Globetrotter Paul Smith has visited more cities in the last three weeks than most people see in a lifetime.
And he hasn’t spent a cent along the way.
The 33-year-old Englishman has made his way halfway around the world through the generosity of users of Twitter, an internet-based social networking service.
Twitter is rapidly growing in popularity and offers people the chance to connect with each other through quick, frequent messages.
Paul, who has nicknamed himself the Twitchhiker, aims to get to Campbell Island – a remote landmass 700km south of New Zealand – using only offers of travel and accommodation from fellow Twitter users.
It took him 23 days to get to Auckland and he hopes to complete the trip in 30.
Glen Eden resident Helen Baxter offered to help as soon as she heard Paul was on his way.
“When I found out he’d got his ticket from Air New Zealand I offered to meet him at the airport and here we are having a fun day out in Waitakere,” she says.
The pair enjoyed a trip to Piha on Monday morning before heading to lunch at The Falls restaurant in Henderson. The Falls owners Alan Parry and Garry Bates have followed Paul’s path on Twitter and were delighted to do their bit with a free meal.
The amicable Geordie is amazed by the response he has received.
“No one has been a nutter or crazy,” he says.
“They’ve ranged from being retired 50-year-old engineers to 20-something kids from Wichita. It’s been fantastic.”
The purpose of the ground-breaking trip is to raise money for charity:water, an organisation that works to bring safe drinking water to people in developing nations. Paul has earned about $10,000 and believes he is the first person to take up such a challenge.
“Lots of people have gone around the world with no money and just relied on favours,” he says.
“But I don’t think anybody has done it like this through social media. It’s an interesting test of relationships that seem completely virtual but are actually very tangible and real. Everyone I’ve met has been completely selfless.”
His travel log so far includes time in Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt, New York, Washington, Chicago, Kansas City, Wichita, Austin, San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles.
“I’ve done about 120 hours worth of travelling in three weeks.
“I thought I’d be following people in their everyday lives and catching lifts but as it’s turned out people have just donated flights and train rides.”
Paul works as a freelance writer and knew he would regret not taking the Twitter trip.
“Everyone has ideas about fun things they’d like to do but never get round to them. Then six months later someone else does it and they think, damn why didn’t I do that? I didn’t want to be that person.”
By DANIEL MARKHAM