Words: Theresa Conti
Illustration: Sofi Deyneka
“Community happens when you make connections based on a sense
of place and purpose.” – John Addison
The holidays can be a time of celebration and joy, and can also leave us feeling isolated and lonely, particularly as expats, being away from life-long friends and family.
I always find it helpful to make connections before and during travel, and found it especially important prior to moving from the United States to Italy. Reaching out to others can make our experiences much more fun and fruitful.
Here are a few tips to create community and make your holidays more festive, whether you’re living as an expat or traveling solo.
- Expat groups: Do an online search for expat groups in the region where you live or will be visiting, such as our own Expats In Trieste. Stay informed about their activities by signing up on their social media pages. Participate in their programs, whether they’re in-person or online. You may find others who share your interests, which can lead to budding friendships.
- Reach Out to People in Your Field: As a Life Coach and energy healer, I begin by reaching out to practitioners who are in the same or similar fields. They include coaches, therapists, energy healers, and yoga instructors, among others. In other words, people with whom I share common ground. You can do the same!
Ask colleagues and/or search online for people who work in industries that are similar to yours. Let them know that you’re living in their area, or will be visiting, and would like to know if they’re available to meet, as you’re looking for like-minded people to connect with.
- Common Interests: Brainstorm a list of your interests and do an online search for activities that match them, then mark your calendar and go. Dances, cooking classes, hikes in nature, and photography workshops are a few suggestions.
- Everyday Connections: Talk with everyone! The barista at the caffè you frequent, the fruit and vegetable vendor where you purchase your produce or someone waiting at the same bus stop as you. Be curious – ask them a general question, or share something about yourself, such as how much you like a particular type of coffee or fruit, or make a comment about the weather, depending on the situation. See what unfolds from there.
- MeetUp Groups: Check out MeetUp.com for events that may happening in your region or while you’re traveling. It’s a great way to participate in programs you might not have otherwise known about. It’s free to join, and can lead to local and international friendships.
- Tours: Tours allow for meeting new people while learning something new. For instance, I signed up for a half-day tour of Florence and had dinner with a fellow tourist that evening. Tours provide opportunities for connection, whether local, regional or international. Check out options in your community, such as city, wine and bike tours.
- Couchsurfing: Although most members are in their 20’s or 30’s, you’ll also find people who range in age from their 40’s to 70’s. Search for people who have been verified and have several positive references. Trust your intuition, only contact people with whom you feel comfortable, and meet in public places.
- Recovery Groups: There are thousands of international 12-Step groups and there may be one in or close to your area. Check the websites for in-person or online meetings for groups that you belong to or their sister programs. It’s a wonderful way to get support, particularly during the holidays.
- Tourist Information Centers: Check out tourist information centers for local events and other activities. For instance, the visitor center in Trieste even has a weekly list in English.
- Volunteer: Research organizations, among other groups, that are active in your community to discuss their needs and see how you can help them. Volunteering on a consistent basis provides a framework for potential friendship, which can lead to activities outside of the organization.
- Carve Your Own Path: Have an interest or a passion, but can’t find a local group? Consider starting one of your own! MeetUp.com, Facebook, and other platforms can get you started and help you build community.