The Local Nomad: How to Build Connections in a Small Town with Vanna Mae

Published on May 2nd, 2022

While traveling across the country, it’s a wonderful feeling when you find a small town that feels like home and makes you want to explore every street corner. You might wonder how to become a local nomad and maybe have this town be a possible home base. 

It’s important to build connections in places that leave an impression and you feel like there’s something for you there. And with this nomadic lifestyle, we have the opportunity to explore those feelings and see if a place is a right fit.  By taking my time to stay in a town I like, I now have more places I enjoy revisiting all around the country. It also might be a spot I decide I want to build roots. In this article, I want to give you some ideas on how to become a local nomad and build connections in a new town.

Find the local coffee shop

One of the first places I go to in a town I like is their local coffee shop. Not all towns have them, but they are becoming more popular, even in the most rural of places. Here is where locals go to meet up and post community events on the billboard. This is also an easy way to meet locals by talking to the barista, asking them about the town and what things you can do while visiting. If you are there for a while, it’s good to come back and do some work while having a great cup of coffee.


Go to community gatherings

The best way to get involved and be a part of a community is by visiting local community events. Farmer’s Markets, Art Walks, and mini-festivals are a great way to meet locals, check out the vibe of the area, and have some fun. The way I find out about community gatherings is by looking at billboards at coffee shops, finding the local magazine at the grocery stores, mom and pop shops, and by simply asking if there’s a farmers market happening in town.

Farmer’s Markets are one of my favorite ways to meet locals, get great local produce and amazing food, and sometimes, find job opportunities with farmers. If there’s a booth or vendor you really like, take the time to talk to them and support their local business. It can leave a long-lasting impression and give you a chance to make a great connection in the town you’re in. 

Visit mom and pop shops

Skip the touristy food attractions or the common fast food stop and try eating at a mom and pop shop in town. This is a great place to meet locals and find out what’s happening around the area. When I’m in a town, I use Google maps and read reviews on local restaurants and stores that catch my eye. If the owner is at the shop, I will introduce myself and let them know I’m visiting from out of town. I’ve found out about so many great gems in a town by going to mom-and-pop shops and supporting local businesses. 

Plan your trips around local events

If there’s a town that really catches your eye, find out what events, concerts, and festivals are happening in that area and plan to go to them. To find local events, I use Instagram, I will hashtag the “(towns name) events” in the search bar. Most of the time, flyers for events will pop up or the town’s Instagram will appear. You can also search on google for events in an area. That’s how I found one of my favorite mural towns in Springdale, Arkansas which has the most beautiful murals I discovered on my trip.

Using Harvest Host and Meetup

Another way to directly meet locals and get involved is by using apps like Harvest Hosts and Meetup.com. I’ve met so many locals by using Harvest Hosts and staying close to an area I want to be in. The Host you are staying with can give you a lot of information about their town and tell you where to go and what’s going on.  Meetup.com is also a great resource for finding people with the same common interest as you by participating in group events together. 

Stay longer

If you really like a town and you’re having a great time, listen to your intuition and stay a bit longer. It doesn’t hurt to extend your stay (if you can) if you really like a place. Maybe you went to a fun event and met so many great people. Maybe you found a coffee shop or a local park you enjoy going to. It’s worth it to at least stay an extra day. If you can, definitely make an effort to come back and be around. Moments where you feel a connection with a place don’t happen often, make sure you take the time to enjoy those moments.

Is there a town that you discovered and fell in love with? I’d love to hear about your favorite small-town spots.

About the author: Vanna Mae is a visual artist and influencer, traveling around the country in her 19ft Class C RV with her cat Indigo. Keep up with their adventures on Instagram @vannamaeart and on YouTube.

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