<— Read Chapter 7: Community Aspects of Nomadic TravelRead Chapter 9: Picking a Domicile State, Getting Mail & Voting –>
To many, those things are just as essential to life as water or oxygen.
What sort of impact will living a nomadic life have on your current relationships? Or on your prospects for finding one? How do you handle dating when you know you won’t be sticking around? What if your mate doesn’t want to travel and you do?
The ‘relationship issue’ is indeed one of the most substantial excuses we have heard from people explaining why they’re not embracing a traveling life. The issues range from a fears around traveling solo, to the complications that come from having an existing partner who is not interested in or able to set out for a life on the road.
For the Solo Traveler
Despite many examples of couples and families traveling together full time, there are plenty of reasons why traveling solo could be appealing.
When you travel alone – you’re on your own time schedule, you’re seeing the things you want to see, you’re free to give in to your whims, you’re able to eat whatever you want whenever you want, and you have the flexibility to be moving on to your next destination whenever the desire strikes. And sometimes it’s easier to strike up conversations and mingle as a solo traveler.
There is a lot of freedom that comes from not having to keep another person’s wants and needs constantly in mind, never feeling like you’re compromising for the sake of someone else.
The sort of freedom that comes from solo travel thrills some people, and terrifies others.
Some want to experience traveling the world as a single person before meeting their ideal mate in life, while for others solo travel might be the perfect thing to fill a gap in between major relationships, and some folks just prefer being intentionally single and independent – whether just for a while, or forever.
While you may have trepidation about hitting the road on your own, getting over those fears may open up possibilities you never dreamed of.
There are of course some downsides too – it can have moments of loneliness, you have no one else to depend on if you get sick or encounter difficulty, you are solely responsible for your experience (there is no one else to blame), and there may be extra safety issues to keep in mind.
If you are considering traveling alone, it’s certainly a good idea to make sure you know what you’re getting into. Some long term single travelers begin to express a certain level of loneliness with the transient nature of the romances and friendships they explore as they travel. The Solo Traveler Blog is a great resource for reading up on the concerns and benefits.
But regardless of the reasons, some people just don’t want to travel alone. We run across many folks who put off their travel dreams because they want to share it with a companion and they are waiting to find the right person to partner up with.
In our experience however, even if you start off alone, you are much more likely to find a like mind once you are already on the road than if you wait. Someone drawn to a life of travel is going to be much more attracted to an active traveler, after all.
Dating & Sex
Pursuing new romances on the road, for solo travelers or folks in open relationships, requires a good bit of intention setting (both for yourself and your mates) to avoid getting emotionally hurt in the process. After all, you will be leaving at some point, and most relationships you start will likely go through a jarring transition from being hyper focused while in town to long distance once you depart.
You’ll soon be learning to make an art out of saying good bye to people you might connect deeply with (whether romantically or not.)
And more so, because you’ll be moving on to new adventures, you may have little time and energy to keep in touch with lovers from past locations. Discuss this with new sweeties and make sure you’re on the same page about things like expectations for future communication, exclusivity (or lack thereof), and how future visits might be handled.
You’ll also want to research the best ways to protect your sexual health as you move around the planet with varying levels of access to testing, treatments and preventions. Finding your favorite brand of condom may be easy while traveling within the US, but nearly impossible once you’re roaming Asia. And you may encounter widely varying cultural differences regarding sex outside of marriage (it may even be illegal in some places you roam) and thus access to STD testing.
For fertile female travelers, researching the best birth control options for your situation is a wise thing to do before you hit the road – scrambling to fill your pill prescription can be a daunting task while traveling. Some nomadic women choose surgical sterilization if having children is not in their future, or long-term-effective methods that don’t require keeping a prescription filled like IUDs.
The logistics of sex itself on the road can also have its challenges – such as finding privacy while couch surfing or staying in hostels, or wanting to stay ‘stealth’ while parking an RV on the street. You know the saying – if the house is a rocking, don’t come knocking! Well, having a house that moves beneath you with every footstep also means there will be a bit of rocking & squeaking too no matter what you do, and let’s not mention those thin walls that don’t block much sound. Having neighbors while at a RV park or marina who may be only a few feet away from your home can be intimidating enough to kill almost any mood. And I know I certainly don’t envy parents traveling in tight quarters with kids on the road trying to find their private couple time.
Traveling with your life partner can be both incredibly rewarding, and incredibly challenging.
The benefits of course include having someone to share the experience with, someone to share the burden of logistics and planning with, someone to divvy up the costs with, and someone to help with whatever challenge each new day brings. It is great to always have a friend around when you are in an exotic locale where you know no one else, to always have someone to depend on no matter where you are, and nothing beats having someone constantly on hand to take pictures of you at amazing locations. One-armed self-shots get a bit old after a while…
Want to test out a new relationship to see where the quirks might be? Take an extended trip together – you’ll quickly learn how you approach schedules, plans, creature comforts, pace, adventure, food, socializing, clutter, cleanliness, personal hygiene, compromising, and sleep patterns differently.
Hopefully both partners (and the relationship!) will survive the trip intact.
Few couples will ever spend as much time together as a traveling couple might (especially if they’re also working together)… often in very small spaces. This can lead to some unique challenges that might make some couples not necessarily compatible for this type of adventure.
Even couples who have been together for years are bound to encounter new challenges as they transition to perpetual travel together. Travel inevitably has its stressful moments – from always changing plans, unexpected adventures, varying climates, culture shock, distance from loved ones and more. And having the same person always within feet of you can be both comforting and annoying at times.
Here are some ways to minimize the annoyances and to create some intentional space for each other’s individuality:
- Anticipate upfront that there will be stresses, and try to not take it personally when your sweetie is spazzing out. (Pro tip – hand them a glass of water, it’s amazing how easy it is to get dehydrated and grumpy when switching between climates. And especially don’t take it personally if they throw the water back in your face!).
- Make time for individual adventures – it’s unlikely you’re both going to want to do exactly the same things all the time. It’s good for the relationship for one partner to go explore that fabulous sounding art museum, while the other goes on an outdoor adventure (or catches up on an indoor nap!).
- When you’re spending lots of time together, it’s easy to not have anything new to talk about with each other. All the more reason to make individual adventures happen, as well as up keeping outside friendship & family connections! But do make sure you keep talking, as it’s easy to get into a rut of just assuming your partner is on exactly the same page as you just because you share a living space that may not be much larger than a sheet of paper.
- Make sure your accommodations are well suited for your individual needs. If you have offset sleep schedules, like working without distractions, or need two well appointed desk setups – think those needs through and plan on them. Nothing grates more over time than having a space that caters more to the needs of one partner than another. This might mean you need a larger RV or boat, or that you need to find rental condos with more than one room. If a temporary compromise is necessary, make sure that it isn’t always the same partner compromising their needs!
- If you need more distance from time to time, having one partner work from a coffee shop down the street is always an option. Or go for a hike alone.
Even if you do have a life partner, if one or both of you is craving some solo-style travel, try it out. A few days or weeks spent venturing off in different directions can leave you energized with a wealth of new experiences and stories to share with each other when you rendezvous again. For traveling couples that are together 24/7, an occasional extended break can actually be a great way to recharge and reset with some much needed alone time.
Mismatched Travel Lust
It happens every so often that one partner gets bit by the travel bug, and to their surprise discovers that their partner secretly equally shares this lust. Congrats.. you’ve won the lottery! What are you doing reading this.. go travel, already!
But more often than not, one of the biggest barriers we’ve discovered in talking with folks is that they’re in a relationship they love – but their partner does not share their wanderlust. We’ve heard everything from “my wife couldn’t do without the curling iron” to “staying at luxury resorts is my husband’s idea of roughing it” to “we can’t live together in less than 4000 square feet – we’d kill each other!”.
Another common issue is mismatched physical ability, particularly amongst couples who wait until retirement to begin traveling. We have run across several couples that have had one partner’s medical issues derail plans to spend their golden years exploring the great outdoors or exotic foreign cities. All too often we are told by older couples that they wished they hadn’t waited so long to follow their travel dreams.
No matter the reason, a significant mismatch in ability, desired styles of travel, or even a desire to travel at all leaves folks having to make some tough choices and compromises if they want to explore a travel-centric lifestyle.
For some, the compromises are too much – and perhaps changes to the relationship just have to be made so that everyone can get their needs met. Perhaps you’re able to eventually convince your partner to enjoy travel, particularly if you ease them into a traveling lifestyle slowly.
Perhaps you’ll decide that occasionally living/traveling apart is an appropriate choice for where you are in life. Relationships can work even when two people choose not to live together full time. For some, it’s ok to agree to go your separate ways for a while – it doesn’t have to diminish the love or the commitment.
One afternoon in Utah while filling up our gas tank, we encountered a solo woman RVer. We stopped and chatted for a bit, as us travelers tend to do. She shared with us that her husband of several decades didn’t like to travel – but she was drawn to it. She now spends 6-months of the year living with him at home, and the other half of the year out on the road visiting with family and friends. It seemed to be working quite well for them.
There are ways to to find workable solutions, if you’re willing to look outside the box of what we’re told relationships need to look like.
Our Romantic Story
When Chris originally began his nomadic journey, he set off confidently solo. Though he knew that he eventually wanted to find a life partner, the last thing he expected was that he would discover a life-partner caliber match during his first year on the road.
Rather, he had been actively working to let go of his attachment to even having a major relationship, knowing that his hunger for such was one of the biggest fears that was holding him back from his desires to travel.
Just as he was becoming fully comfortable with the idea of being without a primary relationship and a partner in travel, that’s almost exactly when I came along and messed up that plan for him.
We are living proof – you can find compatible life and travel partners out on the road.
After all, it’s easier to meet people who share your interests by getting out there and exploring them!
<— Read Chapter 7: Community Aspects of Nomadic TravelRead Chapter 9: Picking a Domicile State, Getting Mail & Voting –>
No Excuses: Go Nomadic
This article is part of an ongoing series answering the common excuses folks give us for why they’re not pursing their dreams of full time travel. We launched this series a few years ago as Answers to the Common Excuses - and are in the process of massively updating it. We’ll be releasing newly updated & expanded chapters over the coming months. We’ll be addressing topics like: Affording It, Family, Pets, Logistics, Healthcare, Community, Keeping Connected and more.
Read the whole series: No Excuses: Go Nomadic
eBook version - This blog series is also available as convenient eBook. We offer this compilation on a ‘pay as you wish’ basi. We don’t aim to make a living off our blog, but a contribution to keep the blog going is always appreciated (think of it as taking us out for a beer or dinner).
Cost: Pay As You Wish (really… just set the price!)