Meeting Up

As described in our last post, Cheryl and I are looking at our options for finding or building a community to live in.  While working on that, we’ve made some progress in more limited community aspirations.  Here’s one of them.

Last year Cheryl and I decided to form a local Meetup.

Meetup.com claims to be “the world’s largest network of local groups.”  As the company advertises, “Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face.”  (Meetup’s mission is to “revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize.”)

A beach bar at Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic became our Meetup emblem

A beach bar at Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic became our Meetup emblem

Paul had been attending Meetups related to his profession for several years.  Last year, we decided to investigate groups more in line with our hobbies, travel, and retirement plans  Since then we’ve joined about ten communities related to travel, travel writing, outdoor activities, photography, foreign languages, and small-business networking – in fact, so many that we have yet to actually meet with some of them.

There was one topic we had trouble finding, and that was the theme of creative retirement around which this blog is centered: “adventurous financial independence without waiting for a net worth of two million dollars.”  We didn’t have a lot of friends who wanted to investigate these kinds of ideas so we decided to form a local Meetup for just that purpose.

A year and a bit later, with very little direct publicity, our Meetup has over 100 on its mailing list, and – pretty much every month – some 15 to 20 of them get together in an informal venue for presentations and discussion.  We’ve covered topics such as Collaborative Housing, Financial Independence, Life Transitions, Making Travel Pay, Financing a Travel Lifestyle, Planning a Round-the-World Trip, and various other travel secrets.  In addition there have been social nights and photo nights with no set agenda.

Our AirBnB evening was at an official accommodation

Our AirBnB evening was at an official accommodation

Meetup.com has been a helpful platform for organizing, advertising, and managing these events.  By means of a suggested $5 donation at a member’s first meeting of the year, we have covered all expenses, including site fees, with a small contingency fund carried forward.

Along the way, we made several discoveries.  One thing we learned was that most of our peers were not familiar with Meetup.com.  Many of our new members had never joined a meetup prior to ours.  As such, they are sometimes hesitant in coming out to their first event.  We’ve found that pre-screening new member profiles and requiring pictures helps put people at ease.  (Before we started pre-screening, we did have one or two incidents involving inappropriate spam from new members.)

Another surprise was how far people were willing to drive to attend a meeting.  We’ve had participants from as far away as a 90-minute drive – and return the next time!  For Cheryl and me, a 90-minute drive usually leaves us scanning AirBnB for overnight accommodation.  There is clearly a real hunger for this kind of face-to-face connection.

Writer Darlene Foster introduced members to the joys of travel blogging

Writer Darlene Foster introduced members to the joys of travel blogging

The most pleasing discovery was how well people fit together.  Our Meetup members coming together around a common theme seem to feel relatively at home, and open up quickly.  Many of our meetings have the flavour of old friends coming together, even when half the participants are first-timers.  We’ve been able to schedule events with no agenda and expect that good conversation will develop.

Of course, it takes some effort on our part to make sure new people feel welcome, and are introduced to others when they arrive.  We also make sure that everyone has name tags – a helpful icebreaker.  A realistic program and agenda helps manage expectations.

Thankfully, we’ve had several members offer to host meetings.  Most of our events have taken place in private homes, or sometimes in apartment common rooms – although we have rented rooms for larger events.  As the number of members continues to increase, we expect to investigate other venues such as area restaurant meeting rooms.  We know of some that only have a $5 minimum per person for such uses.  For now, we can usually squeeze 18 or 20 into most of the living rooms in the area, even if some of us are on the floor.

Even more important, most of our presenters are “home grown”.  While we have brought in outside experts for some topics, many have been ably handled by members.  Often we’ll have two shorter presentations in one evening.  We’ve attracted an eclectic mix of people in various stages along the retirement path, and many of them have complementary skills or learning that they are willing and able to share.

One of our speakers described a tiring retirement project

One speaker described a tiring project

For our minimal troubles, we’ve met a collection of interesting people – and get together with some of them on a regular basis.  We’ve learned some very helpful information about traveling cheaply and making money on the Internet.  We’ve had a chance to reflect on some of the deeper issues of ageing and retirement.  We have a sense that we’ve helped others expand their retirement horizons.  All at very low cost, and with a good helping of fun.  In the future, we envision  joint travel opportunities, and maybe some long term friendships.

Starting a Meetup was definitely a good idea.  We’d definitely recommend joining one or two – or a dozen – and if you can’t find what you’re looking for, then why not start your own?

Meetup:  “using the Internet to get off the Internet.”

Let us know how it goes.

Advertisements

17 thoughts on “Meeting Up

  1. kattrinna

    i was told about meetup.com a few years back by a seatmate in a plane ride to dubai. i had signed up for it 3 years later and felt a bit sad that i did so very late! it’s a good way to meet people with the same interest. 🙂 glad that your group is coming together nicely 😀

    Reply
  2. Darlene

    I think this was a great idea Paul and Meetup is the perfect way to go. I’ve enjoyed the meetings I’ve attended as well as being a guest speaker. It is an interesting assortment of individuals and I like the relaxed atmosphere. Thanks for organizing this group Paul and Cheryl!

    Reply
  3. healthfulsave

    I found this to be a very inspiring post! I love that you found a way to locate people with a niche interest. We have the same problem. While most of our friends have school age children as we do, it’s very hard to get a retirement conversation going because debt is keeping our friends from preparing for the next phase of life. I look forward to future posts!

    Reply
    1. "No Pension, Will Travel!" with Cheryl & Paul Post author

      Thanks for the encouragement, Jen. The popularity of your blog shows there is lots of interest in what you’re up to. I’ve no doubt you could get a successful Meetup going around that theme – it doesn’t have to start out big. We had 12 people out to “Financial Freedom – What does it mean to you?” less than six weeks after we started ours. Or maybe there’s already one in your area. We’ve also found there’s a nice synergy between the blog and the meetup – each feeds the other useful ideas and inspiration. All the best!

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Adventures in Our Back Yard | No Pension, Will Travel

  5. Pingback: Meetup.com | Fabulous 50's

  6. Raines Cohen

    Great perspective and insights on the power of the tools to build community and share knowledge and experience. The only thing missing is a link to your MeetUp group!

    As of last night we reached 2300 members in our “East Bay Cohousing” MeetUp dedicated to building community. The trick is to get our members to actually use the system to browse profiles, propose their own MeetUps, and start sharing without waiting for us to take the lead.

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Learning Languages for Fun, Travel & the Fountain of Youth | No Pension, Will Travel

  8. Pingback: Dancing Your Second-Act Career | No Pension, Will Travel

  9. Pingback: Your 2nd-Act Career – Part II | No Pension, Will Travel

  10. Pingback: What Happens While You’re Busy Making Other Plans | No Pension, Will Travel

  11. Pingback: Transitions – Part II | No Pension, Will Travel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s