If you’re already a digital nomad and wondering how to build friendships while traveling, or you’re thinking about becoming a digital nomad but your anxious about the social situation, curious about how digital nomads make friends, or what those relationships can look like, this post will give you some tips on how to make the most of social adventures.
Super Important Thing to Remember: Your Guide works with people all over the world on building mental health skills, and challenges around making friends as an adult come up all of the time. I talk about it with people traveling and with people that stay in one place. So if you’re finding it difficult to make friends while traveling, don’t forget that’s challenging when you’re not traveling, too. Whether you stay in one place or many, making new friends requires effort and action. You’ve got to put in the work and create the opportunities. Friends aren’t like mangoes, they don’t just fall from the sky.
1. Sign up for group activities.
This Guide is a big fan of group hikes (take a five day trek to Choquequirao!) and cooking classes. They’re great ways to spend time with people and, if they’re staying in the same place, you could arrange to spend more time with them! If you work in tech, find out what meetups and hackathons are happening where you’re at. You can even plan your adventures around places where you know there are interesting things happening in the community. Language classes are another great way to meet other digital nomads and you’ll be building up the skills to build friendships with locals.
Group hikes are a great way to learn if you’d like to travel with somebody again. We might all be heading different ways after the hike, but we’re digital nomads, so we can use our digital thingys and send our little digital messages and plan something in our magical digital calendars so we can reconnect in a real world place again.
2. Learn the language.
If you write up a list of all the friends you’ve had in life, I bet you communicated with most of them. So if you’re not putting in the effort to learn how to communicate with people where you are, it’ll be kind tough to make new friends.
3. Use dating apps.
Big dating apps like Tinder and Bumble have both tried to expand more into networking and friendships. Bumble has a section just for finding friends. Tinder has a tag you can attach to your profile that indicates you’re looking for “language exchange”.
Be upfront and clear in your profile that you’re looking for friends. Explain how long you’re in that location and what languages you speak.
If you want to build a better relationship with your smartphone, then it makes sense to spend a lot of time staring at it and communicating with it. But if you want to build better relationships with people, you might have to put your phone down.
4. Join digital nomad communities online.
There are a bunch of subreddits devoted to solo traveling and digital nomading but they tend to be full of people wanting to go on adventures. If you want to connect with other digital nomads that do meet up in person and online, I’d recommend connecting with private communities like SafetyWing’s Plumia on Discord or NomadSphere on Slack.
5. Consider communication when you're choosing places to live.
Before you embark on an adventure, ask yourself: How do you travel well? What will a good travel experience look like?
A fun exercise you can do to help your planning is to draw out a day in your life in your ideal location. Then use that to inform your trip planning. If you see that your ideal day involves a lot of interacting with people and spending time talking with other people, that will affect where you travel in the world.
We often focus in on qualities of a place that we think we want, or that fear drives us to focus on, but that can lead to being in places where we can’t access the things we actually want to be happy. If social interaction is something that’s very important to you, use that to guide decisions. Rank it against other qualities you’re looking for in a place.
You might initially be looking for the cheapest place, but maybe you’d be happier if you spent more to live in a place where you can have more social interaction.
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