Every winter, at least for the last several years, I’ve decided that this would be the season of winter sports — the season, that is, that I finally figure out the magical combination of gear rental and bus schedule to get my little car-free self out to that nearby mountain of ours. Every winter, I imagine that I will finally ski or snowshoe or snowboard or sled or anything to get out to the snow.
But every winter, the season has gone by without my actually having made it. Whether real or imagined, I’ve been deterred — by the hurdles of having to rent gear, or of having to take several different buses and figure out how the schedules work together, or of not having people in my life who spur me on to do it — I’ve been deterred just enough by the compounding factors not to make it happen.
Until now. THIS year, I found an alternate approach: Meetup.
Let’s just say it upfront: Meetup is not a car-free option, since we ultimately end up taking cars to wherever we’re going. But it is a carpooling option, and I’m okay with that.
For those of you who don’t know (are there any of you, or am I the last one to this party?), Meetup is basically a giant pool of varying interest-based groups that all offer different events. I joined a bunch of hiking and adventure groups, since I was looking for adventure buddies, and bam! All of a sudden there were so many random hikes and snowshoe trips and bike rides and mountain climbs happening! If I were free, I could add my name to whatever list and join any group for any trip that sounded interesting.
Which has led to my blitzkrieg of snowshoeing this winter.
Typically, a Meetup will go something like this: I will find a trip that looks interesting, commit to meeting somewhere at a specific time — usually Gateway Transit Center early in the morning — and show up with the necessary food, water, gear, clothing, etc. Once there, I will meet the other people going on the trip, we’ll figure out how to most efficiently fit all of us into the least number of cars, and away we’ll go.
This has been good for me for many different reasons. First of all, it’s allowed me to get out to the mountain in a way that still feels morally decent. Yes, we’re driving, but we’re carpooling the heck out of it.
Secondly, it’s allowed me to meet some pretty rad folks. You never really know, of course, what sort of group dynamic you’re signing up for when you commit to a trip, but I’ve met some real gems.
Which leads me to three, that I’m pretty sure it’s good for my own personal growth to go on these trips. Since I almost always adventure on my own, I’m very, very practiced at making my own decisions and following my own whims. And you know how you get better and better at the things you practice? Sometimes I worry that I’m practicing myself out of being able to travel with anyone else, ever. So being part of a group, especially a group of strangers where I have no idea what to expect, is a good exercise in rolling with things I can’t control.
(This came in handy particularly on a trip where the group leader had no idea what he was doing and we spent 6 hours wandering around aimlessly in the woods as my chances of making it to my evening class got more and more slim. Ha! Though that’s not what most trips are like;)
All that to say that I’ve been pretty excited to be able to get out to the snow this season, and excited to get out there with other people, and excited to exercise my social and group-decision-making skills. Though I’m not generally into internet platforms that purport to bring people together, this Meetup thing is working pretty well for me right now. And so far it’s proven to be a good way to expand my travelable reach in the winter without my own car. Good deal.
Anyone else use Meetup or comparable things to find good people or expand your exploring? Let me know what your experiences have been!