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Friday, March 27, 2009

From Newcastle to the End of the World by Twitter

Paul Smith, aka the twitchhiker, set off from Newcastle, UK on 1 March to see how far he could travel in 30 days solely on offers made to his twitter account. Along the way he hoped to raise a lot of money for charity:water.

The spot of land furthest from Newcastle is Cambpell Island far to the south of New Zealand's main islands at the end of the world. At the time of writing Paul has reached the nearest significantly sized land to Campbell Island (green pin on the map below), namely Rakiura or Stewart Island (blue pin). There are a few more specks of land in between - The Snares and Auckland Islands - you'll need to zoom in a lot on the map to find them.


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Even by reaching Stewart Island, a place that very few visit and even fewer live (are there even any tweeters on Stewart Island?), Paul has ably demonstrated the power of social networking. I played my very minor part in meeting the twitchhiker at a tweetup, and by contributing a flight from Auckland to Wellington. Getting to Campbell Island, visited by a mere handful of people (mostly scientists) a year during the brief "summer" of the sub-antarctic, is probably too much to hope for in the couple of days remaining of his quest.

The media reporting has been interesting. Initially there was a sceptical tone and as much emphasis on the charity aspect as on the journey. More recent media attention has paid little attention to charity:water and been more on introducing twitter to a wider audience and about the journey itself. New Zealand tourism organisations and providers have latched onto the global attention as a means of cheap publicity.

A similar shift has happened in the offers of help, although perhaps in part this is explained by population (much more in Europe and USA than in New Zealand) and perceptions. For the early parts of the journey offers were made mainly by individual tweeters. As the trip has progressed travel-related business have recognised the publicity aspect and made more offers of help. Without Air New Zealand's gift of a flight from Los Angeles to Auckland would the twitchhiker have made it beyond US shores? I'm not sure.

Social media will continue to evolve. This has been an interesting experiment to follow (and play a teeny bit role in). It feels a long way from my first post on the first twitchhiker.

3 comments:

leigh said...

Interesting shift you note here, moving from individuals to companies.

One of the things I like about social media is that it allows individuals to connect. I hope as its popularity continues to rise, we don't see all these areas taken over by big business.

Paul said...

Hello mister,

Nice post. It's interesting to speculate whether I would have made it to NZ if Air New Zealand or another company hadn't become involved. I'm not sure myself, but then it was an individual who propelled me across the Atlantic, so I don't think you could rule it out.

While the likes of Air New Zealand, the Sky City Grand, and Explore More NZ played a significant part once I arrived, equally I couldn't had made the trip without the likes of @msbehaviour, @narelle_nz and yourself.

It was all good fun, wasn't it? :)

P

The Global Traveller said...

Hi @Paul

I think travel businesses in the first half of your trip were a bit flat-footed in recognising the opportunities.

If you (or someone else) repeat the exercise I'd expect a very different response. Whether that is a good thing or not I am not sure.