When Melinda Van Fleet moved to the Keys with her husband, Ryan, she had to figure out how to make a living — and how to make friends. Professionally, her long-term goal was to get into sales, but she took odd jobs like walking dogs, cleaning condos and changing the letters at Winn Dixie to get by. Personally, though, she struggled to meet new people she got along with.

“When I moved down here, I knew no one. I really wanted to make friends, so I would drive up to Fort Lauderdale and Miami every evening for meetups run through meetup.com.”

On meetup.com, anyone can organize a social gathering around an interest. Themes can be anything from cooking to Italian speakers to widows in paradise. Others search the online database by interest and can actually attend events to make some friends with shared interests.

While the social setup was far from ideal, Van Fleet didn’t know what other options she had because there were no meetups in the Upper Keys. She eventually found her social stride but wanted to do something to solve this problem for others. That’s why the self-starter came up with the idea to start her own.

So, Van Fleet started the “Share the Good Vibes” meetup group at the Village Square at the Trading Post in Islamorada. Her goal was to cultivate the environment she wishes she’d had when she first moved down, a place where cool people can come to meet other cool people trying to live their best life.

“I wanted to create a community where people connect and get to know each other and where there’s some self-discovery and personal development discussion,” explains Van Fleet.

Van Fleet encourages participants to leave gossip and complaints at home and only bring positive intentions. “How cool would it be if that was intentional,” she adds, “if people came with a positive outlook, wanting to do some self-work or personal development?”

“Share the Good Vibes” meets the first Thursday of every month in the garden space at the Trading Post. Participants share a group intention, take a few moments to “shake off the cobwebs from their day,” and then journal and share, if they want. The idea is literally to share the good vibes and positive happenings in each other’s lives.

“When someone shares what’s happened to them, other people chime in and say, ‘I’ve had a similar event happen to me, this is how I handled it,’ and everyone can walk away with a new technique or way of looking at things,” said Van Fleet. “That’s where the magic ‘a-ha’ moments happen, when people connect to each other.”

To join the meetup group, visit www.meetup.com/Share-The-Good-Vibes-Meetup-Group/ or contact Van Fleet at [email protected]. Van Fleet provides notebooks and pens. Food and drinks can be brought with or purchased at the Trading Post and Bad Boy Burrito.

Melinda Van Fleet, who runs the meetup group, starts off each session with an intention for the night. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly

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