Six-months travelling the world and online
A small-town boy is about to embark on the large-scale adventure of a lifetime.
Lewis Whaitiri will live the dream of 22-year-olds all over the country as he sets off on a six-month, all expenses paid trip around the world.
The only catch is that he will be filmed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Eden Terrace media studies student is the winner of the Gap Year, a reality series run by Bebo and Endemol.
The series follows six young people on their travels around the world which will then be screened in halfhour episodes on the popular networking website.
Originally from Gisborne, Mr Whaitiri was among 400 New Zealanders who auditioned for the spot on the show.
Along with the other five contestants from Australia, England, Ireland, Canada and the United States, Mr Whaitiri will set off next Wednesday to a mystery location.
Although they will be travelling separately, the group may meet up at various legs of the journey to perform challenges in exotic locations such as Machu Picchu, Vienna, the Himalayas, the Grand Canyon and Thailand.
Gap Year travellers will chart their travels on Bebo through video diaries, blogs and photos and fellow Bebo users will be able to engage with them, sharing travel tips and voting in weekly polls to determine how their journeys unravel.
Although he has done some travelling with kapa haka groups, this will be the first time Mr Whaitiri has been away from home for more than a few weeks.
He says his whanau in Gisborne have been incredibly supportive.
“I think they’re more excited than I am right now.”
He says family and friends have even been holding raffl to raise extra spending money for him and says a lot of them are even thinking of getting broadband so they can keep in touch with him on Bebo.
For someone who has no idea about where he will spend the next six months of his life, Mr Whaitiri is remarkably relaxed.
Although he doesn’t mind where his journeys take him, he says he would love to visit Egypt.
“I originally entered with the thought of wanting to visit all the wonders of the world and do the haka on them,” he says.
“But I’ll just go with the flow and see what happens and enjoy the journey while it lasts.”
Endemol UK’s digital studios head Pasa Mustafa says it was Lewis’ “larger than life” character that helped him win his place.
“I remember when our executive producer first met him, Lewis was opera singing his way through his auditions and we just fell about on the floor laughing. He has that effect on you.”
Mr Mustafa says following Bebo’s success internationally Gap Year is simply the next step into reality TV.
“For the 13 to 24-year-olds on Bebo, travel represents a subject that crosses every cultural barrier and connects their global audience. We will see the travellers become adults as the journey shapes their experiences.”
Globe trotting: Lewis Whaitiri is about to set off on a six-month trip around the world which will be screened on Bebo.