When I decided to start traveling last year, my biggest fear was that I’d be sitting alone in a hotel room on the other side of the world, getting tears in my laptop while I worked. I was terrified that I would land in a new place and the feelings of isolation and loneliness that come with freelancing would follow me, and multiply. I truly thought I’d end up friendless and miserable, hiding in my hotel room and wasting the experience.
Thankfully that didn’t happen. Quite the opposite occurred, actually. I went from being cooped up in my cold Montreal apartment, always working and always flying solo, to getting out every day and meeting interesting people. Just this week I’ve talked to friends in Canada, New York, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand – all people I didn’t know a year ago before I became location independent.
Whether you’re freelancing at home or working remotely on the other side of the world, feeling lonely and isolated is one of the hardest things about being location independent and traveling can definitely magnify those feelings. No coworkers to grab coffee with after work; miles away from home; unfamiliar streets and hotel rooms; no friends in a 100 mile radius.
If you’re on the introverted side and firing up conversations with strangers isn’t really your strong point, making new friends can be a tough go. Add foreign countries and language barriers to the mix and you’ve got an anxiety inducing situation.
How the hell do you make new friends in a foreign country?
Making new friends doesn’t come all that naturally to me. I’m awkward, anxious and shy. I hate networking and I’d usually rather communicate via GIFS than actual spoken-out-loud words. Yet somehow I managed to get by and never had to eat dinner alone on my four-month adventure.
Here’s how I met new friends:
The thought of crying alone on a beach in Thailand was enough to halt my trip planning in its tracks. That’s why I decided to travel with Hacker Paradise, a coworking and co-living traveling community of remote workers, freelancers and entrepreneurs. Going with this group meant that I would meet a crew of like-minded people as soon as I landed and be surrounded by these incredible people for the duration of my adventure. After working mostly alone as a freelancer in my apartment for over two years it was incredible to be around people who just ‘get it’. I felt inspired every day, I met people who became pseudo-mentors, people who I aspired to be like, and people who have become some of my closest friends – and new travel buddies!
If you’re really anxious about solo travel for any reason, I definitely recommend taking this route. There are a lot of groups popping up that offer experiences similar to Hacker Paradise that can help to ease you out of your comfort zone and into your nomadic adventure.
As an added bonus, these groups take care of a lot of the logistics so all you have to do is show up. Perfect if you’re a busy entrepreneur, hate planning and details, or just don’t know where to start with international travel.
Coworking & Cafes
Get out of your hotel room to work! Hotels usually have subpar wifi anyway. If you want to meet other digital nomads, you have to hang out where they hang out. Hint: they’re the ones camped out in cafes and coworking spaces with their laptops.
A lot of coworking spaces will organize member lunches and group outings. Take advantage of these opportunities to meet other nomads without feeling like you have to interrupt someone while they’re working. You’ll also probably get to learn more about the city you’re in and find some new hang out spots.
Meetups might make you think of a totally lame networking event, but in my experience nomad meetups aren’t stuffy or boring. They’re usually very casual gatherings at a pub or a bar, and everyone that shows up just wants to meet other people, not necessarily push their startup idea on you (if you do this, just stop. This is not how you make friends).
Keeping Your Friends
The friends you make while traveling might not physically be in your life for too long. Nomads are constantly on the move. Luckily, it’s easy to stay in touch and make plans to meet up in the future!
Nomadbase lets you see where your friends are now, and where they’re planning on traveling to. This makes it pretty easy to coordinate trip itineraries and schedules so you can meet up again.
It’s also really easy to stay in contact with your digital nomad friends (and friends & family back home) since we’re so hyperconnected and you can grab a SIM card anywhere you go. Between Slack, Line chat, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, Snapchat, iMessage, etc.,
Get on #Nomads immediately. This slack community is pretty much the go-to for all things digital nomadism. You’ll get your questions answered from people who have been doing this for years and find out the inside scoop (ie; not just trip advisor recommendations) on places to stay, places to eat, where to work, and the best tourist attractions to hit up. Find the channel for the city or country you’re in and start participating in the chat.
#Nomads host meetups regularly in cities all over. Check Facebook or meetup.com for nomad events in the cities you’re in and get out there and meet people! Have a beer and make some new friends.