“There are no strangers here: Only friends you haven’t yet met.” -William Butler Yeats
Every once in awhile someone writes a blog post saying that the biggest downside of being location independent is because it’s so hard to meet new friends in new places.
They say “Man, I really wish I was location independent, but I’ll leave behind all of the cool people I know in Kansas.”
This is true. Sometimes it can be hard to meet people in new places.
Meeting people is hard, but it doesn’t have to be impossible.
How to meet people when you’re location independent.
Over the last year I’ve reduced my stuff to somewhere less than 100 things (some say 57), learned how to live and work from anywhere, and relocated to a bunch of new cities.
Every time I move I have no problem establishing a social network of remarkable people within a short amount of time.
I realize that some people have trouble doing this, so maybe this article can help you learn how to meet new people easily when you’re vagabonding around the world running a minimalist business while living with less.
These tips can probably apply if you’re location independent or just trying to find new friends outside of your normal circles. So no worries if you’re not location independent yet, you still might learn something from this!
If you’re really into networking, one of the best e-books I ever read on the subject was Colin Wright’s Networking Awesomely. It isn’t for everyone, but Colin has experience establishing networks on 4 continents, so might be worth checking out (or maybe just subscribe to Colin’s blog for now.)
Here are 10 strategies I’ve developed for meeting remarkable people:
1. You can’t be friends with everyone.
First, recognize that a person who tries to be friends with everyone ends up being friends with no one. The best networkers realize that they won’t be able to connect with most people, so instead focus their attention on people they can connect with. This means, if you there’s no magic, then you need to drop it immediately and try to connect with the next person.
For example, I have a terrible time being friends with boring people who don’t do anything with their lives. Their eyes just glaze over when I tell them I don’t have a TV and haven’t watched Entourage lately. So, I move on to people who actually do something with their lives.
2. Discover something to do every day.
You need a social hobby. Preferably something that involves exercise. For example, I go to Yoga almost every day at the same time. This means after a few weeks I started connecting with regulars who also have a lot of free time to live remarkable lives.
If you’re stumped as to what a social hobby is, here are some examples: any dance form, playing guitar, martial arts, running, rock climbing, writing workshops, dance parties, cooking. Almost everyone has one of these as a focus in their life.
If your hobby is watching movies alone in your house, chances are you’ll have trouble meeting people as a location independent freedom fighter. Change it up and join a film collective near your new location or something, so you can watch movies with other people.
3. You need a common interest.
The best people to connect with are people who are very similar to you. This is why I always go to Yoga every day at 4pm instead of 6pm. The people who do Yoga at 4pm have a much higher chance of being location independent artists and people living unconventional lives as freelancers. At 6pm the day-job crowd comes in, and my compatibility with people’s values decreases exponentially.
Think about all of the best friends you’ve had in the past? All of mine have been dancers, filmmakers, photographers, success junkies, bloggers, yoga practitioners, and my ultimate friends all watched Battlestar Galactica obsessively.
Finding new friends means admitting that you need to meet people who are similar to you. If they aren’t similar, you start talking about the weather, everyone gets bored and you aren’t helping anyone.
This is also why you always have a party every time you’re staying in a Hostel. Because you can all connect around the common experience of being a traveller.
4. Use existing infrastructure.
I talk about this strategy in Minimalist Business in relation to building a business. One of the biggest obstacles is quite simple, and easily avoided: a lot of people try to re-invent the lightbulb instead of just flipping it on.
You see, we live in the modern age, and yet so many people insist on not entering it. Let me cut to the chase: 80% of people meet new people over the Internet. Why? Because it’s easier than interrupting people who might already have plenty of friends on the street asking if you can hang out. People on the Internet looking for friends on the Internet generally want new friends, and thus are much easier to become friends with them.
So don’t be afraid to use Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, or even OkCupid to find people in your new city to meet.
Don’t leave friendship to chance, or you’ll be wandering alone for a very long time. Use existing infrastructure in order to establish local relationships that last for a very long time.
5. Value real relationships.
I’d rather have a couple of really good friends in every city than hundreds who barely know me. Don’t focus on meeting everyone. Meet a few people that you click with and build from there. Maybe you only need to meet 5 people before you find one with an existing social circle that extends across the entire city.
I always think about The Tipping Point, where Gladwell stated most people can manage only 150 real connections. However, some super-people end up being connectors that know just about everyone. Every good social circle has a few connectors that introduce everyone and basically lead the party. Find these people, they will introduce you to everyone.
6. Live with people.
Still stuck at home? Don’t live by yourself. Yes, living with people is more difficult, and sometimes the dishes don’t get done. But if you’re moving to new cities this is a great way to step into a social network that already exists. I did this by moving into a cool house in Portland. Right now I’m living alone, and yes, it’s a little more challenging, but that’s one of the reasons why I go to Yoga every day.
7. Have no expectations.
It can be really hard to find friends if you really really need to find friends. Be okay with being alone, and let things happen. Don’t be running around asking everyone on the street ‘will you be my friend’ ‘will you be my friend?’ No one wants to be friends with you if you’re like that. Instead focus on what kind of value you can add to the lives of others when they come in contact with you.
8. Go it alone.
It’s really hard to meet people if you’re always with an entourage. Chances are, if you’re always hanging out with your best buddy, you’ll never find new ones. Be okay with being alone. Meet people without dragging your friends with you. This will make it much easier to connect and listen to the new people you’re meeting.
9. Leave your house.
This is obvious, but if you stay in doors refreshing Twitter all day, you’ll never meet new people. Instead get outside! For example, last Saturday I ran into two of my old roommates from New York randomly in Delores Park as I was walking to Yoga, then after Yoga I ran intoCorbett Barr on the street who invited me over to his place for a beer and to meet his dog. This doesn’t happen when you stay at home. This is why I spend most of my day wandering around looking for adventures.
10. Be open to adventures.
If you start every relationship with ‘I’d really love to meet up, but I can’t until next Tuesday at 12 noon because I have an really obsessive e-mail checking schedule’ you’re not going to make many friends.
The value of being location independent is that you can also have an open schedule. If someone calls, just say ‘yah, why not now?’ For example, my old roommate Bianca just got back into town and Facebooked me because she was bored. I wasn’t doing anything either (or anything I couldn’t do later), so I said ‘let’s go hang out in the park!’ And then a wild adventure started that ended when I had to get back on the BART to avoid turning into a pumpkin.
Don’t afraid to jump on the back of motorcycles if the opportunity should present itself. You might just end up on the top of a hill overlooking San Francisco at dusk five hours later. Yes, you didn’t KNOW you’d be there.
This is what living the moment is, you can’t plan everything. Planning nothing is usually a way better way to engage with the world.
Just be open, and let the relationships come to you.
That being said, I’d like to meet you! If you’re in the Bay area, give me a shout. I go to Yoga to the People every day in San Francisco, so join me there. Or, grab a coffee at Ritual before or a beer after. Just give me a shout on email or Twitter.