No matter what wrinkled line travelers follow across an atlas, they have an instant heart connection with other wandering spirits. Even if one group is going to Puerto Rico and another is on the way to France, fellow travelers understand the shared desire to keep moving, gypsy-style, and see the world with wide open eyes.
It was on the cerulean beaches of Australia’s Gold Coast when two such kindred groups collided. Ryan Hanly and Mark Cantoni, and a group of random backpackers. Something prompted these two men to share a joint dream with their new acquaintances: they saw a need for some way to instantaneously connect travelers when they arrived at their new destinations. The backpackers loved the idea. Before they parted ways, they encouraged Hanly and Cantoni to put their idea in motion. This motivated Hanly and Cantoni to develop an app called “Outbound,” for the travelers looking to share new experiences in new places.
Even though I have no large-scale trips planned for the next year, I downloaded the Outbound app so I could test its efficiency for when I am on the brink of travel.
My Outbound account was relatively easy to set up, requesting a username, password, gender, hometown, birthday, and other typical details. I decided to use fabricated information for this “test” account, and entered “Santa Fe” as my hometown, which is across the country from where I was really born. I was a little shocked when, after I tapped on my personal profile, it showed my current physical location at the top.
“Of course, they track my location. That’s the purpose of the app,” I said to myself, a little embarrassed at not fully realizing this beforehand. As soon as I opened the Outbound app, it had automatically “found” my location so it could display information about travelers based in my area. When I tapped on the “Search” tab, the app brought up a screen that listed “People nearby.” It was eerie, because I knew that these people were actually, physically nearby, not just categorized based on their hometowns.
Using the “Explore Trips” and “Events” tabs at the bottom of the app, a traveler can create and search for adventures by country and city, while specifying exact dates. Travelers can create events and trips of their own, and open them up for other app users. From that point, the travelers may decide to travel together, or meet up when they arrive at their destination. This would definitely be useful, especially for college students who are undecided on where to go for school breaks.
On the Noticeboard tab of the app, travelers can exchange travel advice, chat about destinations, and advertise their travel plans. Naturally, coordinating travel times is hard. As I scrolled through the notices, most convos I saw shaped up like this:
Outbound User 1: “I’m going to _____ in _____ for two weeks. Anyone want to come with?”
Outbound User 2: “Aw, I’d love to come, but can’t afford! Have fun!”
The most useful conversations seemed to happen in formats like this:
Outbound User 1: “I’m going to _______ next week! What are sights I should definitely visit while I’m there?”
Threads like the above had multiple responses, all useful information about sights to visit and also recommended restaurants and hotels. I was impressed with the interactions I did see, and everyone using the app seemed like respectable human beings sincerely passionate about travel.
While the idea behind Outbound is wonderful, I’m wary of what will happen if the wrong audience gets hold of it. It has a very stalker-friendly set-up, and seems all too easy to track someone down, or create a false identity and set up a meeting with the naïve traveler who trusts everything they see on app-land.
Outbound holds a unique practicality for the gypsy-like individual always on the move. Just add a healthy dose of caution to any in-person meetings, and Outbound will be a great agent in forming new friendships across the globe.
Ellyn Gibbs is a writer, adventurer, and Misadventures editorial intern.