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We are gradually moving towards a time where the formal work environment will be more open to allowing employees to be in charge of managing their time. With remote working, more people are considering incorporating their work life with travel.

MBO Partners Digital Nomad Report, has observed an increase of 50% remote working linked with travel in the US, and this is due to the rise in interest that people have for the digital nomad lifestyle. Senzelwe Mthembu shared some interesting gems about being a digital nomad here in an interview on The Sit Down with Olwethu Leshabane.  

Clinical psychologist Dr Marcia Zikhali breaks down the dynamics of merging the digital nomad lifestyle with ticking your travel bucket list, with your partner. Travel content creator, Thobeka Mthembu also shares her experience of travelling with her partner. 

Effects of A New Environment On A Relationship

Being digital nomads means travelling from country to country, working in different environments and this can either have a positive or negative effect on your relationship. Dr Zikhali agrees that it can go both ways. ‘’Outside of a relationship, change is stressful because there are so many adjustments to make. There’s a level of isolation that comes with being in a new environment or country. Having to learn the language, the laws of the country, and adapting to the culture can be stressful.’’ 

Thobeka says so far, the new environments’ effects on her relationship lean more to the positive side. Founder of Intimacy Coach International, Anne-Marie Clulow mentions in the previous blog post that we tend to behave differently and are more willing to communicate in relaxed spaces and that change of scenery in the context of interaction, allows couples to be more fun and playful.

‘’Being in a different space adds to the magic of what our relationship stands for. Throughout our travels, we delved deeper into certain issues that were affecting our relationship. What I truly appreciate about traveling with my partner is just how amazing it is to experience new things together and see sides of one another that we’ve never experienced,’’ says Thobeka. 

She adds that the only downside is that you can’t just up and leave when traveling together, you are constantly in each other’s space so it is important to find ways of spending time alone so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.

Since you barely know anyone in your travel destination, spending a lot of time together is inevitable. However, to avoid continuous silly fights, try to find some “alone time.” 

This can be spent by doing one of your hobbies such as reading or watching your favourite series online. That little time you have with yourself shields you from tedious arguments. 

Dr Zikhali also mentions that a new environment can pull the relationship together as the communication levels of the couple are enhanced. ‘’The closeness of the relationship as well can be enhanced because of the quality time that the couple will be spending together,’’ says Dr Zikhali. However, all this is dependent on the flexibility of the couple, some people are flexible enough to adapt to change while some aren’t. 

Balancing Quality Time And Remote Working  

It becomes quite easy to fall into the trap of working beyond the traditional office hours when working remotely. This is problematic when you are also trying to spend quality time with your partner. Dr Zikhali says she always advises couples during couple’s therapy that they must be intentional about spending time together. ‘’I always say, you need to schedule a date night at least once a week. 

“You must have something called a new shared experience. This is where you do things that are not within routine. You must leave work behind and go do something new as a couple such as learning how to cook together as a couple, or painting. Such experiences are important because you get to know what excites the relationship,’’ adds Dr Zikhali.

Thobeka reveals that she is a perfectionist when it comes to work, and this leads to overworking even when she is with her partner. 

‘’My work goes wherever I go, and in the beginning I couldn’t create the time for just work and then some pleasure. I am a perfectionist and want to overwork sometimes. My partner had to tell me to take time off and create some down time while traveling. We’ve since grown and now I really take that “time off” seriously.’’ 

Dr Zikhali elaborates on some advantages and disadvantages of spending a lot of time together as a digital nomad couple:

Advantages

  • Creates closeness. 

When spending a lot of time together, you become more open and vulnerable which creates closeness within the relationship.

  • Quality time. 

Having your partner with you 24/7 especially in an unfamiliar environment automatically drives you to spend more time together.  This also depends on how flexible you are. 

Disadvantages

  • You become easily frustrated. 

Small things like how your partner chews their food, or their untidiness etc. become noticeable, which can be annoying and frustrating.

  • Can result in conflict. 

Spending time together leads to exploring conversational topics you had never had before, or were avoiding, some which may lead to conflict. 

Communicating The Finances 

Dr Zikhali states that travelling together as a couple will need both individuals to communicate their financial standing with honesty. She continues to say that communication and finances are the two biggest issues that always bring couples to conflict. Dishonesty can impact the lifestyle that you want to have if your partner is not being honest. Travelling requires budgeting and if you are not honest enough, you’ll end up spending money that you don’t have which results in conflict when you come home.

Thobeka explains how  she communicates openly with her partner about their financial contributions. 

“Depending on the type of trip we take – he generally takes care of accommodation, he gets petrol if we are driving and I usually do snacks, feed us and research on activities. Not all trips are the same in terms of the finances but we make sure we communicate openly before we travel.’’

Thobeka emphasises that having a budget and understanding how you both spend money and what you like spending it on is essential. She further explains that they had to overcome this in the beginning. 

“Finances are everything but also trying to marry our likes and dislikes is very stressful but with time and enough travel you learn to really lean on one another.’’

Wrapping Up

The digital nomad lifestyle is an intriguing concept and over the years, we have seen a rise of it. Are you thinking of packing things and heading for the road with your partner? Let us know in the comment section.