Dating as a Digital Nomad
To understand the dating world as a digital nomad, I think it is important to understand the dating world as a whole. Or, at least from my perspective.
The world is full of endless options where possibilities are boundless. Through technology and social media it’s easy to communicate with anyone, move seamlessly around the world (pandemic notwithstanding) and stay connected to everything and everyone. But with that, comes the idea that there could always be something better out there. Too many options means nobody is ever satisfied. It is a continuous search for more. Dating has become a game of quick judgements with the expectation of perfection.
Capitalizing on any excuse for an out because something better must surely be somewhere down the line is the new norm. It often takes place without a conversation or even so much as a word (gotta love the ghost!). And it’s justified. Because you are special. And your time is precious. You do it to others, others do it to you. You don’t owe anybody anything. But they, in turn, don’t owe you anything either.
Dating used to be the thing people did to find a long term partner. But now they’re dating because they are bored.
Some use it to “get back out there!” And it took you being the guinea pig for them to realize that they’re “not ready yet”. Great…. Thanks for that….. Then there are those who were never looking for a relationship to begin with- except they wait to tell you that until you’re a few months in and already attached. Ok but then why are you dating?
The walls go up and the exhaustion and pessimism set in.
When you’re on the road, all of that falls away.
You experience so much together so fast that it moves in a whirlwind. You’re constantly living outside your comfort zone and put in extreme situations. From grand adventures of adrenaline fueled bridge jumps and waterfall climbs to exquisite cuisine, unique cultural experiences and nightly sunsets, it is impossible not to form an instant connection.
Conversely, it is also impossible not to bond with someone over the stress of travel, being scammed, getting food poisoning or getting lost in the jungle as the sun goes down with no battery on your phone and wearing the wrong shoes. The guise of perfection is thrown out the window and you get to witness the extreme highs of once in a lifetime experiences and the extreme lows of stress and bodily functions right off the bat.
Spending every minute together for long periods of time means a two week relationship is more like a 6 month relationship back home. Things move quickly and time changes meaning.
In many ways, your options are endless. You are meeting people all over the world from all over the world and at a very rapid pace. With fellow travelers, you automatically have something in common. Many are very like-minded with similar outlooks on life and overall values.
There is also the option to date a local. But even then there is something unique about it. Sharing your cultures with each other and connecting through your differences is another surefire way to quickly grow close to someone. It’s also the absolute best way to see a city, get to know a culture and practice a language.
But there are pretty obvious setbacks.
Locals are most likely going to stay in the city and/or country they’re already living in which, at the very best, means some form of a long distance relationship. When you both know you’re leaving it can be hard to allow yourself to open up and give it your all the way you would when neither of you knew the future. How do you ever build something based on that?
As for fellow travelers, you might be in the same spot now, but what about moving forward? Is there a time limit on either of your travels? You build a relationship under circumstances that aren’t necessarily realistic to maintain and once the travel bubble pops, where does that leave you? You’re both these free souls wanting to travel, but do you want to travel to the same places? Where are you from and where are you going? What is it that you’re willing to give up?
At home people might want more of a similar lifestyle as you but it’s hard finding the one to fit into that.
On the road I think it’s easier to find people who you could build a future with but the problem becomes you want different futures.
At the end of the day, dating is hard no matter which way you slice it.
Relationships take emotional work, they take up a lot of your time, they take patience and they take compromise.
Dating doesn’t necessarily take all those things, but if they’re not there then you’re probably not going to build a successful relationship. It’s hard to find someone who is on the same page as you, wants the same things as you and has the same lifestyle as you. No matter who you are, where you are in the world or what you want to do with your life.
For a digital nomad, sometimes the difference is merely location. In a way that’s one of the easier issues to deal with.
If I take a look back, not one of my past relationships has ended because of my lifestyle. Not one. It has been so easy to think that and to make excuses instead of really figuring out the work that I needed to do.
You might be asking yourself, well what if I just want to have fun? What if I’m not looking for anything serious? The great! Then both regular dating and travel dating are perfect for you. But you probably already knew that.
No more excuses
It has always been an easy answer and a very acceptable answer. But the reason I’m not in a relationship isn’t because I move around all the time, it’s because I don’t prioritize it. There comes a time in a relationship when it’s time to grow or time to go. I have usually been either too uncomfortable, too scared or too unwilling to put in the necessary hard work and tough conversations it takes to move forward.
There are certainly many other factors at play as well, but it’s time for me to stop saying what I think people want to hear. It’s time to start telling the truth.
So, the next time someone asks me “What is it like dating as a digital nomad?” I have the confidence to answer what it is actually like (for me).
It’s really fun. There is less pressure and fewer “rules”. Time means something totally different. It is hard to find a relationship that has a future, but no harder than it is for everyone else.
Dating is so many things all at once. It is sexy and awkward; exciting and awful; dramatic and anticlimactic; energetic and draining all at the same time. It makes you feel, it closes you off. Sometimes it is all of those things at once, sometimes it rides the line of mediocrity and is none of those things at all. No matter which way you slice it, it is what it is. There is no getting around it.