Tips on Making Friends When Middle-Aged and Travelling Alone
Working through the ins and outs of how to make friends as an older woman when travelling alone has its ups and downs. From my recent travels, I can honestly say that the positive experiences I’ve had far outweighed any negative ones. It’s for that reason I wanted to share what worked for me. For the sake of this article, when I use terms like ‘middle-aged’ or ‘older’ when referring to women, I mean women aged between around 35 and 45. Now that’s out of the way, let’s jump into it.
While the outlook of a middle-aged woman at surface level can be visually compared to an unshaken snow globe that appears peaceful – settled almost. For a lot of us seasoned folk, our snow globes are shooketh and as a result, our globes portray a flurry of snowflakes darting around, avidly searching for a safe place to land.
As an older woman, I’ve found myself at a point in my life where I travel for self-care and as a means to expand my social circle. Due to me having a few close friends who’ve known me for decades, my quest for new friends is very different from how it was when I was in my twenties or early thirties. While I am open to the possibility of a close friendship, that’s not my goal. That cup is full. Especially, at this moment in time when I am navigating through anticipatory grief, while doing my best to be a decent sister, daughter, friend, team lead…
What I currently have the bandwidth, for now, is meeting like-minded new people that take my mind off…well…terminal illness and death. People who I can do short-term creative projects with like a fashion project or a podcast episode.
I travelled alone to Barcelona and Paris recently and I am particularly proud of the progress I made socially. Here are some tips from what I learned.
Join Meetup Groups In Your New City
I don’t know about you but knowing there are several digital apps/websites that provide an opportunity to connect with new people can be darn right overwhelming. There’s Eatwith, Couchsurfing…hell, you can even use dating apps as long as you make your friendly intentions perfectly clear from the outset. Bumble BF anyone?
I gravitated towards Meetup – the platform that allows you to either join a group of people that share similar interests to you or create a hub of your own.
When I travel, I work remotely, so I tend to choose Meetup events that target digital marketing professionals or afterwork drinks gatherings. When I was in Barcelona earlier this year, despite not having oodles of time to spend navigating the city, I am pleased with the chain of events that occurred as a result of going to one Meetup event. It led me to visit my first Barcelona home and I was invited to celebrate Saint Juan on Barceloneta beach.
If you’re in Barcelona, check out Barcelona Digital Nomads, Meetup group – they have weekly afterwork events in different locations.
Attend Resident Advisor’s Day or Early Events
Resident Advisor/RA is an online platform that showcases electronic music, artists and events across the globe.
I used Resident Advisor a lot when I was in Barcelona and focused on afternoon or early evening music events. Basically, events where it was more likely that the music would be at a level conducive to having a conversation! One thing I should stress is when attending networking or social events is that there’ll be hits and misses. You’ve got to mentally prepare yourself for your misses, so when they come you take the ‘L’ and move on without letting the experience deter you from trying other places on your own.
Case in point, I found myself drawn to the afterwork hotel rooftop gatherings that seem to be popular in Barcelona (that cater to expats, no doubt). I went to two hotel rooftop shindigs. The first was a lot of fun, and the second was awful. With the latter, within the first 5 minutes of me walking through the entrance, all I could hear were your stereotypically loud and badly dressed …(I’m sure you can fill out the blanks!). To add insult to injury, the bar staff tried to play me by making me wait for ages for an orange juice, whilst asking me if I wanted a shot every 5 seconds. It was a ‘hard no’ for me on all counts and I bolted. But back to the first fun hotel rooftop party, I met two charismatic peeps who live in one of my favourite countries in the world (Brazil) and as luck would have it – one of them lives partially in Berlin.
I also went to a fabulous house open-air day party recommended by Resident Advisor, where I was happy to befriend another brown girl. Up to that point in my trip, I had seen literally about one or two black people. Locals would probably tell me that, that’s because of the neighbourhood I was living in or the places I was going…
Join Local Facebook Groups That Promote Events
One of the popular ways of meeting new people when travelling alone or otherwise is via Facebook Groups. Yes, despite everyone I speak to saying they stopped being active on Facebook years ago, Facebook Groups appear to be alive and kicking. With Facebook’s search bar, you can enter your city of choice and interest/hobby, thus allowing you to narrow down results to find what aligns with you.
My experience with finding active Facebook groups that nurture social activities in different cities has been an uphill battle. That being said, when I was perusing a Parisian Facebook group, I was fortunate to come across an afterwork event published by Apéros Frenchies.
I have a particular soft spot for this platform. With its inclusive afterwork events, Apéros Frenchies aims to bring expats together who are new to a city or who wish to expand their social circle. They are currently active in Paris, London, Frankfurt, Munich and Stuttgart. And boy oh boy, do I wish Berlin and Barcelona can soon make it on their list!
Their Instagram hub showcases the personal touch they add to what they do and how invested they are in creating an engaged and vibrant community.
What I really like and appreciate about Apéros Frenchies is the creativity and effort they put into their networking events. During my stay in Paris, I went to two of their events – an afterwork drinks shindig in a fab bar and a perfume creation class.
I enjoyed the after-work event because it was a nice and relaxed way to meet international professionals. But it was their perfume creation workshop that sent me to my happy place. Ultimately, when flying solo, I really enjoy doing activities that cater to a particular hobby or interest. That way, if I go to the event and don’t meet my tribe, I can still get lost in doing the hobby and I can walk away having learnt or experienced something positive.
I love fragrances and how scents evoke a range of different emotions in us. I’ve also collected perfume bottles for years. So I feel fortunate that I was able to attend the insightful perfume creation workshop that Apéros Frenchies organised. I also cherish Delilah – the perfume that I created in the workshop ( ;
Age is more than a number…
From my experience going to ‘digital nomad-themed’ Meetup events, the age range tends to range from early 20s to mid 30s. There are a scattering of people in their late 30s and early 40s, but they are in the minority.
For some, the predominant age group of people who attend networking events is immaterial. However, for others, it matters and can influence repeated attendance.
When I was younger I made friends purely going on vibes. These days, with my work and life commitments I’m looking for people who are ideally 35 years old and above. If I meet someone really special who is younger than that, I won’t kick a gift horse in the mouth but I have a preference.
And one more thing…
In this article, I’ve waxed lyrical about the platforms that gave me good opportunities to expand my social circle when travelling alone as an older woman. What I’d like to share with you next is how I prepare myself mentally and stylishly to attract like-minded people when I attend networking events.
Stay tuned, Bisous!