My husband and I have been travelling as digital nomads for more than two years. In that time, we’ve met plenty of others on the road - some travelling as a couple like us, and others going it alone.
Although our lives are similar in many ways - living out of backpacks, moving to new cities every few weeks, jumping from Airbnb to Airbnb - there are a few key differences between life as one half of a digital nomad couple and doing it solo.
Whether you’re thinking of embarking on a long-term adventure with your significant other or are ready to head out on your own, this in-depth list breaks the pros and cons of both options!
Table of Contents
Cost of Living
First things first, renting an apartment is cheaper with a partner. The cost of a studio or one-bedroom is going to be the same whether you’re living in it alone or with your spouse. If you're travelling alone, you’re either going to have to cover the rent completely on your own or live with roommates, which can be extra tough when there’s a language barrier.
For most people, rent is usually the single biggest regular expense in life, so the ability to split it with a partner is a huge help and digital nomad couples come out ahead in this round. There are plenty of digital nomad jobs out there, perfect for both of you, in order to earn while on the road.
Day to Day Life on the Road
Another great thing about digital nomad life as a couple is that we can split the burden of our day to day responsibilities. Dan does our taxes and budgeting while my responsibility is booking all the flights, buses, and apartments that we need throughout the year. Dan does the grocery shopping while I cook, he does the dishes while I pretend that I will also do my half of the dishes but never do… you know, normal couple stuff. Just like at home, living with a partner on the road has the same perks of shared responsibility so, in this regard, it’s definitely better than going it alone.
One major downside of living the digital nomad lifestyle as a couple rather than alone is that we’re tied to double the number of obligations. With two families and two friend groups, we have to come home for two times weddings, two times the births, etc.
Last year we came home to spend Christmas with our families but then also had to return to the states again for a wedding in early March. So, we bought cheap flights to Mexico for the interim rather than travelling somewhere farther away or more expensive. Clearly, even small events and obligations can impact months of travel plans. If you’re single, it will definitely be easier to get away for long stretches of time than it is as a couple.
Pin this now
Exploring New Destinations
Exploring new destinations with my favourite person by my side is by far my favourite thing about being a digital nomad couple. Not only is it just freakin’ fun, but it also gives me more freedom to get off the beaten path.
I may find only a sentence or two written about a hike online and decide I want to do it - Dan is a good sport and comes along with me even if we don’t know how much the train will cost to get there, how far the hike is, or even how we’re going to get home!
If I was with new friends from a hostel or meetup I would feel uncomfortable asking them come with me on something so uncertain (due to the risk of completely ruining their day when we’re unable to find the trailhead or get on the wrong train) and would probably just stick close to town and the main tourist sites with them instead.
Choosing New Destinations
Dan and I head to a new city every five weeks, which means we move a lot throughout the year. Choosing so many new destinations requires a lot of compromises when you travel as a couple (if you want the relationship to survive, that is). If your travel preferences vary significantly and one of you prefers staying in big cities while the other likes small towns, or one likes to be near the beach while the other prefers mountain destinations, this could be hard to navigate as well.
Beyond that, I also get tied down by Dan’s work obligations. He works for a US based company and needs to be available during their hours, so living in Southeast Asia is completely out for us. Even when we stick to closer timezones, we’re also restricted to countries with fast internet because he regularly hosts webinars for his work.
On the other hand, I’m not bound by either of these restrictions as a freelance writer and blogger so if I was travelling solo I’d be writing this article from a beach in the Philippines rather than freezing my a** off in Ukraine.
There’s a lot that goes into deciding where to move next as a digital nomad (click here to read the full rundown), but the basic fact is that travelling alone just gives you more freedom to go where you want when you want, and in this category solo digital nomads definitely come out ahead.
From a purely anecdotal standpoint, it’s much easier for me to travel for a long period of time when I’m with my husband.
Having someone I trust and can lean on to for support helps immensely with managing feelings of anxiety, homesickness, loneliness, or culture shock. When you travel solo you still have support from friends and family at home, but it’s just not the same as having them there with you in the moment.
When you have a partner it’s also nice to just be able to relax together in silence - it can be exhausting to always have to be “on” in social settings as a solo traveller (especially for introverts) so travelling as a digital nomad couple wins this round.
One major con of travelling as a couple is how easy it is to get stuck in our own little bubble and go days at a time without interacting with anyone else.
Not only is this a pretty unhealthy habit for our marriage (click here to see how long-term travel has changed our relationship) but it also makes it much harder to meet new people - one of the best things about travelling!
When I travelled alone it was always pretty easy to strike up a conversation with someone at the bar and join their group of friends for the night. That doesn’t happen anymore now that I’m one-half of a couple. Part of it is because couples are less approachable than people travelling alone, but it’s also because there’s no longer anything pushing me to go out of my comfort zone to make new friends, so I just… don’t.
When you’re living and travelling alone as a digital nomad you have to go to meet-ups and put yourself out there and make new friends to have a social life, which I think ends up positively impacting the experience overall. So, solo digital nomads have it better in this round.
I’m sure you can already guess the answer to this one, but how safe you feel in a new destination can have a significant impact on the trip and your overall perception of the country, so it’s important to include it on the list as well.
Obviously, I feel safer travelling with my husband than I did as a solo female traveller. I don’t worry about walking home from a bar together at night or going hiking in remote places - two things that I might think twice about doing alone. Of course, solo guys can also be targets for crime, so no matter what gender you are I think travelling as a couple is just generally safer than travelling alone.
So, Which Is Better?
Travelling the world as a digital nomad is just so fun. Whether you go alone or with your partner, you’re going to see new places, experience new cultures, and begin living a whole new lifestyle.
There are many perks to traveling as a couple, like more social support, a cheaper cost of living, the ability to split the burden of responsibility (especially when filing taxes and securing accommodation becomes much more complicated than it was before), and just having a partner you love and trust by your side while exploring the world together!
On the other hand, travelling solo is also pretty great because it’s much easier to meet new people. You also have fewer obligations tying you down at home and more freedom to choose the destinations you truly want to see.
Whether you’re considering a transition into the digital nomad lifestyle as a couple or are ready to take the leap solo, it’s an experience that will definitely change your life!