Twitchhiker | Paul Smith's travel tales from here and there

The where and why of Twichhiker

Everything is moving at the speed of blur. I wasn’t expecting anybody to be paying attention after just 24 hours, so I hope you don’t get bored with this adventure before it even begins. I’ve an expanding list of questions about my travels I can’t answer, but I know somebody out in the Twitterverse can. This challenge, this experiment into global goodwill can only succeed with you along for the ride.

If you’re going to accompany me, if you’re to be Thelma to my Louise (albeit a less suicidal ending), it’s only fair you know a something about how Twitchhiker came into being. There’s a long and convoluted (but entirely true) story behind its origins, and a rather more pointed reason as to why I’m doing it.

About four years ago, I was spending a sunny Saturday afternoon in much the same manner I usually spent them at the time. Doing precisely sod all. In fact I was in the bath reading McCarthy’s Bar by the sublime and greatly missed Pete McCarthy. At one point, he briefly explains that unlike the US, road trips simply aren’t feasible in the UK because of the scales involved; in this country you can drive nose-to-tail in a couple of days – hardly an epic adventure. That started me thinking about how you could enjoy a road trip in this country if you simply drove slower, and so I began planning a fabulous jaunt along the back roads of the UK. On a milk float. My jaw slackened sufficiently enough to touch the floor upon inspecting the price of second hand milk floats, and so I slunk back about my day job of loafing about in radio stations.

About six months ago, Twitter clicked with me. It can take a long time to recognise how utterly brilliant Twitter is and because I’m not the cleanest pane in the frame, it had taken me about a year. And so I found myself prying into the lives of people around the world, and wondering whether it’d be possible to travel the world using only the suggestions and support of those I messaged through Twitter. The thought expired expired because it was clearly a ludicrous idea and I went back about my day job of loafing about at the desk in my dining room, writing and blogging and worrying the fridge more than is considered acceptable by dietitians.

About three days ago – last Saturday – I was attempting to do the weekly shop in Tesco. I’d left it until midday, the car park at Gateshead was rammed to the rim and the supermarket was full of dithering people. Dithering old people. Dithering young people. Over there, a man on crutches barricading the sausages. And over there, a mother and her five children forming a human shield around the Tunnocks tea cakes.

[It was only while chatting to @jemimakiss earlier today, that she reminded met I’d twittered my frustrations while in situ]

I found myself wanting to repeatedly punch people in the back of the head for their selfish, shuffling ways. (Obviously, I didn’t. I’m not a violent man so if you are considering offering me a bed for the night, you’ll remain perfectly safe.)  And that’s when I think the dribble of consciousness begun. I wanted to be anywhere other than the bread aisle of Tesco in Gateshead which I don’t believe is an unreasonable aim in life. Into my head popped the milk float, that would have taken me to the lochs of Scotland, far away from all the stupid people. Then the Twitter travel tips flashed into my head after their six month sojourn. And by the time I’d reached the Walkers multi-bags, the dribbles of thought had congealed into the proposition of Twitchhiking – seeing how far the goodwill of those using Twitter could take a person around the world.

That’s a terribly long-winded tale. All you need to remember is Pete McCarthy, a milk float and Tesco.

So that’s where the idea came from, to answer katiephipp‘s question.

Why did I decide to do it? Because I spent a very long time having silly ideas that I couldn’t do anything about, only to watch somebody else have them six months later. Who can forget the in-car toaster*? Or Wine-For-One**? So when I became a freelancer 18 months ago, I promised myself that when I thought of something fun to do, I’d do it. Not stop and consider why I couldn’t do it, not procrastinate until I’d talked myself out of it. I’d just get on with making it happen.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sitting at my desk dreaming up schemes to make thousands of pounds for charity, but now I’m so excited to be playing a part in doing so. I’m doing this because I didn’t want to regret having a good idea and letting it go to waste. There are already far too many regrets knocking around my head; I didn’t want to let Twitchhiking be another.

* a portable toaster plugged into the cigarette lighter of a car; admittedly, I don’t think any body’s got around to patents yet

** selling wine in 500ml bottles, to avoid leaving dregs in the bottom. A terrible, terrible idea, even more so since I’ve now learnt to neck two 750ml bottle in a single sitting. Again, I’m not convinced the wine industry has taken it to market.


8 Comments so far
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Paul, don’t give me all this book in the bath, milk float, tesco stuff. The truth is this… you live in Gateshead and that alone is your inspiration for twitchiker.

You wouldn’t have had this great idea if you lived in Newcastle.

Comment by Richard

Why is there no RSS feed on this blog?

Comment by Bog Raver

@Bog There is, but the site is hosted by WordPress and the URL which redirects you here is masking it. If you try you should see the RSS feeds. I’m working on fixing that.

@Richard This from the man who lives in Plymouth.

Comment by Paul

Wine For One – with a razorblade tucked into the label of every bottle.

Comment by Andy Dawson

This is a great idea, best of luck with your trip. If it wasn’t for the fact I live in Lowfell I’d have offered you a place to stay ; )

Comment by Shaun Allan

I live in Low Fell too 🙂 I’ve stated Newcastle-upon-Tyne as my starting point, since it’s somewhere more Twitterers outside the UK will be aware of.

Comment by Paul

Hi there,

If you need a place to stay in Mallorca (Spain) do not hesitate to contact me.

Comment by Ramón

hey there. just found this. bit slow, sorry about that. i would like to talk to you on the phone at some point, i will be able to help you with your media issues in some way and i’m doing a project with some friends on the 12 feb for twestival (we are doing a gumball rally style thing across the country) – maybe we can interview you because we are starting off in newcastle?

We are actually looking for a place for a group of geeks to crash – i can return the favour when you start your mission?

Anyway, wishing you all the best @philcampbell.

Comment by Philip Campbell

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