I think I speak for both Joe and myself when I say the best thing about Austin is our friends. We’re so fortunate to have several strong networks of great buddies there, and we miss everyone dearly. When we decided to move abroad for a year, I knew we’d need a way to create connections while traveling from place to place. I discovered a world-wide community called InterNations, a network of expats and locals spanning 390 countries and containing 2.6 million members – sounded like a great place to start.
Joe and I joined the group at the basic level (free) before we left, but soon upgraded to “Albatross” membership ($5/month or so) which allowed us to make connections and send messages, attend events (often for free) and more fully utilize the resources on the site. We’ve attended a couple events so far and I’m so glad we’re members: we get to discover new, beautiful rooftop bars and mingle with an incredibly diverse, international crowd – we’ve only met two Americans at the events so far, which is kind of cool.
For example: at the first event, we chatted with a woman from Italy who now lives and works in Barcelona, another who is German and Spanish and loves the city so much she just can’t leave, a young Spanish man who is an artist searching for his path, a charismatic German investment banker who was definitely the most well-dressed and polite guest in attendance, a tall and modelesque Mexican woman with eyes that pierced your soul, and a Tunisian software developer who came to Barcelona for the opportunities in his field. What a mix of interesting people! Everyone was friendly, open-minded, and eager for a good conversation over a glass of wine or cava.
Not only have we met some wonderful people, but we’ve visited venues we wouldn’t have otherwise discovered. The second rooftop event we attended brought us to a narrow, L-shaped rooftop bar overlooking the massive hill of Montjuïc and the adjacent and elaborate Palau Nacional – stunning views all around. The decor was reminiscent of a French bistro, and the blue umbrellas, white wrought-metal chairs, string lights and tropical plants transported us to a cosy garden on the Riviera or courtyard tucked behind a Parisian mansion. We saw a couple friends there and made several new ones as well – including an hilariously sarcastic Spanish lady who quipped, when we suggested she visit the bar to grab a drink and mingle with the attendees, “well I don’t drink and I don’t like talking to people, so great” all with a twinkle in her eye. We liked her immediately. We finally did meet some Americans – who, of course, had just moved from the Bay Area to Spain. It was a sign.
InterNations isn’t all about happy hours, however: there are dozens of groups members can join that hold events ranging from hiking and city tours to cooking classes and boat trips and everything in between – it seems there’s something for everyone, and once you join a number of groups, event invitations are sent directly to your message box on the (free) app. Many of the events are free or discounted, and the organizers (members of InterNations, anyone can do it!) are excellent at creating unique experiences. The site also has a forum where members can ask for (and give) advice, as well as city guides and info about your location. So helpful, simple and enriching!
InterNations has provided us with a window into local life, opportunities to meet people from all over the world, and the chance to make a few new friends along the way. We look forward to embracing each new community as we move around Europe!