When Chris Phillips decided to circumnavigate the globe, it wasn't an attempt to emulate the travels of his fellow quintessential Englishman, Michael Palin. Nor was it an attempt to tread the imaginary path of Jules Verne's, Phileas Fogg. His inspiration to travel the world was far simpler and more basic in its conception, but with a 21st century twist. His wanted simply to meet people; the contemporary spin came from social media.
The people Chris met on his extensive travels were the same people he'd spent many nights chatting with from the comfort of his computer keyboard. Tired of merely communicating with "friends" from around the world without ever leaving his room, Chris decided to embark on an adventure by taking one serious road trip. For six years, Chris had been using sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Zorpia to meet people around the world. His interest in people, their stories and cultures propelled him forward.
One thing you should know about Chris -- he's 73, a fact that puts him slightly outside the usual social media demographic. But after sharing news, perspectives and personal events with online friends, he decided to spend some of his retirement traveling to places he'd always meant to see. So he left Scarborough, North Yorkshire to tour new countries and meet face-to-face with his friends from Facebook and Zorpia.
The result was the trip of a lifetime that began in 2006, and which took him through the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Australia, the Philippines, Hong Kong and New Zealand, to name but a few, and ended with him describing his adventures in a book.
Around The World in 128 Days Minus 1 (Minus 1 refers to crossing the international dateline) allows readers to join Chris on his trans-global journey. In doing so, we all get to meet the host of interesting characters that Chris corresponded with. In turn, they take him off the tourist trail and allow him to experience the 'real' country behind the official façade.
The book gives us a glimpse of where Chris' journey differs from so many others. The unique group of friends he'd gathered as a result of Yahoo, Zorpia and others gave Chris the chance to travel deeper than the average tourist. He was lucky and found a view of the world as seen through the eyes of his friends; not just a description from a tour guide, on a computer screen or through the grainy image of a webcam. Suddenly, things that Chris had only heard about via online chats and status updates were real and his to experience.
Social media, with its emphasis on helping people meet new friends, was key for Chris -- and others like him -- who want to talk with people they wouldn't normally meet. Chris found people who shared interests and then eventually, went on to meet them, share a meal and create stories together. Around The World in 128 Days Minus 1 includes photos and stories from those adventures, but in a way, the title is a misnomer. Chris built relationships online for six years before packing his bag and mapping out his 4-month journey. With the help of social media, he became traveller, not tourist.