Genesis of a Community Vision

I've had these questions so many times. Why did I start the club? What's my history? What are the future plans? It's such a long answer that sometimes I try to give a quick reply, but it never does it justice and then I wind up just having to fill in and explain bits and pieces later. So here we go...

Formative Years: Crafting Identity

I grew up in a busy home. My parents were both teachers. My brothers are both three years apart on either side of me. While we did have many adventures together, the age gap meant a lot of our play-time activities didn't always link up. We found our own friends, closer in age, and our own solo activities to keep ourselves occupied and out of trouble.

For me, that was a lot of art creations with whatever leftovers my mom had brought home from teaching. There weren't many other kids my age on our street, so finding my own fun was crucial. Two of the kids that were my age were my besties, and I didn't have a need or even an interest in making other connections. I was dedicated to them entirely. They were my people.

Adventures in Friendship: The Early Bonds

Kindergarten hit, and while all the other kids were forming their first social bonds that wound take them through elementary school, I was glued to my best friend Kristian. Disaster struck. At the beginning of grade one, he moved away! I was left alone, as an outcast, amidst the early childhood social circles that had already formed the year prior.

My mom was a bit worried about me and would plead with other parents to bring their kids over to play with me. And when they did? Sometimes I'd randomly disappear in the middle of the hangout, and could be found in a corner somewhere playing by myself. I had abandoned them elsewhere in the house because "I was done playing with them." 😂

It wasn't until grade four when I met Ross, a new kid to school, that I really connected with someone again. Everyone loved him, but to me, he was mine. This connection lasted just as strongly from the day I met him until the day he passed a few years ago. He was so much the opposite of me at the time: a charismatic, comical, and goofy socialite who loved people, music, and new enriching experiences.

A Foray into Innovation: The Entrepreneurial Spirit

It was this year, I finally found my passion for computers, which would eventually lead to me starting my business I run today. I was featured by newspapers, Apple enthusiast magazines, and got shoved into a spotlight that I never expected. Learning by experience, it forced me to be an entrepreneur, work in teams, organize, focus, and set not just goals but a business "bucket list."

I became so dedicated to my business, that my friendships in high school suffered, and I succumbed to a similar fate as when in elementary school. With so much screen time, and so much passion for my goals, while everyone was out having fun, going to parties, joining sports teams, I was glued to the screen hellbent on success. By graduation, I wound up with five or so really deep friendships. Mind you, in world where many of us lose touch with our high school buddies, I consider myself lucky to still have those people still close to me today.

Years went by and not much changed. There I was: in my baggy t-shirts, beige khakis, Mr. Bean-style parted haircut, and white New Balance sneakers. Well, with the exception of a phase where I was Wiccan and found an appreciation for connection to nature, harmony, and the balance of energies in our universe.

Broadening Horizons: New Cities, New Connections

By the end of 24, I still had never been drunk or used any drugs or smoked, kept a small social circle, and liked being the man "behind the scenes."

My girlfriend and I had moved to a different city so she could go to school, and I knew almost no one; my circle was back to zero. I struggled immensely trying to find a way to branch out. Not having a regular job, being self-employed at home, meant I had few avenues to branch out. Even going into pubs made me feel awkward as alcohol was involved, and it still terrified me.

After we split, I was forced to branch out for the first time since elementary school. I joined a dating site and went to my very first "house party" with a girl where a guy, Brandon, was doing what he called "art night." We'd share canvases as a group, and rotate them around the circle until they were complete. Then he'd find somewhere fun to hang them in his apartment that people could admire when they'd come back to visit. Wall-nostalgia.

He was in college for engineering, and was the epitome of everything social that I was not. He was tall, charismatic, had a chipped front tooth that all the girls loved, was hugely knowledgable about music, and everything just seemed to flow naturally for him. People were his energy and his passion. I was enamoured with this lifestyle because it was so alien to me, and I inadvertently quickly became assimilated by this vibe.

The Uncharted Journey: From Guest to Host

And as in step with my past, he moved away as well. But, I didn't want it to end! I was so in love with the new life and people I was constantly meeting. My brain was in overload and stimulated in ways it had never been. This became my addiction.

I stepped up and began hosting board game nights with the new friends I had met: notably Catan. These turned into cook offs, hikes, team game show downs, communal road trips, raising money for homelessness, park cleanups, and beyond.

In the beginning I felt popular, and my intentions were partially selfish. It was exhilarating. I was the hub of activity. A "me" from ten years prior wouldn't even recognize who I had become. And, quite frankly, it went to my head.

When I, myself, moved away to a new city, so few people stayed in touch. It was absolutely heartbreaking. Here I was as the host, thinking I was making all these amazing new friends. In reality, it was everyone else making the connections around me. I was too busy to make the deeper friendships which were once my speciality.

The Art of Inclusivity: Fostering Diverse Connections

In my new city, I made sure to invest deeply in my core group. Dunbar's number is a study that talks about how the average close-friends circle is about five people, with a regular group of about 15. Where, after-which, you can maintain about 150-300 stable acquaintances.

I went overkill on hosting, trying to meet as many people as I could. I already had "my people" so the mission was no longer personal. Now it was to allow people to get that same chance I yearned for my whole life to find: their on circle. I strived to create an environment where literally anyone (a multimillionaire, a dancer, a janitor, a teacher, a new-to-the-country immigrant) could join and feel welcome.

I used to be the outsider, so it brought me so much joy bringing so many of those other "outsiders" into a social circle where they would go on to make their life-long friends as well. I thought of us much like the 80s movie "The Breakfast Club." An eclectic group of individuals bonding over shared experiences, looking for belonging. From those new to the city, newly single, new to a job, or just looking for new experiences and social circles.

Living Through Others: The Joy of Community Impact

We had a lot of fun over the years that went on. For me, the joy of hosting was not just overshadowed by living vicariously through others make connections, but from the life stories and diversity of all the people that would attend.

At many events I would wrap up and head out earlier, and allow things to evolve naturally after I left. Relationships, babies, and new careers were common stories I'd hear when people would reach out years later. However, it was the new perspectives for me, a chance for personal growth, new ideas, new goals, and new experiences which basically became a treasure hunt!

I began throwing more and more unique and creative events in an effort to try and encourage others to step outside their comfort zone. At least, more so than it was coming to an event with random strangers as it already was!

Expanding Boundaries: Personal and Communal Growth

I hit my 30s, and started craving more. I felt like I hit my limit for growth in the events I was throwing. While it still provided value for me, I needed to work on myself.

I had already been reinventing myself and discovering who I was truly meant to be event by event. The influence from others, both the struggles, and the highlights, helped shape me. Notably the struggles. It's that conflict, the hurdles, that force someone to grow beyond what was previously their perceived capacity. I made a lot of mistakes over the years. Probably a lot due to being ten years behind in personal social development skills. However, I always grew from them and discovered new personal truths.

This is one of the greatest benefits of new people. Even if you have your fifteen. Those fifteen will often reinforce the version of you that they met. They'll hold you to your old values, and your old interests. They love the version of you they met, and don't want that person to change. Even today, my oldest friends still make jokes about me wearing a Star Trek costume or will buy me memorabilia. However, it's the new people that you welcome into your life who have the capacity to change you the most.

While I continued to host on occasion, world travel became my new passion. Forcing myself into completely unique and bizarre environments. With tons of potential spots for obstacles, it was an exhilarating challenge that I welcomed.

I was grabbing onto every unique experience a country would offer. If I couldn't do it somewhere else, I'd book it and immerse myself. It was also a chance for me to polish my skills of breaking out cold to meeting strangers. I had gotten too accustomed to my cozy nest of hosting, that I forgot what every new attendee had to experience: meeting new people in an unfamiliar environment with zero confidence.

Deep Reflections: The Journey Within

COVID lockdown nearly destroyed me. Socializing and constantly changing scenery had become my norm. I entered an incredibly deep depression. Once again, I was forced to buckle down, reinvent myself, and grow. Grow in a way that brought me back to my roots. Finding activities again that I could enjoy solo. Live for depth again instead of living too much in the moment, and letting things slip past me in the high of excitement.

I realized I was quickly exiting my 30s, and I hadn't accomplished any of those life goals I had written down when I was 21. Going back to college and getting a teaching degree, owning a cottage in a small village in Ireland, having two kids, and getting married. While, many of those goals were no longer who I was and didn't matter to me, finding a life partner who would see me through the end of my 90s was still crucial to me. It was time to slow down, stop hosting, and work on the bigger picture.

I spent almost a year on the hunt for a great match. However, I quickly realized that I had become too quirky, too sculpted by life, and was now more of an acquired taste. As the months continued, the presence of a huge void in my life became apparent. Hosting had become part of who I was; it was now my other half. I'm still that introverted guy who loves his alone time, but building community, volunteering, having new adventures, and stepping out of my box.

Empowering Community: Leadership and Shared Values

Coming back to Calgary, I was determined to make things different. When I moved away from my last city, I was devastated to see my social club basically evaporate and get replaced with people with horribly unaltruistic ideals - which later faltered, failed, and fell apart. It became a popularity contest, with a skewed administration that acted more like a tribal council than it did a democracy with real values. Doing something like what we're doing cannot be done for personal gain. It has to, at its very foundation, be done for the "right" reasons or it will eventually fail.

The social club had to learn to survive on its own without me. I had always hosted events with themes that I loved, but it wouldn't always resonate with everyone. I couldn't appeal to everyone. I couldn't be the heart beating inside the group. We needed more hosts. More diverse activities. We needed people with similar values, a similar passion for people. People who were willing to be brave and organize; to host an activity and hope others would join them. And if no one showed wouldn't give up hope. I've had my fair share of those.

Interests Unite: Creating Spaces for Every Voice

We encouraged people to start posting personal intros to the group publicly. Sure, much like a dating site, but a chance for people both singles and couples to reach out and hopefully linking up on certain interests. It finally worked!

Other people asked for group chats specifically to their interests. Various members became personally invested seriously in their favourite group chats, hosting their own events, carrying on the value of all-inclusiveness and not-for-profit. We didn't want to become Events & Adventures (a large organization) that charges hundreds of dollars per month to join.

Guided Connections: The Strength of Positive Boundaries

The group rules are indeed strict. We've banned conversations about controversial topics. Many of these topics even if we adamantly support the viewpoint. We don't allow event sharing as a bulletin board. We've banned overt unsolicited sexual advances, and other things normally welcomed under "free speech" and community standards on FaceBook.

However, what we have we discovered? Is a world free of moderation truly a better place? The last 15 years, people have not only had the ability to express themselves in public channels negatively, but also be rewarded for it. In turn? People LOVE OUR GROUP for the moderation we've implemented. There are so few places on the internet where you can go without being bombarded by seethingly negative, polarizing opinions, often expressed merely to provoke reactions, garner likes, or vent frustrations.

At Adventure Calgary, and on a personal level, I hold a firm belief in the power of building connections rooted in positivity, steering clear of the negativity and anger that often pervade our world. It demands courage to present your true self to the world, embracing both its positive and negative aspects. But trust me, whether these experiences build you up or compel you to reinvent yourself, they will inevitably foster growth, guiding you towards becoming the fullest, most authentic version of who you are destined to be.