Social climbing: How outdoor activities can help a new city feel like home

Outdoor Community in a new city

This week we bring you a personal essay from contributor and Sorta Outdoorsy pal Allie Lee. If you have a Sorta Outdoorsy story you’d like to share, email us at

When I made the New Year’s resolution to “be more spontaneous,” I had no idea that I would actually keep it. But soon, I found myself, with just a few weeks’ notice, moving from New York to London. Although I was excited to move to a new city and get out of my comfort zone, I was nervous about leaving the close-knit climbing community that was a big part of my life in New York.

New York is a city made up of small worlds. And climbing is a particularly friendly one. You see the same people cheering you on as you scale walls at the climbing gym, and then later at nearby bars when cheering gives way to cheersing. You run into each other outside the city, at nearby crags like the Gunks or Rumney.

Leaving New York meant starting from scratch. But it turned out it was much easier than I had anticipated. It didn’t take long to find a slew of mountaineering clubs with imperial sounding names and a range of organized hiking and climbing trips. There are meetups and Reddit threads and Facebook groups. London, not unlike New York, has many climbing gyms.

Still, the hardest part for me was initiating interactions. But that’s where having a shared interest makes a big difference. If I saw someone riding the Tube with climbing shoes clipped to their bag, I forced myself to ask questions and start conversations. I met people at the rock wall and exchanged email addresses and gym schedules. There were some times when the process felt slow, and there were many times when it felt awkward. But eventually, I realized I had managed to go to a new place and meet new people. With every new plan and weekend trip, London felt a little more like home.

Tip for moving to a new city: Talk to Strangers

One of the best parts about getting involved in an outdoor activity is that most of them are designed to be done in groups or with partners. Whether it’s climbing, camping or canoeing, signing up for trips and classes are great ways to find new friends, no matter where you are. Check your local REI for a range of courses like Snowshoeing Basics or Solo Backpacking.

Most major cities have plenty of meetups that host various outdoor activities for all different levels of enthusiasts. A few of our local favorites: New York City Archery GroupNY Ski and Snowboard ClubHudson Valley HikersGhost Skate New YorkCrux Climbing and Outdoorfest.

This story appeared in the 11/5/2015 edition of our newsletter. 

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