This post originally appeared on Chandler's Blog, Dauntless and Afraid.
I live in a place where people come from miles and miles, continents away, just to take a few pictures and check some things off their bucket list. While this is sometimes a drag-traffic jams, new (to America) drivers, etc- it's a really cool way to make friends and meet people.
I volunteer for the Preventative Search and Rescue (PSAR) team here at the canyon. It's a group of folks whose job is to talk to people on the trail, to ensure they are having fun and adequately prepared for whatever adventure they're planning on undertaking, to give advice, and to provide minor medical assistance when needed. What this really boils down to is hiking and talking to others on the trail. Now I come from a pretty outgoing family, so talking to people and striking up conversations in checkout lines and random places is something I think I'm pretty good at. I also enjoy hiking a lot too. So when you put the two together, it's very similar to what I do for the majority of the time when I put on my PSAR uniform. As I've hiked in the canyon (and other places) I realize even when I am not doing PSAR, I typically ask folks the same questions...and it's a great way to meet people and make friends on the trail.
In general, the outdoor community is a pretty laid back bunch. Whether we are slackliners, climbers, bikers, skiers, or surfers, we all tend to be pretty accepting and open to new things and new people. This makes making friends a lot easier. While I enjoy meeting and talking to people no matter where I am, meeting others on the trail is one of my favorite places to make new friends. Just this week I made friends with a woman and her family, visiting from Michigan. I talked to them for easily thirty minutes about different hikes in the canyon and which one would be best for their time frame and skill level. The next day I met a woman who was in Yosemite and fractured her spine and rode a helicopter out. We began talking because we had the same pair of trail running shoes on. I met a group of people that knew friends of mine from college because of a sticker on my water bottle. I'm facebook friends with most of these people now (so I hope they don't mind me sharing about how pumped I was to meet them).
It's so impressive to me how the outdoorsy people in the world seem to make friends similarly to first graders. Far too often people judge others (and I'm guilty too) and don't pay them any mind just because they're different. The "granola" type view people differently. We see someone who's different and tend to go over and talk to them. We see someone tying into a rope differently and go learn that knot. We say oh I like to slackline and bike let's combine the two or invent some new extreme sport. Like first graders, we find a common similarity despite any differences we may have with others and run with it. I think I've made lasting friendships based on my choice of carabiners or socks. I've had long discussions about hammock or bivy-not arguements, just a conversation weighing the pros and cons.
I think the world needs people like this. People who aren't afraid to talk to strangers, to ask weird questions, to be curious, to learn new things. I think we all could benefit from stepping back and noticing small details about others before we decide "they're too different to get along with me." So next time you're standing around with a bunch of strangers, don't pull out your cell phone and pray for a text. Don't stare at the person across the waiting room and wonder why they're wearing those weird shorts with that shirt. Instead ask them something about their life...it doesn't have to be some deep thought provoking question. Sometimes a "hey how are you?" will do. You might find you meet some pretty rad folks with even more interesting stories; you may find yourself a best friend just because you noticed Chacos and a watch band.
Adventure is out there, don't be dauntless and afraid.