Last week it was my birthday. And to celebrate I wanted nothing more than to hit the Australian Alps for some sweet scenery, climb some mountains and stare at the alpine stars. I put a call out on social media to see who wanted in, and eleven of my lovely pals hit me up with a yes. It was nothing short of epic. We didn’t see any stars, in fact we were shrouded in fog the whole time and hardly saw anything, but with this crew, it doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in the gutter or hiking the highest mountain, there’s never a dull moment and we are always laughing.
But if I had put this call out seven years ago, I would have heard nothing but cyber crickets.
The big social disconnect
I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had lately with young people who have been struggling to find a network of like-minded guys and gals they can just chill with, go on adventures with, have deep conversations with or just laugh about life with. And it’s true. Of the hundreds of friends we each share online, how many of those people do we actually spend time and connect with?
As our lives have become busier, it seems our social lives have sadly moved to an online platform rather than making the space and effort for real interactions to take place. Or perhaps the people we have in our cyber circles just aren’t that into the things we really are, and we find ourselves stuck between a busy online social life, yet a lonely existence in the real world.
Social isolation, once mainly acknowledged as an issue in our elderly, is a very real global issue in the youth of today. It can lead to many issues such as depression, anxiety and other negative mental and physical health issues, and sadly seems on the rise.
So how do we combat isolation, make the transition into really being connected to people, and fulfil our needs as social beings?
That damn daily grind
Through my early twenties I was studying and working full time on the Gold Coast, QLD, I had left my high school network and was essentially starting from scratch in a place where I knew no one. I found it really hard to make friends. One, the Gold Coast is really transient, two, I was studying my butt off, three, I was in a serious relationship which didn’t see me jump on the party bus every uni night, and four, I was the one behind the bar actually serving those uni students as a hospitality worker. So it took me a good few years to find anyone to hang with on my days off.
I had only just dug my heels in, had built a nice social circle, and boom, I decide to move interstate, and see myself start all over again.
By this time I was working part time, trying to get my foot in the door of my career, my friends were now located all over the place, and the only social life I had was now on Facebook.
The daily grind took hold and most of the people I worked with were much older than me. I found it very difficult to meet people my own age with common interests, and create a whole new social circle. Until I started volunteering.
While my life was full at this time, I had an overwhelming sense that something was missing.
Finding your tribe
While my life was full at this time, I had an overwhelming sense that something was missing. And that something certainly had something to do with the lack of outdoor action I was having, and people to share this with. But there was also a vague desire to give something back. So, frustrated with the way my social life sat, combined with my love of nature and a science degree up my sleeve, I started environmental volunteering. And long story short, this soon evolved into me leading a Landcare group for other like-minded young people who were equally passionate about the environment, and had a desire to explore the natural world.
Ever since I set up Intrepid Landcare in the Illawarra seven years ago, I have been attracting like-minded people into my life. I never intended to have the personal social outcomes from running a volunteer organisation that I have. And while I knew young people preferred to volunteer with their peers, I was more interested in connecting them to projects which would benefit them in many ways. But over the years, as people have come and gone, I have met some of the most amazing people I could have ever imagined. And it’s these wonderful humans who make up the core of my tribe today, and this is the very reason I will never stop volunteering.
Of my eleven pals who joined me in the alps on the weekend, almost all of them I met through Intrepid Landcare.
We not only volunteer together, but now head out on massive camping expeditions, have been overseas together, on epic road trips together and I have had some of the best times of my life with these people. All of them keen on nature and the great outdoors, and all of them happy to get their hands dirty and protect the very thing that makes us feel alive.
Now I’m not saying everyone should go out and volunteer with Landcare to find their tribe, but it certainly starts with being connected to what gets you out of bed.
What gets you out of bed?
Being connected to what I’m passionate about has been biggest thing that has guided me over the years. It has not always been so clear, and that’s OK. We often get caught up in what other people are living and breathing, measuring ourselves against their façade of happiness and success, trying to fit the mould. And as a result we can totally lose sight of what we really want and need to make ourselves feel fulfilled and happy, and ultimately attract the right people into our lives.
Working on getting clear on what that is, and staying true to what I want to contribute to, how I want to spend my time, and what I enjoy doing has been absolutely key for me. And while this is always evolving, being aware of what it is right now, is the place I come from when making decisions in all aspects of my life. And this has led to me finding the right people to connect with.
So if you’re feeling a little lost, ask yourself, ‘what do I dig about life?’ and ‘how can I get more of that around me?’
My love of the great outdoors and nature has certainly been my guiding light, it has created the flow I needed to get me everywhere I need to be in life.
I guarantee that once you are in touch with this yourself, you will start to make clearer life decisions, and find networks and opportunities to get involved in. Or you can always create your own like I did 😉
Either way, before you know it, you’ll have found your tribe.