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Try These 5 Fun ‘Pickup Lines’ to Make More Outdoorsy Friends

Moving to a new city as an adult can trigger all the emotions of being the new kid in school. It’s exciting and full of potential, but it can also be terrifying and lonely if you don’t know anyone. Everyone else has been living there longer than you have, and they already have friends. So it can feel a bit like you have to really try hard in order to persuade people to give you a shot and let you into their group.

I started digital nomad-ing in 2019 and moved from Denver to London in 2021. So, I know a thing or two about starting over and making new friends. I’ve been very lucky to meet people and make genuine friends absolutely everywhere: On trains, on planes, in coworking spaces, in the neighborhood sauna, in the customer service queue at the airport, and in the dog park. When I say I “meet people” like this, I don’t mean we strike up a chat and then go our separate ways forever. I mean we exchange phone numbers and say “we should get coffee soon!” and then we actually do it.

So, how is it done? I’m pretty much always open to chatting with strangers unless I’m busy writing or reading, and I think that’s the first step. Just think about your favorite movie meet-cute, and bring that energy to the best-friend game. The second step is to make sure the first thing you say is the cleverest thing that has ever been said by anybody on your side of the Mississippi. 

I’m joking, obviously. Lots of great friendships can start from something as simple as, “hey, would you mind plugging in my laptop charger under your table?” This exact line was recently a huge success for me. We talked for an hour and now I have someone to hang out with next time I’m in Santiago, Chile.

If you’re not sure how to start a conversation with a stranger, here are a few of my best lines. Please note that most of these can be instantly improved by the presence of a dog. (If you don’t have one, you can borrow one. I occasionally dog-sit / borrow my friend’s very adorable dog for this purpose.)

1. What’s your dog’s name? / Can I pet your dog?

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Simple and highly effective. I think this works particularly well if the person you’re speaking to is with a dog that hasn’t already inspired a whole crowd of people to wait in line to pet him or her. Those humans already get far too much attention. Follow this up with genuine interest in what kinds of hikes this human-dog dream team takes together, and question whether they’ve heard of any local clubs for new residents to get to know other outdoorsy people around the city. They might just invite you to join for their weekend hike with friends (I certainly would)!

2. “I love your backpack! Who makes that?!”

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Everyone loves a good compliment, especially when it confirms that they made a good life choice by splurging on some hiking gear. If you’re at a loss for where to take the conversation from here, you could try something like, “I’ve been shopping around for a new [insert gear here] because I’m dying to [insert nearby adventure here]. Have you been there before?”

3. “Hey! Did you catch what they said on the (plane/train/bus) about (important logistical detail)?” / [Good-natured, low-key complaint about annoying, shared transit mishap, such as a delay]

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If you haven’t noticed, my “pick up lines” are less, well, pick up lines, and more just avenues into conversation by posing an easy question for your friend crush to answer. If you’re traveling abroad solo and looking for people to hang out with in town, your fellow traveler from the plane/train/bus/ferry you arrived on can be a great place to start. And there’s no easier way into a conversation than with a simple logistical question or a humorous complaint about a shared travel woe to gauge willingness to chat. Warning: Making this a really obviously stupid question, or giving your temper free reign for a 30-minute tirade about how Denver Airport has the worst escalator etiquette of any airport in our entire galaxy, can backfire. I’m not speaking from experience on this.

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Living in London has taught me that British people love talking about the weather almost as much as they love queuing. Don’t take my word for it—take it from Kate Fox, an English anthropologist who wrote an entire chapter about it in her book, Watching the English, about the unwritten rules of her fellow countrymen’s behavior. Here’s what Fox taught me about these conversations about the weather: No one really cares about the weather, that much. Instead, it’s just an opening to conversation. When people say, “Looks like rain, doesn’t it?” what they’re often really saying is, “Hello! Won’t you please engage in conversation with me?” Luckily for you, as an outdoorsy person for whom the weather matters very much, this is actually a phenomenal conversation opener with someone else for whom an accurate forecast will be of great interest.

5.  “Is that a [climbing gym] sticker? I’ve been meaning to check that out / I love that place!”

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If you happen to live in the northeastern United States, you may know that it’s basically illegal almost everywhere there to approach a stranger without first identifying an obvious shared interest (Vermont is an exception). You can’t just strike up a conversation with any old stranger, but you can notice that someone is wearing a sweatshirt with your college’s name on it, and ask if they went there because you did, too. If your goal is to make outdoorsy friends, I recommend looking up local clubs and organizations that share those interests with you, like the Appalachian Mountain Club, and then keeping an eye out for stickers, water bottles, sweatshirts, tote bags, etc. with their name on it. Who doesn’t love the AMC huts?

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