Written by Michael Hasson

Society fills us with preconceived notions about strangers. Differences in how we look, dress, speak, or eat all provide excuses not to get to know someone. Enjoyment of the outdoors, however, provides a welcome and unifying trait that brings people together unlike anything else I have ever witnessed.

Connecting with others while you’re outside should already be easier than normal—you’ll at least have a common activity to talk about. If you’re still having trouble though, here are a few tips to help you meet your new best friends out in the woods, desert, mountains, river, or any other space to do fun things.

1. Do something hard. Nothing brings people together like a challenge, and in my experience, suffering with someone else has made us closer than I ever thought possible.

2. Talk to everyone, ignore the differences. If you have trouble with this, try doing a solo in a low-traffic area. I can almost guarantee that after a couple days of minimal to no contact with other humans, you would strike up a conversation with an axe murderer.

3. Hike your own hike, to an extent. The old thru-hiker adage is to HYOH – hike your own hike, ignoring others’ notions of what your personal trip should be. This makes sense, but only to a point. Obviously, if your goal is to hike solo for the duration of the trip, do that. However, spontaneous side-trips with new friends can lead to great results—sometimes it’s worth it to just roll the dice and see what happens.

4. Bring something fun. Whether it’s a frisbee, a deck of cards, or a harmonica, anything is more fun in the great outdoors. On long hikes especially, any of these things are welcome relief from the monotony of walking all day.

5. Food. This might not make sense on a trip where you’re pushing the limits of distance or time between resupplying, but on a day trip, bringing marshmallows or some other treat to share is sure to make you popular.

Not all of these tips will be practical all the time, but incorporating at least one of them into your next adventure is sure to help you meet some new people. Personally, I’ve found that the best stories come from the most unlikely places. So next time you’re out, talk to people who you wouldn’t normally engage. Push your boundaries and know that the trail and the people of the trail will provide. Chances are you’ll hear some great stories and create some new ones.

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