Living as a Vanlife or Digital Nomad Couple aka How NOT to Kill Each Other
When people find out a.) we’re married- to each other- and b.) that we’ve been traveling on the road, in Europe for three+ years in a minivan, we get several responses:
- Excitement and/or glee (usually new couples) that think “Oh sweetie, this is our possible dream-!
- Tolerant smiles and well wishing, with phrases like ‘Good on ye,’ or ‘Wish we could, but…’ shrug.
- A look of shock. More like a ‘Holy heck, how the frell…?’, for those canny enough to figure out living in a van, working in a van and being together means twenty. Four. Hours. Daily. Weekly. Monthly.
- A shoulder swag of relief, which usually means: good luck, bless, and thankful it isn’t me.
- An older grin of ‘young love,’ though by conservative standards we’re (gasp* middle-aged) (really???) (when did THAT happen?)
- Discomfort at having to deal with ‘homeless’ people or such, since living in a van, as a couple, we must be unable to have any other digs available.
- Vanlifers and digital nomads like us that simply go: ‘Hey. Cool. Us, too.’
The Beginning of Traveling Full-Time as a Couple Can Feel Like the End
People tend to minimize how traumatic and instrumental that first year of traveling truly is. It’s easy to forget the spats and wax golden on the gold moments.
We knew each other, starting out. We even did test mini-trips, and were both happy with the results. Living, however, 24-7 in a van, makes a difference. Things to consider. Simple but possibly deadly, if you plan on doing it for longer than two weeks:
- How will you find time for yourself?
- How comfy are you with your personals (any and all can happen at any moment, seriously) in front of your partner?
- Are you social, or anti-? What about your partner? Will it bother you if they go out all the time? Or them you?
- Financials seem to be the big trigger for us. Next to stress. So. Both equally making money; one more than the other; the other a homebody (‘vanbody’ should, but doesn’t exist as of yet)? Budget?
- Vanlife means downsizing. Completely, in ways most don’t think possible. I’ve got 1 ½ bags, Armando’s got 1. We’ve got our gear (computers, cameras and such). We have a laundry bag. A fishing bag. My (dusty) writing notebooks are under the seat. An extra duvet’s in the side.
If you really can’t live without your stuffs, go on caravan holidays. It’s OK. Not here to judge, just to help. J
- Be prepared to be stressed. To find random, new triggers that most certainly will annoy you. And most, most of all: be prepared to find compromise in your being. It’s a magical friend.
- Use your words. Imagine being sat from a person you know (be it best friend or demon, depending on the moment) 2 feet away for hours on end. You can check out cafes only so long. You always have to come home. Tell them you’re pissed. Off. Or in love.
- Spoken appreciation is a necessity. Seems silly, but simple ‘Thank you for cleaning/cooking’ or ‘I really like what you did with X’ goes miles. You’re cut off. You need a friend’s voice of good. (Armando’s slowly but surely learning this one). Grin.
Three- Holy Heck, Almost Four- Years on the EU Road
Our experience with cultures, the intensity of getting to know- I mean really know- each other has changed our lives in a good way. We were both bored, lightly miserable regular people before this journey.
Then one fateful day, Armando arrived in my street. I had a Juliet moment on the balcony, and here we are.
I’m writing this from Pantin, Spain, where we’ll witness our first official surf competition. We’ve been adopted* by a Lithuanian couple. We’ve stayed with a circus. We’ve been to a local Spanish bull festival.
We’ve also: been robbed twice. Had multiple problems with the van, including getting stuck in the mud, dead batteries and a frozen tire. Not to mention the times we were stuck in the middle of nowhere, waiting to be paid.
Then there’s the personal part. Like: of course we get on each other’s nerves. If I hear the opening jingle to his favorite game just one more time on a rainy day, blood will be shed.
It’s not easy, but no relationship is easy. Sometimes it feels like we’ve crunched thirty years into 3; other times it feels like we’ve only been together 3 hours and I can’t wait for the next ten.
It’s no different than living together in a small apartment, though, and sometimes it’s better. Because our surroundings change so often, there’s less boredom.
Which is why we try to give each other space. We’ve learned (the very hard way) how to compromise and why.
We’ve had many ups and downs and in-betweens on the road. The most extreme. Most extreme beauties, most extreme sorrows, but we find our lives so much more enriched.
I’m not saying it’s the right choice for everyone. Goodness gracious, no. I’m saying there are things you should consider, before jumping as a couple into a new van lifestyle.
It is possible. It is an unbelievable experience. And you can make it as a couple, living in a van.
Without killing each other.