Monday, 1 November 2010

TwithchikerTwitchhiker (Paul Smith) is the second travel book this year which I have really not liked, To Hellholes & Back was the other.

The premise: hitchhike from north England to the antipodal position on earth, Campbell Island off to the south of New Zealand. He doesn’t quite get there, but the idea, that Twitter can replace your thumb (‘anybody going my way and willing to pick me up?’) completely falls over in no time at all. Very few people just pick him up because they’re heading the same direction, which is what happens with hitchhiking.

It’s not so much Twitchhiking as Twitchbegging – ‘please somebody, give me a trip somewhere.’ Somebody in marketing at Air New Zealand is wired in to Twitter and sees an opportunity and as a result way more than 50% of his travels (more like 80% if you include getting home) is courtesy of Air NZ marketing. Well big deal. In between he grizzles about how much he misses home (he’s only gone for four weeks altogether), loses things and rarely looks up from his phone or his laptop.

Bad LandsOnce upon a time I did a lot of hitchhiking and later on picked up a lot of hitchhikers. My hitchhiking day may be over, although a few years back in Iran I had to get back from a village outside Shiraz in Iran where I’d been to a ‘dinner in a nomad tent’ (summer-only) restaurant and had an interesting hitch back into town. I wrote in Bad Lands (new revised edition just out) ‘I stumble along a path through the forest until I get to the village. Where there are also no taxis. In fact I’m not even certain which direction it is to Shiraz, but as usual Iranian kindness kicks in. When I stick my thumb out to try and hitch a ride a Paykan pulls over almost immediately and the driver takes me not just back to Shiraz, but right to my hotel door.’

I have read some terrific travel books this year, Country Driving probably the most interesting.