Meeting (and bonding with) strangers is an art. Conversation has to flow somewhere cooler than "how long are you traveling?" without getting too nosey. It's got to be effortless, or at least seem to be. And where you try to do it can have as much of an impact as how. Ready for you to create your next solo trip plan or to intrepidly head out into the world armed with a wing-human, here are some of the best places (online and off) that we've found for bonding with strangers.
The communal table can inspire rigid etiquette like keeping your elbows at a 30-degree angle relative to your body AT ALL TIMES and limiting interaction to a curt nod and tight smile. Or they can be a delightful opportunity to delve into deep conversation with someone you've never met. Monday Night Brewing in Atlanta sets that stage well, as does A-Frame in LA. Amass in Copenhagen is another great pick for a communal table that's really, well, communal.
The New Socials
A little bit of encouragement can go a long way toward getting acquaintances to hang out like old friends. Sometimes, this is just permission for people to talk to each other, embedded in the structure of an event. Semi-regular events like Late Nite Art (in Oakland and Vancouver) get a roomful of strangers chilling over a fancy dinner and a big art table, where everyone gets to contribute to a giant communal mural.
Morning Gloryville, a sober weekday morning rave, is taking over the world, after launching in London in 2013, as of 2014 has expanded to 10 cities worldwide. Do the words "morning rave" invoke a kind of cognitive dissonance? In fact, your circuits will be so thoroughly re-wired after arising at 6 to kick it with a thousand other friendly strangers, fueled only by coffee and smoothies, that you are likely to enter a kind of alternate reality where feeling the love is the norm.
Then there are the pioneering festivals, like Burning Man and its sister festivals Nowhere and Afrika Burn, where part of the contract on arrival is a willingness to indulge in "radical participation" and, as a consequence, you're highly likely to bond with some peeps you've never laid eyes on before.
Where better to bond with a stranger than in their own home? Reserve a couch or spare room via Couchsurfing.org, and part of the deal is that your hosts will show you around town like a local. It's also a great place just to post a message looking for some hangout time upon arrival in a city. You've got to have a profile to participate, these are verified and feedback from guests and hosts is common, so there's a whole community effectively watching out for your wellbeing.
Hostels, Hotels, and Guesthouses
So the hostel pub crawl has a long and venerable tradition and appeals to a, shall we say, specific segment of the population. However, some hostels, hotels and guesthouses are actually great for meeting people. And, big suprise, it has a lot to do with the management.
From places like Varnam Homestay in Wayanad, India, where the delicious communal meals and surreptitious elephant night safaris can't help but inspire bonding amongst guests, to more conventional choices like Barcelona's Kabul Hostel, with a giant common area made for socializing.
Communal Coffee Shops
All Mac and no play makes a digital nomad very, very dull. Even the most dedicated remote worker needs human friends, and that's why communal coffee shops with Wifi like Toronto's Dark Horse Espresso or Housing Works in New York are necessary to modern humankind.
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