On a quest to understand and analyse how far strangers would go to help others and if online relationships could turn into anything substantial, British traveller Paul Smith ventured on a 29-day trip — without paying a dime.
The idea was to reach the opposite side of the planet from his part of the world solely relying on the contacts he made on Twitter.
So, why did he decide to embark on a journey like this? “I started working in a start-up in 2007, around the time Twitter was launched. It became a major tool for promoting and marketing our products. An idle thought back then crossed my mind — could we really rely on strangers and if so, how far could that get us?” he recalls.
Thus, began his journey on March 1, starting from UK travelling to Holland, France and Germany, then going back to Holland and then the US. He spent two weeks on the road there travelling the length and breadth of the country and finally reached New Zealand.
The biggest takeaway for him from this trip was the realisation that people across the world were all genuinely good. “We live in times when there’s a lot of bad news. We need to realise that bad news is in the news in the first place because it’s uncommon and doesn’t happen every day,” he says. Travelling in an unknown world, he always felt safe, he adds. However, the biggest challenge he faced was more of an internal battle — fear of the unknown.
“After travelling for hours, you are going to meet people you know nothing about including, how they look like. The unknown helps you to a point but you are constantly unsure of what’s happening, which is stressful.” He was able to manage travelling completely on crowd funding and help from people he met on the way, he says.
“No one person paid for this trip. Everyone contributed in some capacity, within their means. If someone paid for a short distance, someone else would give me a ride to another point. Someone would give me a room to stay or pay for a hotel room,” he says, adding, “I was able to understand how people who are complete strangers can actually help one another.”
In the city to talk about his experience and converse with local entrepreneurs, he feels it’s important that entrepreneurs learn the importance of understanding varied cultures in order to tap into the market.
“India is a culturally rich country and the culture has a huge impact on how businesses run. So entrepreneurs should try and gain knowledge on these aspects first to attain a higher success rate. Thus I will be sharing my inputs with them.”
Talking about his experience in the city thus far, he says, “The first thing you notice about the city is the traffic,” he laughs, adding, “The city is clean and busy and very colourful. It’s very culturally rich and the people are very hospitable.”...