Dear @JuliaAQuinn – an open letter to #Amtrak’s Director of Social Media

Dear Julia

I’m really pleased and excited to see how the #AmtrakLIVE experience works out for you over the next few days.

I’ve travelled to (and from) SXSWi twice now on Amtrak and loved every minute of it. I’m only sorry that I’m not doing it again this year.

In March 2010, Brian Condon, Heather Taylor and I flew from the UK to start our journey in Boston holding meetups there, in NYC, DC, Atlanta and New Orleans travelling by train all the way, but because of the schedule found we needed to drive (boo!) over to Austin from NOLA in order to be there for the best of the festival. After the usual mad few days I took the Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited over to LA doing the return journey of #AmtrakLIVE. It was a fantastic way to relax and reflect on the whole experience, get to know other passengers and make some video.

In March 2011 I travelled alone for a project I called “Please Look After This Englishman”. I started in San Francisco on March 1st with no firm plans about who to see other than to visit SXSWi and to get my plane back from JFK on March 31st. I used my blog, twitter and facebook to explore the edges of my social network to find people to go and visit and stay with along the way. I reckon I totalled just over 8,000 miles on your network using a 30-day, 12-segment pass – what a bargain! That year I got the Texas Eagle down from Chicago to get to Austin.


Of course I blogged and tweeted, took photos and video all the way on both trips (although the lack of T-mobile data connectivity while on the Empire Builder going through the more frozen parts of Montana & N Dakota meant I had a little off-line time!) I was surprised during both trips to find so many people who’d never been on a train, nor thought of travelling on one.

So I’m thrilled to see you giving the same opportunity to a bunch of people this year and to see all the talk of writers residencies. Well done!

I’m only sorry that you and your team weren’t around 3 or four year ago, we could have had some fun!

If my experience can help with your thinking around writers residencies or any other projects you have coming up, please do let me know. I’m currently working on pulling the material I have into some form of web experience or e-book, there’s just *so* much material! I’m based in London so I can’t hop on a train to see you, but we have the internet! 🙂

All the best for South By, I’m sure you’ll have a scream there and back again!

2010 Blog

2010 Photos

2011 Blog

2011 Photos

Tripline map made from Foursquare check-ins