Meetup.com is a social networking site, that was started in New York not long after the September 11th attacks. Co-founder, Scott Heiferman, claimed that the way people related to each other changed after the event. People were yearning for community and meetups were a way for people to connect with each other easily.
The premise of the site is simple. When you first join, you enter your location and you’re given a list of the Meetup groups in your area. Groups are usually started by at least one person, who has a particular interest like kayaking, dancing, meditation, or whatever someone chooses. You can join as many groups as you wish, and you can choose to be as involved as suits your own needs. Most groups create events online and then members can RSVP to the events they would like to attend.
Just over a year ago, due to a series of unexpected events, I ended up living back in Cork after 16 years abroad. I’d spent the previous decade living in New Zealand, so the person I was on my return was quite different to the girl who had left. Most of my friends from Cork no longer lived here, and the ones that did were busy with burgeoning family and work commitments. I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to stay. One thing I did know was that I’d need friendship and connection if I was to have any hope of being happy here.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Cork section of Meetup.com had over 50 groups, and there were at least ten that I was interested in joining. I quickly made friends from the groups I joined and started attending various cultural and outdoor events. Coming into the summer, I was mad to get out and about, walking and camping. I found a group called ‘The Sober South’, which was right up my alley.
Over the coming weeks, I went on coastal walks with them and even camped on Cape Clear, an island off the south coast of Ireland, for the Storytelling Festival. As the summer wound down, I set up my own group, ‘Cork Coastal Trips’, to satisfy my need to be close to the ocean. This group has allowed me to explore some of the most gorgeous coastline around Cork and the Wild West, and to make more fabulous friends.
The people I’ve met through meetups have transformed my experience of living in Cork. I now see it with fresh eyes, and have a greater appreciation for my home town. Both local and foreign people are part of these groups. Some of the Irish are like me, they left and returned after many moons. Others have lost their core group to marriage and children. Foreigners, who have come to study and work, have been able to integrate more quickly and easily with the friendships forged in our motley crew. We’re all here for the same reason: to make new friends. It’s as simple as that.
So many things have improved in my life as a result of meetups. I wanted to start a guiding company in Ireland, but had neither the finances, nor the support, to make it a reality. Two of the first friends I made, Karen and Eric, came on board to help my company take off. Karen became my website designer and Eric has become my business advisor.
I also now work in the same company as Eric, in a position he thought I’d be right for. Another friend, Ben, connected me to a co-working space in Cork. I rented a desk there briefly and made another travel writer friend, Grace, who helped find me a gig as a contributing writer for Green Global Travel.
I cannot recommend meetups highly enough. If you want to improve your life, there is a very simple way to do so. There is no way I could have envisioned all of the wonderful people and circumstances that eventuated from my decision to try something new. It has brought so much wonder, magic, joy and potential into my life. I am truly blessed and happy to be home.
Suzanne Burns started her career working as a Research Zoologist. She has travelled extensively and has lived in Australia, England, Canada and spent a decade in New Zealand. Her love of wildlife and the outdoors led her to wildlife guiding, writing and photography. Suzanne likes to contribute to conservation by writing about her experiences, and is particularly interested in whales and dolphins. Suzanne is also contributor to Green Global Travel, an ecotourism website. Suzanne recently set up a personal tour guiding business, based in Ireland. When she is not busy with work or writing, she can usually be found somewhere out on the coast being serenaded by the sea. You can find out more about Suzanne’s work on her blog and on Facebook .