Making the decision to move to a new city, either for the 1st or 100th time, comes with a lot of change. New routines, new friends, new cultures, languages, and norms enter your life the minute you step out of the plane, train, or automobile.
Your new routine, local customs and language barriers can be figured out by research and through exploring, but one big piece to the puzzle takes a different kind of approach. Meeting people with the intention of making friends is typically a new challenge for working professionals. In our home bases, we have each built our networks over time organically. Through work, family, friends of friends, making connections didn’t require as much effort. Though when you leave your comfort zone and set out to live like a digital nomad, creating new friendships is more intentional.
Psychology Today cites research that found “transitioners”, those who are new to an area, are particularly open to spending time with new friends. The question is, how do you get out there and meet them?
Digital nomads are tried-and-true “transitioners”, so we know a thing or two about arriving in a new town and trying to make new connections. Below, we’ve sourced how to make friends in a new city from the travelers who have done it so you can get out there and do it too.
1. Revive old ties
Chances are if you’re a remote professional who travels often (or are trying to enter this lifestyle), you’ve built an informal network of acquaintances. Like-minded individuals from your travels, home town, or online are people to connect with to ask about who they know in your next destination. Reaching out to a friends of friends will likely feel less daunting if this is your first time creating your social circle from scratch.
2. Find meetups for your hobbies
What do you like to do in your spare time? From playing music, cooking, book clubs, crocheting and dance classes, we live in a world where hobbyists often get together to do the things they love. Taking the findings from a study about activity preferences among friends, researchers found “the opportunity to engage in mutually pleasurable activities may be a stronger motive in friendship choice…”. So hit the internet and Facebook groups to find others with similar interests and make a date to meet up.
3. Volunteer for a local cause
Depending on how long you’re staying in a new place, local charities and nonprofits may offer opportunities to volunteer for weeks at a time. Digital nomads sometimes earn a bad rep for not trying to assimilate and get to know locals, this is the perfect way to make local connections from the start. It may require knowledge of the local language to get your foot in the door, but the opportunities to meet others with common interests while helping a great cause is worth it.
4. Head to well-known digital nomad cafes
So far, our ideas have focused on how to find best friends in your free time but what about when you’re working? If you’re in a popular digital nomad destination like Medellin or Bali, there are well-known hot spots that other travelers love to set up shop to cowork together. Usually the cafes with great coffee and reliable wifi are your best bets so grab your laptop and head there too. Stay open minded and put yourself out there, others who are working solo will likely be receptive to your friendly advances. Who knows, they could become your faux co-workers for the next few weeks.
5. Join a local gym
Staying healthy and regularly working out are important pieces to making life on the road sustainable. Why not meet friends during your sweat sessions? Crossfit gyms, personal training classes, or spin studios offer the easiest way to meet people without interrupting someone’s workout rhythm. Get to the class early, strike up a conversation with the instructor and other participants. There’s nothing like getting through a grueling workout to bring two people closer together.
6. Attend language classes
If you’re in a foreign country, chances are you don’t know the local language. Speaking English could get you by, but bonding with other travelers over learning a new language is surefire way to create good friends. Perfect for introverts because everyone is struggling to get the hang of it and being in a class setting makes it easier to speak up.
7. Join an intramural sports team
Depending on your athletic prowess, joining a pick-up sports team is personally my favorite way of finding friends in a new place. Think of the research about bonding over shared activities, playing on a team together intensifies that magic by 100. Head to social media and find a local Facebook group for expats or digital nomads, then look for recent postings of people meeting up for a game. It doesn’t matter if it’s a proper league or a Saturday activity, just say yes.
8. Post on a local Facebook group
Speaking of using local Facebook groups to find teammates, you’ll also have success making friends if you put yourself out there on expat or digital nomad groups. Post about your recent arrival and enthusiasm to meet up along with a few ideas of what you want to do. Think happy hour, exploring the farmer’s market, or even just lurking at the dog park, the like-minded people who also just arrived will jump at the chance to meet in real life. From personal experience living in Buenos Aires, the BsAs Girlfriends Group helped me meet amazing BFFs in a place where I knew no one when I arrived.
9. Post on general digital nomad Facebook groups
In addition to posting in the Facebook groups that are filled with people currently in your home city, consider casting a wider net. In my experience, Facebook offers more opportunities to connect with fellow travelers compared to meetup.com so it’s a good place to focus. A lot of people join general digital nomad Facebook groups to swap tips and travel ideas so there’s a huge chance someone in that group is in your current city (or at least has suggestions on where to meet others). Post a message and see how many other people could be living right next door and are ready to meet up.
10. Join a travel community
Unlike a tour group where 30 strangers pile onto a bus to check off a ready-made itinerary, a travel community is where life-minded travelers co-create their experience exploring a new place. We’re biased in thinking there’s one travel community that nails the experience. WiFi Tribe is a curated community of hundreds of remote professionals who come together for month-long stays. It’s a chance to squeeze more from your travels as you share memories and create bonds with new and old friends instead of doing it all on your own. A travel community like WiFi Tribe will take your social life from 0 to 100 in no time.
11. Explore your religion
Leaving home means giving up some creature comforts, like your favorite coffee shop or go-to takeout dinner. But one thing that doesn’t have to change is regularly attending religious services to stay grounded. Do a little research to see if there’s a mosque, synagogue, church, or spiritual get togethers in your area. They might offer services in English where you can meet others who continue to worship while traveling, connecting over a shared religious belief can be a strong bond in an unfamiliar place.
12. Check out Sofar Sounds
Concerts tend to be difficult places to meet new people because it’s hard to talk over the music and make a connection. Where the complete opposite experience comes to life is Sofar Sounds. They put on intimate concerts (currently they hosts shows in over 325 cities worldwide) in unique spaces like people’s homes, apartments, or small businesses. Music lovers unite here, listening to lesser-known, usually local bands and meeting new people. Rocking up to the show alone isn’t uncommon either, and you’re sure to find a common ground when chatting with others around you in between sets. When I volunteered as a Sofar Ambassador in New York City, I met tons of people from around the world and was welcomed into the Buenos Aires Sofar team with open arms.
13. Just say yes
I’m willing to bet you’ve heard this advice before. Hell, there’s even a book called The Power of Yes about all of the enriching things that tiny word can bring you. Say yes to the book club invitation even if reading isn’t totally your thing. Agree to go on the 7am Saturday hike if it means you’ll meet 20 new faces. This list shows you have to put in time to make new friends, saying yes will get you there a lot faster.
14. Live in a coliving space
Airbnb is the most utilized housing platform for medium-term stays but living alone can get isolating quickly. Consider a coliving option instead, where there are communal spaces designed for serendipitous meetups between fellow travelers. Many also offer weekly events that combine local activities or tours with getting to know the person staying next door. Try Outsite for some of the best coliving homes around.
15. Try a local tour
Don’t turn your nose up at locally run tours to see your city’s famed streets, monuments, restaurants, and bars. Not only is it a way to get your bearings in a new place but it’s a casual way to meet others who recently arrived. These tours can be filled with vacationers, which is the only draw back, but it’s also an opportunity to get to know a local for a few hours. Ask them where people around your age or with similar interests come together in between checking off the tourist sites.
16. Join a coworking space
What was a niche market before is now mainstream as WeWork and local coworking spaces have popped up in small towns, huge cities, and remote locations. The siren sounds of reliable and fast wifi will draw any digital nomad from their apartment into a collaborative space to work. Try day passes to test out a few (some will even offer trial periods at a discount if you ask) then make a decision on where to get a membership based on two things: where you’ll be productive AND where has a community that you can tap into. Traditionally, I’ve found locally run coworking spaces to offer way more community vibes than WeWork, but trust your gut.
17. If all else fails, go sit at the bar
If you have an outgoing personality, this one works seamlessly. In go-to digital nomad cities there are usually bars that are filled with foreigners. Maybe they play your team’s football game or it’s owned by expats looking for a taste of home, but the one thing all of these bars have in common is that other travelers flock here. Post up at the bar on a packed night, put yourself out there and see what happens
Making new friends as a digital nomad
Making new friends is a life-long pursuit that adds richness to life. If you’ve just landed a new job that makes working remotely while traveling possible, use these tips to build communities in the new cities you explore. Getting out of your comfort zone takes courage, but the rewards are worth the effort.