By Chloe Wong | This is a story about a girl who doesn’t want to spend Christmas alone. When Hannah Ryan was a college student in the US, she decided to take a break from graduate school and explore the other side of the world by backpacking, solo. And she did, packing her bags and going on a four-month journey in Southeast Asia. It was all new and exciting at first, but she encountered a recurring problem.
Like many other solo travelers, Hannah loves backpacking but always had a hard time finding companions for certain sightseeing activities.
“I kept having the same problem of missing out on travel experiences when I didn’t have enough people to join me. It was really frustrating,” Hannah says.
She tried to take the initiative and organize travel plans via online platforms and meetup apps, but they often went south because certain excursions had a minimum requirement on numbers of people. Having experienced repeated discouragement and frustration over and over again, Hannah just accepted the fact that this is one of the downsides of travelling solo and she is bound to miss out on some fun travel experiences.
“I remembered backpacking in Bangkok around Christmas time. As much as I love travelling solo, I didn’t want to spend Christmas alone,” says Hannah, who decided to do something about it… to solve this problem once and for all, not only for herself but backpackers all over the world. “I knew I was surrounded by many solo travelers just like me, but I just couldn’t seem to find a way to connect with them.”
Increasingly, travelers accept each other’s advice and recommendations over all other resources out there when it comes to where to go and what to do. Holding on to the idea that we are living in the age of technology and meeting strangers online is no longer a taboo, she started to brainstorm something with her techy housemate Daniel O’Reilly, who is a Co-founder of roammate.
They started to put ideas into motion – to create a community where travelers can connect effortlessly and post travel hangouts, excursions, and events for other nearby travelers to join. It started with a Facebook group and eventually evolved into the app, roammate. They chose Singapore as a base and launched the app in March 2017.
There are many social apps out there that allow you to connect people online, and possibly find your travel buddy. With these apps, you most likely have to scroll or swipe through pages of selfies sending “Hey, want to go sightseeing?” messages.
But the truth is that finding companions with similar interests, schedules and traveling styles is often more difficult than we think.
“Ultimately, it is the travel experience that brings people together, not selfies,” says Hannah. With roammate, users have to indicate their travel styles, budget, flexibility, then they can post a plan such as “Let’s go sightseeing” at a specific destination and date. Other travelers in that particular location can request to join the plan if they are interested.
In that way, you can look through the relevant profiles of users who requested to join in order to safely choose good matches to meet. To reinforce the functionality, profiles also have referrals and validations from other users who have met up in the past. ID verification will also be added in the near future to protect users’ safety.
To Hannah, travelling used to be a temporary escape, a chance to recharge and put a halt to the reality. Gradually, she came to realize that it is also a self- enriching opportunity for us to learn and try new things.
“It is a way to connect with the people from all over the world. I realized how small our planet really is and how connected and similar we all truly are,” says Hannah.
When asked to choose one place that impressed Hannah the most during her journey in Southeast Asia, she recommends Ayutthaya in Thailand. It used to be the capital of Thailand until the late 1700s, and now the ruins of Ayutthaya are a historical marvel with considerably low crowds and incredible local food.
By the way, Hannah did spend that Christmas in Bangkok alone.
About Hannah Ryan
An American Entrepreneur living in Singapore, Hannah Ryan, 27, has a background in Chemistry Education but she now focuses on User Experience and Product Development as the Co-founder and CEO of roammate, Inc. She is also involved with the entrepreneurship programs at the Singapore American School and offers validation and user research mentoring to young startups.