CarouLLou * 88 countries & 23 years later… » brainstorm lunches

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My social life in each country really depends on how long I live there. Actually, it has a lot to do with how long I ‘intend’ to stay there. So right from the beginning, my ‘time projection’ influences how my social life evolves and it also depends on whether it is my first time there, or if I’ve been there before.

At the beginning of my nomadic life, my length of stay in any one country was 2 years at a time. Then, it became 1 year, then 6 months, and eventually it became 1 to 3 months. My social life has evolved accordingly.

In this post, I’m focusing on one specific type of social group I created: my “Brainstorm Lunches’, which I initiated in cities where I stayed for extended periods of time.

Between 1990 & 1997 (yes, even before I became nomad in 1994), I was doing business not only by phone and fax, but I was also participating in business activities with like-minded people, so my social life was naturally fulfilled and almost every day, I would have lunch with friends (night-time was always special time for my husband & I).

I arrived in Bangkok in the late 90s as a solo entrepreneur, working my international businesses initially by phone, then eventually from my laptop. I was very excited about launching my first websites, but at the same time, I started to feel the isolation of the ‘digital nomad entrepreneur’. I was having lunch with my husband every day and we were going out at night with friends, but still, I was longing for exchanges with peers. Not necessarily for business networking purposes, but rather just to brainstorm and have fun with other business-minded and creative people.

I knew that people naturally develop friendships and partnerships in the workplace or at school, typically over lunch or coffee, so I got an idea! I thought: “Why not look for other entrepreneurs like me, who work on their own in Bangkok and propose that we have lunch together, just like if we were going for lunch out of our ‘virtual offices’?”

So I placed an ad in the popular English monthly magazine of the time, and sure enough, I had many responses (most were men ;-))! But anyhow, that was towards the end of my stay in Bangkok, so I did not really have the time to meet anyone through that ad.

After Bangkok, I had another year of a very natural social life in Europe, having lunches with fantastic women that I had met just walking in the street or in a store.

Then in the early 2000s, I arrived in Barcelona, and I felt like going for the same experiment again (this time for women only ;-). So I placed an ad that read like this:

If you are 30+, fun, smart, spiritual, positive, business, international woman living in Barcelona, Let’s have lunch and brainstorm on life!

I had in mind to organize a weekly lunch with a small group of wonderful female expats and entrepreneurs, but I didn’t expect to receive 50-something responses! So I answered to all of them, briefly introducing myself, sharing about what I was doing, where I lived, etc and inviting them to do the same.

Out of the 40-something responses I received back, I felt like reaching out to about 25 of them. So I had a phone conversation with each one. Another natural selection occurred, perhaps just following mutual feelings.

Then, I met about 15 of them in person, 1 by 1, for lunch or coffee. I really clicked with 7 of them, which I felt would fit the profile of my weekly lunches and of my special group (many of us still laugh about it today, as apparently some felt a little intimidated, like if they were passing the ‘interview’).

Eventually, for reasons I forget, 2 of them never made it, but we ended up having our first weekly lunch with the 5 women and myself, making a group of 6 of us, all from different countries. It was simply MAGIC! It was just when texting became popular, so we all exchanged our mobile numbers and we all started to text each other all week long in between the lunches. Plus, each one of them would have a ’1 on 1′ coffee or lunch with the others, in addition to our weekly group gathering. We were going to a new restaurant every week, so it was gastronomy and fun!

In Barcelona, I also had started a ‘Digital Nomad Coworking Space’ group (open to all genders ;-)). I had made a arrangement with an internet café, and we would all sit next to each other, each working our own business, and we would brainstorm over lunch together. (Actually, my very first coworking space was in Montreal when I started my first business in the early 90s with my green screen computer!).

Then in Buenos Aires, through 2 friends who were part of my Barcelona group, and through the ‘Newcomers’ expat group, I met some wonderful ladies and organized 3 weekly lunches there too! One was in English, then French, and then Spanish.

In the mid-2000s, I repeated the same experience of the ad in Amsterdam. It did not work out exactly the same way as before, but naturally developed into individual friendships with 4 fabulous women, all Dutch this time ;-) (1 of them being from my Barcelona group who had moved back to her home country).

In those days, I was using classified ads in english expat Magazines. Today I would probably use ‘Internations‘, ‘Meetup‘, and of course ‘Facebook‘. I also just discovered ‘GoodCoworking‘ a network in cities around the world… And recently launched ‘Anna’s friends

To this day, most of us are still very close and in contact with each other, no matter where we are in the world and we even travel to see each other! If we put together all the countries where we’re from and where we got together, that includes Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, China, England, Italy, France, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, and USA.

And through all of my fantastic friends, whenever I go back to those cities, or whenever I go to new cities where they have moved, my social life can expand naturally with all the new amazing friends I meet through them!

However, since 2006, I haven’t really done these kinds of groups anymore, because I only stay between 1 and 3 months in each city and country. My social life now consists mainly of my husband and sometimes family and friends visiting; sometimes with old friends living locally, sometimes with new ones; and often, it is with any new people spontaneously appearing in our life, and with whom we share a special moment and feel a special connection with! Of course, after we leave, our friendships keep ongoing through social media networks…

But this being said, if ever you see that I am in your city and you are having similar gatherings, I’ll be happy to join you to brainstorm over lunch!

 
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...i enjoyed sharing this with you !