That Travel+Work+Life Balance

I’ve been living as a digital nomad for about a year and a half now, going back and forth with a lot of stuff related to plane tickets, working from cafes or even living and traveling with a partner when both are working from home, so I believe it would be better to start this article by saying: there’s no way to find balance. 

Just kidding. Sometimes there is, but not always.

Let’s start by saying that if you don’t have the discipline to work by yourself at the city you’re currently in, there’s no place in the world that will fix that for you. Don’t travel to escape things you’re going through, because those things will be on your mind, and a beautiful trip with your laptop to London will be just a shitty (and super expensive) trip to London with your laptop because your mind needs adjustments at that time.

After I created a routine for myself with some non-negotiable tasks like meditation, reading time for with my Kindle and starting the day just watching some happy or at least a non-negative video while having a cup of tea, everything else got easier to manage. When working from home, it’s super important to understand which period of the day you’re most productive, so you focus your highest energy on things that require a lot of your brain - in my case, sketching or writing (like this article being written at 11 am) in the mornings, and vector work and project managing stuff in the afternoon. BUT as my routine also involves travel, when I really need to focus during the afternoon on something that’s being postponed a lot, I usually go to a cafeteria and my productivity raises like this:

Not exactly 18 cups of cappuccino like Barney, because with just one my whole body is shaking for the entire afternoon. 

It’s harder to set a routine when already traveling, but you need to understand how you like to work the most, and you need to be flexible on taking a day off in the middle of the week to visit what you want because the weather outside is sunny. Being a nomad is mostly about working when everyone else is having fun and having fun when everyone else is working. It’s not about going to the beach with your laptop, because well, it’s gonna be full of sand, but understanding that maybe a part of the city you wanted to see might be full of tourists on the weekend, so you might wanna take time off in the middle of the week to see that instead, or to visit that expensive museum that has free entrance on a Tuesday and a huge queue over the weekends.

 

Ok, but what about your relationship?

The main thing is: both of you will be on your own A LOT, so before moving in together AND travel together, go one step at a time. Move in together first, so you can see - without spending a huge amount of money to start traveling - if you’re going to grab each other by the neck or not. In my case, I moved in together first after 4 years in a relationship (both working from home), and we didn’t work in the same room, so we both had our alone time. It was hard because I never lived away from my parents’ house before, but we managed. 

When we started our travels (January 2017), we had this restriction that we wouldn’t work on the same table - difficult, because most Airbnbs only have one table, and we needed two. But when we were choosing our home in Prague (October), we noticed that the houses with two tables were too expensive for our budget, so we took the challenge of working on the same place, in front of each other, and it worked so well that in the following month (Vienna, December 2017) we chose a house with two tables but decided to share the bigger one. It’s all about talking with each other and making what its best for BOTH, with flexibility.

Now, being together 24/7 is not easy. I’ve seen couples that after spending so much time together felt they had lost their individuality, and didn’t know where one’s personality started and the other’s finished, ending after years in a relationship. I’ve also seen a couple that spends a month per year in separated cities to be with themselves for a while, and its been working out really well. In my case, we do a lot of stuff together, but we also have our private time. Doing therapy helps A LOT to understand what makes you you, and how your personality can add on the other, but with his/her way of being. And when it comes to work, I leave him on his bubble when he needs it, as he also respects me when I’m on mine.

Traveling while working isn’t easy AT ALL, we need a lot of planning, money management, and it isn’t exciting all of the time. It’s painful to be out of your country for 1 year and when you come back, you see that your dad gained some additional white hair, your grandmas are older, your cousin will have a baby and you probably won’t be there when he or she arrives. But it’s a choice you make, and at least for me, it won’t last forever, so I compensate inviting all my relatives and close friends to visit me in the city I’m currently at, and also taking technology as an advantage, with messages and video calls.

Text Revision: Mari Pinheiro