How I Put My Passions Into Building Something That Matters
2020 has been quite the year. It’s been so challenging for all of us. A year ago we were enjoying a trip through Italy. That seems like a decade ago now. We’re living in an uncertain time. It’s certainly not the right time for working on a travel app but I didn’t know that when I started all this a couple years ago. In the end, we work with what we’re given and we go from there.
One of my hobbies is taking my crazy ideas and bringing them to life by joining different web technologies. I’ve spent years transforming ideas from thoughts into working applications with various levels of success.
Two years ago, I decided to take my passion for travel and combine it with my crazy hobby and see where it would take me. This involved writing thousands of lines of code, designing hundreds of graphics, figuring out GPS tracking, cross-device orientation, iOS security changes, evolving web application standards (mostly for the better), optimizing photo uploading, working with augmented reality, writing historical descriptions, configuring a CDN, and optimizing mobile site performance, among other things.
Every day has led to something new. I’ve found that if I can imagine it, 99% of the time there is a way to make it happen through research, books, forums, and hours of trial and error. It’s amazing the resources that are available, the generosity of the developer communities, and the technology we have at our fingertips.
During this time, my new travel app evolved from a simple project to a very detailed web application. Users can now check-in from every country, U.S. state, over 70 cities, and more than 120 destinations world wide. I’m a bit obsessed so I keep adding more cities, destinations, and hidden surprises every week.
The vision has grown out of two ideas:
- Our Love of Travel: We love to travel with our kids. Over the years we’ve used simple print outs that the kids color to track the states they visit. They’ve also grinded pennies into collectible coins and tried different stamp books which we always seemed to forget once the next trip came around. I thought it would be fun to combine these ideas in an always accessible web application that could make the experience more interactive.
- Our Interest in History: We like to explore historical locations. Unfortunately, most of the time the signage is focused on adults. I wanted to provide something that would keep them engaged. So I’ve started writing descriptions for many of the destinations in simpler language that they can read and learn from.
It’s been an adventure getting to this point. What started as a simple app has grown to include:
- A built in travel journal
- Collectible virtual stickers for over 70 cities
- Collectible virtual stamps for over 120 destinations (Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, Big Ben, etc.)
- Unique stickers for each of the 50 U.S. state capital buildings
- Over 20 historical people to find and learn about
- Travel challenges to complete by visiting U.S. states, world cities, castles, etc.
- Answer trivia questions to test your knowledge of the place you go
- City checklists to ensure you don’t miss the best sites
- Option to add your own hidden gems (scenic views, restaurants, notes, etc.) to the map that you can return to later and share with other travelers
- A passport page to show off all the stamps, stickers, and badges you’ve earned
My goal has been to provide fun ways to learn from your travel experiences and to make it easy to share those experiences with others. When you look back at your journal, you’ll be able to relive all of those great moments.
We’re now at a point where we’re entering the beta phase of the process. I’ve tested the app on our trips to Spain, Italy, and England along with several trips around the U.S. However, to really ensure that everything is working well, I need to reach a larger audience. I need to test in new cities and new countries. I’m looking forward to this new phase but it’s also a bit scary. Now we get feedback from real users and it won’t always be what I want to hear. That’s OK. It’s the only way to get to where I want to go next, the journey within the journey.
So here’s to the next phase and to the ones that will follow from there.
Enjoy the journey, learn along the way, and share your experiences with others.
Covid may slow down our plans, but I look forward to a return to travel in the near future. And maybe, we can be part of your travel experiences some day too.