JIM HAYNES

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Before Google… the alternative travel guide to Poland
by Vicky Baker,
The Observer, October 7, 2012
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What follows is one of those surreal travel experiences, where one new friend introduces you to another and another. Before long we've set off through Kraków's artistic underground. As a CouchSurfer, I am used to finding golden opportunities through strangers, but the unusual thing about this connection is that it came about after I tried to resurrect a 20-year-old tourism project that was, in many ways, the precursor to modern social networking.
Back in the late 1980s, US-born Jim Haynes, a former bookshop owner and renowned supporter of counter-culture arts, had an idea. Convinced that the best travel experiences come from the people you meet, he set himself a goal: he would match inquisitive travellers with gracious hosts by creating an alternative guidebook. Commercial gain was not a priority, so he started in a country with no travel industry that was still fighting communist rule. Poland: People to People finally hit bookshelves in 1991, the year of the first completely free elections in the country since the 1920s.
Peer-to-peer websites are 10 a penny nowadays, but turning the idea into a book back then was quite a challenge. Jim sent out a typewritten letter through his already extensive network of friends and got it printed it in various Polish publications. The resulting volume looked like a personal address book, with each contact filed under the town they lived in, starting in Augustów and ending in Znakowo. The cover price of Ł6 bought you the contact details of 1,000 strangers.
Poland, people to people guide, photograph Dave Depare / Brave Spark Media
Photograph: Dave Depares/Brave Spark Media
Jim gave me an out-of-print edition at one of the open-house dinners he runs every Sunday at his Paris home. It was like opening a little time capsule. Intrigued by the idea of taking modern networking back to its roots, I wondered whether, 20 years later, Jim's hosts would still be willing to greet an unknown visitor from overseas?
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read the complete article on line on the Guardian Website !
article by Vicky Baker, freelance journalist, published in the Observer Sunday 7 October 2012
photograph by Dave Depares / Brave Spark Media
published with the kind permission of The Observer
©The Observer, 2012

 

 

2012, The Observer : Before Google… the alternative travel guide to Poland

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