How to travel the world as a digital nomad couple (and live to tell about it)
on February 11, 2022 • 6 minute read
Most digital nomads I know are "single and ready to mingle." Moving to a new city and immersing yourself in different cultures is often easier when you're unattached.
But it can also get lonely at times. You move around constantly, and there's barely any time to meet with someone before it's time to catch another flight.
These days, with remote work being the new normal, more and more couples are starting their digital nomad path together.
For the past three years, I have been living and traveling with my significant other and it's been an amazing experience. But also a hard one! There's been a little bit of everything: testing each other's patience, a bit of fighting, and a little too much anxiety over mundane problems. But also a lot of romantic adventures, intimate conversations, and moments that we will cherish forever.
Being a digital nomad couple offered us the possibility to grow together, to test our relationship in out-of-the-ordinary situations, and better yet, to share life experiences.
As couples are made of 2 people, I believe it is only logical that my partner's voice is also shared in this article. Her name is Anastasiia and she will be commenting on my insights on digital nomad couples, and the experiences we went through.
How to keep the spark alive: workaholic digital nomad edition
Isn't travelling with your significant other essentially a prolonged, slightly-less-fancy honeymoon? Sorry, no. Honeymoons are a "celebratory escape" soon after tying the not. Honeymoons are also short (relative to a nomadic lifestyle) and usually focused on high-end resort packages where the most significant source of stress is which pool-side cocktail to order.
Life as a digital nomad couple is the opposite of a honeymoon. We are constantly planning — especially when arriving in a new location. Now repeat this obsessive planning cycle 10, 20, 100 times. At some point, we started to enter into a mindset of checklists. Our pragmatic sides can sometimes overwhelm our sentimental sides, which in the long term... isn't good.
Scheduling is normally associated with chores, errands, meetings, and all kinds of work tasks. But it's just as important to schedule romantic dates, star gazing or walks on the beach. Otherwise, you’d always prioritize something else that brings you money or a productivity boost.
We are both organization nerds. I say “nerds”, but I mean “freaks.” And maybe that is why we have no problem discussing romantic evenings as items on our agenda. 🤓
But there is one very important rule. Whenever the time-to-be-romantic comes, you need to be in the moment. There is no checking your phone or answering texts. No “let’s discuss how to grow our income,” discussions or anxiety over deadlines. In those moments, we're just two people, in love, enjoying each other’s company.
At the same time, we actively search for activities that satisfy both of our interests. Travelling abroad for extended periods happens to be a perfect opportunity to explore new interests together! During our time in Koh Samui, we visited a golf driving range for the first time and had a great time together!
Ana's view: Besides scheduling your romantic dates, I’d say there are two more crucial elements to keep the spark alive when both of you are working all the time: laugh together (watch comedies, collect inside jokes) and remind each other to pursue your passions.
If you don’t do that regularly, I honestly think there wouldn’t be a spark to maintain.
How to deal with fights as a digital nomad couple
When you are in a high-pressure environment, like an 18-hour train ride without AC on the way to your next destination, you will probably have a fight or two with your partner. Stuff happens and the pettiest things can spark a big commotion out of nowhere.
But most couples that fight regularly mostly fight over failed expectations or falling into the habit of criticizing each other’s habits. And I think open communication is a solution to everything.
Your partner doesn’t owe you anything but to be who they are (aka the person you fell in love with). So talk it through, and respect each other’s worldviews.
If you are fighting because you're hungry or because it's a hot day and there is no AC, just take a breather. Learn to apologize and move on.
But if the fight is serious, don't be afraid to take some time to think about it and come back to it in a few hours. Just don't postpone talking about your feelings to another day, and don't go to sleep angry.
With that in mind, you are also allowed an occasional outburst! Make sure it happens in private, not on the street. It's also important to never hold grudges. If you have something to say, say it as soon as possible, because every hidden grudge could become a brick in the wall you are building between the two of you. This is true for everyone, not just digital nomads but for the traveling folks, this kind of transparency is paramount.
Ana's view: Lucky for us, we don’t fight over big things but there are some petty day-to-day annoyances. And I admit, I’m no angel. But neither is he.
I believe that you should always be on your partner’s side when it comes to work issues, errors of judgment, or lack of motivation. Don’t say things like “Get over yourself and do your thing,” but sit down and listen.
Thankfully, there are only a handful of things that we find annoying about each other. I am not a fan of loud yelling at 3 am when someone scores a goal, and he gets cranky and ominously quiet if I am late to meet him.
Now, three years into the digital nomad lifestyle, I am rarely late anymore, and he gave me a football jersey with my name on the back. The yelling doesn’t seem as loud when we are watching the match together. You can get over some things when it’s important to your partner.
We do fight more when it’s super hot outside. That was an interesting discovery during our stay in the south of Thailand: it’s hard to make decisions when you have a heat stroke. And the longer it takes to decide the more you are standing in the sun, so you see how things can get crazy. But that’s biology, and you can just laugh it off later on the same day.
Make time for yourself
When you are traveling with your significant other, you mustn’t forget about your personal growth and your interests.
I enjoy having "alone time while together," meaning that we are in the same room but doing completely different things like gaming or watching a movie. If you are only doing what the other person wants to do, you would start losing yourself and become an extension of your partner instead. That is not sustainable, and that kind of relationship wouldn’t last.
You and your partner don’t have to like the same movies, same music, or listen to the same podcasts. You can spend an afternoon going in completely different directions and then tell each other all about your day. It is more exciting this way, isn’t it?
When it comes to working, we are in totally different areas so we discuss each other’s careers quite often and give suggestions to one another. Some decisions should be taken as a team but your careers and goals equally matter. It’s all about finding the right balance and being able to work remotely as a freelancer gives you way more flexibility.
To be happy, you need to be a whole individual with a strong sense of self-worth. It’s not your partner's job to make you whole, it’s on you.
In my school years, my father had to relocate a lot for work and we used to move from city to city every year. I went to 5 different schools, and my mom had to abandon her studies and work. You can frown upon and question that “had to” but it wasn’t a matter of choice back then.
Needless to say, this kind of dependency ultimately ruined their marriage.
You need to know who you are outside of your relationship, nurture your skills, and find ways to grow your interests. This will give you the freedom and emotional capacity to support your partner in his passions as well.
So the important thing to remember is that your partner’s goals are just as important as your own. Write that on the wall, put it on a t-shirt, and live by it.
Traveling and working as a digital nomad couple will help you learn more about each other and strengthen your mutual trust. It will also test your relationship in many ways, but it's much more interesting to discover the world with someone you especially care about. Most importantly, you will be able to discover new places and experiences not only from your own perspective but also from your partner's. Your digital nomad life will be richer and more enjoyable this way.
There is a saying that if you really want to know someone, you should take a trip with that person. So be careful as if your relationship is not strong enough, you might find the digital nomad lifestyle even more challenging.
Jorge is a digital nomad from Portugal with experience in the start-up world, remote working, and Chinese technology. He worked previously at Wise and Deel and is currently a remote graduate student at SOAS University of London.
In his free time, you can find him learning new languages or planning his next destination, be it a restaurant or a new city in a different corner of the world. Jorge uses Xolo Leap so his business can travel the world along with him.