I found a tribe this past weekend (well, one of them, anyway). Eleven other women and I all wanted to pee in the woods, worry about bears, and freeze while sleeping. Um, okay, that’s not really what we had in common, but that is what ended up happening. We all wanted to go backpacking, but we didn’t know how or have any friends who were interested learning by trial and error with us. And, let’s face it, going into the woods by yourself after dark, especially as women, isn’t exactly the type of activity that our loved ones encourage. Luckily, we had found an online travel company, Explorer Chick, that organizes outdoor adventures (including guides and equipment) for women.
There were women of various ages, fitness levels, and experience in the group. Several of the women had met each other earlier through other excursions with the same company. We all stepped outside our comfort zone – for some, it was just a baby step, a leap for others – and we were better for it. These women were smart, funny, and brave souls. Being around women who wanted to leave the comforts of modern life behind (mostly), made it seem more “doable,” less intimidating, and much more fun. As I looked at the gals around me, I couldn’t help but feel in awe of the times we are living in.
The internet. It’s good and bad. There is a correlation between social isolationism and social media use. The internet and social media are blamed for everything from our shortened attention spans to election results to our lack of privacy. More and more, we are considering that the internet might not actually be the best thing since sliced bread. But, it’s here to stay, and we can be mindful of social media, its impact on our mood, and whether it’s feeding us or depleting us (more on this in an upcoming blog post).
We also have a choice to use it as a tool for real connection. We can easily step outside our comfort zone, learn new skills, and, as was the case with my backpacking group, connect with new people who are interested in the same things we are. Studies show that learning new skills and social engagement benefit us, especially those activities outside of our “comfort zone.” We live in a time when any hobby, interest, or idea, is just a few clicks away. You can google *any* topic and find blogs, YouTube videos, or you can find a group of people to join and learn from. Facebook and MeetUp are wonderful opportunities to connect with people who are interested in the same things as you. My backpacking adventure this past weekend is a big, bold example (or at least it feels like one to me), but it doesn’t have to be something grand. Maybe you like to knit, or read books, and you’d like to join a knitting or book club. In my area, I found groups for hiking, skiing, poetry, and one for drinking beer while talking about politics (seems like a recipe for disaster, but, hey, whatever you’re into) … you name it. And if there’s not a group already devoted to what you want to do — start one. I guarantee that there are other people out there just waiting to find someone else interested in the same thing.
Connecting with people who share your interests and are willing to take on new adventures with you is a priceless gift. I found a running group years ago through Facebook. That group kept me motivated to run, and running introduced me to my husband. I never would’ve met some of my best friends without that group. I may not have needed a group to “teach” me to run, but they make the miles go by quickly, motivate me to get out the door, and they’re always willing to share advice on training or injuries. In fact, I roped one of my good friends from the running group into coming along with me on the backpacking trip (or maybe she pulled me into it; I’m not sure who can blame the other).
Sitting at home thinking that you don’t know anyone who would be interested in doing X, even though you’d like to do X, is no longer an option. Rest assured there’s someone else out there to keep you company; it may just take a little effort to find them.
That said, please don’t take anything here as permission to do something stupid. Meet in public places, try to check out any company or organization ahead of time, and if something doesn’t feel right, ABORT! If you’re supposed to meet a group of moms and a sketchy dude named Carl with a “mom” tattoo on his arm shows up instead, it’s time to freak out a little, okay? Call 9-1-1.
I would’ve never met the dynamic, brave women who backpacked with me last weekend without social media. I also would have missed the opportunity to lie in a sleeping bag wondering if that was a bear I heard rustling in the leaves and whether I really needed to pee as badly as I thought. While I hope to go backpacking again, even if I don’t, it won’t be because I am too intimidated or because I don’t know anyone who would go with me. I am now lucky enough to know 11 other women who would be interested.
Wishing you a few moments of clarity in your day,
If there’s something that you’ve ever thought – wow, I’d like to try that – remember the Nike ad and Just Do It!
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