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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Travel by Twitter: Case Study #1 The Twitchhiker

You've probably twittered to get a tip from other tweepers on a new place to dine at or have a drink, right? (That was a mouthful). But have any of you ever considered planning a whole trip around Twitter alone? Well, that's exactly what
The Twitchhiker (AKA Paul Smith, writer for The Guardian) is doing. This Twitterer hasn't started his journey yet. Paul is hitting the road on the 1st March to travel as far as he can around the world in a month on the goodwill and advice of twitterers alone. His aim is to raise money for Charity: water while experimenting with Twitter as a travel tool. You can read more about Paul's experiment in this story The Twitchhiker: one man on a Twitter travel mission and more about him on his site. Take a look at the rules that Paul has set himself. For instance, he's not going to allow himself to plan ahead more than three days in advance and he can only accept offers of travel and accommodation on Twitter, from users who are following him @twitchhiker. So Paul will be relying 100% on tweeps and the kindness and suggestions of Twitterers to ensure he doesn’t go without a roof over his head. Already he writes on his blog that he's getting a bit nervous and wondering whether he'll be sleeping on park benches. Another one of his rules: if he's unable to find a way to move on from a location within 48 hours, the challenge will be over and he'll have to go home. Let's hope that doesn't happen as this is going to be a fascinating travel experiment to watch. I'm wondering if it works, whether it will change the way some of us travel, and whether it might represent a travel revolution of sorts... what do you think? One way or another, I think The Twitchhiker is going to take us all on an amazing journey.

The pic? Venice again. I'm curious to see whether our Twitchhiker makes it to cities such as Venice - and Rome, Paris and Barcelona for instance - and whether he gets to visit such major tourist destinations on the generosity of strangers alone.


Anonymous said...

As someone who loves to read travel writing, I love the idea of reading this, but I really doubt it will demonstrate or prove anything about the effectiveness of twitter as a resource for travel. Realistically, people will want him to succeed, so he will. His project will gain fame (already has) and he's well known himself. I think it remains to be seen if a spotty kid backpacking around the world can use it in this way. Or whether for other styles of travel this works as a strategy to find interesting places. The thing about Twitter is that it does rely on how interested folks are, so, yeah I dunno - of course they will be in this, ya know? I am being a bit of a naysayer on this, and I don't think it's uninteresting, but I also don't think it's going to demonstrate what he thinks it will. It'll be a fun read, but, yeah, I sort of doubt it is any kind of real experiment, eh? Mind you, I'm sure he'll have fun.

Paul said...

Hey Sandy,

I'm not sure what I'm looking for this trip to demonstrate, if I'm honest.

I'm keen to see how powerful Twitter is, and I wouldn't be attempting this if I didn't believe I was capable of reaching the other side of the world. The fact is that with perhaps one exception, all the press generated for this project so far has been a result of Twitter, not phonecalls or email. It's pretty powerful stuff. The experiment is the test of Twitter and its users, not to turn travel on its head.

I'm looking forward to the adventure, to meeting people, to travelling; I'd love to smash the charity target so I can raise even more money for another cause that's dear to me. And maybe I want to prove to myself that people are inherently good and the world isn't so full of maniacal bastards as the media would have us believe. Beyond that, as I said early on in my blog, I really didn't give it much thought. It seemed like a good idea, so with little more consideration I sent that first tweet.

You're right, it depends how interested people are in helping an individual, and I recognise I'm benefiting from being the first to try this. It may not radically change travel, but it can provide a human search engine to help us better research a destination. It might also mean that wherever we travel in the world, we needn't be a stranger when we arrive.


Rachel Cotterill said...

This may be enough to persuade me to sign up on Twitter! :) I would like to do a trip based on the locations of my 'blog friends' one day...

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Sandy

You know, I think that spotty kid would have as much success if not more than Paul backpacking around Europe using Twitter. For one, it's different generation for whom technology is second nature rather than learned - they were using Facebook before Paul, you or I were. They're already couchsurfing - latest hottest travelling trend - so using Twitter to score a couch instead of going through the site is just an extension of that I reckon.

Hi Paul - and Sandy

Twitter has already changed the way we travel in the same way that the Internet did (which was a gazillion ways - could do a PhD on that one) - or maybe it's just an extension of that. I think the changes have been huge already - scour Twitter and you will see people seeking travel tips for places they're in all the time (and I have been seeing that increase over the last few months), letting their followers know about events in distant places, sending tweeps on deals, etc. It's already happening and I'm confidence it's increasing exponentially, I just wish I had some figures to look at.

So I guess what I'm wondering is if it's part of a slower evolution in how we travel or whether it's going to represent a major and very radical shift, in the same way the internet did. I guess I'm more interested in that question from an academic perspective.

Good luck with it, Paul! I'll definitely be following you - and helping out if you get to Australia, where I'll be til April.

Hi Rachel - I have other blogger friends who do that actually... and then blog about it!

Thanks for commenting