Recently someone walked up to me and asked if I was going to be able to survive this winter without another snowboarding sabbatical. I’m not really sure why they were asking (that’s like asking how I feel about getting rid of weekends). But it got me thinking, reminiscing, briefly sulking, followed by manically planning, and then really going “Oh heck. I haven’t posted in awhile.” So, here I am. Missed me?
Rather similar to my post way back in February titled “Well this is going fantastic”, October and November have been kind of bunch of butt-kicking-try-to-use-what-you-learn-on-the-slopes-or-rocks debacles. So far I’ve had everything from using every super power I possess to get antisocial strangers to be super social, trying to plan epicness from afar, attempting to conquer the impossible (for me at least), and pretty much metaphorically running into trees at top speed.
So once again, I’d like to share some things I’ve learnt. Take ‘em or leave ‘em. Your choice.
Strange People Are Your Friends.
I have a little story. It’s going to sound sketchy at first, but hey – when isn’t my life borderline odd? So, a few nights ago, I was sitting around the rock climbing gym with friends when this random dude walks up with a heavy haul sack. He plops down on the crash pad and says, “Anyone want a fruit roll-up?” Now, I’ll be the first one to say that I totally did grow up with my parents advising against taking candy from strangers, but I’d like to think this was slightly different. No white van or dark alleys involved.
After I jokingly asked him if they were drugged we all started munching down on fruit roll ups and we got talking. Turned out the random guy was a regular just like us, and he was using snacks as a way to break the ice with strangers and find new people to climb with. So no – not an ax-toting murderer (not that we know of yet).
So where am I going with this? Well, meeting people is hard. I used to be crazy introverted. Like there are wallflowers and then there’s the wall, and then there’s the people on the other side of the wall. I was that cool kid. So, I kind of consider myself a rehabbed introvert these days.
What’s my advice? Stop being so darn picky. I run into all these people who say, “I can’t find anyone to climb/snowboard/hike/whatever with.” Really? No one at all?
Take a serious step back. Is it that no one really exists or you just can’t find your dream partner? I once talked to a girl who was whining up a storm that she couldn’t find a climbing partner… anywhere! I suggested all these ways of meeting people, but when it really came down to it she was looking for an attractive guy who would be her belay slave. Dirtbags, fellow climber chicks, and older climbers need not apply. I think she finally ditched climbing in this area to find a gym with auto-belayers. All to avoid the unattractive climbers… wow.
So short of lugging around a haul sack full of candy, how does one meet others for things like climbing and hiking? Here’s some of my favorites:
- Meetup: I used to be a serious skeptic of Meetup, but more recently I’ve been really getting into it and they have a good thing going there. It’s going to take some time to find the right Meetup group, but as long as you just keep going into it with an open mind and reasonable expectations – you just might be pleasantly surprised.
- Your Local Outdoor Store: This one sounds super sketchy at times, but if you’re near an EMS or even some of the REI’s, they’re great about connecting people looking for outdoor partners. Sometimes even the staff is looking for partners, so speak up. Ask if they have a community board or a way of communicating with store regulars. You have nothing to lose! (This method does not work with big box stores like Sports Authority – just saying.)
- Social Media: I’ll admit this one takes work, but there are so many ways of finding cool people. Want to hike? Take to the AMC’s pages and social sites. Want to climb? Use the Twitter hashtags #climb and #climbchat. I’ve already climbed with several folks I’ve met on Twitter and I have a list about a mile long now of people I want to climb (and snowboard) with!
- Forums: It might be because I work as a community manager of a massive (non-outdoor related) forum, but forums still hold a ton of potential. Look for the meet up section of each board and just give it a shot.
Now, I’ll also add in here that over my years of becoming a rehabbed introvert I’ve also learnt a lovely handful of lessons on what not to do. So, here’s what you should do:
- Public Places: Don’t set off on a 4-day backpacking hike with the random dude you just met on some random forum. I know that seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how trusting some people can be. Meet up with the person somewhere more public first (a not so isolated state park?).
- Check Their Skills: On one particular Meetup, I had a guy who offered to belay me and I accepted. Even while just getting ready he seemed to not be paying attention, so I was seriously concerned about his belay skills. Needless to say, when I took a practice fall about 10 feet up just to see what he would do – it was a lovely drop. No way in heck was he belaying me past that point or on any other climbs. If your safety or sanity is going to be in jeopardy, put them through tests. Furthermore, checking skills is seriously important for their own safety too.
- Communicate: This is a three-part thing. First off, even if you are just meeting up at some popular local park – tell someone what you’re doing and what the plan is. (where, who, what, when) Second, be open and honest with the new partner about your expectations of them, but be reasonable. Third, be totally blunt about what you’re here for. Just climbing, but no discussion of personal life? Snowboarding and drinking buddy? Say so!
Point is – there are plenty of people out there… just like you. So, get out there, get social, and get exploring.
And I promise to start posting more soon. =D