Digital Nomads: Create amazing social circles in new cities
For most working professionals, establishing a supportive social circle is a tough feat. In the case of digital nomads like me, we opt for living, working, and traveling in cities around the world rather than making our homes in one city. Creating and maintaining meaningful connections while only being in a community for a small time is a tall order.
I started my journey as a digital nomad when I lived, worked, and traveled in Europe solo for four weeks in early 2015. By the end of that journey, I’d never felt more excited and fulfilled — I was hooked and wanted to explore more! I loved the challenge of visiting inspiring places while at the same time establishing a routine I needed to stay productive in my career.
Today, after 16 months without a traditional “home,” my days look different than they did in the past. My ideal day starts by getting up early and heading to a neighborhood coffee shop. I put in time working from the coffee shop until lunch time. From there, I seek out a market to buy street food for lunch and to pick up some groceries for dinner. After dropping off groceries, I like to do something interesting in the city — head to a museum for a few hours, shop in an area known for boutiques or go to the park. I head back to my Airbnb apartment to work until dinner time. Then, I will work on passion projects or side projects.
A day like this doesn’t leave much room for cultivating a reliable social circle, but then again, what work day does?
I also haven’t been as intentional as I would like to be about connecting with others in new cities.
While I was recently living in London for a month, I attended the 300th Meetup celebration for a successful local group called Interesting Talks — London. At each of the group’s gatherings, attendees listen to talks on personal development, psychology, and other interesting topics. With over 19,000 members, this group is the largest Personal Development and Psychology Meetup group in the world!
The topic that night was an interesting one for me personally — how to create and maintain an amazing social circle in your community. The talk was given by the Meetup’s organizer, Matt Kendall.
“We are surrounded by people all the time,” said Kendall. “But with more people using their phones and other devices, we are losing our ability to connect with one another. Even being in a crowd can feel lonely, and the people you really want to see are just too busy. When you have a poor social life, it can lead to isolation, fatigue, depression, and low self-esteem.”
After hearing Matt’s talk, I left with a plan for how to set goals for being more social in the communities I visit.
From fast-paced digital nomads to those who just landed in a city for a new job, or for busy professionals who want to expand their professional networks, here are three tips for building a strong social circle that anyone can try:
#1: Get clear on what you value in a social circle.
Think about the six top values you want in your social circle. Essentially, which are six traits do you look for in new friends?
For Matt, his top values included traits like reliability and being open to adventure. When it comes to reliability, he seeks out people who show up when they say they will. An activity with your social circle is more fun when everyone is excited about it, he said. If someone is always the first to cancel, chances are this person isn’t as excited about the activity as you are — and it’s ok to leave them off the next invite list. Because he loves adventure and new activities, Kendall said he’s looking for friends who enjoy trying new things too, not those who get stuck in patterns weekend after weekend. To him, having a social circle that joins him in trying new things is important to keep him on track and not stuck in a routine.
#2: Determine where you are currently sitting for each value.
Once you have your six values set, Matt suggested determining where your social circle currently falls for each value on a scale of 1 to 10. If you value a social circle that is positive thinking, think back to your last five activities. How positive were they? Did you leave the group activity feeling positive or negative? If this value ranks low right now, but you value it highly, consider seeking out activities that are focused on positive thinking like a meditation workshop or a volunteer opportunity. Using the ratings, you can see where you’re coming up short — and seek out more connections who share those values.
#3: Utilize tools for fostering connection.
Three of my favorite resources for connecting with locals are EatWith, Sofar Sounds, and Meetup.
- Think of EatWith as a supper club where you get to enjoy an intimate dinner in a local’s home with strangers. It’s a great way to meet new people and try interesting cuisine.
- Sofar Sounds is a secret gig where 3–4 performers play intimate sets for the small audience. The focus of the gathering is the music, so it’s a much different experience than heading to a neighborhood bar where a band is playing and glasses are clinking. For music fans, this is a unique way to support small artists while meeting like-minded people who savor live music.
- Meetup has groups that are ready to plug into — no need to start from scratch. Enjoy hiking? There’s a Meetup for that. Want to learn to code? Hang out with others who want to learn too!
Attending this Meetup in London made a powerful impact on how I plan to structure my weeks as I continue to be location independent. Being intentional about engaging with the communities I am visiting is important to me, and I can’t wait to give these three tips a try!
How do you get to know others in your community? Do you find spicing up your social circle and breaking routine a challenge? And, if you are a digital nomad like me, how do you balance your location independence and your need for connection?