How do you build a community and make friends as a digital nomad?  This is a question my friends leading a more traditional life often ask me.

It’s a fair question. Being a digital nomad means that you generally aren’t in one location for long.  This can make meeting like-minded people and building a community hard. I have heard many digital nomads and long-term travellers complain about becoming lonely.  Me included.

When I first started out on the road, I found meeting like-minded people my age incredibly hard.  I won’t lie to you. If you are in your 40s just embarking on a location independent lifestyle, you probably will too.  For one, there are simply less 40+ year-olds that are digital nomads. 

Four years of leading a location independent life has taught me a lot about how to tackle this challenge. It’s taken some time and some trial and error, but I now know the hacks.  And today, I’m sharing them with you in hopes that it will give you the tools you need to quickly build a community wherever in the world that you might find yourself.  Because sharing your adventure with someone, really does make the journey more enjoyable.

1. Join Relevant FaceBook Groups

If you aren’t on FaceBook yet, then join it now.  It will be your best tool to finding a community on the road.  This is my #1 recommendation.

Most every major city you travel to will have a variety of FaceBook groups for expats. The key is learning how to find them and what groups are worth joining. 

This hack is simple.  Go to your FaceBook page. In the Search box, just type in the city you are in or headed to.  For example, I am in Medellín, so I would type in Medellín. 

 

How to find a FaceBook group in your location city.

 

Then click on ‘See all results for X’

A box called ‘Groups’ should pop up.  Click on ‘See All’.  A wide variety of groups should pop up.  Scroll through and join the ones that sound interesting to you. 

 

Example of Expat Groups in Medellin

 

The types of groups that I’ve found the most helpful include groups with names like:  ‘Digital Nomads in X’ / ‘Women Expats in X’ / ‘Apartments and Rooms in X’.

2. Introduce Yourself to a FaceBook Group

Once you’ve found a FaceBook Group that resonates with you, then reach out and say ‘hello!’ 

I would recommend a simple post like this:  ‘Hey, thanks for adding me to this group.  I’m new to X city and would love to meet some new people.  If you fancy having a coffee, send me a PM.’  Or ‘Hi, thanks for adding me to this group.  I was thinking of grabbing a drink at X bar later today, if anyone wants to join me, give me a PM.’

This really isn’t as embarrassing or as daunting as it sounds on paper. I actually see these kinds of posts all the times in the FaceBook groups I’m in.  And they always get great responses.  It is very unlikely that you are the only new person in town.  There are probably lots of other people like you wanting to meet people but are afraid to ask or make that first move.  Your post takes that pressure off. 

To better your chances of meeting a like-minded person, suggest an activity that interests you and asks if anyone wants to join you.  Is there a hike you want to do?  A museum you want to go to? A food tour? A wine tasting? A restaurant that looks interesting? A day trip that sounds intriguing? Choose your thing and the right people will come.

3. Find An Event on FaceBook

Do you see a trend here?  Not only are there FaceBook groups, there are FaceBook Events.

Finding a FaceBook event in your location is equally easy.

Go to your FaceBook homepage.  On the left hand panel/column search for ‘Explore’ and then underneath that ‘Events’.

 

The left-hand tab of your FaceBook page should have an Events listing.

 

This will pull up a page with a list of upcoming events near you. You can even search by the types of events that you are interested in.  From networking, to food, to games, to sports, to literature, there is bound to be some upcoming event that matches your interest.

 

Medellin Events Page Listing on FaceBook

 

These events are some of the best way to meet like-minded people.  Some of my closest friendships have developed from people I met by attending a FaceBook event.  For example, in Medellín I joined a Friday evening craft beer pub crawl. Whilst I didn’t know what type of people would be on the walk, I knew that they would all at least have an interest in craft beer, so we had an instant connection.

In addition, to events providing you with something in common, they usually involve an activity.  And research shows that people bond quicker when they do something together. 

4.  Create Your Own Meet-Up

If there isn’t an event that interests you or if there are no events coming up soon, then why don’t you create your own.  Really this can be anything!

I am a teacher with VIPKID.  When I arrived in Medellín, I wanted to meet other VIPKID teachers.  So, I decided to create a Meet-Up for VIPKID teachers.  My company even gave me $150 to host the event.  Fifteen current and prospective teachers came to that meet-up!  From that one event I met some lifelong friends and some great connections with whom we had something very specific in common.

 

VIPKID MeetUp in Medellin

 

Another friend of mine was interested in blogging, so she created a meet-up called ‘Blogging in Medellin’ and invited anyone interested in blogging to come along and talk about blogging.

Is brunch your thing?  Then create a Sunday Brunch Meet-Up.  Or is hiking more your speed?  Then create a Saturday hike around a trial in your city.

Creating a meet-up does take some work, but it has the added benefit of getting you doing what you want to do.

5.  Go on a Free City Walking Tour

One of my favorite things to do when first getting to a new city is to go on a Free City Walking Tour. Most cities have them now.  The format is that you go on a ‘free’ tour and then give a donation at the end for what you think the tour was worth.

The great thing about these tours is that most of the other people on the tour are also new in the city.  And the format of walking and sightseeing provides a very relaxed and natural way to strike up a conversation.

Several months ago, I took a free city walking tour in Cartagena on my first day in the city.  During the the three hour tour, I met and started talking to another solo traveller.  I enjoyed his conversation and sensed he was on his own, so at the end of the tour I said, ‘Hey, I was thinking of heading to La Cervecheria for dinner, I hear it has great cerviche.  Do you fancy joining me?’ I was prepared for him to say ‘no’, but to my surprise he said, ‘That would be great!’

 

Free City Walking Tour in Cartegena

 

We ended up spending the next serval days together taking in the tourists sights.  It was great to meet someone interesting to hang out with and it certainly made my time in Cartagena much more enjoyable.

6. Join a Co-working Retreat

If all of these suggestions still sound too daunting for you, then my recommendation would be to join a month long co-working retreat in city that interests you. 

Co-working retreats – like the ones offered by Unsettled – take all the hassle out of trying to meet people for you.  On a co-working retreat, generally 20 to 30 like-minded digital nomads meet up in their chosen location for a month to work and play and explore.

You arrive in a new city, and pretty much already have 25 new friends! 

I joined Unsettled’s retreat in Medellin in August 2017 and loved the instant community that came with the experience.  We had weekly dinners at each others apartments.  We went on day trips and weekend jaunts around Colombia.  We hosted coffee tastings and tie-dying workshops.  Also, with so many people living around the same general location, you always ran into someone you knew at a coffee shop or walking down the street. 

 

Participants in Unsettled Medellin 2017 rest after hiding to the top of a mountain.

 

I loved that with my Unsettled co-working retreat, I arrived in a city of 3 million people in a foreign country and instantly felt at home, and like I’d been living there for years.  One of my best digital nomad decisions ever.

So there you have it! My 6 top tips for how to meet people whilst traveling and how to build a community as a digital nomad.  What other ways do you meet people and make friends?  Drop me a line below with your tips.