“This is a new kind of adventure. I want to capture a sense of remoteness and send it back home. It’s about traveling in real time with the online community in my backpack, connecting travelers everywhere to my footsteps.”
–Andrew Evans on “Where’s Andrew,” his new project for National Geographic Traveller
We’d been blaming David for everything. As one of the only people in our group actually from Copenhagen, it was David who took the lead as we set out trying to find a place to eat Saturday night after the TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) Europe Conference came to end. As an employee of Momondo, the conference’s chief sponsor, he shouldered full responsibility for our empty stomachs. We headed south to Vesterport, past the city’s red light district, and the harder it became to find somewhere, the more we blamed him. If a pub was too big or too small, if it was too empty or too full, David was our scapegoat–and he playfully took it personally. “I give up!” he shouted in faux exasperation. “You are all too critical!”
After a brief dinner of goulash and bread (Hungarian soup that’s way better than it sounds), we ended up at a bar in the city’s meatpacking district called Jolene’s, its name pulsing onto the dark sidewalks in bright pink neon letters. The place was dead–no one but a lone bartender and the DJ setting up his decks across from the bar. We soon filled a back room, where mismatched couches and chairs sat in front of a wall papered with safari animals–elephants, zebras, giraffes, the like. Twinkling fairy lights had been strung around exposed silver ductwork on the ceiling, a needlepoint crossstitch hung on the wall and candles glowed on a table. It had the kind of funky ambiance you always hope for in a place.
After we settled in with our drinks, David pulled out his iPhone and announced, “Momondo is going to do its first narrative tweet!” We’d all been in a workshop that afternoon called “Storytelling 101” given by Andrew Evans, a well-known travel writer whose most recent tour de force was a voyage to Antarctica via a 10,000-mile bus journey from DC to Argentina. Although the trek would have been remarkable in its own right, Andrew used it as an opportunity to practice, as he calls it, “real-time storytelling”–utilizing social media tools like Twitter to report directly from the road: tweets, blog posts, photos and even videos like this one of a rare black penguin.
But it isn’t just reporting…in many ways, it’s still writing. In the workshop, Andrew encouraged us to be creative with our posts, sharing how he’s even taken to crafting his tweets into haikus–working within, rather than against, the confines of Twitter’s 140-character limit. Here’s a couple he posted just yesterday:
“In Copenhagen/ November dawn comes too late/ The day ends too soon.”
“Danes inside Denmark/ Sport tight black leggings, high-tops/ & star trek Haircuts.”
As someone who’s always eschewed Twitter, finding it something that merely duplicates the Facebook status updates we’re already posting everyday, I left the workshop somewhat inspired…and actually itching to get my hands on an iPhone. I liked the fact that tweets can be more than just “I’m in London and loving it!”–that we can actually utilize it as a tool to engage creatively with wherever we are–be it at home or on the road. As Andrew said, “The jury’s still out on Twitter.” It’s up to us to use it as we see fit.
And so it was in a bar called Jolene’s on a Saturday night in Copenhagen that a group of aspiring travel writers/bloggers tried their hand at the same, all from the suggestion of David. He handed me his phone and I, along with a London-based Aussie named Justin and a Berlin-based American named Cheney, whipped up a haiku of our own. Here’s what we came up with:
It was a proud moment for all of us, but we didn’t give it a lot more thought until Maren, cofounder of TBEX and GoGalavanting, and Dylan the “Travelling Editor” suddenly walked into the bar. “How’d you find us?” we asked, amazed that out of all the bars in Copenhagen, they’d come to Jolene’s. But it wasn’t so random, after all. “The haiku tweet, of course…it was like a treasure hunt!” We could’ve tweeted something as uninspiring as, “TBEXers–meet us at Jolene’s!” Instead, we took a few extra minutes, soaked in the atmosphere around us, and wrote something both creative–actually still informative.
And to think it had been David’s idea…for once, we weren’t blaming him for this.