Michael Wong has been an effervescent bundle of energy and ideas for as long as we can remember. As the Chief Creative Officer behind CMG Asia + FLG Asia, the group behind California Fitness, “there are always multiple creative requirements from club design, innovative programs to various marketing campaigns,” he tells us. For his latest project, he’s wilder than ever – dreaming up an app that helps track Vietnam’s hiking trails and campsites.
Đọc bài viết bằng Tiếng Việt
“Oh, man,” he shakes his head. “We must have between six and ten ideas every day. Then we work together, refine them down, and decide which ones we want to act upon to drive awareness and to help people achieve results.
ExoTrails Comes From A Passion For Vietnam
ExoTrails is one of them. And it comes from a place of genuine passion for the country he and the team call home, while tapping into a relatively unexplored side of the Vietnam – its wilderness trails and places to camp.
The Canadian wilderness was also partly responsible for the creation of the ExoTrails app. “I’m from Calgary, Alberta,” Michael says, “a place blessed with the crown jewel of the outdoors, The Rocky Mountain. Plus, Alberta has countless nature reserves, parks, campsites and trails. So, the instinct to explore nature is probably in my DNA. And now in Vietnam, I’m in a place with diverse terrain that’s accessible all year round with a long coastline and warm water. No more -30C winters like the ones we’d have in Calgary.
So, unsurprisingly, the app connects to the “extremely grounding and inspiring” healthy lifestyle Michael was raised in, and that he’s been promoting through his social media and his work with California Fitness.
In A Tent In The La Ngau Valley In Binh Thuan
“I was in my tent, some time in October last year, in the La Ngau Valley, in Binh Thuan, right beside a river. I had only found the location after what felt like endless hours of searching on the internet, using Google and asking questions in Facebook groups (and then a whole other challenge began of actually trying to get there). So, that got me wondering why it was so hard to find places to camp. Or even places to hike. Then, I got to thinking how beautiful Vietnam’s landscapes are and how amazing its rural communities are. And it dawned on me that there was a real gap there.”
“Every trail feels like a secret right now!”
Michael’s approach to finding places developed. He’d follow the seasons, and pick spots near villages or townships where there’d be food and a gas station. He’d usually try somewhere new each time. “And so every place seems to be my new favorite spot because each is usually very different from the last,” he adds.
So, when we ask him to share a secret trail, he’s quick to remind us that, “every trail feels like a secret right now!”
There’s already 600 trails added to the app. And 500 more are added every month. “So, I honestly couldn’t pick a favorite,” Michael shakes his head. “It all depends on your proximity to the place, and what you’re interested in – which is why those features appear in the app.”
Added to that, he says, the locations are safe, and they’re generally easy to access, especially with the app, which launched in March. Since then, the team has been busy building brand awareness through different social platforms. “And we’re adding new features like an offline function, community groups, shareable trails and notifications,” Michael explains.
And, as you’d expect, they have some creative and fun marketing ideas they’re planning to implement. “When we reach the 10,000 downloads mark, I want to organize our first ever Exo Trails Campfire event at a specially selected venue as a thank you to our first subscribers. It would be a first for Vietnam.”
ExoTrails Is For The Active And People Interested In Being Active
Besides aficionados of the outdoor lifestyle, Michael hopes the ExoTrails app can entice others to explore Vietnam’s off-the-beaten-path places. “Active people inspire me,” Michael nods. “But there’s a lot of people out there interested in being active, and who love Vietnam – so this app is for them too.”
Michael was always very proactive in personally building the perception of the benefits of working out with friends at California Fitness. He’d post group HIIT sessions and ice baths, and more. “Right, over the years we deliberately cultivated a strong culture, building deep relationships and a strong sense of community along the way. Community is the driving force behind the greatest of empires. And we remember to always express some gratitude and add some value as we grow,” he muses.
Users Can Select Trails By Popularity Or Proximity
With the ExoTrails app, he’s aiming for more of the same. “Yes, with those experiences in the back of our minds, we designed the app to be community-driven and accessible, and especially attractive for Vietnamese-language users,” he explains. And users get to “select trails by criteria like their popularity, or their proximity.”
“Besides that, we’re talking to a Japanese digital platform, to explore how members can earn rewards via our Exo Seed token, which can be donated to various rural communities and environmental groups. Members can eventually be trekking, running or camping in a Metaverse-like world while earning rewards for every step they take through the ExoTrails app.
There’s One Question Still On Our Mind
There’s one question that’s been on our mind though. As well as being known for his fitness activities, Michael Wong is renowned for his sartorial style, with an array of fine suits. So, we wonder how he adapts his wardrobe for the wilderness. “OK, well, I go for comfort,” he laughs. “Something utilitarian. And items with lots of pockets for my gear. And then a comfortable pair of hiking shoes.”