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How to survive as a digitally nomadic couple

Mish and Rob are freelance writers and web development project managers. Since March, they’ve been completely location independent – giving them the freedom to travel wherever they want to go, whenever they want. They’re happy to admit to being “unadventurous adventurers”: they like to live in nice, clean apartments (with air conditioning, wifi and decent mattresses), in nice, civilised cities. Read their stories, guidance and advice on www.makingitanywhere.com

Rob is a foot-tapper. A really dedicated one. We’ve been snogging for seven years, an “item” for six, living together for five and married for one. But it wasn’t until six months ago that I realised just how much Rob loves to tap his right foot.

In the interests of balance, apparently I yawn a lot more than the average person.

These revelations came to light back in March, when Rob and I quit our jobs in London and moved to NYC. Our plan was to stay mainly in the city (moving to a new area every few weeks to keep things fresh), and work out how to make money as freelance writers – preferably ones who could travel around the world as “digital nomads”.

We took a bunch of courses, attended heaps of events, met loads of people, worked out how to make money and had a blast. We also spent about 22.5 hours of each day in each others’ company. That was unexpected, and the one thing we didn’t plan for.

Not only were we living together (in weeny studios most of the time) and travelling together, we were also networking together and actually working on some of the same projects together. Compared to the “old days”, this was quite a change. Back when we both had jobs and separate social lives, weekends and date nights were sacred times to be together and catch up.

These days, “date nights” seem a bit unnecessary. But we still have them, because now it’s that much easier for us to fall into just being “pals”, “work buddies” and “travel mates” instead of a “loved-up married couple”.

Here are some tips if you’re planning on doing something similar to us in future.

Have date nights

And instead of talking about work, make a deal to only talk about non-work experiences you’ve had (either together or separately) recently.

Try not to focus on planning future experiences: it’s waaay too easy to waste an entire evening planning something, instead of being in the present and appreciating all the cool things you’ve been doing.

Try to have some completely separate projects

Rob and I have a lot of shared projects (we’re web development project managers too, so often one of us will coordinate the creation of a new site, and the other will do the copywriting). But we make sure we do different things too. I love website copywriting, so I do more of that than Rob. I’ve also written a couple of books. Rob’s really into property investment, so he has a blog all about that.

These separate projects help us prove to ourselves that we can still operate and do good work without relying on the other person! It also means we still get to update each other on “our day”.

Have a break from each other at least once a day

Those 1.5 hours we’re not together? They take place in the morning. Rob goes out and does press-ups and pull-ups and weird exercises he’s read about online, and I go for a run.

Hold dedicated meetings

If you need to discuss work together, make sure it’s in a “meeting” rather than just over dinner or while you’re walking to the supermarket. It helps to keep work separate from everyday life.

Try to become more tolerant

There’s no person more worthy of some extended tolerance than the one you’re madly in love with and spending almost every hour with. It’s worth it – trust me.

If you’re annoyed or angry, bottle it up

Hear me out on this one. What I mean is this: it’s so incredibly easy to get annoyed with someone you’re spending so much time with. And a lot of the time, it’s not their fault or something they can do anything about. So before you say, “Will you QUIT sneezing like that?”, hold it in, wait a while and see if it’s still worth bringing up. THEN say your piece.

Keep some things private

Weeing with the door open will never be OK.

Learn to appreciate the sound of an incessantly tapped right foot

I’m trying, I’m trying…

  • Adele

    Mish, thanks so much for sharing this – looking really forward to meeting you both on the 25th. This post got me kind of excited about getting married (eventually) because when I see cool married couples like you guys, it reminds me that marriage isn’t a prison sentence… it’s the start of a pretty awesome team adventure, provided you pick the right partner! Speak to you both soon.

  • Angela Levine

    Hello Michelle and Rob

    My son Nick gave me details of your Blog and I am really enjoying reading it.

    Best Wishes from Angela