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

Going against the grain

6am start this morning. Feeling it now. I was guest on the breakfast show of my former radio station Century Radio; lots of fun, very relaxed and a great response from tweeps when the presenters asked me to pose a question on Twitter. I recorded some soundbites for their weekend news then applied my legendary foot of lead to the accelerator, to skip across the city for BBC Radio Newcastle’s breakfast show. Another station I used to work at. Christ, I was such a radio whore.

Back home, and a phone interview with Metro Radio, also in Newcastle and also… yeah, you guessed already. Then a phonecall from Look North, the BBC’s regional news programme; they want to film my departure from Central Station on Sunday. Rattled off some information for an Austrian reporter and recorded an interview over Skype with Craig Martin, presenter of the Indie Travel Podcast. You can listen to Craig and I burble across the internet and around the world here.

Then there was the not unimportant matter of Twitchhiking; I was due to arrive in Amsterdam on Monday morning, but would I stay the night or move on? Unlike the clock start at midday yesterday, Twitter users could offer to help at any point through the day. After the initial pandemonium to see me on my way, I woke up expecting a glut of destinations, tickets and hotels flocking to my aid, but instead there was… nothing. Bugger. Bugger and damn and panic. I’d failed before I’d begun.

It took some time for the offers to rise and shine, but eventually I had the choice of transport to The Hague and a night at the sumptuous Haagsche Suites courtesy of @HappyHotelier; train tickets and a hotel provided by the politely insistent @Themelis_Cuiper, and a combined offer of travel and board in a Parisian hostel from @ikangaroo and @stchostels.

As much as I wanted to snooze a snooze of decadence, The Hague barely moved me on from Amsterdam, so the choice came down to Berlin and Paris. My concern with Berlin, despite it clearly been more popular with tweeps than Paris, was that it effectively sealed my route in an Easterly direction. I’ll make no bones about it, I’d far rather be parachuted onto the East coast of North America and work my way across or down to South America. Going East means issues with visas, with language and with diseases I was too late to be immunised against. More importantly, Twitter activity to the east of Europe has been next to non-existent compared to the West. It’s not enough to have a handful of vocal Twitter users scattered across a continent; I need real options if something goes wrong.

For me, day one was about getting out the UK; day two is about moving on but keeping my options open. There’s a small chance somebody will come through with a flight across the Atlantic, and I think the odds are improved if I stay close to the major airports in London, Paris and Amsterdam; if I’m seen to head further East, I think people will assume that’s my preferred choice. Of course I may have no other choice than to head in the direction, in which case I’ll gladly shut the hell up and get on with it.

I don’t have to make plans exactly three days ahead; I could make them just an hour in advance, but I have to start somewhere. As it happens, while people can offer me options for Tuesday from tomorrow, I won’t be making any decisions until Sunday; tomorrow needs to be about getting organised, getting packed and spending some time with my wife of exactly one month.

So here’s my itinerary so far; I haven’t heard back from @ikangaroo yet, so Paris still isn’t confirmed:

Sunday 1st

@rivits will take me by car from Newcastle Central Station to the DFDS Seaways terminal at North Shields

@minxlj has already sent me the e-ticket to take the overnight ferry to Amsterdam

Monday 2nd

Arrive in Amsterdam

@ikangaroo has offered to provide a train ticket from Amsterdam to Paris TBC

@stchostels has given me a room in St Christpher’s Inn, Paris

Twitter has been strangely quiet since I announced my preference for Paris over Berlin. I’ll assume everyone went to the pub or became very busy, and isn’t sulking at me for ignoring their preferred choice of city. If the train to Paris doesn’t happen, I still have two other options, plus there were yesterday’s offers of accommodation in and around Amsterdam, and there are still three days to find a new offer.

It’s all gravy, as the kids say. Although I’ve never heard a kid say that, to be honest with you.

7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Lucky. Have a good trip.


Comment by iheartfilm

Sorry to critisize, but I think that:

1. If you are making a show for your audience (Twitter followers etc) at their cost, you shall somehow listen to their expectations. You can basically draw a parallel here between politicians and nations, even though the unfortunate reality looks different.

2. Avoiding unsafe (from your distant point of view) places makes your adventure slightly obvious and narrow-oriented.

Nevertheless, I wish you all the best. I’ll be certainly following you all over the course of your journey 🙂

Comment by Kirill Pojev

I think you’re a little unfair in your criticism Kirill; ultimately nobody has to help or even take an interest if they’ve better things to be doing. I’m not representing my followers; everyone has chosen to support me and I’m very grateful to them.

I’m asking the Twitter community to not only help me but to keep me honest; if I begin acting in a way that goes against the spirit of the journey, then I’ll listen. I don’t think you can “basically” draw any such parallel as you suggest.

If you read the post again, I’m not simply looking to avoid any places I deem unsafe. The overriding concern I have with heading east is that there appears to be very little support from Twitter users in that direction. Unsafe or not (and the issue of visas being required for China and India not withstanding), attempting to traverse 6,000 miles of continent by land in 30 days with little or no support from Twitter – it’s not going to happen.

Comment by Paul

Hello Twitter Traveler of the Future (Paul),
I just wanted to introduce myself as the Twitterer for We have strong connections with most of the bed and breakfasts in the world (and especially the U.S.) so if we ever have the opportunity to help you find accommodation for the night, we will do it. It sounds like you’re good for Paris, but if you ever find yourself in dire straits, let us know. We’ll try our best to help!

Comment by

Just to clarify, the background of my comment was certainly not to spread negative seeds about your intentions. To remain honest, I’m quite fascinated by your project. Nevertheless, in a sense I felt that you are trying to direct and manipulate your audience towards the destinations you are expecting to visit. In my humble understanding, it leads to loosing the feeling of a true adventure.

Btw, the East is not limited to Asia or middle Asia, there are many countries within EU that still relate to eastern block (ex-social soviet camp as an obvious example).

Anyway, it’s your trip and your particular vision. I simply tried to provide certain constructive criticism.

Comment by Kirill Pojev

You could have saved all the bother and traveled the short 12 miles south to where i am at and we could have had a few pints around Sunderland city centre instead!

Comment by Safcblogger

[…] shelter for the night in my small hotel in The Hague which is close to Amsterdam, but in his post Going against the Grain he understandably explains that traveling from Amsterdam to the Hague would not bring him far that […]

Pingback by Travel by Twitter (update): #Twitchhiker Day 8 | Happy Hotelier

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