Updates from guidl HQ

guidl's beginnings

Joe Butler
January 17, 2024
5 min read
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I write today's blog at home, on the last Friday before Christmas. I feel lucky that for me, the mad rush of holiday shopping and preparation has given way to a sense of calm and anticipation. My attention turns towards spending time with my loved ones, and enjoying the spirit of the season. It's a time for savouring the simple pleasures, like hot chocolate (with Baileys) and a book, a wrapped-up Winter walk around our village, and forcing my wife to watch A Muppet's Christmas Carol.  

It's also a time for reflection. For me 2023 was the year guidl went from a good idea that Monty and I discussed (enthusiastically but furtively), to a living breathing thing. We're pleased that guidl has remained true to the original vision, even with all the challenges, twists and turns of the year.  

The core idea for guidl began over a stolen conversation in a hospital office, sometime in mid-to-late 2021. Monty and I were the doctors on-call, providing emergency medical cover to inpatients in a hospital in Oxford. We both have a background in clinical research, and Monty wanted to discuss a paper, exploring the impact of spending time in nature on our subjective health and wellbeing. The paper found that those who spent at least 120 minutes per week in green space were significantly more likely to report being in good health and wellbeing than those who had not time in green space at all. This association was still present in those participants who had existing long term health conditions.  

From our clinical experience of treating those experiencing illness, we know how those suffering from poor mental health and wellbeing often find themselves becoming more isolative, lonely and disengaged from their world- which often makes things worse. And from our personal experience, spending time engaging with our external world; whether a diversion on our commute through the park, a determined morning stroll, or a guided tour around a new landmark on holiday; reliably improves our mood.  

For those with diagnosable mental illness, formal medical intervention is often required. But to a lot of people the idea of engaging with one's world being good for us is an intuitive one. We began brainstorming how we could incentivise people to explore their world. The idea of consuming guided tours on a smartphone app quickly materialised. Often the smartphone or device is seen as a barrier to the external world- something we end up glued to, scrolling through social media when we should be more present. But we don't think this need be the case. Rather than a barrier, we felt guidl could make it a bridge. A bridge that connects people to the nature, history, culture that exists around them.  

And that bridge is two-way. guidl is not just about exploring, but also creating and sharing too. I have lived in Oxford for my whole life, but by listening to Monty extol the beauty of Oxford's architecture, I've seen how diverse perspectives and interests can enhance our appreciation for the world around us, even somewhere we think we know really well. When I've shared my interests, particularly the management of mental illness in the 17th century, I've also felt a sense of excitement and connection.  

We therefore wanted to create a platform that would allow anyone to share their unique viewpoints and perspectives with the world. guidl's mission to democratize guidl tour creation is rooted in this belief - that by giving people the tools to create and share themselves in a guidl, we can uncover a wealth of knowledge and perspectives that might otherwise go unnoticed.

It was in that moment, at the end of that oncall shift, that guidl was born. We both realised the potential impact guidl could have on people's lives and we knew we had to bring the idea to life. The world might be winding down for the holidays, but with guidl the possibilities of exploration, creation and discovery are only just beginning.

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