Afar: Feed Your Wanderlust

Who doesn’t love to dream of exotic destinations and make travel plans for the upcoming year? Even during lean times (especially during lean times!) I enjoy planning my next vacation, whether it’s a short road trip or a journey across the globe. Now that I’ve got the Afar Mobile App, I’m even more inspired to travel. Based on user-generated content, this app is a goldmine of personal accounts from world travelers.

If you’ve got a habit of bookmarking travel websites and yearn to travel like a local, keep reading to discover your new favorite (free) travel app for the iPhone.

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Getting Started

The home screen of Afar is a collection of photo tiles labeled by location. These tiles are frequently refreshed with new Highlights uploaded by users. Exotic locations like Vietaine and Cape Town carry the promise of an adventure to be had. If you’re planning a trip and looking for inspiration, or on vacation and seeking  recommendations, use the Search bar to type in the location or topic that interests you. Tapping the search box allows you to either enter search terms, or let the app use your current location to “Fetch Highlights.” Just doing some daydreaming? Enjoy scrolling through the home screen, which continues to refresh by fetching more Highlights for a never-ending stream of photos.

Browse the home screen for Highlights or search based on your location. I brought up the highlights for my neighborhood in the Denver area.

Browse the home screen for Highlights or search based on your location. I brought up the highlights for my neighborhood in the Denver area.

Tap one of the colorful tiles and get an expanded view of the user photo along with a description of the location and activity. Afar users seem to love sharing their travel adventures with others in a meaningful way. Their accounts of restaurants, locations and activities are full of thoughtful details and personal anecdotes. Afar allows users 1,500 characters to describe experiences in a Highlight, which details a specific activity and where other users can travel to live it. There are also buttons to Like, Share (email, Twitter, Facebook) or Save the Highlight. Saving the Highlight gives you the opportunity to add it to one of your current Wanderlists or Create a New List.

Tap one of the colorful tiles and get an expanded view of the photo, description of the activity, and mapped location. One screen shown left and right.

Tap one of the colorful tiles and get an expanded view of the photo, description of the activity, and mapped location. One screen shown left and right.

Just below the description you’ll find a photo of the user along with their name. It would be nice if you could click on the name and connect with the user or follow them, but that’s only an option on the Afar website, not the app. Below the user is a map showing the Highlight location. Tapping the map opens it up to full screen, where you can use the Directions button to Open in Maps or Get Directions, which opens the native map app on your phone. An Internet connection is required to use these functions.

More to Discover

You’ve explored the home screen of Afar, titled Discover on the menu bar at the bottom of the app, so now let’s talk about the next menu item, Magazine. Here you can browse Highlights from Afar’s print publication, which are just like user highlights except they are created by Afar staff. These Highlights are targeted at sharing unique experiences with users, and contain a lot more specific details like cost and contact information for the business, restaurant or hotel.

Highlights on the Magazine page are created by Afar staff and contain more specific details like cost and hours of operation.

Highlights on the Magazine page are created by Afar staff and contain more specific details like cost and hours of operation.

After browsing other user’s Highlights, you’re itching to upload a few adventures of your own and share them with the world. Tap the Create button (it looks like a camera) on the bottom menu bar and take a photo of what you’re experiencing right this moment, or select a photo from your camera library. If you have location services turned on in your settings, the app automatically inserts this information into the Highlight. If not, type in the address and the app verifies it for you. Afar really goes above and beyond to help users enter reliable information on locations. Type the description of your adventure in the box and select Upload, at which point you can share the Highlight via your Facebook, Twitter or email.

Share your adventures with the Afar community by uploading a Highlight. I added my trip to Austin for the Formula 1 race.

Share your adventures with the Afar community by uploading a Highlight. I added my trip to Austin for the Formula 1 race.

It seems odd that the app doesn’t collect the Highlights you’ve uploaded for reference all in one spot, so you should save the Highlight to a list if you want to refer to it again. After uploading, check the Discover home screen and you’ll see it update with your new Highlight. Tap the photo tile and hit the Save button to add it to one of your lists.

Wanderlists and You

Wanderlist on the bottom menu bar is where all the Highlights you’ve saved can be found. Afar doesn’t limit the number of Highlights that can be stored in your Wanderlist, which allows you to collect as many adventures as you want. Your Wanderlists are available to view offline, and that’s good for avoiding data fees while traveling. Enter into a list and browse through, or tap the box with an arrow at the top right corner to share your list via Facebook, Twitter or Email.

I've got Wanderlists for upcoming trips to London and Ireland, and I'm going to keep track of all the Formula 1 races I attend.

I’ve got Wanderlists for upcoming trips to London and Ireland, and I’m going to keep track of all the Formula 1 races I attend.

Conclusion

The Afar Mobile App is an attractively designed travel app that utilizes images of exotic locales and personal stories to draw users into the experience. The information updates frequently, showing each new adventure uploaded by users, which keeps the experience fresh and interesting. The app has a tendency to crash occasionally and doesn’t quite hit the mark when it comes to connecting users like the Afar website does, but these negatives are far outweighed by the positives. For travelers across the globe, Afar promises to provide an endless supply of inspiration to feed your wanderlust.


Summary

Based on user-generated content, the Afar Mobile app is a goldmine of personal accounts from world travelers.

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