You never know where the tides of life will take you, or what your next great passion will be. In this interview with Meetup, Carol Hink explains how a snap decision to attend a Meetup sailing event around the San Francisco Bay led her to a new hobby, a stronger sense of purpose, and a tight-knit community.
Why were you looking for Meetup events?
Five years ago, my husband was offered a dream job that involved us relocating to the Bay Area. I found myself living in a new place where I didn’t really know anyone and I needed to create a new social circle as well as find a new job.
I scrolled through Meetup groups and events looking for networking opportunities. While searching, a sailing event caught my eye. I’ve always wanted to sail but it was always a bucket list item for me—something I might do during retirement.
At the same time, I really needed some fun in my life. I had just uprooted my entire world with this move, and the job search was adding even more stress. When I saw the Meetup event that would take a small group of people out into the San Francisco Bay for the day and teach us the basics of sailing, I knew I couldn’t pass it up.
What was your first sailing experience like?
It was a beautiful day. There were seven or eight of us who paid a small amount to cover the cost of the trip—gas, marina fees, that kind of thing. The host was so warm and welcoming; he began by asking about our sailing experience. From there he separated us by familiarity with sailing so we could learn the basics and be useful.
What I loved about that experience was the feeling of inclusion. Just because some of us were new to sailing didn’t mean that we couldn’t learn or be helpful. We all got to know each other, too. We were strangers but we immediately bonded. Spending a few hours on a boat working toward a common goal, learning in the sunshine, and breathing in the crisp briny air was a wonderful way to form connections at a time when I didn’t know very many locals.
We sailed to Angel Island just south of Marin County. We got off the boat to walk around a bit and enjoy some tacos from a small restaurant. Someone nearby was playing guitar—it was such a magical day.
We were strangers but we immediately bonded.
When did sailing become a major part of your life?
In 2020, I was struggling with burnout. The pandemic was at its peak and I was feeling like something was missing in my life—a sense of purpose. I had the opportunity to meet a sailing instructor and boatmaker who took me under his wing to learn more about sailing.
It was just what I needed. Sailing saved me. When you’re experiencing burnout, finding an activity where you can be fully present and focused again is so rejuvenating. Saling pushed me out of my comfort zone and gave me a sense of belonging and accomplishment.
It’s all about human-to-human connection.
What people don’t always realize about sailing is that it’s a communal activity. You become connected, working in sync and helping each other both on and off the boat. It’s a powerful feeling to work with others toward a common goal. This practice has filled me with deep gratitude for the community: it’s all about human-to-human connection.
What was it like to sail with an Olympian?
I’d been posting about my experiences sailing on LinkedIn, and I never expected them to get the traction they did. A PR agency reached out to me about the opportunity of a lifetime—the chance to go sailing on a gorgeous boat with Paul Cayard, a seven-time sailing world champion and the Executive Director of U.S. Olympic sailing, and Marco Trombetti, the CEO of Translated. It was all part of a larger project to train for an around-the-world race, and I was so fortunate to take part in a Bay Area event they were doing. I even got an opportunity to join their crew for a more intensive two-day sail over a weekend. It’s transformative. I couldn’t believe that a chance Meetup event years ago got me to this point where I was sailing with an Olympian.
Do you have any advice for a Meetup member looking to pick up a new hobby?
Start exploring and be open-minded. When you’re scrolling through Meetup events do a quick gut check: does the event you see immediately spark a little joy or excitement? If yes, don’t hesitate—sign up and go! If not, no judgment. Keep looking until you find something that catches your interest.
The important thing is to keep an open mind. In the past, I’d go to all kinds of events, from drum circles to paddle boarding. Once you find something that calls to you, commit to going at least once. Take any pressure off yourself. If you’re nervous to go to an event alone, bring a friend with you to the first event or reach out and connect with someone in the group beforehand. Don’t overthink it—go to break the ice and it’ll get easier. You’ll be happy you did.
Carol Hink is an entrepreneur and consultant helping startups create, communicate, and implement a culture that employees LOVE! A USCG veteran and inspired sailor leading workshops on the water to provide teams with a powerful bonding experience.
She lives by the water in Redwood City, CA, with her husband and rescue kitty.
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Last modified on August 3, 2023