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Learn the secrets to the good life: meet new people

Editor’s Note: This is part 1 in an 8-part series on How to Live the Good Life. Interested in more? Sign up for our Try New Things email list. We’re going to help you walk the talk!

 

Fun couple at PrideYou  may recall in our first exposé that we spilled the beans on the 7 reasons we live the good life. The cool kids we interviewed agreed with us, and in some ways took it up a notch. (The cool kids are always trying to outdo themselves, which is so much more refreshing than the not-cool kids who just try to outdo each other.)

One thing everyone living the good life has in common is the first secret we shared:

We meet interesting people every single day. We ask a lot of questions and process a lot of answers. This generates ideas, opens doors, and sparks connections.

Living the good life through the people you meet

I don’t mean just a casual “hi, how are you?” and moving on. I mean really talking with people, asking questions, and generating a conversation.

Sometimes it is a brief, shared experience and we may never see them again, and other times they turn into clients or friends (or both). Sometimes we meet someone online and become friends long before eventually meeting up in person. Still other times getting to know someone leads to experiences you could have never predicted or housesitting for a friend of a friend who turns out to practically be your twin separated at birth (I may be exaggerating a bit, but we do have a lot in common).

You may be thinking, “well of course you have these great experiences – you are traveling around the world!” But that is not the reason. You see, we did all these things before we ever left Seattle, and we have plenty of stories to tell about that.

  • We love The Moth podcast for all the quirky and interesting live stories. One of our favorite storytellers is Michaela Murphy, and when we found out she had relocated to Seattle from NYC, Warren went about finding her online. After an exchange of tweets, he invited her to a little happy hour we had organized, and we ended up having a few dates with her and her fiance Greg, a photographer, before we left. It turned out we had a lot in common both in life and business, and we were able to share some connections and ideas with each other as well as a lot of laughs.
  • As we were doing the promotion work for last year’s Meet, Plan, Go event in Seattle, one woman heard us on the radio. She later met Warren at a partner meeting at Microsoft and found out he was leaving the company to travel. She told him he should connect with this couple she heard on the radio the previous week and gave him our website name. He smiled and told her it was us! It was such a funny connection I knew we had to meet. So I reached out, we met for coffee and learned that she was in a business that I had some good connections for and that she was originally from Ecuador, the first stop on our trip. We were able to trade a lot of great ideas at that first meeting, and we continue to stay in touch via Facebook today, sharing news and new friends with each other. She was a vital point of reference when we found out about the coup in Ecuador the day before we left, sharing info and contacts to ease our minds.
  • One of our best friendships came about through a raffle drawing. I attended a business networking event and won the door prize, which was 2 tickets to a Seattle Storm basketball game. The tickets were donated by a woman who shared my same first name, though she was not at the event that night. I emailed to thank her and to suggest we get together for coffee based solely on the fact that we shared the same name and I thought it was cool and unusual that she gave sports tickets for a raffle at a women-only event. We ended up becoming great friends, running a half-marathon together, taking trapeze lessons, and eventually living together for the last few months before we left Seattle. It has been one of the true great friendships of my life and I can’t believe it came about like that (oh wait – yes I can).

I could go on, all the way back to 1999 when I first started working online and expanding my social network outside of my small, conservative hometown in New Mexico. Every single one of those connections played a small part in creating the life I have today, and Warren would say the same about his.

If you are waiting to meet cool people to be cool, you have missed the boat. You have to meet people. Period. The “cool” factor comes from the sparks you make together, not what you are individually before you meet.

How to meet people

It takes a little practice to cultivate this habit, even if you are naturally extroverted, because the goal is a real connection, not just a verbal exchange. You have to respond to brief little prompts to reach out and not let the busy-ness of your everyday life stop you. You have to overcome your shyness and reach out when there is a good chance you’ll be rebuffed or ignored. You have to be open to overtures by other people, even if on the surface there doesn’t seem to be much in common. In short, you have to live in the moment, aware of what is around you, and react to your instincts immediately instead of pushing them back down.

If something about a potential connection seems funny, neat, interesting, or unusual, reach out.

  • Meet someone in the grocery store checkout line with the same foods/wine/specialty products you like? Chat them up.
  • Having a get-together with your same old friends? Make it a requirement that you all bring someone new. If they are friends of your friends, don’t you think you’d have some things in common?
  • What is your most unusual interest? I’m sure there is a meetup group for it. Find it, join it, and go to an event. If you have to tell a story to most people to explain your interest in it, imagine the stories you’ll hear from other people who share your passion (from furries to ferrets to face painting).

When you feel the teeniest, tiniest spark, fan the flames.

  • You meet another dad at your kid’s soccer game and you share some nice chat and find out he works near you. Invite him to lunch the following week to see if you continue to hit it off.
  • Your Facebook page and Twitter stream are not just for people you already know. If it freaks you out a little, set up a limited profile list for people you’ve just met. But do ask them to connect if you feel the tiniest spark. It isn’t always convenient to make a deeper connection right away, and by making sure you have each other’s social media info, you can gradually get to know each other in a way that you won’t through email alone.
  • Did you meet someone interesting at the cheese stand of your local farmer’s market? Ask them to join you the next week for a coffee before you shop together. There is no reason why you can’t do errands or chores together if you’ll both be doing them anyway. We loved going to the farmer’s market with friends on the weekends. If you are a foodie, part of the fun is learning what they’ll be making with the ingredients they buy.

Write a love letter to someone who inspires, entertains, or informs you.

  • Everyone loves fan mail. If someone has genuinely improved your life in some way, why not tell them about it? It may or may not lead to a personal connection, but it will help you practice reaching out and give the recipient some recognition they may really need at that moment. I just wrote a love letter to Danielle LaPorte this week because I think her work in the world makes it easier for me to do my work in the world. (PS: don’t be creepy, y’all.)
  • Tell other people who or what inspires you. You may not ever connect with your hero individually, but you will attract the kind of people who like him or her to you, and that’s not a bad thing at all. You won’t ever find the people in your tribe if you don’t call out where you belong.
  • Comment on blogs and social media posts about the people and subjects you care about most. Other people who feel the same way (or differ completely!) will respond, and you will make new friends and generate new ideas this way. Do not discount the power of an online friendship.

Real-time example of reaching out to meet people (strangers, even!)

As I was finishing this post, we got a comment on Facebook from a woman named Jen who lives around the corner from our housesitting gig in Brussels. Do we know her? Nope. Are we going to? You bet. She is obviously living the good life, and we want more people like that in our lives.

Real-time proof of how easy it is to meet great people and live the good life
Tell us about a time when you made an unusual connection with someone that later turned into something great for you or for them.
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About Betsy

Betsy Talbot can't live without a Moleskine notebook, her passport, and happy hour. She sold everything she owned to travel the world with her husband Warren in 2010, and she's been enjoying her midlife crisis ever since. Betsy writes about creating the life you want from the life you already have in her books and on the Married with Luggage website. Drop her an email at btalbot (at) marriedwithluggage (dot) com and check out her Google+ page.

Comments

  1. And that woman from Ecuador is very grateful to know you both and can’t wait to see what’s next, kind of crossing my fingers you’ll think about South America again, perhaps sometime around the holidays when I’m back home :-)

    • Ah, Nathalie! I’m happy to see you here. You know we will be going back to South America. That boat trip cut our visit short, and six months is not nearly enough time to see the continent (though we did spend almost half that time in your lovely country)

      We love following your new adventures in NYC. Who knows, maybe we’ll meet you there one day, too. :)

  2. love that you FB’d that you had your first belgium waffles..yumm! Great post. I have no problem chatting someone up but it can be a challenge to take it one step further and keep the contact going. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Rhonda, I think that’s the hump for most people. It takes a real commitment to begin doing this, but after a while it just becomes second nature. (Living proof is that we just got back from dinner with Jen and Swapnil, who reached out to us with an invitation after seeing that waffle post on Facebook!)

  3. Julie Rubinstein says:

    Hi guys!

    I love this post (and both of you!) and have always admired the openness you have with others. It’s as if you walk around the world (literally now) with your arms stretched open giving everything and everyone a big ‘ol hug. And we know that Warren is the all time best hugger in the world!

    I love you and miss your hugs but feel them virtually.

    Jules

    • Hey, Jules. We were just talking about you last week! You know, I think the openness about our lives with this blog has put this strategy into overdrive for us. You can’t be much more open about your life and desires than we are with this blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, now can you? And when people know what you are all about and that you are open to connecting, it makes it easier for them to reach out or react positively to your invitations. I never really thought about it that way before.

      And hey, aren’t you the one who took up aikido 2 years ago on a whim and found a new passion while meeting a whole new group of people? Love that!

      Love and miss you, too. (and hey, you should come to Thailand this winter!)

    • Tranque Fuller says:

      Is this tongue-in-cheek? Does this mean Warren ISN’T a hugger; or do you mean he really is? I’m mean, when the guy stripped off all his clothes and painted himself blue . . . uh . . . was he hugging people all the way?

      • Tranque, Warren is *the* hugger. If I was the jealous type I’d have cut his arms off a long time ago. :) Thankfully I’m a secure and benevolent dictator.

  4. Lorraine says:

    We joined a social group for people who don’t have kids…and we have made the best, lifelong friends ever this way. We have all moved around the country, but we still get together once or twice a year.

    Love your blog – I’m a new follower!

    • Hi, Lorraine. What a great idea! Our friend Darcey, who was profiled in the first segment of this series, is a member of Child Free NYC and has made great friendships that way, too. There is a group out there with your same interests – no matter what those interests are – and with the internet it doesn’t take much to go out and find them.

      I love it that you just started reading and are already commenting. We LOVE hearing from you guys.

  5. Maureen@Vaco Vitae says:

    What a great post–and a wonderful reminder. I’m going to save this to my favorites. In fact, I’d like to print it out and pin it to my wall (except, you know, being location independent an’ all, I don’t have a wall!)

    Our latest adventure (not!) has been a seven week housesit in Redmond, Oregon. And let’s just say it’s not my natural element. Rural, desert-y, no neighbors for miles (unless you count the cows) and the town itself? Eight miles away and nuttin’ to write home about, in my humble opinion.

    So, let’s just say my interactive experiences with the rest of the world have been….ummmm ….somewhat limited. (It’s a good thing I like my husband–most of the time…)

    We head to Vancouver a week from today, then to Australia next month. I hear they have people in both of those places. I hope my interpersonal skills haven’t gotten too rusty. I may have to start showering and flossing again, though…

    So, your tips and encouragement are quite timely and very much appreciated!

    • Hey, Maureen. We’ve had a couple of destinations like that, too. The only thing I can say is that it is the perfect time to brush up on your online interactions. :)

      Vancouver is fantastic, and if you are going to Perth in Australia we have some awesome people to introduce you to (though you will have to shower and floss first).

      • Maureen@Vaco Vitae says:

        Betsy,

        I couldn’t agree more about the online interactions part. (But after seven weeks, even that gets old.) Funny story about that–last week, in a desperate attempt to connect in real time with….well…anyone, I did a search for online chat rooms with an emphasis on the keyword “travel.” I was delighted to find some through my Yahoo Messenger and eagerly logged into the Sydney chat room.

        30 Minutes later and about 50 PMs later (all asking me some form of “did I want to talk dirty?”) I gave up. LOL. I guess chat rooms only have one purpose, regardless of the stated theme. Sigh. My age must be showing.

        We’ll be on the eastern side of Australia, but Perth is on the list for a future adventure. (Ah….adventure…I remember those!)

        Soon!

  6. Tranque Fuller says:

    Fantastic post (as usual). Running on the shy side (yes, really!), it is much easier for me to not do this. But I had to make a conscious decision to not let my natural tendencies limit me and it has made all the difference in the world to me.

    Around 4 years ago I (me: 40-something businessmen) reached out to Marie (her: 70-something year old psychic/photographer/body-worker/life-coach) at a Spiritual bookstore (a place I’d never usually go) and I can directly attribute my life as I live it now to meeting Marie. I met my dream-woman (Yumi is now my wife) because I reached out to Marie! I fulfilled my dream of living in Japan because I met Marie. OMG! What if I hadn’t met Marie!!

    One friendly “hello” in the most unlikely of places may make all the difference in your world for you.

    Be Present. Expect success. Live with Passion!
    T

    • Tranque, you just never know where those connections are going to take you, do you? That is part of the fun of it all, and in some cases it can be absolutely life-changing (as in going to Japan and meeting Yumi). Other times it can be just plain fun, weird, interesting, or even simply a learning experience.

      When we start playing back the links to the important relationships or opportunities in our lives we see the importance of continuing to make those kind of connections, but without a concentrated effort it is too easy to ignore those prompts and stick with the status quo (which will always get you the result of living the status quo). Or you could reach out to someone unusual and end up in Japan with the woman of your dreams. Nice job, Tranque.

  7. I want to thank you for this post…it’s just what I needed. I am a new reader and wanted to come out of the shadows and say hi. I found you several pages deep via a fellow Foreign Service blog and have become a follower. Your pictures and words are very inspiring and this post especially gives me that added nudge to put myself out there socially. I am hoping to take your suggestions and make a bit more eye contact, ask just one more question, going against my introvert nature when I arrive in Colombo in a little over 2 weeks with my family for our first overseas post. Perhaps we too will meet if ever you are in Sri Lanka? Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Carrie, what an amazing adventure you have ahead of you! And you are going into it with the right attitude. You are going to have an amazing experience, and when we get to Sri Lanka we’ll meet up so you can tell us all about it.

      • I’ve been to Sri Lanka for 10 days. It was only 1 month before the Tsunami occured. The hotel I stayed at was apparently destroyed by the wave :(

  8. rob philip says:

    Have I told you yet how annoyed I am that you mentioned “meet, plan, go” in one of your posts. I bought a ticket for the Denver version today, and I’m apprehensive it might work. I’m even scheduling a trip to Canada around the date so I don’t miss it.

    As for meeting interesting people where you live – the juice fast I’m doing has induced me to become friends with the owners of the two CSAs from which I normally buy my veggies. And talking about it leads naturally into sustainable agriculture, organic farming and all the stuff they do. People are usually interesting if you find the thing that you have (or could have) in common!

    • Rob, you keep annoying me with your healthy regimen, so I have a right – nay, a duty! – to annoy you with mentions of Meet, Plan, Go. :) I’m so glad you bought your ticket for Denver and know you will meet some incredible people there.

      Love that you are forming deeper relationships with your CSAs. You are right – it makes perfect sense to forge relationships with the people providing the things that are important to you. Brilliant.

  9. Debb Whitlock says:

    I continue to be so proud and inspired by you – journey on my dear – journey on!

    • We’re all on a journey, aren’t we? :)

      • Yay! We made the blog :-) In other news, we also met some new people just yesterday. A 18 yr old and 19 yr old couple traveling in Brussels from Amsterdam… Swapnil linked with him online through a common interest in Linux and Open Source computing. How exciting it is to connect with people so easily through the internet. Somehow it still seems a bit strange how it works, but Why – I do not know. I even met my husband online! So, I guess people are really only strangers until you just MEET them!

      • Jen, I saw your pics on Google Plus – you guys are great hosts! I think they are not even strangers once you get to know them online – we have made several friends that way, and when we finally do meet in person – sometimes after years of talking online – it is like we’ve always known each other. I love it that you guys are new to Brussels and already functioning as the welcoming committee for travelers!

  10. I am currently living in Athens, Greece after having also lived in Sri Lanka for a while, Australia and travelled to New Zealand, Fiji, Raratonga and the U.S. as well as worked in Cairo, Egypt.
    All experiences I have with people are unique: eating with a local family in the small inland village of Ratnapura in Sri Lanka where they insisted on feeding me and letting themselves go hungry for the night, getting to know local Greek people and find out what motivates them to take to the streets and to really UNDERSTAND what goes on in this country – to the small things such as being recognised by now in my local taverna and the owner not even needing to give me a menu…just getting my table and food ready with a smile as soon as I walk through the door.

    • Oh, Bex. Your experience sounds amazing! We love learning the political structure, why people do what they do, and the understanding of statements like “oh, that’s just Belgium.” You don’t get that by following an itinerary. It’s the understanding, not the souvenirs or beautiful vistas, that make travel such a life-changing experience. Not only that, but you’re giving them a better perspective of your culture when you choose to open yourself up like that. What an incredible experience you are having!

      • It sure is amazing – thanks :0)
        And I have to be honest, as recent events atest to in the UK, I am proud of my host country Greece…even in the face of a riot, she conducts herself with dignity. See:

        http://leavingcairo.blogspot.com/2011/08/athens-vs-london.html

        for a comparison.

        I am off ‘home’ for a few days now – it’ll be interesting to see what it’s like there these days.
        Returning to Athens on 20th August by train via Paris and one night in Venice, then 2 day ferry journey. Will be writing about this experience as well.

        Keep up your travels – your experiences sound fantastic too…it’s very refreshing for us to see Americans have a desire to leave their own country and wish to experience other cultures (sorry, that probably sounds rude but we are quite shocked at how bad the average American’s geographic knowledge is) so thank you both for helping to put that myth to bed.

  11. This is outstanding but a couple things REALLY stand out:

    -”cool kids” really do try to outdo themselves (not others). We recently wrote about a lunch we had with friends. All they could talk about was how they might duplicate others’ successful lives. We told them to focus on their own path and definition of success. A lot of people spend too much time looking outward in order to measure success.

    -Real, robust conversations and connections are critical. Unlike the “old” us, we now choose to go deep with friendships. If there’s a spark that makes someone worth getting to know, it’s worth going beyond surface stuff.

    • Kent, isn’t it better to be the best “you” you can be instead of the best copycat version of someone else? Once you get that lesson down, the road in front is wide open, and that’ s a beautiful sight. You gave very sage advice to your friends.

      I’m glad the “real, robust conversations” piece came through. Just meeting people in and of itself is fine – I did a lot of business networking in my past and you can easily meet people all day long without going deep – but to really make an impact on your life and theirs you have to take it a step further. And once you start doing that on a regular basis you will never want to go back to forming superficial relationships again. You guys are living proof of that with the kind of impact you are able to make in the world, and I can’t wait until we can finally meet up in person. That’s going to be one long night of conversation! (and some good food and drink, too)

  12. I just wanted to say thank you for such a wonderfully inspirational post! My husband recently connected with some long lost relatives – one of which lives in Buenos Aires. They were chatting the other day, and he recommended a visit to your site. It turned out to be perfect timing….we just moved from Alaska to Portland to attend law school. I had a baby 11 weeks ago, am planning on staying home, and know no one in this city. Living the good life and meeting new people is exactly what I need to do. Thank you for the tips and encouragement!

    I, too, LOVE to travel and am planning a trip similar to yours….5 to 10 years down the road :) But, like you said – that doesn’t mean I have to wait to have the life I want. Thank you again for the encouragement!

    • Jenn, how funny that someone in BsAs recommended you to our blog. I love that. :) And you are braver than most travelers we know by relocating so soon after the birth of a baby! Kudos to you, and congratulations on your bundle of joy.

      Portland is such a great city – actually, we love the whole Pacific NW after having lived in Seattle – and we found it really easy to meet people in the area with just a little effort. And funny enough we met a several people who had moved from Alaska to the area. I’ll bet you could easily find a meetup group of “expats” from Alaska with a quick google search. :)

      We’re so happy to have you join our little tribe and can’t wait to hear how you settle in to Portland and build a brand-new group of friends. Please write back and let us know how it is going (and make us drool over the excellent street food options in your new city).

  13. I’ve always been an incredibly shy person (hard to believe right?) but when we moved to Belgium I knew I had to start putting myself out there. It was easiest for me to do this through CheeseWeb and I can’t tell you how many good things have come from this. By simply responding to comments and emails I met so many incredible people, many who went on to become good friends in person. I’ve been wowed by the generosity of the blogging community and I believe that expats and travellers are some of the most open folks out there. You are absolutely right in saying that ‘cool’ people are everywhere. You just have to take the time to listen to their stories.

    • I do think online relationships are underrated. We have made some amazing connections online through our blog and Facebook, and getting to eventually meet some of those people in person is just magic. Like meeting an old friend for the very first time. It is not surprising you have had the same experience!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] We meet interesting people every single day. We ask a lot of questions and process a lot of answers. This generates ideas, opens doors, and sparks connections. [...]

  2. [...] live the good life by adopting a few life-enhancing strategies. We’ve already talked about meeting new people on a regular basis, connecting people to each other and to great opportunities, and knowing how to ask for what you [...]

  3. [...] our excitement from great experiences, not manufactured suspense. We’ve taken great pains to surround ourselves with positive people and cull the negative influences in our lives, so when one sneaks in under the radar it’s a [...]

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