If you’re looking to add a little adventure to your life, Meetup may be the app for you.
The Meetup app led Jane Vangelov to two great adventures last year. Neither are activities she would have pursued on her own. But experiencing them with a Meetup group opened her up to a bold new activity that she never would have tried otherwise.
Syracuse Area Outdoor Adventures Club Meetup
It was through the Syracuse Area Outdoor Adventures Club Meetup group that Jane participated in two hikes in 2018. The first was a 6-mile hike in April of the hilly area behind the office of Green Lakes State Park. Her second foray was a 10.4-miles hike in Highland Forest in May.
Being a novice, Jane undertook her first hike with the Meetup group clad in a pair of ordinary sneakers, jeans and a light jacket one weekday after work. When she arrived at the designated gathering area, she found nine people had assembled. She started out strong, but quickly joined the few picking up the rear as other, more experienced hikers moved to the front of the group.
“I felt spent afterward,” she admitted, “but I still went to work the next day.” She also signed up for another, longer and more challenging hike a month later.
The second time, she came prepared. She had newly purchased hiking boots, along with a packed lunch, long-sleeved shirt, bug spray and other necessities for a day out on the trails.
But even with the new footwear, Jane confessed that she was ready to quit five miles in. “There was no mistake that my body was telling me that I was doing things I’d never done before,” she said.
A conviction that she could complete the hike kept her going. This knowledge, paired with encouragement from the group, propelled her ahead in spite of the tough conditions.
“I needed the challenge,” she said, “and the momentum of the group pushed me to go the distance.”
Syracuse Adult Beach Volleyball Meetup
The Syracuse Area Outdoor Adventures Club Meetup group isn’t the only Meetup with which Jane’s involved. Her favorite one is the Syracuse Adult Beach Volleyball Meetup group, which usually gathers on Sundays during the summer months to play at Pine Grove Health & Country Club in Camillus or the North Area Family YMCA in Liverpool.
On one Sunday in July, 18 people showed up to play beach volleyball, said Jane. “Some weeks, we have more players, while other weeks, we have fewer,” she said. When there are fewer players, they play three-on-three or four-on-four, with several games usually going on at once.
“Everyone gets along well,” she said, “and the group is not cliquey.” They switch players throughout the three to four hours of play. “We accommodate everyone and make everyone feel welcome.”
Meetup groups for meditation and dance
Jane also has tried Meetup groups for meditation and dance. She quickly realized that the meditation group wasn’t for her and dropped out. Jane also belongs to the Dance Meetup group, which she said hasn’t been as active in recent years as it once was.
Each Meetup group is highly dependent on an organizer, notes Jane. “Someone has to take the initiative to get a group going and keep it going by organizing events,” she said. The organizer generally organizes and posts events to Meetup, where group participants can get information regarding upcoming events.
Meet a Meetup organizer
Ryan Kelly is organizer of the Syracuse Hanging With New Friends and Hanging With New Friends of Rochester Meetup groups. He took on both roles when the previous organizers stepped down.
The bimonthly events he organizes have ranged from singing at Singers Karaoke Club in Syracuse to apple picking and visiting the MOST and the Rosamond Gifford Zoo. He also arranges weekly Trivia Night events at such locations as the Yellow Brick Road Casino, Movie Tavern and the American Legion in Manlius.
While the Syracuse group is open to any age group, the Rochester group is specifically for those in their 20s and 30s. “I wanted to meet younger people in the Rochester area,” said Ryan, who works in Claims at Excellus BlueCross BlueShlield. “I thought it would be a good way to connect with people.”
With activities scheduled for every weekend, the Rochester group is very active. Activities have included visiting a haunted house last fall, attending a comedy show, having a picnic, going rock climbing and playing laser tag.
“It’s not for everybody,” Ryan admitted. “But I’ve met some of my best friends through Meetup.” For him, scheduling and attending activities helps him break out of his shell and assume a leadership role of an organization. He finds that people who are a bit on the quiet side, as he sometimes is, are eager to use Meetup to break their own barriers.
“What you put into Meetup is what you get out of it,” he said. After years of going to events by himself, Ryan now much prefers going out and doing things with others as part of a group.
Making friends through Meetup
When you download the Meetup app, you first provide some basic information about yourself and your interests. Then you’ll receive notifications regarding upcoming events. You can elect to join – or not join – events, based on your interests and availability.
“There’s a lot of flexibility,” said Jane. “You don’t necessarily have to be friends with the people in the group that ends up going.” The people who get together for an event inevitably do get to know each other during the event, leading to new friendships and an ever-broadening array of connections.
Jane feels as if her social network has expanded through her involvement with various Meetup groups. “If you’re single, you quickly realize that you don’t have to stay home alone, doing nothing,” she said. “Meetup gives you the opportunity to do something by yourself, but still be part of a group.”
It offers the chance to do something you’re totally comfortable doing. At the same time, Meetup also provides opportunities for doing something you normally wouldn’t try on your own, but in the safety of a group. “There’s something for everyone,” said Jane, noting that it can fill your recreational, social and spiritual needs.
A nationwide Meetup network
Meetup is also nationwide. So if you’re visiting New York City, for example, and find yourself with a free afternoon, a quick check of the Meetup app will provide a variety of options to choose from for any events that conform to your chosen interests happening in the New York City area.
Binghamton, Elmira, Buffalo, Rochester and Utica all have Meetup groups of their own. There are Meetup groups for single people, married couples, those who are older and those who are younger. In Syracuse, they include ethnic dining groups, foreign language groups and professional networking groups. New Meetup groups are always being started, Jane said.
Jane cautioned that there are some unwritten rules for Meetup participants. “You have to show up on time for an event,” she said. Arriving consistently late for events, being inconsiderate of others in the group, turning up unprepared for the event and failing to cancel a reservation to attend can all result in you being kicked out of the group.
More than anything, Jane finds her involvement with various Meetup groups is great way to get off her smartphone. “When you’re at a Meetup event, the purpose is to be there with other people,” she said. “It’s considered rude to constantly be checking your phone for alerts and messages while you’re at a Meetup event.”
Take control of your life
“Meetup is especially good for anyone who feels as if their handheld device is taking control of their life, instead of the individual being in control of his or her life,” remarked Jane. “You get to meet a lot of people and learn something new while participating in an activity that you may not join on your own.”
Ryan echoed Jane’s sentiments. “There are Meetup groups for just about every interest,” he said, “and if there’s not one already available, you can create one of your own.” He recommends trying it at least once to see how you like it.
“That requires you to take that first step and branch out of your comfort zone,” he admitted, “But it could well be worth your time and effort.”
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