It’s Friday night and a long weekend filled with aimless chores stretches ahead. A fantasy vision of you, surrounded with stinky, smiling friends, happily enjoying fellowship in the backcountry seems far-off and hopeless. It’s hard enough to meet friends, never mind the sort of friends that would rather go for a hike than engage in pursuits involving team sports, funnels filled with beer and/or video games.
It doesn’t matter if you’re new in town or new to the outdoor life: You have AOFDD (Acute Outdoorsy Friends Deficit Disorder).
Sit back. Relax. We have the cure:
Go to your local outfitter
A local outdoor store should be your first stop. Find a local REI, EMS, Adventure 16, Gander Mountain and get yourself there post haste. People work at outdoors stores because they like going outside. Ergo – the friendly staff at your local outfitter will know where to go, how to get there and the names of local clubs. More often than not, they’re looking for outdoorsy friends too. When I worked at EMS, I really enjoyed hiking and climbing with a few of our regular customers.
Get a job at an outdoor store
Most outfitters offer flexible hours for part time employees and a discount on cool gear. Your customers are people that want to go outside, providing a never-ending stream of outdoorsy folks who might be your newest outdoorsy friend.
If you know the area you’re going, have the 10 Essentials, and someone knows where you’re going and when you expect to return, try going alone. It might seem weird or scary at first, but it’s amazing how quickly your mind quiets down when you get comfortable in a new environment. Remember, people spent thousands of years outside before we even had an “inside.” It is highly unlikely that you will become a feral human and reenact “Into the Wild.” Promise. Once you’re out there, digging the solo vibes at the crag or on the trail, you’ll start to meet people, any one of them a potential outdoors buddy.
Retreat to the ultimate refuge of the lonely: the interwebz
Sites like Meetup.com and even Craigslist can be great places to meet outdoorsy folks. Take the initiative by setting up group hikes, birding trips or climbs yourself, and watch nice outdoorsy people just like you come out of the woodwork.
Contact Local Clubs/NPO’s
A Google search for local outdoors clubs will reveal a plethora of local clubs, ranging from Hashing groups, local land trusts, mountain biking, hiking and climbing groups. Get in touch, swing by their offices and ask “Will you be my friend?” They will be more than happy to tell you about opportunities to get involved in your local scene.
Even better – pick one of those local groups and volunteer! There’s nothing like a day of trail maintenance, or even volunteer office work, to put you in close proximity with people so bored or physically taxed that they have no choice but to get to know you. Plus, you’re doing some good by volunteering your time!