BackTracker founder & CEO Henry Latham says ‘why not’ to international experience
Learn how London’s 23-year-old Henry Latham became a CEO amid his university studies and how Latham’s experience abroad inspired his bright idea for a backpacking app.
TIG: First, could you tell me a little about the app you’ve created, BackTracker? When was the app launched? What is the purpose of the app? Did any event or experience in particular inspire you to create the app?
Latham: It was launched in April, in the midst of our finals. The app is an all-in-one backpacking resource, for plotting a journey, staying in touch with friends and family & discovering what to do and where to go next. The app was conceived during a 3-month trip in Brazil & Colombia at the end of my year abroad, with the first business plan written down on a 4-day boat trip down the Amazon.
TIG: Why do you think it’s important that backpackers share their experience?
Latham: The very diverse and inherently social side of backpacking lends itself to online sharing, allowing backpackers to discover – and be inspired by – the suggestions, recommendations and journeys of each other.
TIG: Who is your app catered towards? Why did you decide to create an app catered to that group?
Latham: Backpackers – traveling by myself for so long gave me a lot of time to think, and that inevitably led me to analyze the immediate problems I was facing on my trip: namely the lack of a go-to resource to cater for all my travel needs. Travel guides are heavy and out-dated, social media was over-saturated and irrelevant for staying in touch with others backpacking and I found blogs unappealing and detached.
“World travel is a great way to realize that you don’t – and shouldn’t – just live in a comfy little bubble.” -Henry Latham
TIG: Why do you think world travel is important? What are some of the lessons you learn by visiting a foreign country? What lessons have you learned?
Latham: World travel is a great way to realize that you don’t – and shouldn’t – just live in a comfy little bubble. Being out of your comfort zone, trying new things and ditching a daily routine (if only for a while) are necessary for your personal development. So many people never realize there’s more out there to discover and get stuck in a rut back home. I’ve learned that it’s never too late to try new things, which has translated itself into me challenging myself with new skills and potential career options. I think you realize that barriers are only things you feel exist, when in fact you can pretty much do anything you want (within reason) if you put your mind to it.
TIG: How do think international experiences shape young people personally and professionally? How have international experiences shaped you?
Latham: For me personally, it’s meant that I want to challenge myself to learn new languages and work in a number of other countries. International experiences should be part of all university degrees and opportunities to go abroad should be facilitated for any young people (regardless of them being in higher education), as it allows you to mature quickly, become more open to other people and provides a great opportunity for self-reflection.
TIG: Would you encourage a young person to seek international experience? Why or why not?
Latham: I don’t really see a ‘why not’. Once you get over the media attention surrounding certain destinations and realize that any foreboding, fear and misconceptions are largely unfounded, I can’t see anyone not enjoying themselves. If they aren’t, then it’s probably because they haven’t bothered to leave their new accommodation to actually go and meet people.
TIG: Do you speak any foreign languages? Which ones? Why did you decide to learn a foreign language?
Latham: I studied Spanish at University and self-taught Portuguese during my year abroad, which is part of the reason I wanted to travel to Brazil after my placement finished in Madrid.
TIG: At The Intern Group we encourage young people to gain international work experience through internships abroad in Colombia, Spain, Australia, China, the UK and the US – how might our interns benefit from using your app?
Latham: Sharing the cool, hidden places in a city are what we are all about. We want to avoid the standard, Lonely Planet-type recommendations that are written in a fairly detached, generic manner. Interns are ideally placed to bridge the knowledge gap between what the more adventurous foreigners want and the authentic local places you won’t know about on a quick stop-over. Rather than having to send emails back to their family and friends, they can quickly and easily post photos and a blog post on our map to share with them – much easier and more enjoyable for your family.
TIG: Tell us your absolute favorite memory abroad:
Latham: Off the top of my head the most random was probably a TV interview I did in Medellin. It was during the World Cup and Brazil had just won (I had the shirt on), with Colombia just about to kick-off and the streets rammed full of people. A TV crew ran over and interviewed me on live TV, asking what I thought of the game, etc. I only realized a second in (when it was too late) that they assumed I was from Brazil, so just went with it for 5 minutes and was broadcast on the big screens.
TIG: Could you tell us a little about the second version of the app you’re currently launching? How is it different than the previous version?
Latham: There have been some big changes behind the scenes, with a full-time team of 5 working on it. We’ve had to rebuild most of the initial work, but are getting there. A ‘Nearby’ section allows you to discover where to go next or what’s around you and our featured travel videos and journeys should make for good reading and watching for those with a bit of wanderlust. We’re gradually moving towards community-generated and curated content, but are wary of overcrowding the app with irrelevant reviews (like TripAdvisor).
TIG: How can our readers download your app?
Latham: Just go to the App Store and search ‘BackTracker’ or visit the website to use our lovely web app www.backtrackerapp.com. If you’re an Android user like myself (ironic that I can’t use the app), then you’ll have to wait until the end of November – join the mailing list on the website for travel news and an update though!
If you’re an established professional and would like to share your success story and how it relates to the benefits of international experience, The Intern Group’s content team would like to hear from you! Please contact Elizabeth, our blogger extraordinaire, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo 1. by Henry Latham
Photo 2. by Henry Latham
Photo 3. by Henry Latham