Paul Smith wondered how far he could travel in 30 days through the goodwill of Twitter users. He came up with five rules of Twitchhiking – and then set off
Paul Smith set his sights on reaching Campbell Island near New Zealand – the opposite point of the planet to his home in Newcastle.
In an adventure wrapped in nonsense, he travelled by car, bus, boat, plane and train, slept in five-star luxury and no-star sofas, resorts to the hair of a dog in multiple time zones and schmoozes with Hollywood A-listers – all the while wearing the same pair of underpants.
Considering travelling by tweet yourself? Here are the rules Paul used to shape his wanderings:
1. I can only accept offers of travel and accommodation from people on Twitter
Rather than ask people to contact friends or family and ask if they’d consider helping me, I wanted to test whether relationships built within social media had real emotional and practical value.
There was another important aspect to this rule, in that others would determine when and where I travelled, with no infl uence from me – I couldn’t ask for specific help at any time.
2. I can’t make any travel plans further than three days in advance
A bus ticket, a train fare, a lift down the road or a bed for the night – depending on a virtual community for every aspect of my travel and accommodation would certainly test their generosity and goodwill.
Since I couldn’t request specific help, there’d be no guarantee that an offer of transport would marry up to one of accommodation – some kind soul might offer to drive me cross-country, but would there be shelter waiting for me at the other end?
3. I can only spend money on food, drink and anything that fits in my suitcase
Unless an offer of transport or accommodation was made within seventy-two hours of it being applicable, I couldn’t accept it.
This would be crucial in keeping people’s attention and maintaining momentum – nobody, myself included, would know what would happen next.
4. If there is more than one offer, I choose. If there is only one, I have to take it . If there is only one, I have to take it within forty-eight hours
Twitter had to determine my fate at every step. In that context, this rule made perfect sense. In the context of having to accept an invitation from Crazy Man Withers that led to my remains being dredged up by the crew of a Spanish fishing trawler, this rule wasn’t a favourite of mine.
5. If I am unable to move on from a location within 48 hours, the challenge is over and I go home
Perhaps the physical and virtual worlds people immersed themselves in every day were disparate and disconnected from one another and Twitter users wouldn’t be prepared to assist me outside our online relationship, in which case I’d return to England with my tail between my legs.
That would be the worst possible outcome – aside from that business with the fishing trawler, obviously.