Photo courtesy of Alex and Luke.
A little over a year ago, Alex Sabine had just moved back in with her parents to look for work following a master’s degree abroad. Shortly after, the family’s home burned to the ground, destroying all possessions and hampering prospects of meaningful employment. At the same time, her best friend, Luke Vigeant, was working a hapless consultant job and looking to buy a condo in Toronto. Both knew they wanted out.
Two quarterlife crises, one “fairly moderately sized” insurance cheque, and an unused condo down-payment later, Alex and Luke are embarking on a massive road trip where no continental U.S. state or Canadian province or territory will be left uncharted. It’s like what you might expect a twentysomethings’ self-discovery road trip to look like, except that for Alex and Luke the routes, lodgings, destinations, and activities of their journey will be largely decided by friends, family, and curious strangers via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media outlets, where they will then be dutifully documented for all loyal creepers.
Perhaps it’s fitting that the decision to make this tech-fuelled trek began with a frustrated text message. As Luke recalls, “I sent my friend Alex a text message saying I wanted to quit my job, and Alex said ‘come on a trip with me’—I knew that she was planning on going on a road trip through the States at some point—and the wheels started turning in my nerdy technology-consultant head.”
Alex had been working a job that she recalls as “decent, but not the best,” which she also opted to leave in order to make the trip-planning process a full-time endeavour.
Alex and Luke’s motives blend youthful self-fulfillment with geeky curiosity. “From kind of a nerdy, academic perspective, I’m really interested to see what the potential is for [social media] technologies to affect something so basic as travel, which has been around forever,” says Alex.
On the duo’s website, viewers will be able to vote on everything from potential whereabouts to whether Luke’s two-and-a-half-year-old VW Rabbit (the pair’s mode of transportation) should be named Burt Reynolds instead of Monsieur Lapin. While the trip has no definitive route as of yet, the pair have carefully charted out a list of potential launching points from which voters can choose and, ultimately, control the exact course of Alex and Luke’s travels.
“For something that sounds very vague, there’s actually a lot of planning behind this,” says Luke, adding that they already have over four hundred would-be voters on their Facebook fan page alone.
Parties interested in contributing travel funds can also do so online, with a quid-pro-quo exchange of the donor’s website/blog/Twitter information to be printed—in a font size proportionate to the dollar amount given—on the side of the car. While Alex and Luke are adamant that they do have the means to fund the trip themselves, Alex points out that the more people donate, the greater the incentives will be for people to steer the travellers’ course of activity. A quarter of all donations will be given to charity.
“We’re going to be able to do something really cool in a technological space that no one has done before, and that really excites me,” says Luke. “You can either do it now or you can do it never.”
Alex and Luke plan on leaving the Big Smoke on March 20. It may be the most gimmicky road trip you’ve ever heard of, but at least it might be fun to watch.