It’s a long way from Newcastle, England, to Lawrence, Kan., but one man made the trek relying solely on the goodwill of others.
Freelance British journalist Paul Smith finds his destinations and friendly support through the online social network Twitter. He accepts only offers extended by the site’s members.
Smith, or Twitchhiker as he is known to the nearly 7,000 tweeters who follow him online, has a passion for people and travel. It’s this combination that led to his journey, which he hopes will take him to an island off the coast of New Zealand in 30 days.
“I promised myself … if I ever had an idea that I really liked and really wanted to try, that I’d just do it,” Smith, 33, said.
And here he is.
His quest began at the beginning of March, and the tweets have been pouring in.
“I’ve got a rule where I can only plan three days in advance,” Smith said. “Midday, February 26, we had about 400 tweets in about 60 minutes. There were three really strong ones and that was a plane to Paris from England, a first-class ticket to London on the train and a ferry to Amsterdam.”
Smith put the vote to the people and hopped on the ferry to Amsterdam. Since then he’s seen Paris, Germany, New York, Washington, D.C., Lawrence and countless towns along the way.
The Journal-World and 6News have helped Smith on his journey, providing him a hotel room and meals during his Lawrence visit.
“People are amazing,” Smith said of those who have helped him. After no responses on housing in Pittsburgh, a family in one of the suburbs reached out to him, even though they had recently lost their house in a fire. “There’s a lot of good out there, and as long as I can keep tapping into that and keep moving, I’ll be OK.”
Smith can stay in one location for only two days; if there are no offers, he’s headed back to England.
“Ultimately, if I do fail, it’s not just me that fails; it’s kind of everyone that fails, because we are all in this together,” he said.
As he travels, he's attempting to raise awareness and money for a charity, Water, which is dedicated to bringing clean, safe drinking water to the developing world.
His next destination is Wichita by Greyhound bus, and then he’ll head by car to Austin, Texas, where he’s been invited to attend the music festival South by Southwest.