For the past year, I have been working remotely from my computer and traveling the world.
But I haven't been doing it alone.
Throughout this entire trip, I have been traveling with my wonderful girlfriend Elisabeth.
When I tell this to most people, the inevitably ask what it is like traveling as a couple.
How do we make it work?
Do you get sick and frustrated with each other?
Are you going to keep traveling forever?
My goal with this post is to share with you some of the insights and experiences that we have learned from a year of traveling the world as a couple.
You will spend a LOT of time together
Back in the states, we had separate lives, separate jobs, and our own schedules.
On the road, our lives merged into one.
We did everything together.
When you are traveling, you end up spending almost all your time together.
In some countries or cities, we felt unsafe to have Elisabeth walk on her own.
In other cases, the commute into the city took so long it only made sense to do together.
And over time, we just got into the habit of doing everything together.
This all leads to a LOT of time together. In many cases, we were renting studio apartments or hotel rooms. That means, you are not just together all the time, you are in the exact same room. Your only retreat of privacy is the bathroom…
While in the Philippines, we literally went to a coffee shop together and sat on opposite sides of the room of each other just so we could have some alone time. That is how desperate we became at points for solitude.
This insane amount of time together leads to a lot of tension. It took us a while but we found ways to make it work.
Create a platform for airing out your frustrations
The amount of time you spend together means you will inevitably get frustrated with each other.
Small things that you once let slide, will begin to annoy the shit out of each other.
At first, we held these frustrations in until they bottled up into arguments.
Yet over time, we developed methods to air out our frustrations and get them in the open.
Every night before bed, we ask each other "Do you have any qualms today?"
This is our platform to talk about any frustrations or annoyances with each other. It is not a place to argue, but instead a place to air our frustrations and to hear each other out.
This method isn't just for travelers though. It is something that anyone could implement into their relationship to keep things balanced.
You must be understanding of each other
Going into this year of travel, I told Elisabeth that I would provide an income by working remotely and make this traveling lifestyle possible.
Starting off, I was fine with being the sole income provider. But over time, it started to bug me.
I would try to push my ideals and methods of making an income remotely on her. I would try to push her into different ways of earning money while we traveled.
Yet in reality, her existing skill set was not quite fitting for remote work and we only had one computer with us for the trip.
That meant that for her, it was pretty challenging to earn an income while traveling.
It took me a while to accept this. Eventually, I realized pushing my viewpoints on her only created more tension.
If we wanted to keep traveling, I had to be the sole income provider. That was the promise I made from the get go and I had to follow through with it.
Traveling is a choice, not a mandate
During the course of the year, I spoke with many other nomadic travelers about relationships.
There was one story that stuck out to me in particular.
It was a woman who earned her income remotely from her computer. She traveled for a period of time with her boyfriend and kept pushing him to try to earn an income remotely.
He had a standard job back in the states and he wasn't interested in learning new skills to work remotely. She kept trying to push her viewpoints on him and trying to teach him how to make an income while they traveled.
After a period of time, he was fed up with traveling but she was hooked on the nomadic lifestyle.
They ended the relationship.
He moved back to a home in the states and she kept traveling.
Reflecting back, this is what she had to say:
"I realize now that being location independent is a choice. I could have chose to move back to the States with him with him and continued my work, but I was stubborn and set on a life of travel. Now I am traveling alone, and I find myself living in regret."
Hearing her story resonated with me. At the time, I was hooked on the nomadic lifestyle, but I realized that Elisabeth was not interested in figuring out how to earn an income while traveling.
My love for her far overpowered my desire to travel, so we ended up deciding to move back to the States and live in a location where she can do the work she loves.
Working remotely is a privilege. It is a privilege you can use to travel, or you can use to live wherever you want.
If you want to use that privilege to live somewhere and support your partners career, then do that.
If you both want to keep traveling, then you can do that as well.
Working remotely is a privilege, not a mandate. Never forget that.
You have someone to share everything with
Throughout my journey, I met with many other solo nomadic travelers.
While they all seemed happy and free, there was a sense of something missing in their lives.
Many of them turned toward workaholism to compensate for their lack of a significant other.
Others, were in a continuous search for a partner even while traveling abroad.
One friend told me this:
"Traveling alone is great. You are free to do whatever you want and live as you please, but it does get lonely. You have these incredible experiences, but you have no one to share them with. I can tell people these stories of things I have done, but they are just stories. When an experience is shared, it creates this bond that you can laugh and talk about for years to come. When you experience travel alone, you don't create those kind of shared moments. You just create stories that you can tell people. It is for those moments that I wish I had a partner to travel with."
While there is freedom in traveling alone, I truly believe a partner makes the journey better.
With each experience, you have someone to share it with. At times, you can reflect and laugh together at the ridiculous situations that you have encountered.
With each experience you have, your bond grows even closer.
The cost is more than double
If there is a downside to traveling as a couple, it is the cost.
Many people assume that your expenses just double. While that seems logical, your expenses are actually quite a bit more.
As a solo male traveler, I would probably be fine living in crappy hostels, eating street food, have a massive beard, and look like a piece of trash while I was traveling.
When you have a partner in your life, things are a bit different.
A cheap hostel isn't the most ideal place for a romantic night.
If your partner doesn't like street food, then be prepared to shell out more for real restaurants.
Elisabeth likes to dress nice, and also likes it when I look decent as well.
When you add a partner into your life, suddenly your standards of life raise a bit.
You rent slightly nicer places.
You look for one bedroom or two bedroom apartment so you can have your own space.
You dress up at times and go out to nice restaurants.
These aren't bad things, but they do increase the cost.
Be prepared that if you travel together your cost won't just double, it will triple.
Its totally possible
This lifestyle is totally possible. If you really want to do it, you can make it happen.
While we had our ups and downs through the year, I have to say it was truly unlike anything that we have ever experienced before.
347 days abroad.
And I didn't go it alone.
If you want to travel with a partner you can.
My hopes are that this post will help give you some insight into what it is really like and encourage you to make the jump with your significant other.