making music.

Many artists make roadtrips – with Sofia Talvik’s “Drivin’ Dreaming” musical and cooking roadtrip being our favourite one – but Dotan’s story is a bit different and more original:

“I arrived home on September 2011 and went on another Roadtrip to Florida in November 2011 which taught me that with the right planning, I could make a living doing what I love by combining delivery jobs and playing piano. I returned home to New York City in December 2011 and started putting together my ideas for the next big thing. I sold my truck for a loss and eventually saved up enough money through street performing in NYC to buy a smaller, more economical Van.

I spent 6 months in New York and started to go back to my old lifestyle:  driving an Insurance Broker around NYC and working as an assistant for an artist. After 4 months, I became restless again and decided on a whim that I’m going to take another road trip and challenge myself even further.

This was the birth of the $2 Roadtrip.
The Challenge for Dotan was to see “if I could travel across the Northeast and Canada starting with only a $2 bill and 1 gallon of gas.”

A very similar challenge that set Japanese kickass traveler Keiichi Iwasaki completed by traveling across 37 countries on $2. And that included his trip up Everest.

Negrin started the trip in NYC with his van, a 450 pound Kimball piano, a few personal items, a$2 bill which was the only money he took, one gallon of gas in his van and Brando,  his constant canine companion.

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The trip lasted 31 days and he covered 3600 miles, playing piano in 18 cities.  He earned money from donations as he played as well as from picking up a few gigs at a few places from owners who heard him on the street.  He came home with the $2 bill still in hand as well as over $2200 more.

“My plan was to bring very few things with me. I learned in the past that simple is best. Here is a list of what I brought.”

  • Hygiene kit (toothbrush, toothpaste, Deoderant, mouthwash)
  • Clothes (5 pairs of socks, 4 shirts, 3 pants, 3 shorts, 4 underwear)
  • Sunglasses
  • 4 Rachets to secure piano
  • Dog Supplies (5 lbs bag of dog food, 2 collars, 2 leash)
  • iphone 4
  • Notebook
  • Laptop
  • Stool
  • Bucket
  • Kimball Piano
  • All Terrain Piano dolly
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Food Cooler
  • 3 Books: (Into the Wild by Jon Krakaeur, Walden by Thoreau, A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink)

Dotan recounts his auspicious start in NYC:

“My first location was Tribeca in front of the Whole Foods. The same location where my Piano Fell on my Hand 2 years before. This area gets a lot of the Financial District employees and children from the park across the street.
After playing for 3 hours I made $152 which was more than enough to fill up my cooler with food and a full tank of gas. I left New York not knowing what to expect and a little nervous that I wouldn’t be able to make enough to support myself.”


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And that set the tone for a road trip with many many street corner gigs playing his upright piano in the following cities:

  • New York City, NY
  • New London, CT
  • Provincetown, MA
  • Boston, MA
  • Portsmouth, NH
  • Kinnebunkport, ME
  • Portland, ME
  • Vinal Haven Island, Maine
  • Acadia National Park, ME
  • Bar Harbor, ME
  • Quebec City, Canada
  • Montreal, Canada
  • Toronto, Canada
  • Niagara Falls, Canada
  • Buffalo, NY
  • Rochester, NY
  • Lake George, NY
  • Saratoga Springs, NY

piano america6 Nighttime he would sleep in his van or use Craigslist or Couchsurfing to find a place to crash and meet locals. They would inform him about the best local places to play.

Not always was it easy to find a place to play, let alone be allowed to play, as some cities like Quebec city required him to apply for a busking permit. Negrin about his arrival in Quebec city:
“I was running around all over trying to figure out where to get Internet, how to get a permit for street performing, and finding a place to sleep. But by the end of the day I started to adjust and explored much of the Old City. The next day I met a bunch of acrobats who were trying to get a busking permit. They told me to stay for the next few days because of the Quebec City Festival. I listened and stayed for a total of 4 very busy days. They also helped me get a 4 day busking permit. And this was definitely worth the effort. The weather was beautiful and I played EVERYWHERE in the old City of Quebec. People were incredibly supportive and generous. I had huge crowds of 40 people surrounding me at times and the energy was really open and supportive of the arts. Everywhere I went there was another street performing.”

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Dotan eventually continued his trip and played in a host of other cities. At the end of his month long trip he had played in 11 cities with the following combined stats:

  • Duration of Trip: 31 Days
  • Miles: Approx 3600 miles
  • Number of Cities Played Piano: 11 Cities
  • Number of Cities Visited: 18
  • Invited into: 2 Homes
  • Days slept in Van/Camping: 15 Days
  • Days slept in a bed: 16 Days
  • Couchsurfed: 3 Cities
  • Days spent Hiking: 3 Days
  • Offered Gigs: 2 gigs
  • Total Hours Playing Piano: Approx 68 hours (including Gigs)
  • Average Hours Per Week: 17 hours Per week (Including Gigs)
  • Average Hourly Wage: $32.77 per hour

And now of course you gotta see him play his piano and hear him recount his story.

A kickass trip by piano man Dotan Negrin who leaves us with some kickass travel advice:

“I try not to focus on Money when it comes to Piano Across America because I believe there are many more meaningful reasons to want to travel across the world with your upright piano. But I choose to display my Financial stats to show the world that YOU CAN DO SO MUCH WITH SO LITTLE. I want others to see this as inspiration for their own projects and ideas. It takes a lot of Creativity and Hard work and a tiny bit of luck to make these things happen. Go out there and do it!”

Spot on!!