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Originally published February 25, 2013 at 9:26 AM | Page modified February 25, 2013 at 6:08 PM

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Connecting with Seattle-area travelers

Meeting and talking with fellow travelers through Seattle-area groups, businesses.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Sports is the usual topic of conversation at the Pyramid Alehouse across from Seattle’s Safeco Field, but on a recent Tuesday evening the talk was all about travel.

Nearly 100 people answered an online invitation to share beers and conversation at the Seattle Adventure Travel Club’s monthly meet-up.

Most of us were strangers, but after a round of quick introductions (“Hi, I’m Joe. I’d like to get to Siberia soon”), we were trading travel stories, exchanging email addresses and seeking advice with the same ease and enthusiasm that travelers connect with each other while on the road.

Sitting on my left was Linda, just back from a solo trip to Rome. She scrolled through photos on her iPad and talked earnestly about her ability as a middle-aged woman to travel by herself, yet not feel alone. Across the table was a young couple just back from a trek in Nepal.

As pizza and salmon burgers began to arrive, Krista Leemhuis, 31, a Seattle video-game designer and the meet-up’s organizer, jumped up on a chair to take a group photo with her iPhone. The next day, she posted the picture on the group’s website at meetup.com/Seattle-International-Adventure-Travel-Club.

Making travel connections

Whether you’re interested in just talking travel or looking for potential traveling partners, it’s never been easier to connect locally with like-minded people.

“The social-networking scene in Seattle is thriving and travel meet-ups are a part of that,’’ said Joe Staiano, owner of a Seattle travel company called “Meaningful Trips’’ and a regular at the club’s monthly gatherings.

Like many meet-ups, the Seattle International Adventure Club has a commercial component. It is one of several chapters around the country organized by the Boston-based Global Expeditions Club tour company. But as it is with local bookstores and other businesses that offer free travel programs, there’s no pressure to buy into paid services and no spam email for online members.

I went home that evening reminded of what an active travel community there is in Seattle, and the many ways to connect with others before, after or in the planning stages of a trip.

Long before the Internet began connecting travelers, Wide World Books & Maps (now the Wide World Travel Store) in the Wallingford neighborhood brought people together for free, weekly travel programs and slideshows. That tradition continues most Tuesday evenings. Every third Saturday morning of the month, the store invites female travelers in for “Gutsy Women’’ gatherings. “Solo travelers’’ meet on the first Saturday. Details at wideworldtravelstore.com.

Locals with an interest in the outdoors have organized the Seattle Backpackers Meetup Group. Recent gatherings have included a wilderness survival class at North Bellevue Community Center and snowshoeing at Mount Rainier. meetup.com/seattlebackpackers.

A small group of Oberlin College alumni has a free Yahoo travel group for alumni of small liberal arts colleges and travel enthusiasts in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a local means to find travel companions or just connect at an occasional group dinner. See groups.yahoo.com/group/USTravelCompanions.

Public television and radio host and travel guidebook writer Rick Steves gathers travelers regularly at his Rick Steves Travel Center in Edmonds. Topics include journaling, sketching, hosteling, digital photography and destination travel. See ricksteves.com.

Carol Pucci is a Seattle freelance writer. Contact her at travel@carolpucci.com. Blog: travel.carolpucci.com. Twitter: carolpucci.

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About Travel Wise

Travel Wise is aimed at helping people travel smart, especially independent travelers seeking good value. The column covers everything from the best resources to how to tap into the local culture. It runs each Sunday in the Travel section.

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