By Ian Standard, Contributing Blogger
Building a strong community in the outdoors takes time. You meet new people, get to know them, find out how they fit with what you like to do outside, and allow time to test that relationship. Moving and other big life changes can require building a new community, or expanding your own.
As a small kid, it’s easy to make friends. Back then, we were unabashed and unafraid of simply asking, “do you want to be friends?” Today it can be seen as a bit socially awkward to go around questioning others and it needs to be more of an unspoken agreement. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to expand your outdoor community and make new friends along the way without approaching strangers in the supermarket (although, that is always an option).
Take a Class
I can name multiple marriages that blossomed on day one of a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course. While you may not be looking for marriage, friendships can be built easily through taking classes about something you’re heavily interested in.
Classes like a WFR, beginner hiking, or advanced climbing, can be one of the best ways to meet people who are interested in doing the same things you like to spend your time doing. These classes are made for helping people to get outside more and more, so the chances are good that you’ll find people who want to spend their time outdoors.
REI and other outdoor shops are great resources for finding courses that may interest you. They put them on, usually for cheap, regularly and can be a good spot for learning a new skill or perfecting an old one.
A good outdoor community is one that is loving and caring towards each other and the world around us. For that reason, volunteering has a lot of potential to bring together a wide range of people with the common interest of protecting something or someone.
There are a lot of volunteering opportunities just about anywhere you go. Local creek cleanups can easily introduce you to groups of people who might paddle together. Trail volunteer groups are filled with people who go hike those trails together all the time. If you show your love and care for a certain place, you’ll surely meet others that share that love.
Explore Social Media
Social media is the newest way of meeting, and interacting with, friends. There are massive communities that already exist all across different platforms. Whether these groups are local or not, you can often find ways to get involved and branch out just by networking. Treating your social life like a business retreat feels strange, but it’s a quick way to make connections and find people down the road.
Hiking groups, paddling groups, backpackers, skiers, mountain bikers, and basically everyone else take to the internet for sharing resources and planning meetups. If you take a glance at any of these pages, you’ll find dozens of people looking for others to go explore the outdoors together rather than doing it solo.
Go to the Climbing Gym
A local climbing gym is often packed with people who want to get outside, but might not have the time that day or don’t want to brave the weather. Regardless, the climbing gym is a great atmosphere for hanging out and meeting new people.
There are often large groups of friends that climb together indoors, training to go outdoors. Even if you aren’t a professional, many groups of climbers love to introduce others to the sport. There are a lot of different events that also happen at gyms which brings together a wide array of people who share similar interests.
Inserting yourself into a community that already exists can be awkward and difficult. Remember that the outdoors is a welcoming place, as are the people who frequent those wild spaces. Put yourself out there and it’s guaranteed that communities will bring you in.