Source: Web exclusive: September 2009
Making friends has never been an easy thing’but it’s even harder in today’s world. While our cities bustle with people, many complain of feeling more and more isolated. Add in a life-changing event such as moving to a new city, or having a baby, or both, and the task of making friends only gets more difficult.
But it’s not all bad news. While forging connections is daunting, the opportunities to do so are rapidly increasing. The trick to capitalizing on those opportunities is to keep an open mind, get out of the house and into the world, and be proactive’don’t wait for others to offer you their contact information, carry a pen and paper with you and offer your email address. Here are some of the best ways to make new friends.
1. Join a sport league
Nowadays, recreational leagues are striving to ease people’s misgivings about joining a sports team. Whether you’re shy or fear you won’t play well enough, you can find a league to meet your needs’gender-specific as well as beginner leagues are booming. And from soccer to volleyball, bowling to curling, there’s a league now for every interest.
If you’re not the team type, there are also plenty of ways to connect with others doing individual sports: running, orienteering and mountain climbing clubs are also on the rise. A simple Google search (put in your city and the sport of interest) will help you find what you’re looking for. Otherwise, visit a local store specializing in your activity, or check out a local newspapers for community sport information.
2. Join an outing club
If you’re not passionate about any single sport but enjoy being active, then consider joining an outing club. These have been around for awhile, but they’re gaining in popularity because, turns out, they’re a great way to meet like-minded people in our urban jungles.
Generally, these clubs offer hiking, cycling and paddling outings, and some even throw in pub nights and barbecues. Some offer weekend camping trips, too, or days-long wilderness treks in nearby regions. You’ll find teens and elderly, married and families, but the most popular demographic tends to be in the 20 to 40 age range and single. For more information, check the Internet or a local store specializing in outdoor gear (such as a Mountain Equipment Co-op).
3. Find a hobby club
There are plenty of clubs to consider beyond outdoor ones. Books, chess, film, pottery, whatever your hobby, chances are that someone in your community is hosting a regular event. And keep in mind, that opportunities for novices are almost always available.
Regular events at a local retailer, such as a Tuesday night stitch and bitch, are a great option for making a lasting connection because the people attending will likely be from your own community. And as small businesses struggle to stay afloat in the current economy, you’ll find no shortage of retailers experimenting with such ways to get people through their doors.
Okay, so taking a weekend all-inclusive trip to Mexico may not spark a lifelong friendship. But more travel companies are catering to people who wish it could. Travel mixers are skyrocketing, and you can even find women-only trips (no, they’re not just for lesbians, unless stated as such), as well as singles-only ones (no, they’re not just for meeting men). Try to find a company that emphasizes local customers; this will increase the chances of seeing someone you’ve met abroad after the trip is over.
5. Work or volunteer
The tried-and-true way to make friends has been and still is through work, unless you work from home. So, if you work at an office and aren’t happy with the quality of your friendships there, then it might be time to ask yourself why. Do you like what you do and where you do it, or do you hate the people you work with? If you’re getting little joy out of your workplace you might consider changing jobs.
But if changing jobs isn’t wanted or needed, then consider volunteering at a place that interests you. If you don’t have time to regularly volunteer, then consider volunteering at an event. Charity events are not what they used to be. More and more are figuring out that people are hungry for opportunities to meet others, so many charities have begun to put a great emphasis on bringing local people together in an environment conducive to forging relationships, like tree-planting at a local watershed, a community park clean-up day, or building a house in a nearby underdeveloped neighborhood. Because charities are grappling for new ways to draw people to their events, increasingly, their events are finished off with a mixer, such as a barbecue, or even cocktails at a local establishment.
6. Make your online world work offline
Don’t ignore the power of the web. If you’re a Twitter-aholic, then check out if there’s a Twestival event near you. Launched just this year, Twestival is a series of local charity events that bring Twitterers together at a local venue to raise money for charity, such as helping to increase the availability of clean water in the developing world. It’s a great opportunity to turn an online relationship into a face-to-face friendship, while also doing some good.
Another social networking site to check out is Meetup.com, a forum for hooking up people in the real world who share similar interests. Just type in your city and peruse all the groups out there. If you don’t find one you like, then seize the day and launch one of your own’you don’t have to know anybody, just post the group you want to create and wait for others like you to join. Keep in the know about other emerging opportunities at various social networking sites’turns out we’re all in the same boat, and searching for ways to connect.
7. Hands down, the best place to meet people
Anywhere your TV isn’t.
Need to break the ice with someone new? Try a joke or funny story’there are plenty to choose from in Laughter: The Best Medicine, available now in the Best Health Store.
Where did you meet your best friends? Share your stories in the comments.