Saving Locations as a Digital Nomad

It took me a long time to realize I couldn’t just remember which cafe had great wifi, or which mile-marker that bench-like stump was off. In this post, I share a little bit about my journey of tracking locations.

Back in late 2005 when I first started exploring new locations, it was largely a case of hopping between the same 15 local cafes. Before long I was going wider, and it became more difficult to remember the nuances of each location I had discovered. I needed a system.

I first began by simply taking notes in my notebook. This was simple, since writing things down helped burn it deeper into my memory. But the sheer volume soon outweighed this simple system. I needed to be more organized, and it took me the better part of 10 years to realize I should have stored all these details digitally, from the start.

The obvious place to begin searching was the App Store. I think I typed “location journal” into the search. I knew what I wanted, kinda. An easy way to geo-tag a location, take a quick photo and add any notes, like whether or not there was phone reception. Since my most frequented locations nowadays tend to not be found on Google Maps, Foursquare or Yelp, I knew this was going to get tricky.

Most results which seemed to fit my needs were indeed centered around the nearby business results; forcing me to choose from a list of nearby businesses. Sure — Subway is up the road, but I’m sitting on a 40-year-old bench off a hiking trail. C’mon.

Here is a list of the apps I tried out. Note that I limited my search to FREE apps — I wasn’t willing to pay for anything up-front just to try it out. But first, the winner:

WorkHardAnywhere

WorkHardAnywhere took the cake… when I first used the app I thought to myself “this feels like the app I would have made.” It doesn’t try to be smarter than me. I take a photo, name the location and optionally set some pre-selected things like power outlets, wifi, and things like that. Perfect. It lets me quickly toggle between list view and map view, and there’s a semi-private community behind it all, so it’s not just me adding locations. Obviously, this is powered by remote workers. Perfect again.

Runners up, in alphabetical order:

Everplaces

Everplaces was my runner-up. It has a mature, clean interface. It’s pretty easy to learn, and it does everything I needed, plus a bit more. It has a mature user base and is very social. I wasn’t really looking for any social features, but the ‘collections’ feature I could see being very useful for helping to organize locations.

GeoLicious

Geolicious’ integration with foursquare really put me off right from the start. The fact that the ‘auto check in’ feature is turned ON by default was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. The difference in the app between Check-Ins and Locations is unclear at first glance. Each time I post it prompts me to choose from a foursquare location. No thanks.

GeoSpike

GeoSpike seems geared for actual trips, not one-off location tagging. It’s social by default — at launch you’re greeted with posts from others. Not what I wanted. Its interface is kind of utilitarian, and some features require you to create a GeoSpike account to use them. Again, not really what I needed. I did however appreciate the ‘Spikes Near You’ main tab item. It’s a great way to find out what’s close really quick.

KeepTrax

Keeptrax has a slick interface, and I was immediately woo’ed by their app icon. The data is very rich — perhaps too rich for my needs, but I appreciated the thought that went into it. After just playing with the app, though, I had so many interaction bugs that it put me off really fast. The interface is far more complex than my needs, and it needs to mature a lot. The last straw here is that they sent me a completely useless push notification hours after signing up. Bah.

Spot

Spot was another I had really high hopes for — as a designer, their icon said “trust us — we believe in simplicity” and I drank the kool-aid. While I really loved the minimal design of the interface, the core screen’s design (which features a full-width thumbnail with some tiny text of your entries) put me off. Pictures are not how my locations should be found. On top of that, it took all my photos and created a timeline for me automatically. No thanks.

Sunlit

Sunlit was really interesting, and perhaps my 3rd runner up. It doesn’t create any content automatically for me, which I appreciated. It didn’t make me create an account or login to foursquare. Its simple interface was easy to understand right from the start. You create a ‘story’ and then add entries into that story. Fine. It worked smoothly, and I nearly settled on it. The downside was that there’s no apparent way to get my entries anywhere outside of the app on my phone.

Wapoint.li

Waypoint.li is probably the closest match to my actual needs. The app interface is über-simple. You take a picture, add a caption and tags, and done. It lists your pics chronologically and gives you the option to sort them by proximity. Everything works great, and it’s super simple. The downside for me was that there’s no way to display your points on a map. Otherwise, this might have done it for me.

WorkHardAnywhere

WorkHardAnywhere took the cake… when I first used the app I thought to myself “this feels like the app I would have made.” It doesn’t try to be smarter than me. I take a photo, name the location and optionally set some pre-selected things like power outlets, wifi, and things like that. Perfect. It lets me quickly toggle between list view and map view, and there’s a semi-private community behind it all, so it’s not just me adding locations. Obviously, this is powered by remote workers. Perfect again.

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