Reaching out and making friends can often be daunting, especially as you reach adulthood.
That’s why adventurous duo Ainé McAuley and Eimear Tangney created an online community for women across the UK and Ireland to connect over a love of the outdoors.
Four years ago, Eimear, who is originally from Kerry, moved to Northern Ireland and found herself looking for people who shared similar interests.
Speaking to Belfast Live, she said: “When I moved up here first, I found it quite hard to make friends – I’d come from America which has such a culture of inviting people along to do things and actually showing up.
“I feel in Ireland a lot of the time it’s more so you invite someone along and it doesn’t always happen as you say.
“I was looking for new people to mountain bike with and I started to join different Facebook groups.”
The pair bonded over their love for outdoor activities and wanted to reach out to other women with similar interests
(Image: Jill Campbell/ Submitted)
She came across a group for women in Northern Ireland, however, the last post was from a year ago.
On a whim, Eimear reached out to the account that posted it and that’s when a beautiful friendship blossomed.
She continued: “Ainé wrote back and was like yes absolutely and a few days later we were out in the trials together mountain biking and we’ve just been inseparable ever since.”
On how they went from a simple exchange between two strangers to an Instagram group with over 12K followers, Ainé, who is from the north coast, explained that it all happened very “organically”.
“Eimear and I were like well we met online through Facebook and I wonder how many of our friends or followers on Instagram would potentially might want to get involved and do things with us.
“It started up just from our personal pages and then we set up the account,” Ainé said.
From sharing some initial posts and through word of mouth from other interested women, Salty Sea Sisters was born and it has only gone from strength to strength.
“It shows other women what people are into and whether they’d want to be involved and it’s just grown which has been great.”
Eimear added: “The main thing we try to create through the page is for people to take that initiative or first step themselves like the way I reached out to Ainé. We want to encourage people to do that and normalise it.
“It’s breaking the ice between strangers who have similar interests because we do that so much and made so many friends.
“It’s using social media how it was meant to be used to create an off-screen social aspect where people can connect.”
Discussing the massive interest in Salty Sea Sisters both north and south of the border, Ainé said the pair are “honestly blown away”.
“We are just so pleased, it’s almost like a directory of women that want to get involved and go out and do things,” she said
“There are so many people who message in to meet people or get pointed in the right direction.
“As a consequence of that, women are just meeting women that they’ve always wanted to meet and engaging with people that they maybe wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet otherwise.”
The pair have also created a Swim Map of Ireland which highlights some of the most beautiful areas to take a dip which came about one “dark lockdown night”.
Ainé and Eimear now have over 12K followers on their Salty Sea Sisters account
Eimear said: “We started listing out places we love to go to and places we wanted to try outsides and it grew from there.
“We knew it was something that other people would love to have and it has really brought people together because it’s a purpose – you can pack up your map and be like where can we go.
“It’s just a beautiful celebration of Ireland itself and making it something fun.”
Looking towards the future, both Ainé and Eimear cannot wait to celebrate a year since their first met with a special Salty Sea Sisters anniversary.
Ainé said: “We really hope we can continue to connect people and grow our community.
“We want to promote women getting involved in things they may not have necessarily got involved in and showing them how feasible and available it is to get out and try new things.
“We want to continue to offer courage and empowerment to women.”
If you would like to donate to their fundraiser to protect oceans, beaches, waves and wildlife, click here.