When Tony and Maureen Wheeler created the Lonely Planet Guidebook back in 1972, things were very different. There was, of course, no TripAdvisor, no Facebook, no multitude of iPhone apps and websites to help you plan your trip. Travellers headed East through Europe to India and South East Asia with little information about the destinations they were heading.
Yet somehow, tips and advice managed to filter through to other travellers on the road, just a few stops further behind. “When you get to Kabul, make sure you stay at this guesthouse, when you arrive in Kathmandu, be sure to call into this restaurant and try this dish!”
Famous hippie hub – Kathmandu, Nepal.
So how did word trickle through?
A simple concept known as the ‘traveller notice board’ was vital in spreading information. In various hippie hubs along the way, the first thing travellers would do was to head to the extensive notice board to check out what parties were going on, who they could hitch a ride with and which new hotspot on the trail backpackers were congregating. One of the most famous, being the notice board at the Pudding Shop in Istanbul, reportedly the very start of the famous hippie trail of the 60s and 70s.
Today – the notice board is still very much a beloved part of backpacking life.
See anything interesting? (Photo: Dani Lurie)
Advertisements for yoga classes, items to buy and sell, lost property, notes from people looking for travel buddies… there’s something heartening about spending time browsing on a pin board looking at a slice of traveller life from one point in time.
Now, imagine if you could have access to all of the traveller notice boards all over the world at the same time. In our digital age of communication, one ambitious Israeli backpacker named Gilad believed this was possible!
The creation of boOola
In 2014, Gilad and his partner Koby were traveling through Asia on the honeymoon of a lifetime. They spent five months making their way from New Zealand through Fiji, Australia, China, India, Cambodia, Vietnam and finally Thailand.
Gilad and Koby on the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand
Like many backpackers, every time they were heading to, or had just arrived in a new destination, they were keen on getting the lowdown from other people that were there. They wanted to know the backpacker hangouts, where the best parties were and if they could join with other backpackers on treks and day-tours, to make things cheaper…
Connecting with other backpackers is what travel is all about!
Their saving grace was the hostel notice board.
However, they soon saw its limitations. Posting a friendly note on the wall in just one hostel just wasn’t going to be seen by enough people. Unless they actually went around to all of the hostels in the neighbourhood, the reach of the message was restricted to around 10-20 travellers staying in that one hostel. That’s when Gilad (with a background in geeky software development!) started thinking…
“Why can’t I post something that will be exposed not only to MY hostel, but ALL the hostels nearby? Hey – why only Hostels? Why not to ALL TRAVELERS nearby? Why should we post a note offering seats in our car, or sell our camping gear, with the chance that only a few travelers staying in that hostel will be interested? THERE MUST BE AN APP FOR THAT.”
As is often the way with a good idea – you can’t believe it hasn’t been done already!
There was indeed no app that replicated the treasured traveller notice board on a grand scale. Yet it seemed such a valuable and useful thing to have! Yes, there were apps for finding travel buddies or plotting your journey, but there was no free app available for travellers to post any advertisement they wanted.
It was from this ‘gap’ that boOola was born!
The word ‘bula’ means ‘hello’ in Fijian, thus the name of the app is dedicated to the people of Fiji, a place that the couple fell in love with, and is a token of appreciation for their amazing hospitality.
How does boOola work?
The aim of boOola is to become a traveller’s notice board for every place on earth. The main aspect of boOola is that everywhere in the world gets the same opportunity for exposure; meaning; even isolated places, non-touristic places, off the beaten track – they are all treated the same. boOola is agnostic. It serves as a map for the world and provides a notice board for every dry land with a name.
The app is currently for iOS, and an Android / desktop version is in development. Once logged in on your smart phone, you can enable ‘location services’. This will give you a list of popular places nearby that currently have notice boards, or you can simply search for any other notice board you are interested in. Or alternatively, start your own!
Each place gets its own board/wall. By following, the user can see what is posted in these places by other users, as well as submitting his own posts.
Some awesome features of boOola!
- boOola shows a list of the most popular notice boards nearby with the number of travelers in the area. This helps the user decide where best to submit the post for maximum exposure!
- Country boards are linked to destination boards – so a post submitted under Bangkok for example – is also exposed to all those who are following the Thailand notice board. This helps travelers get a sense of what’s going on in different places around the country!
- Travellers can instantly share their boOola post on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites saving you time posting your message on every other site!
- You can create your own board with pinned posts so you can save tips or keep track of comments without the need to search for it again. This is proving an extremely useful tool for regular users!
- COMING SOON! boOola show posts based on distance. So let’s say you’re in Chiang Mai, you can set the distance to show posts of up to 100km from Chiang Mai. This makes it easier to see relevant posts without actually checking each and every nearby notice board one by one.
- COMING SOON! You can choose your language so boOola will only show posts in your selected language. So, English won’t be a prerequisite/constraint!
Feedback from travellers
boOola was launched in January 2015 and shared in travel forums to get an impression from real travellers what they thought about the app… would they use it? Do they understand what problem boOola is trying to solve?
- Says one reviewer in the App Store: “This app is extremely easy to use and very innovative. I am new to backpacking and will be using it wherever I go!” (From/r/backpacking)
- Another reviewer gives it an impressive 5 stars and says: “A must have! Great app, this has huge growth potential- it’s fun and useful! Love it! (Alldniksweretkn)
- One backpacker was particularly enthusiastic about the app – she posted this comment in response to a video ‘Must Have Travel Apps for 2015’ by the PsychoTraveller! “Everyone should know about ‘boOola’! I believe a backpacker set it up, and it is still really new and not many people are on it yet. But it is amazing and everyone should know about it because its so worth having! It’s a traveller’s notice board – every city, town and village has a board. It is SOOOO good! (Maizie Gardiner)
So it seems that travellers who have tried boOola, really do love it.
It’s a big thumbs up for boOola amongst backpackers!
The general impression is that it can be extremely fun and useful – only if there are enough travelers using it (how true!). Editor of South East Asia and South America Backpacker Magazine, has been having a play around with the app this week and says:
“boOola has a great, clear design and is very easy to use. You can really tell it has been made by backpackers, for backpackers. I would recommend it to travellers everywhere! I really hope it takes off on a big scale as it has the potential to be very useful!” (Nikki Scott – Editor of S.E.A Backpacker Magazine!)
In addition, S.E.A Backpacker Ambassadors are currently trialing the app, so don’t miss out on an opportunity to connect with them and be a part of the backpacking community worldwide!
Download boOola FREE now!
So what are you waiting for? Download the app NOW (it’s completely FREE to use!), start posting right away and tell us what you think?
boOola currently has 1200 users, with the majority scattered around Oceania and South East Asia – and the word of how useful it can be is rapidly spreading all over the world. By downloading boOola you will immediately become a part of a friendly community of like-minded backpackers all over the world!
This is a sponsored article.