Week 34: A Hike Near Home, Courtesy of Meetup [Score +14]
What activity do you so love that you unconsciously quiet your mind and find yourself completely present and in the moment?
For me, hiking fits that bill. I love how the sounds of modern human life—car engines, phone dings—drop away as you trek farther away from the trailhead. I love feeling my muscles warm up and my lungs expand from the exertion of a climb. I love hearing the chatter of squirrels, the singing of birds, the rustling of leaves, the rushing of rivers, and the snapping of sticks that makes me stop and peer into the brush in hopes of spotting wildlife (from a safe distance).
I find it meditative and calming. So, why do I usually save this bliss for vacations?
The answer to that question is simple: for no good reason at all. But I finally made a step in the right direction (no pun intended) with a hike through Eagle Creek Park.
If none of the other experiences I’ve had so far this year counted, this one would mean I had some success toward my goal.
And who did I hike with? A group of complete strangers I found via the Internet.
How’s that for being an intrepid introvert?
Meet Up On Meetup
Have you ever felt frustrated about wanting to do an activity, have an experience, or share a common interest with others… but none of your family or current friends are able or willing to go with you? Meetup—an app I don’t think gets nearly enough attention—is perfect for exactly that scenario.
“Meetups are neighbors getting together to learn something, do something, share something.”
From book clubs to travel groups to yoga classes to super-niche gaming discussions, you can find a Meetup group for just about any common or eclectic interest under the sun. And if one doesn’t already exist, you can start one.
The first Meetup I joined was a small-dogs’ playdate at a dog park in Jacksonville, FL earlier this year. While Mylee and I were staying in nearby St. Augustine, I’d taken her to one or two dog parks on our own. Not many small dogs were there for her to socialize with, though, so the outings were somewhat pointless. On Meetup, though, I found a group of dog owners who organizes separate small- and large-dog playdates each month. Without knowing a single other person, I decided to be adventurous and give it a try.
That day, Mylee and I socialized with more than a dozen dogs and owners and had a grand time. The experience was 100% positive, and I resolved to give Meetup a closer look for other activities, too.
Eight months and 900 miles later, I found a group of outdoor enthusiasts in Central Indiana who arrange activities at least once a month. Their most recent Meetup was at Eagle Creek Park on the west side of Indianapolis, which is one of the nation’s 10 largest municipal parks. It’s less than 10 miles from my house, yet I rarely visit and had never explored the trails contained within it.
On a misty, foggy fall afternoon, I met about a dozen other hikers of all ages for a hike of about three miles through the park. The weather was far from ideal; if not for the idea that this would be my intrepid activity of the week, I would have stayed home and skipped it.
Thankfully, I didn’t succumb to the lure of the couch and a cup of tea, and I’m glad. Shrouded in mist, the colors of the park at peak fall foliage were more noticeable without the distraction of a desirable blue sky. After a round of introductions, I found myself in step with a woman about my age and chatted with her for the duration of the hike. She was new to the Indianapolis area, and I admired her courage to join the group. We came from notably different upbringings (hers stringently religious, mine more choose-your-own-adventure) and world views (hers conservative and traditional, mine liberal and career-focused), but I enjoyed finding common ground and learning about her perspectives and experiences.
In the end, I left with a real sense of success at bringing a vacation-only love into my everyday life at home, and I resolved to keep it up.
If you haven’t explored Meetup yourself, give it a try. Be intrepid. See how you can make home feel like vacation, too.
- Did something outside my routine: +1
- Left the house: +1
- Did something entirely new: +1
- Activity benefits my health/wellbeing: +1
- Burned real calories (so I got some exercise): +1
- Signed up for an activity without knowing anyone else involved: +2
- Had a conversation with a stranger of at least 30 seconds: +2
- Had a conversation with a stranger beyond basics (i.e., work, hometown, what’s your dog’s name): +2
- Learned someone’s name: +3