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Got a hobby? A cause? There’s a Meetup for that!

August 4, 2013

trail marker

As I trekked up a mountain trail on a recent Saturday, I chatted with several other hikers, some of them regulars, some of them newcomers. We were a motley group with at least two things in common: a passion for hiking and a love of the outdoors.

What made this outing possible was a social networking website. Not Facebook, not Google+, not Twitter. The site is Meetup.com, where people can organize a group around virtually any interest or activity and attract like-minded enthusiasts from the same geographic area.

It’s a simple concept that works surprisingly well.

A few years ago, a friend familiar with my interest in hiking suggested that I check out Meetup to see if I could find a local hiking group. So I visited the site and discovered that there were at least two hiking groups based in nearby towns. I immediately joined them, and later joined two more groups so I would have plenty of hike dates, destinations and levels of difficulty to choose from throughout the year.

hikers on Mount Beacon

Taking a break during a hike on Mount Beacon in New York.

Today, if you were to search for hiking-related groups within a 50-mile radius of my hometown, this is a sample of what you would find:

Northeast High Peaks & Photography, Off Leash Hiking Enthusiasts Meetup Group (for those who want to amble with their dogs), Silent Meditation Hikes in Harriman State Park (led by a minister), Girls Just Want to Have Fun & Stay Active (self-explanatory), and even the New York Cemetery Hiking Group (not as creepy as it sounds).

There are also hiking and walking groups specifically for gays, lesbians, single parents, moms, young professionals, single middle-aged adults, vegans – the list goes on.

What’s nice about many of these recreational groups is that they also participate in cultural activities, such as attending local concerts, festivals and plays, including those performed by the talented Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival troupe. And after some hikes, participants keep moving – on to nearby restaurants for food and drinks (a reward for the seven or eight miles they just traversed).

hikers & birch trees

As of now, there are nearly 134,000 Meetup groups in 196 countries, according to the organization’s website, which describes Meetup as the largest network of local groups on the planet. The company’s goal is both admirable and ambitious:

Meetup’s mission is to revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.

Yikes! That makes my hiking groups seem a bit frivolous. But that’s the beauty of Meetup: It provides a central place – a kind of virtual coffee shop – where people can come together to pursue the activities, interests and causes important to them, no matter how ordinary or esoteric.

And, of course, you can join as many Meetup groups as you like. Sarina, a member of three of my hiking groups, also belongs to groups that organize kayaking, skiing and golf outings. The only limit is the amount of free time and energy you can muster.

Torne south view

The Hudson River looking south from Popolopen Torne summit during a springtime hike.

The best thing about being an active Meetup member is just that – being active. Unlike most social networking sites, this one is designed to get you off the couch and moving in some fashion – toward a trailhead, an art gallery or some other destination – and mingling with other members of your community.

Some people use social networking sites to document their every activity or political opinion or restaurant meal. And that’s just fine. I’m also a regular user of Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. But I also need to spend several hours each week untethered from computers and smartphones, feeling my muscles work, breathing in fresh air and savoring the natural beauty in my environment.

Mount Beacon southwest view

A recent view from the top of Mount Beacon.

Okay, so I do carry my smartphone during hikes. But that’s mostly for taking photos or in case of emergencies on the trail (really!). And on one occasion, my cellphone came in handy when another hiker and I were so engaged in conversation that we missed a turn in the red-blazed trail we were following.

About 30 minutes later, the hike organizer called from the foot of the mountain to ask where the heck we were. We turned around and made it to the parking lot just in time…to join the group at a local watering hole.

Are you are Meetupper? If so, what is your group’s purpose or passion?

suspension bridge

© Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use of this material, including original photographs, without written permission from this blog’s author is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, with links to the original content.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 4, 2013 9:24 pm

    I really enjoyed this post. I especially liked the photos. I am a great lover of the Hudson Valley region. I think it’s one of the loveliest parts of the country, and seeing it on foot is a great way to enjoy its beauty.

    • August 5, 2013 12:07 pm

      Thank you, Alexis. I’ve hiked in several mountain ranges in the western U.S., and although they are breathtaking, I consider New York’s mountains to be just as beautiful.

  2. Maureen C. permalink
    August 5, 2013 3:45 pm

    great to know! I hadn’t heard of Meetup, but glad I do now, and will suggest to a few friends who are recently at somewhat of a loss when it comes to their social lives. Also, very cool that you are doing this.

  3. August 7, 2013 10:22 pm

    Go Meetup. Go Sarina! I owe it all to her myself!

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