From the UK to NZ on a wing and a tweet

By Eveline Harvey

In recent years, people have cycled around the world, utilised jet streams to circumnavigate the globe in a hot air balloon and climbed the highest mountains on all seven continents. Where there's an idea, it seems, there's usually a way.

The latest to jump on the crazy expedition bandwagon is a freelance writer from England, who - in a cunning marriage of adventure and modern technology - plans to travel from his home in Newcastle to New Zealand using only accommodation and transport offered to him via the microblogging service Twitter.

Paul Smith says the idea came to him in the supermarket on Saturday. On Monday he took the plunge and sent his first tweet (a message using the Twitter service) about his madcap scheme.

Within five hours, British actor Stephen Fry (a fellow user of Twitter), picked up on Smith's plan and word began to spread at the pace that only cyberspace allows.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, Twitter is a microblogging service that allows users to post 140-character messages - either online or from their mobile phones - for all the world to see.

Smith has set up both a Twitter feed and a website detailing his travel plans and says he will embark on his adventure on March 1.

"I'll travel as far as I can in 30 days, relying only on the goodwill of Twitterers," the biography on his Twitter profile reads.

So far, the UK's Guardian website reports, Smith has been offered lifts out of the UK by four people, beds in Hamburg and India and even a ride in an avocado truck and a night's accommodation in Whangarei should he reach New Zealand.

However the self-imposed rules of Smith's quest state that his travel plans cannot be determined more than three days in advance.

He is allowed to spend money on food, drink and anything else that fits in his backpack, but otherwise, Smith will be completely reliant on the charity of his fellow Twitterers.

So, why New Zealand? According to Smith's Twitchhiker website, it's the furthest place on Earth from his hometown.

"Actually," he adds, "the closest landmass is at 52.546° S 169.173° E, an island barely five miles wide that's so insignificant that Google can't be bothered to name it. If you can identify it, please let me know. It'd be good to know where I'm aiming for."

Respondents on Smith's Twitter page have since identified the mystery spot as New Zealand's sub-Antarctic Campbell Island.

Whether Smith makes it that far in 30 days remains to be seen - particularly as he will turn back if he's unable to move on from any location within 24 hours - but if he does, he'll have a local culinary delight awaiting him.

"I hope you make it to New Zealand," wrote one local Twitter user. "Try for Wellington and I'll buy you a pie - they are immense over here."

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