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.”