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13 November 2014

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You are in: Tyne > People > Your Stories > Not hitchhiking but Twitchhiking

Paul Smith

Paul wanted a challenge

Not hitchhiking but Twitchhiking

In March 2009 Paul Smith from Gateshead tested the power of Twitter by seeing how far he could travel around the world assisted only by his fellow Tweeps. The answer? New Zealand.

Mission accomplished. Well almost.

On 1 March 2009 freelance writer Paul Smith left Gateshead with the aim of travelling to the other side of the world in 30 days, using only travel and accommodation offered to him on Twitter.


Paul relied on Tweeps to help

Specifically his aim was to reach Campbell Island, off the coast of New Zealand and, as he put it, "the closest place to Newcastle on the opposite side of the Earth".

As it turned out his final resting place was a slightly different Kiwi island, Stewart Island, but he wasn't all that wide of the mark.

Pretty impressive considering he was completely reliant on the kindness of strangers to get any further than his front door.

Paul said he thought the small population and lack of internet access in certain parts of New Zealand contributed to his journey running out of steam.

"Invercargill, the southernmost city in New Zealand, has a population of just 50,000. Stewart Island has a population of 400," he wrote on his blog.

People with suitcases at airport

It was hard to know what to pack

"As much weight as Twitter had thrown behind me, it was being channeled into a sparsely populated region that was unable to hear my call or support my cause."

Faith in humanity

Paul's self-imposed rules for the challenge meant that he could only accept help with travel and accommodation from people registered with Twitter, that he could not make plans more than three days in advance and that if he got stuck in the same location for more than 48 hours he would call it a day.

He also said he would not ask for help to get to specific locations - people had to offer things to him, which left his itinerary in other people's hands.

So, Paul's round-the-world trip took him via such places as Frankfurt in Germany, New York and Los Angeles in the United States and Queenstown in New Zealand.

He told BBC Newcastle the journey had given him real faith in people.

Mount Taranaki

He made it to New Zealand

"It sounds slightly cliched but it does restore your faith in humanity because everyone has been so selfless and giving," he said.

One couple in Wheeling in the US had just lost their home in a house fire and were living in temporary accommodation but even though they only had a rented sofa to offer him they still offered to put him up rather than see him on the street.

Before setting off Paul said his greatest fear was not getting out of the UK - he even threatened to swim if he had to but thankfully there was no need for that.

So, the only slight problem remaining was how to get back to Gateshead at the end of the challenge.

Not knowing where he would end up it wasn't really something he could plan for but luckily Air New Zealand are also on Twitter and they offered to fly him back to the UK. No swimming trunks necessary!

Click on NEXT to read the original feature about how Paul came up with the idea of Twitchhiking and how he felt before he set off.

last updated: 31/03/2009 at 16:31
created: 06/02/2009

You are in: Tyne > People > Your Stories > Not hitchhiking but Twitchhiking

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