If you’re anything like me, you’ve gone through at least several major changes in your life. Moved away for school, a new job, settled down with a partner and maybe even popped out a baby or two. But no matter where you are in life right now, fresh air, vigorous activity and socialization remain important to your physical mental and emotional well-being.
If you’re in a place where you’re looking for new pals to enjoy your fave outdoor pursuits with, fear not. Read on for six tips on how to meet like-minded outdoor enthusiasts (and not feel like the new kid being gawked at by everyone in the school cafeteria). Remember, there is no such thing as strangers- only friends you haven’t yet met.
1. Check out Meetup.com
The site allows you to find and create special-interest groups. Group fitness activities (as general as walking or running clubs to as niche as inline skating or SUP) are hugely popular. The beauty of the site is that it allows you to search by region and by keywords. Many group have public reviews and a list past meetups so you can get a sense of whether it might be the right fit for you. Once you are accepted into the group, you’ll also have access to the profiles of other members. If you do end up hitting it off with a potential BFF after your first meetup, there will no awkward “uh, maybe I can text you sometime?” convo- you’ll be able to contact them through the meetup.com portal.
2. Post an ad
Fancy a game on the clay courts but don’t have a partner? Visit your local rec centre and post a sign on the bulletin board, or on your community mailbox or even a telephone pole if you want to go super retro. Leave the briefest of contact info (no need to put full names if you’re not comfortable) and fingers crossed, you’ll soon have a match made in tennis heaven. If so, you can suggest grabbing a post-game latte together; if not, shake hands and bid them farewell.
Caution: This advice is better left to pursuits that take place out in the open in plain view of others- save a hike in the forest or fat-biking in a deserted field for people you already know and trust. Safety first, and all that.
3. Take the initiative
During mat leave, I joined a local moms group that planned your typical events like baby yoga and coffee dates. They were fun, but I was aching to do something more active. I suggested baby-wearing trail walks, and was pleasantly surprised when a handful of moms jumped at the chance. Sure, we may have drifted apart once we all went back to work, but those outings chatting with other moms, with my snuggly baby strapped to my back, and breathing in the pine-scented air are some of my happiest memories.
4. Check out local events and resources
Local newspapers or websites can be a wealth of resources- check the community listing pages or social media feeds for upcoming sporting or fitness events that may interest you. I recently found out an outdoors adventure club in my region with discounted rates on trail access, chartered bus transportation to ski hills, social activities etc. all for a low membership rate of $25.
Don’t forget to check out your local YMCA or community centre too- they offer tons of quality group fitness programs in outdoor settings. Boot camps, for example, are a fun way to get fit and meet people- and nothing develops a faster bond than commiserating with the other participants about what a slave driver your instructor is as you huff and puff your way up and down a hill for the tenth time.
5. Channel your inner child
Think back to when you were a kid. Aside from school, where did you make friends? Probably after-school or weekend lessons. I recently decided to take up horseback riding lessons, something I loved as a nine-year old. You’re never too old to join a soccer league, take up swimming again or make the switch from skiing to snowboarding. Whatever your love is – rediscover it and make friends along the way.
Pursuing an outdoor activity in a group setting is a great way to build new friendships. You already have something in common with folks, so the conversation can flow naturally. When you’re having fun, you’re at your best, most authentic self. And if you don’t click with someone in particular, it’s easy to move on with no hard feelings either way.
Finally, this parting thought:
6. Go solo
Hanging out with others for motivation and socialization can be great, but sometimes the best company can be yourself.