Picture this: It’s a typical work day. You wake up, rub your eyes, and sleepily try to recall where you’re working from this month. As consciousness sets in, you pad over to your desk by the window in your beach bungalow overlooking turquoise blue water in Ko Phangan, Thailand, open your laptop, and get to work. On your lunch break, you meet your partner (who spent the morning in a co-working space) in a cafe serving up spicy Papaya Salad and rich Panang Curry frothy with coconut milk for three dollars. The two of you discuss digital nomad destinations, comparing your new home-for-a-few-months with your last one in Bansko, Bulgaria.
It sounds like a fantasy, right? Amazingly, it is actually a reality for an increasing number of couples. Millennials in particular are taking up the remote-working digital nomad lifestyle in droves. Some predictions even estimate that there will be one billion digital nomads by 2035 (Williams, 2019), and the rise of remote working accelerated by the COVID pandemic is making this shift in working location occur even more rapidly. In the USA alone, 7.3 million people already describe themselves as digital nomads (Pofeldt, 2019). Many digital nomads are freelancers or entrepreneurs, but more and more companies are also willing to allow their employees to work remotely from far-flung locations; in fact, 44% of digital nomads reported having traditional jobs (Pofeldt, 2019). US citizens are also in the unique position of being able to obtain visa-free access or visas on arrival to a multitude of countries. And to top it off, an increasing array of countries are specifically offering digital nomad visas.
The digital nomad dream may even be replacing the traditional American dream. If you and/or your partner had the opportunity, would you consider making the shift? As a couple it is absolutely crucial to ask yourself how being digital nomads would affect your relationship. Here are some factors to consider.
Pros and Cons of Digital Nomad Couple Life
-Most couples learn about one another slowly over the years as they gradually have the opportunity to see each other in a range of different situations, contexts, and locations. As a digital nomad couple, you will have the opportunity to see how you operate (both individually and as a couple) in a much wider range of novel scenarios than in a traditional lifestyle. This will help you to get to know each other really well faster than you might otherwise–and in different ways. Your relationship might also deepen through being with each other in so many different life experiences and contexts.
-Money is one of the top reasons why couples fight (Smith, 2019). As a digital nomad couple, you may experience less financial strain on your relationship than if you lived in the US…if you choose your location wisely. Many digital nomad destinations offer significantly lower costs of living than the USA. For substantially less money, you can enjoy a nicer apartment, more beautiful view, and cheaper and healthier food in places like Bali, Romania, Portugal and Colombia.
-It can sometimes be hard to sustain a feeling of excitement in a relationship over time. However, the novelty of changing places and contexts can inject thrill and passion into your relationship dynamic. It isn’t a permanent effect and should not be used as a band-aid to cover up issues, but it can do wonders to further strengthen an already-healthy relationship.
-As couples, we tend to make friends with other couples; they often act as mirrors for us, allowing us to gain perspective on our own relationships by seeing how other couples manage theirs. Digital nomad couples have the unique advantage of being able to meet and socialize with couples from a range of different cultures. Seeing how couples from different countries and backgrounds relate to one another and resolve conflict can help you to gain new skills to apply in your own relationship as well as a heaping dose of perspective.
-Nosy in-laws causing problems in your relationship? Not to worry. When you’re living in New Zealand, the physical distance between the two of you and difficult family dynamics can also create emotional distance from the stress they can cause. Many people even find that their relationships with family actually improve as a result of physical distance. Check out 5 honeymoon destinations you haven’t considered yet.
-As a couple, it is important to have other friends outside of the relationship and to have a sense of community. Although travelers and digital nomads tend to strike up fast friendships with one another, it can be difficult to experience the depth of relationships that comes from staying a part of the same community consistently over time. You also might not always feel motivated to go out and make new friends again in every new destination.
-It can be difficult to plan for your long-term future together when you’re perpetually asking where you are going to be three months down the line and researching short-term future destinations.
-Expenses and income can vary month-to-month depending on many factors, such as destination, price of plane tickets, and even on the ebb and flow of your job if you’re a freelancer (which many digital nomads are). The uncertainty generated by these fluctuations in finances can be a point of contention for some digital nomad couples–especially if one of the partners is earning significantly more or less than the other.
-Two words: language barrier. Depending on your destination, you may or may not need to either learn the basics of another language, or learn to exercise a superhuman amount of patience and flexibility with small everyday events. The stress of seemingly small tasks repeatedly becoming complicated due to language problems or even different cultural norms can build up and take a toll on relationships. It’s one thing to giggle over a linguistic misunderstanding while you’re on vacation, but it’s quite another thing to deal with it every day while you’re also trying to meet the obligations of working life. This might sound trivial, but if you’ve ever gotten lost and run late to an important zoom meeting because your partner mispronounced your address in a foreign country, you know this struggle is real!
-Working online side by side at home all day can result in way too much together time and lead to bickering and a drop in appreciation. Try to work in separate spaces sometimes. one of the partners can go to a coworking space or cafe, for example.
Digital nomad couples face unique challenges and enjoy unique advantages. Before you take the leap, consider carefully whether this lifestyle is for you and how it will impact your relationship. Good luck!
How will digital nomadism impact your prenuptial agreement?
Premarital contracts are informed by a couple’s life circumstances. Being a digital nomad couple can add a whole host of different considerations to take into account when writing your prenup.
On the upside, some digital nomad couples might not have to think as much about division of property as other couples; they may be less likely to own property in the first place due to their transient lifestyles. However, they should consider what questions will arise if they eventually do buy property together. How much of their income will they each allocate to purchasing property versus continued travel expenses, for example? How will they decide when, where, and if it’s time to settle down? Will they buy multiple properties in different locations?
Property aside, you may wonder, what is a prenup? When writing a prenup digital nomad partners also need to consider whether they will share their money, and if so, what they expect in terms of spending habits in different countries which require different budgets. How much shared income will go towards travel and living expenses versus savings? Are there any potential digital nomad destinations which are off the table due to expense?
Some of these decisions are legally enforceable, while others belong in a lifestyle clause. The process of writing a prenuptial agreement poses an excellent opportunity to talk about all aspects of your financial future together, whether or not everything you decide ends up in the contract.
Life as a digital nomad is exhilarating, but it involves a lot of uncertainty. A prenuptial agreement which lays out careful plans for your financial future + what to do in case something goes wrong is one thing that can bring a little bit of certainty and clarity into your lives.
Pofeldt, 2019. More Americans Try the Digital Nomad Lifestyle. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/elainepofeldt/2019/12/27/more-americans-try-the-digital-nomad-lifestyle/?sh=6b6d64e47326
Smith, L. 2019. The No. 1 Reason Why Couples Fight. Retrieved from: https://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/07/couples-finance.asp
Williams, J. 2019. How Digital Nomads are Shaping the Way Millennials & Gen Z Work. Retrieved from: https://startupsmagazine.co.uk/article-how-digital-nomads-are-shaping-way-millennials-gen-z-work