Author: Bernd Wechner
Published on: January 1, 1997
Well the new year has arrived, and I'd like to share an idea that I've been nurturing for some time. It is inspired by the problem faced by Hitch-hiker's guides since the dawn of time.
To illustrate the problem, consider Daan Toner who just wrote an excellent guide on hitching through Europe. To put this book together he traveled almost 90,000 km throughout Europe, visiting almost 170 of its cities and towns, in person. I'm sure he enjoyed all of it, and many of us appreciate his efforts.
The reality though, is that Daan is not going to get rich through sales, and that its relevance will be on a steady decline as each year passes. The roads change, the cities change, social climates change, everything changes, and Daan can't keep traveling Europe to keep his book up to date.
That is why so many of these excellent guides have faded away and ceased to be. Because they represent the ephemeral impact of a select few lovers of hitching with much energy and enthusiasm.
But there are hundreds of thousands of kilometers traveled every year by hitchers world wide, many of whom are on the net, and may of whom are also keen to share their experiences. Surely we can exploit that.
The Hitch-hiker's Guide to Everywhere is the project I have in mind. It is an on-line book, much like Daan's, much like its predecessors. On-line, because it needs to have many authors, all contributing their experiences, regularly.
It will keep itself up to date thanks to their efforts. Its quality will be directly related to the number and quality of the hitchers that support it. It will be a lasting legacy.
Better still, as on-line access spreads, you won't need to carry a book around with you, you will be able to consult the guide on-line on-the-road and gain advice on your current location. It won't be restricted to Europe. It will cover all the ground that all its authors cover. It will live as long as its authors live.
How do we make this dream a reality?
The technology is here. A simple forms based web interface would allow users to contribute data and access it. All that is needed is to implement it, and to build the base of users.
It will take time. It will start empty, with a handful of hitchers contributing ideas. But over time it might grow, hitchers might tell one another about it on the road. I for one am increasingly leaving my URL with people I meet on the road, much as I've always shared my address with them
The user base may take years to grow. But the time to start is now. The technology is here, and users are flocking to the net in their millions, hitchers among them.
It is worth my stressing here, that this is NOT intended to be a ride sharing, or linking service. They abound already. It is NOT intended to be a commercial venture. Its success depends heavily upon free access.
No, it is much rather a database, indexed on countries, and cities and towns, and directions of travel, in which users can record where they stood, how long they waited, and how they got there.
When a new user needs to leave a place in a certain direction, he or she can consult the guide for other people's experiences, and add to them after the event.
I am ever keen to hear from people that share his dream, that can help to support it. It is a difficult dream to realize, because the people most passionate about it, are out there hitching traveling the world, more often than cyberspace, and when they're home, they are rarely web professionals with disk space to burn.
All the same, let's hope that 1997 might see the birth of just such a service. Thumbs up to the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to Everywhere!