Let me start with a little disclaimer: I hate talking to strangers. It makes me feel anxious and awkward, and like I can't do small talk and I just feel overall inadequate.
But I am living in a city I did not grow up in, and I feel like I could really use having some friends who aren't miles away, so one of my 2022 new year's resolution was to meet new people. At around march I finally gathered enough courage and joined a padel club (padel is a racket sport, usually requires 4 people to play a match). I was quite anxious the first couple of times I went to play, but the truth is that it was much easier than I had imagined. Everyone was quite friendly, and because we were all there to play the same game that was a natural conversation starter and safe topic. I didn't really feel like there were awkward silences.
The thing I like best is that I can choose how much I want to engage with people in a way that doesn't feel rude or like I am making excuses to leave early. Sometimes it feels nice to stay after a match and chat with the people I just played with, and there's already some level of familiarity from having spent the last 1.5h playing together. But other times I feel drained and leave straight away, and it's not seen as rude.
I'm not going to lie, it wasn't all perfect and at times (specially at the beginning) it felt like everyone knew each other and I was an outsider, but my overall experience has been very positive and now I have a group of people I regularly play with. It's feels really nice and I am proud of myself for joining! :)
So, what I really wanted to say is this: go join a sports team, or sign up for that pottery class, or learn a new language. Do something that you like, with people who share your interest, and it will be at least a little bit easier to talk to strangers.
Writing it down it seems super obvious, but it takes courage to put yourself out there. I hope readying my little story can be the encouragement someone else needed to get out of their comfort zone.