Archive for Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Twitchhiker’ is heading to Lawrence as he attempts to travel the world with the help of Twitter users

March 10, 2009, 5:57 p.m. Updated March 10, 2009, 7:36 p.m.


He’s already traveled more than 4,000 miles from home without spending a dime.

Now a freelance writer from England is relying on the generosity of folks in Lawrence to help him complete his goal of traveling around the world in 30 days.

But there is a catch.

Paul Smith, also known as the “Twitchhiker” on the social networking site Twitter, will only accept offers from fellow Tweeters.

“I just happened to think of it,” Smith said Tuesday from Chicago, while waiting to board a bus to Kansas City. “It’s really not any more complicated than that. Twitter lends itself to networking on a global scale.”

So far that network has taken Smith from his home in Newcastle in Northern England to Amsterdam by ferry boat. He then traveled by train to Paris and a town in Germany, before making his way to the Frankfurt Airport and catching a flight to New York.

As he travels, he's attempting to raise awareness and money for a charity, Water, which attempts to bring clean, safe drinking water to the developing world.

Once in the United States, the kindness of fellow Twitter-users has taken him to Washington, D.C., a suburb of Pittsburgh and then on to Chicago.

“I think I’ve learned traveling every day is hard work,” Smith said. “I don’t want to sound cliché, but I’ve discovered there are a lot of nice, very selfless people in the world.”

Smith has ground rules for his journey: He can’t stay anywhere longer than 48 hours, or else he has to return home, and he can’t plan his itinerary more than three days in advance.

“It’s all very short-term,” he said. “I say, ‘I’m here. Can anybody help me?’ and then I wait for someone to offer me a bed, sofa or ditch to sleep in.”

The Journal-World and 6News are helping Smith on his journey, providing him a hotel room and meals during his Lawrence visit.

“This is an ambitious and courageous project,” said Journal-World managing editor Dennis Anderson, “Dennisedit” on Twitter. “It’s exciting to see how word of Smith’s travels has spread.”

Smith, who is 10 days into his around-the-world trek, is hoping to make it to Campbell Island off the coast of New Zealand by March 30.

He chose that location because it was the farthest point of land from his home.

“I think there’s a chance I’ll make it,” he said. “Although I don’t know if I’ll have the momentum to carry me over the ocean.”

He estimates he has at least another 12,500 miles to go.

“I need to find a way out of Kansas City toward the West Coast,” Smith said, “Whether anyone there is traveling that way or they’re prepared to help.”

Smith, who used to work a nine-to-five job, decided to go on the journey because he was tired of having regrets. His only regret now is that he can’t stay in each city just a little bit longer.

“I’d like to see more of the places I’m visiting,” he said, “but I’ve got to keep moving.”


BenSmith 9 years, 2 months ago

Other important thing, this effort also raises money for the charity Water. Check out for details.

unelectable 9 years, 2 months ago

Sounds like a fun trip. I love to travel as well and hope that someday i might have the where-with-all to take up such an ambitious journey. One thing though... Please, JW folks, tell him he's in Lawrence, not Kansas City and as much as some folks here might not like it or disagree, they are two different places.

Jonathan Kealing 9 years, 2 months ago

unelectable- He's heading for KC first and then off to Lawrence. We'll make sure he knows where he is.

Jonathan Kealing Online editor

BenSmith 9 years, 2 months ago

Twitchhiker will be leaving Lawrence Thursday afternoon and needs help getting to his next destination. Anyone traveling? Anyone willing to donate a ticket? Contact him direct on Twitter at with any offers. Lets keep him on track and moving safely along!

Omegatron 9 years, 2 months ago

So far, this is the only twitter story I've seen that isn't annoying and the only one that gave me any reason to go check out that site.

I hope he makes it to his final destination, wish him lots of luck.

Danimal 9 years, 2 months ago

I have to agree with Omegatron that this is the first twitter story that hasn't immediately made me angry. Tweeters that aren't hitchhiking around the globe need to learn that no one cares about what they're doing. I suppose that's why people love twitter though, it makes them feel important. If it ever has a useful application I'll start using it. Invariably, in the meantime all the people that fancy themselves to be "techies" or whatever you want to call them will have moved on to something else.

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