meetup travel wellThere aren’t many of us who can travel for pleasure as much as we’d like. It’s the in between times that tug at the heart – that sense of longing to be somewhere exotic, to relive a past adventure – perhaps with loved ones, or to join a group on a purposeful trip – volunteering, researching, exploring.

I was at a meetup last week about traveling in Italy.There were many new faces and I found myself talking with an older man who was doing a good job holding up the wall. “How’d you find the group?” was my opening query and before long I found out that he was retired from the military and came to see if he could connect with others to use their benefits of armed forces flights and perhaps travel together. I’d never heard of that approach to travel but soon invited him to meet a couple from Lithuania that I’d spoken to earlier. Within minutes they were deep in conversation – all retired from the military! It was a moment of serendipity I won’t forget.

When I can’t be traveling, I love spending time with those who share the same passion. We get each other. The community of travelers is rich with experience and ideas. Shared stories about trips don’t seem like bragging rights, but a vicarious connection.There’s so much to learn from other travelers as well. Tips and tricks for getting around, the best place to eat, best view, best music – the list is endless. It’s part of the reason that travel blogs have become so popular.

However, there’s something about face time that can’t be equaled. It’s the main reason that two years ago, I decided to start a monthly local gathering. I’d been to many business meetups but not for travelers. Before long I was hosting a modest group of strangers monthly at different ethnic restaurants to talk about China or Peru or Mexico or… Soon the community of travel writers yielded experts happy to share their stories and a new emphasis was born. Recently we topped 250 members and I’ve hosted, co-hosted or supported several gatherings a month.

As part of my curiosity I ventured north to Los Angeles to see what several big meetups were doing in that area. Lisa and George Rajna had a blog, We Said Go Travel, and were the hosts of an event called: Meet, Plan, Go. They brought together so many interesting people of all ages and backgrounds. The big event with MPG had stellar speakers and authors. I was hooked.

The following year I volunteered to get a San Diego chapter of Meet, Plan, Go going and another meetup was born: Career Breaks and Long Term Travel. It’s been a bit more sporadic but the kind of people who want to experience the expat life are inspiring. Our meetings have focused on how to do it – how to pack, insurance and safety issues, how to find work overseas and the list keeps going. You can see what we’ve been up to here: San Diego Meet, Plan, Go.

Perhaps I’m a glutton for punishment but another group has been launched recently: Travel Massive San Diego.  Travel Massive is a “global initiative to connect people in the travel industry locally, bringing together travel brands, travel start-ups, travel bloggers and travel professionals.”  Taking cues from an international assortment of cities, co-organizer and fellow blogger, Graciel Cecilio (Pinay on the Move) were inviting other travel writers and industry pros to join us at local watering holes to support and inspire each other.

The point is that internet searches, social media and picture sharing are all great fun and can lead to fertile connections, but face-to-face connections can’t be beat.

We have lots of company out there in the community of travelers as long as we can keep finding one another!

Elaine J. Masters

Travel writer, co-host of San Diego Travel Massive.

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