If your experience with social media mostly has you peering at your laptop screen, you just might be doing it wrong. That’s the premise of a new crop of apps and social-media tools aimed at crowd-sourcing adventure travel and helping adventurers find each other.
“You walk around now and everybody’s staring at their phone,” laments Gociety co-founder Alex Witkowicz, whose answer to the problem is, yes, a social-media app. “It’s funny — I laugh about it too — but social networks aren’t really all that social and I’d love to see that change. We think a social network should be about facilitating real-world adventures, people creating memories together, and a departure point for meeting cool people and for going out to do something cool with them.”
Gociety (tagline: “Meet awesome people”) is built on a fairly simple premise: You make a specific plan for a specific adventure, put it out as an invitation, and then go share that adventure with anyone who is interested in joining you. Or, conversely, you can sign on for an existing plan with somebody else and get to it.
“After college your friend groups dissipate or you move to a new city, like I did, and all of a sudden you don’t know anybody and it’s harder to find people up for adventures without that ready-made community,” Witkowicz says. “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to find all those people and bring them together somehow?'”
In its first year, Gociety managed to find more than 10,000 of those people. Now, three years in, that number is growing exponentially. Witkowicz and his co-founder, Anna Thielke, envision a community that is both local and worldwide.
Heading out in your own backyard? Gociety can help connect you with other adventurers who live nearby. Similarly, they hope it will also help globetrotters connect with people wherever they go.
“Everything is action-based,” says Thielke. “So you say, ‘I want to do this very specific thing at this very specific time and place. Who’s in?’ We’ve found that people are more likely to show up if there’s an actual plan, with details.”
Thielke’s been using the site to get into rock climbing after realizing she was the only member of the Denver-based Gociety team without climbing experience, and started by sharing a plan looking for other beginners to join her for an intro class. She’s since moved on to looking for climbing partners for missions all around Colorado. It’s an instructive example: Climbing is one of those adventures you often can’t have unless you can find somebody to go with.
Witkowicz says he has been using the site to find people to mountain bike with after work, and occasionally after dark. “None of my friends wanted to go ride around with flashlights on their handlebars, but I found 15 people right away on Gociety,” he says.
He’s also been using the site to find Colorado ski buddies from Denver. “I don’t want to go skiing with just some guy, or some gal, or some group of people,” he says. “I want to go with a pretty specific type of person who is at a similar skill level, wants to ski similar terrain, and has a similar temperament and personality so that when I show up and meet them, we both know we can go out and have a good time together. That’s kind of the premise of Gociety in a nutshell.”
Witkowicz and Thielke say that some of the other sites they sometimes get grouped in with — like Yonder, RootsRated, and Outbound Collective — are complementary, not competitive. “Those sites each help adventurers crowd-source trip tips and share suggestions in different ways,” Witkowicz says. “A lot of our members use all of them.”
The Gociety app also interacts with both Facebook and Twitter, and isn’t meant to replace either. “It’s not about trying to make plans with the people you already know, it’s about finding new people who like the sound of your plan and make awesome plans of their own that you want to be a part of,” Thielke says.
Gociety is built on the notion that no matter what kind of outdoor adventure you’re interested in, somebody nearby is likely to share the same interest or at least be intrigued enough by yours to give it a shot.
Want to find 20 people to dress in formal attire and join you for a backcountry ski adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park, as Gociety members did for last month’s Winter Formal? There’s an app for that. Want to descend upon a mountain hostel with a flash mob of yogis, mountain bikers, hikers, and climbers, as another group did in September, raiding The Bivvi hostel in Breckenridge for The Mountain Gathering? Same app.
Like any social-media community, Gociety has been getting stronger as it gets bigger, and some local communities are more built out than others. At the moment you’ll find more plans for adventures in places like Colorado, Washington, California, New Mexico, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming than anywhere else, but all it takes is signing up and making a plan somewhere else to help change that. The big-picture vision is that one day you’ll be able to use the app to show up on the other side of the world somewhere and have a crew waiting for you.
“We’ve got well over 10,000 people on the site now and it’s rocking,” Witkowicz says. “We get excited imagining what happens if we get a million people or 10 million people into this thing. What happens if this becomes some larger moment, some larger movement, where it’s truly a worldwide community and you’d never have to worry about finding awesome people to go do awesome things with?”
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