When I arrived at UGA as a freshman four years ago, I thought my days in Athens would consist of three things: music, football, and parties. And although I’d be a liar if I said I haven’t done my fair share of each of those things, my real experience here in Athens has consisted of so much more. It all started one night during my first semester at UGA, when I bumped into a friend from high school. He asked what my plans for the night were. “Uh... go downtown I guess?” I replied, shrugging. It seemed to be the go-to answer for freshman like me who really had no idea what they were doing. College had granted me an awesome new sense of independence and freedom, yet I had no idea how to use it. So although stumbling downtown each night and getting myself into trouble certainly wasn’t the most creative way to have fun, I didn’t really feel bad about it. What else was I supposed to do? But that night my friend had better plans in store; “Dude, my RA is super cool,” he said, "he’s taking my hall to explore this hidden tunnel under Sanford Stadium tonight. You wanna come?” I wanted to respond with something along the lines of “Sorry man, but I'm already exploring some other hidden tunnels tonight.” But I most definitely wasn't. In fact, it sounded like just about the coolest thing I could possibly do with my Tuesday night.
So that night I embarked on my first real Athens adventure. And although I didn’t realize it at the time, it planted a seed that quickly grew into an insatiable desire to explore. I began asking around for more recommendations of unique things to do in Athens. And the more I asked, the more I realized just how much was hiding in this small college town of ours. Redneck Beach, the Tree Room, the Iron Horse, the Watkinsville Railroad Bridge… the list kept going on and on. And with each trip, a new memory stitched into the fabric of my college experience.
Through these adventures, I became especially close with my friend Cole. Cole and I grew up together as next door neighbors, but lost touch until we both found ourselves at UGA. Next thing you knew, we were climbing buildings, jumping fences, and running from cops together (a story for another time). Inevitably, there came a point at which we had exhausted most of the better-known adventures in Athens. We began wishing for a way to easily discover more of these hidden gems. We wished we could just tap into the collective knowledge of all the adventurous Athenians around town. And thus, in classic “there-should-be-an-app-for-that” fashion, Pingaea was born. I approached Cole with the idea in the fall of our junior year, and sure enough, he had also been toying with the concept. It would be a smartphone application that helped people discover even the smallest, most obscure things to do in town. Things you couldn’t find in a Google search. The content would be user-generated in order to allow for the best, most unique adventures to find the spotlight. Users would drop pins onto a map highlighting their favorite things to do, and add photos and information for each particular adventure. Once submitted, other users could access those pins and try out the adventures themselves, leaving their own photos and reviews of their experience. This would allow for the app to scale quickly - once we laid out the initial framework, all we’d need to do was let the people of Athens fill it in with awesome content.
We were the perfect team to tackle the project: I specialized in creative arts and marketing, and Cole, a computer science major, already had substantial experience in building apps. We began working on it slowly at first. We’d brainstorm names for the app, talk about color schemes, and how it would work. But the longer we talked, the more serious it became. Eventually Cole started laying down the code, and I began designing mockups for the user interface. We started dedicating more and more of our free time towards building the app. And now, a year and a half later, after only accidentally deleting all of our work once along the way, Pingaea is finally on the App Store! The journey has been a wild one already, and we’re excited to see how the people of Athens will interact with the app, as well as all the amazing adventures they share! Athens inspired us to seek adventure, and now we hope this app will inspire others to do the same. So give it a download and start exploring!