Without sounding too self help-y, dating as a digital nomad is not a zero-sum game. In other words, when done right, your lifestyle on the road shouldn’t be jeopardized by a romantic fling. And vice versa -- dating doesn’t actually take away from your travels, but will actually add to them.
This whole digital nomad thing is relatively new, and its implications on our romantic fulfillment (read: sanity) are even newer. Sloppy hook-ups in hostel dorm rooms, all-night conversations on the beach, spontaneous skinny dipping sessions, planning itineraries together, moving in together -- we’re all still figuring out how this works. So here’s a rough guideline on navigating the journey.
Don’t be Realistic
Realistic means assuming your itinerary is so set in stone that it couldn’t possibly be affected by a potential relationship. Realistic means letting your past fling that went terribly awry affect your future decisions. Don’t be realistic.
Whereas dating on the home front is often a petty game of back-and-forth texts and slow chipping away at the walls of vulnerability, dating as a digital nomad is quick and straight to the point. Within a few hours of meeting someone, you’re sharing stories that some of your best friends haven’t heard. Sometimes there's a sense of weird security in the anonymity of getting to know someone. However, getting over that first hump of meeting someone is sometimes tough.
First, opt to spend your time in social spaces. Hostels and coworking spaces offer much more opportunity than private rooms and private workspaces. Make use of your hostel and coworking space’s events calendar and don’t be afraid to just jut yourself into conversations. We’re all traveling here, and we all are eager to share experiences.
Second, go digital. Apps like Miss Travel, BuckleUp, AirTripp, Skout, and Backpackr are all geared towards the traveler looking to make lasting human connections. Creating profiles on a few of these apps will go a long way in the long run.
It’s Traveling, not Dating
The beauty of dating as a digital nomad is that you're surrounded by a world of possibility. Rather than inviting your crush to a local dive bar, as you would back home, invite them on a free walking tour, out to a salsa dancing lesson, on a hike, or out to stroll the market. If this sounds like you’re friend-zoning yourself, that’s because it is. But if you’re looking for someone to potentially travel the world with, it’s best to have this kind of foundation. Once you have lots of content to talk about, then go all in on Mai Tais and couple’s massages.
The 80/20 Rule
One of the most important keys to a successful expat dating experience is the balance between open-armed spontaneity and the ability to map out your boundaries. If you know, for example, that your certain someone has plans to depart in a few weeks, you should give them your 80%, but reserve 20% for your own mental health if everything goes down the drain.
There’s something magical about sharing that brief moment in time together. You’re both traveling, you’re both experiencing something new, so there’s no reason you should hold back. But at the same time, you should stay on your own two feet.
Figure Out What You Need
If you’ve been traveling around the world for too long and are feeling the need for companionship, consider changing things up. Instead of dating your passport and your travel plans, loosen them up and make some room for some romantic spontaneity. Spend longer stints in each place. While emotional availability probably isn’t an issue, physical availability is. No more “locationships” and “complicationships” -- there’s no shame in putting some roots down in a cool city that has the kind of structure you’re looking for.
By Dillon DuBois