A native of the Boston area and an avid outdoorsman, being outside has been important to Liam Michel ever since he was a kid. He fondly remembers childhood trips to the White Mountains, and says his passion has only grown with age. Liam is currently an active member of the Allegheny College Outing Club, engaging in frequent outdoor adventures around the school located only one and a half hours from the magnificent Allegheny National Forest.
After a number of trips with Ridj-it this summer, Liam has become one of the most active trip hosts, primarily hosting hiking trips outside of Boston. He has hosted a large number of weekday trips, departing from the more common practice of scheduling trips on weekends, and has found that there is quite an audience for adventures that accommodate unusual schedules.
Besides just enjoying the hikes, Liam says trips have served as an excellent conduit for meeting new people, as well as the perfect setting for growing his impressive photography portfolio. I corresponded with Liam to learn a little more about his experiences with the outdoors, Ridj-it, and trip hosting.
Liam also sent along a number of his photos to illustrate what his trips are like. All photos in the article were taken by him, and you can find more of his work on his Instagram, @liammichel_photography.
*The interview has been edited in some places for clarity.*
Ridj-it: While weekends are usually the most attractive times for social gatherings, your weekday trips have shown that there's a market for mid-week events. What types of people have you found these time-slots to be popular with?
Liam: For the most part, usually people who end up working on the weekends but have free time during the week. Not everyone works a Monday through Friday schedule, and I felt that a lot of people would miss out on these adventures just due to their jobs. By scheduling adventures mid-week, it allows people who have to work on the weekends the opportunity to participate on these trips that people on the weekend have been able to do for awhile. While not as popular as the weekend, there is still a decent showing on most of my trips and there are people who are able to go on these mid-week adventures, so I'll be planning to host more weekday adventures in the future.
Ridj-it: What is the most difficult part of hosting a trip?
Liam: Everything runs smoothly most of the time, however my biggest challenge is making sure people have the gear for the adventure. While not as much of an issue during the summer, having all the gear ensures that people are prepared for the adventure. Not having the gear can make the trip more difficult and potentially dangerous for the person and the group around them. For the winter, I'll most likely send out a questionnaire to ensure the people have the proper equipment for the hike to make sure the adventure runs as smoothly as possible.
Ridj-it: I've heard a number of people say they met people with similar interests through Ridj-it. Are those similar interests primarily outdoors-related, or have you found things in common that transcend the themes of the trips?
Liam: Based on the people I've met, it's been mostly having similar interests in the outdoors, but I’ve met a few people who are into photography and working behind a camera in general which was really cool, and I got to learn a little more about it. Being in the outdoors gives you a great opportunity for photography. It ends up drawing people who are interested in being able to get great shots, so you end up meeting some photographers along the way.
Ridj-it: What is your favorite way to experience the outdoors?
Liam: Hiking has been a large part of what I do in the outdoors. Being easy to plan and prepare, I can just choose a trail to hike and go for it. No buying tickets or having to make reservations in advance and it’s very easy to change plans if extenuating circumstances occur. There's also a lot of other people who are into hiking so being able to find a group of people ends up being very easy and Ridj-it definitely helps with that.
Ridj-it: Can you tell the story of a particularly memorable or interesting Ridj-it trip that you've been on?
Liam: Hiking up my first 4,000 footer was my most memorable. I hosted a trip back in June up to Camel's Hump near Waterbury, Vermont, which is one of the five 4,000 footers in the state. While not the easiest 4,000 footer to hike, it's definitely doable as long as you had previous hiking experience. Just like many of the other mountains up there, it's rocky, steep, and part of the trail is above the treeline, so keeping track of footing was necessary. Most of the hike is below treeline but once you reached the treeline, you had an incredible view of the Adirondacks and Burlington to the west and Mt. Washington to the east. With perfect weather, you can see everything in the distance. The mountain is distinctive due to the summit being shaped similarly to a camel’s back. It was a great day and an accomplishment for me to go up my first 4,000 footer.
Ridj-it: Have you attended weekend trips? How do they differ from trips on weekdays?
Liam: Yes I have and also hosted weekend trips. Generally, the weekends have a lot more people and usually have to find multiple drivers in order to accommodate everyone, but finding drivers is much easier. More people are off on the weekends so you'll have more people available to go on adventures. However, the trails are much busier on the weekends and can be difficult to find parking, so that's something I usually have to be aware of. In that case, I plan out a place that is not as popular or go during off hours, such as a sunset hike in order to appreciate it more.
Ridj-it: As someone who doesn't drive but does host trips, how hard is it to find people willing to do driving?
Liam: Not hard at all. I only had to cancel a couple of trips this summer due to not finding a driver and those were on the weekdays. Ridj-it does a great job finding a driver who is interested in the same activity and they are compensated for driving, as opposed to having to pay out of pocket for going on the adventure themselves. They are also able to meet new people along the way.