A British journalist went the farthest a person could go from home -- from one end of the Earth to the other -- simply by relying on the kindness of strangers who were following him on Twitter.
Yeah, I know. I'm sick of hearing about Twitter, too. But if it can be used to make a dream like this come true, it's worth hearing about. Journalist Paul Smith set a course of Newcastle, England to Campbell Island, an island gateway to Antarctica, and a time limit of 30 days. He had a point to prove: that "kindness is universal" and "that social media may begin online but it will converge with the real world whenever and wherever you let it."
Using a maximum of 140 characters each time, Smith, who dubbed himself "The Twitchhiker," reached out to regular followers and curiosity-seekers, who bantered with him about what he was seeing and offered things like accommodation and nights out.
He ultimately fell short of his final goal, but not because of poor hospitality, but poor planning: The boats to his finish line didn't go in March, when he was traveling. He wound up on the South Island New Zealand instead, which is still pretty impressive and better than most of us could do even with an Amex card. (Here he is in a video that appears on New Zealand's official state tourism YouTube channel, proving he made the right connections for marketing and freebies as he went along.)
His impressions of the world hardly qualify as evocative ("Sonoma Valley is stunning; one of the most beautiful sights I've seen so far," goes one typically opaque entry), but if he didn't master the challenges of the 140-character restriction, at least he mastered the social power of Twitter.
Besides, he didn't go through the effort to wax eloquent. He did it to prove it could be done. And to raise money for Charity Water, an organization that provides clean water to people who need it. He brought in some £5,270 for that while he was at it, or more than £1,200 over target, also using Twitter.
Sure, he had to spend a little money to have the mobile phone and to stay connected to the Internet (his connectivity started to die out in New Zealand, a place known more for farming than phishing), but that's a quibble. He also maintained a blog and did plenty of TV and radio appearances along the way, which had a big effect on his success rate.
But I don't see Smith's voyage as a victory for Twitter, like he does. Smith has successfully demonstrated that anyone who sits around and whines about all the financial reasons they can't afford to travel can shut the heck up and get packing.
Traveling around the world is quite the rage right now. Yesterday I covered the exploits of The Amazing Race winner Alex Boylan, who has turned his round-the-world-for-free odyssey into a minor TV show. And then there was the guy who set out from England to travel with no money and had to quit by the time he got to, uh, France. Doesn't anybody actually pay for their world tours anymore?
No? Well, it turns out you don't have to.
Guy travels half-way around the world for free using Twitter