We met in a hostel and committed to travelling the world. Here's what nomad life has taught us.
We met in a small hostel room in Australia in 2016. Each on our own individual backpacking trips along Australia’s East Coast (a.k.a. the ultimate booze trip), we were in our early twenties and just enjoying our travels. We were randomly paired up in the same room in Rainbow Beach. It was just the beginning of our journey and eight years (and counting) later, we love to travel even more! Little did we know back then just how long and exciting our journey would become.
We’re Dom and Jo, a couple from Canada and Denmark who work online as content creators while exploring the world as digital nomads. Together, we decided to take a different path in life to pursue our dreams, passions, and love for travel. We're always down for fun experiences from hiking and kayaking to canyoning and rafting. We’ve done several working holiday visas in different countries, had a long-distance relationship for extended periods, attempted to go to university only to drop out, and eventually found ourselves living digital nomad lifestyles. We love it so much that this has been our life for more than five years now. Our journey has spanned 10 countries.
Over the years, we’ve learned a lot and so we’ve listed out the lessons (both about digital nomadism and travelling with a partner!) that we’ve picked up that other travellers and nomads may find useful.
Your lifestyle = your choice!
As kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is one of the most common questions you’re asked. For us, it was also the most challenging. When we came across a work-travel or digital nomad lifestyle, we knew it was one we wanted to pursue. We’d be able to combine our love for travelling, earn money, and stay together despite being from different parts of the world. This is the lifestyle that makes sense for us… but it definitely isn’t for everyone and it does come with challenges. Don’t jump into something like this based on what you see on Instagram or anywhere else online. The digital nomad lifestyle can easily come across as being one big vacation but what you don’t see are the long work days, not having a home base, or missing having a place to call home. There are two sides of every coin. What’s important is dialling into what style of travel you want and what lights you up, if you have the chance to do it.
You don’t have to go all in
A work-travel lifestyle also doesn’t have to be permanent. I think one thing many people don’t consider is that you could have a foot in each door by working seasonal jobs that allow for an extended time to travel, taking time off when you’re between jobs, or working for a remote company where you could easily be home or abroad. A hybrid, if you will! It could also mean coming back to places you’re familiar with year after year. When we have done that in places like Bansko, Madeira, Alberta, and B.C., it felt like just coming back to a second home. You get right back into your old routine, things feel less foreign, and it’s easier to settle.
When travelling as a couple, connecting with others is the secret to a healthy relationship
We’re both extroverts. We thrive off of the energy others give us which is why we look for co-living arrangements and hostels when we travel. When we’re around others while travelling, we embrace our separate hobbies, friendships, and activities. That’s good for us considering we work and travel together.
On a recent stay at HI Alpine Centre Banff, we were blessed with friendly staff including a restaurant manager who happened to be from the Czech Republic. Given that we had spent a few years living there during our travels, we found a lot in common with her. Trivia night, non-stop jokes, laughter, a laid-back vibe, and outdoor adventures – all wrapped up in one unforgettable experience. It’s places like HI Banff that have the right energy to give us the social connection we need.
Confession: It’s hard to stay productive sometimes
As digital nomads, one of the things we struggle with is being productive. It can be hard to just sit down and get the work done! Working remotely for a company is a different story since you have to get certain work done and work certain hours. But if you’re a freelancer or an entrepreneur, you are your own boss—which can be both a blessing and a curse.
One of the things that has helped us with this is travelling slowly. No matter if we’re in Bulgaria or Canada, we always try to spend more time in the location that we're in. We completely understand the excitement of wanting to see everything and see it immediately. But in our opinion, a good work-life balance means taking things slowly and spending more time in each location—which enables you to both work and see the sites. This style of travel is also a lot more sustainable for your well-being and can help prevent you from burnout. Plus, it’s cheaper thanks to long-term stay discounts and less money spent on transportation.
Take advantage of shoulder season
Every traveller dreams of a different destination, whether it’s a ski slope with mountains of snow or a blazing-hot beach. We look for places with excellent communities, friendly people, and outdoor activities. When we got to Banff, it checked all the boxes. We were instantly met by friendly people who all appreciated the beautiful location we were in. There are an infinite amount of things you can do from hiking to rafting in the summer and skiing and snowboarding in winter. And because of the friendly culture, there’s always someone to do it with. In between all the adventures, we would sit down and work while looking out at the beautiful Mount Rundle. It doesn’t get much better than that!
We also like to take advantage of shoulder season and go when things will be quieter and cheaper and you can support the locals during a slower time. An example of this is Bansko, Bulgaria—a popular ski resort town that gets packed in the winter. But during the summer, it’s quieter and offers the perfect balance between work and adventures on the mountain resort. We hang out with other nomads at the Bansko Nomad Fest, enjoy the Pirin National Park, and get some work done.
Beyond Instagram: Sometimes you just crave familiarity and home
One of the things that people don’t tell you is that travelling and living abroad can be tough!
Work-life balance, culture shocks, and homesickness are some of the things you won’t see on Instagram. There are days when we wish we could just go home and see friends and family. We miss out on birthdays, holidays, and big life events like weddings and friends having kids. Sometimes we get pushed so far out of our comfort zones that we just want to be home.
Thankfully, we have each other—but it can still be hard. We do think living this lifestyle with a partner is a little easier because you always have a shoulder to lean on and someone going through the same thing. At the end of the day, these struggles have a silver lining: they enable you to grow. You learn to challenge yourself, get out of your comfort zone, depend on yourself and learn just how strong you are.
Everyone is going to have a different journey. Do what’s right for you, lead with your heart, chase your dreams, and enjoy where life takes you.