“Hey, remember that amaaaaazing time we grabbed a latte at Starbucks and talked about work?”
“Yeah! And remember how we had $11 cocktails and discussed the plotlines of The Mindy Project?”*
I could be wrong, but I’m 97% sure these are not things that Real Life Humans say.
We don’t strengthen friendships or make memories over coffee and cocktails. We check in with each other and we catch up, but we don’t actually deepen our friendships or help them move forward.
If you want better, more meaningful friendships – or you’re just sick of whispering personal things in a crowded coffee shop – there are many ways to catch up with friends. Here are 15!
*zero sarcasm here because I really, really want to talk about what’s going on with The Mindy Project
1. Invite them to your house
A few months ago, I was supposed to meet a professional contact for coffee and I very awesomely locked my car in the garage like the genius I am. Both our calendars with filled to the brim so rather than re-schedule, I invited him to my house. I’d never met Anthony in person but making coffee for him in my kitchen and drinking it on my patio made him feel like an Immediate Friend. (Also, he’s super nice and warm, so that might have had something to do with it.)
It’s hard to really connect with people in coffee shops and restaurants – even people we know and love! I don’t want to wax vulnerable and weepy in the middle of Starbucks. You probably don’t want to tell me about your work issues while the waitress hovers awkwardly. As cheesy as it sounds, relationships thrive in ‘safe spaces’ and safe spaces aren’t usually public ones.
2. Go on a walk or hike together
There are so, so many reasons to do this! It’s free. It’s healthy. Being outdoors is good for your mental health, your creativity, and your focus. Some companies are even making ‘walking meetings‘ a thing!
Here in the Twin Cities, I regularly convince friends to walk around Lake Nokomis with me. If you’re more of a hiker, here are 10 great places to hike in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro area. You could also, theoretically, go for a run together, but I totally hate running so you’re going to have to invite friends-other-than-me to join you in that endeavor.
And don’t be dissuaded by winter. Remember: there’s no bad weather, only bad clothes!
3. Run errands together
This is SO MUCH MORE FUN THAN IT SOUNDS. My BFF and I share a common hobby of Feeling Good About Myself Because I Just Crossed An Easily Achievable Item Off My To-Do List. Running errands together works best if you combine your lists and treat yourself to a fancy to-go coffee that you drink while poking around Target.
4. Take a low-key class together
Yes, you could also take an intellectually and mentally stimulating class together, but then you’ll spend most of your time learning, rather than catching up. Also: your yoga teacher would probably prefer that you don’t spend the whole class talking loudly about your dating situation.
Favorite low-key classes include: cooking classes, pottery classes, and rock climbing.
5. Do non-awful outside chores together
It sounds weird, but when I was an apartment dweller I looooooved helping my homeowner friends garden and rake leaves. Your friends might not want to clean the gutters or shovel out the driveway, but they might enjoy helping you landscape or fuss with your tomato plants!
6. DIY your space together
True story: my friend Meredith once bribed five of us with wine to help her put plastic on her windows for the winter. AND WE LOVED IT. We still joke about a particular couple who completed one window to everyone else’s three!
If they’re handy and interested, your friends might genuinely enjoy helping you paint, spackle, hang shelves or – let’s be real – wander around the house with a glass of wine, saying things like “I think a little mid-century slipper chair would look really nice right there.”
7. Invite them on a long drive
It’s a scientific fact: time + car = bonding. Long car rides bring out the deep-and-meaningful conversations. Turn on the radio and reminisce about what was going on in your life when Wonderwall was popular. Pull over for weird roadside attractions or diners. Stop and buy cheese curds and New Glarus as soon as you cross the border into Wisconsin.
Pro tip: it’s particularly awesome to bring a friend with you on a long-distance Craigslist run! They’ll help you load things into your car and make you feel less weird about meeting strangers from the internet. And if you want to make your long drive more roadtrip-esque, use Roadtrippers.com to find cool, weird stuff along your route!
8. Explore your city’s touristy stuff
If you’re like just about every other human, you’ve lived in a city for years and not seen many of its tourist attractions. I lived in Cathedral Hill for five years before I took a historical tour and learned anything the neighborhood! Gather your more curious, adventurous friends and work your way through your city’s biggest attractions.
If you’re in the Twin Cities, here’s a list of 50 things to do in Minneapolis before you die. (I’ve only done 13!)
9. Host a clothing swap
Nothing makes you bond faster than stripping down to your skivvies and trying on each other’s clothes. Invite your favorite ladies to bring their best gently-used items, throw some Trader Joe’s frozen appetizers in the oven, open a few bottles of wine and build yourself a new wardrobe! Here’s a better, more involved tutorial on how to host a clothing swap.
10. Rent a cabin together
Two or three times a year, my friends and I rent a cabin and spend the weekend making huge meals, playing board games, building fires, and jacking around on a pontoon. Getting away from our day-to-day shakes things loose and helps us connect with each other in a way that doesn’t feel possible at dinner parties or quick, cocktail catch ups.
11. Have a co-working date
Invite your friend over to your house (see #1), make a big pot of coffee or tea, vent about work and clients, and then hunker down for a few hours of work. Even if you’re not a freelancer, most of us have outside-of-office-hours work we could be catching up on.
If you don’t have any big projects in the works, read industry-related articles, update your resume, or spend an hour following peers and thought leaders on social media.
12. Craft together
Invite your friend to bring over their current, portable craft project and futz together. You don’t even need to be working on the same type of craft! You g’head with your swear-y cross stitch, they can knit this cute bumble bee toy cat toy and you’re catching up and being productive all at once!
If you want to be really productive, here are 25 DIY gifts that people will really, truly love.
13. Make a complicated, involved recipe together
The recipe that’s arduous and overwhelming when you’re making it yourself is awesome and fun when you’re making it with friends. You can even make it a reoccurring theme – try to find The Perfect Recipe for cheese souffle, or meet once a month to try a new fresh pasta recipe! The added bonus here is, obviously, that you get to eat something delicious at the end of your time together!
14. Have an Article Club (rather than a Book Club)
Now, don’t get me wrong, I loooove a good Book Club. But if everyone you know has a demanding job/a long commute/people in their life who require attention and care, it can be really hard to find a date that works for everyone, let alone find time to read a novel.
Maybe an ‘article club‘ is more realistic. It’s the same idea as a Book Club – we all read the same, thought-provoking piece – and then we hang out, eat, and talk about it. Because we all know that the “hanging out and talking” part is the most important part of Book Club, right? Here’s a round-up of interesting Article Club-worthy articles if you’re interested.
15. Write a ‘New Things’ list and rope them into trying these new things with you
My ‘New Things’ list is one of the ways I live my life on purpose. It also happens to be a great way to create memories with my friends. My friends have joined me in my efforts to shoot a bow, try miracle berries, do a five-day cleanse, and even jump into a frozen lake on January 1st.
I’d like to believe I’m a braver, slightly more interesting person and that my friendships are more awesome for having tried those things.
But tell me about you and your friends! How do you get out of the coffee and cocktail catch-up rut?