“You, my friend, deserve happiness”: Why I’m celebrating male friendship this Valentine’s

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When I wrote a while back about how I ended up lonely as a 40-year-old man, a lot of people got in touch saying they felt the same. A similar response happened when I took to the streets of New York City, asking strangers to be my friend (I’m moving to the States later this year). 

A lot of us, it seems, crave deeper connections in life but somehow we lack the openness or gumption to express that feeling. Men, in particular, rely on surface-level banter that – for all its lols – prevents us from bonding on a more profound level

It’s exactly that gap that prompted me to hit New York City once again, along with London, this February; this time to share random messages of friendship and happiness with men. Because Leslie Knope had the right idea with her now-legendary “Galentine’s Day” on the TV show Parks & Recreation. She drew the “awesome ladies” of Pawnee together for an ode to female friendship; and women do the same in real life. 


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In fact, when it comes to platonic love, women are better at honoring one another in general. Broadly speaking, they’re more likely to celebrate one another with flowers; with love letters; with a 2am text to say “you’re awesome” or “I’ve got you”.

It’s a running cliché that men, by comparison, are more inhibited when it comes to being openly affectionate. But when you consider that men are on the forefront of a hidden struggle with loneliness, the idea of men behaving as islands is more than just a trope. It’s a reality, and it’s making us feel anxious and alone.

By sharing spontaneous acts of kindness on the streets of NYC and London ahead of Valentine’s this year, I want to show that platonic love is important. At a time when so many people grapple with silent loneliness, it may even be more important than the romantic love of the Richard Curtis kind. And I think it’s especially important for male friends to explore this with appreciation and warmth.

So many people struggle with loneliness – I want to show that platonic love is important

When I reached out to strangers with messages of love, it felt vulnerable. But real friendship and lasting connection is exactly that. You have to be comfortable with pushing beyond that natural reserve that says you can’t be open and expressive. That doing so will leave you horribly exposed. 

It was interesting to see the differences between New York City and London in my campaign of friendship, too. In the Big Apple, people were really receptive to me. It was a lot of fun; I got greeted with hugs and laughs. But in London, the people I approached were a lot more closed off. They somehow weren’t in a good place. But when I did get through to them and had an interaction, it seemed to mean more.


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I know so many men, especially, in my life who are struggling with difficult, heart-breaking issues but they’ll never say anything about it. It’s such a shame, because it creates barriers that we’d all feel better without. 

Telling strangers that they deserve happiness or success – that they are a bright spot on a dull day – that’s my way of starting to break the wall. Of enabling men, in particular, to listen more actively, get vulnerable and make one another feel great. 

Love really is all around. We just need to know how to look for it

It’s this openness that I see the whole time in our global community of Flash Pack travelers. We’re on a mission to make one million friendships; which might sound far-fetched until you see how well like-minded adults from all different paths in life connect and bond on our trips. 

Platonic love is not just about adventure, however. When I gave out my messages of love this Valentine’s, some people walked away or ignored me. But others were receptive; I had hugs, chats, smiles – all that feel-good stuff where real friendship begins. And that’s my takeaway: love (of an everyday kind) really is all around. We just have to know how to look for it. 

Flash Pack will be donating 5% of sales to CALM on Valentine’s Day as part of its ongoing commitment to open up the conversation around mental health, and celebrate friendship. 

Flash Pack is a group travel company that specializes in small group adventures for solo travelers in their 30s and 40s. Find out more about how we work, and our mission to build a global community of friendships

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