Let’s say that you meet someone you like. This person probably lives in a place with a job and a lease. (God forbid, maybe then even have a pet.) How are you supposed to date them? Even if they miraculously get a few weeks off work to join you on your travels, what comes next?
The challenge of dating as a nomad is indeed difficult, but it’s not fundamentally different from other kinds of dating. We want to meet someone who appreciates our lifestyle, respects the choices we’ve made, and wants to share experiences with us. This takes time, patience, and lots of little experiments.
In this pursuit, nomads enjoy a number of advantages:
If dating is a numbers game, then nomads have an edge. While everyone else is limiting themselves to meeting the fish in their local pond, we nomads are hopping between different ponds, ever-increasing our odds of meeting the right person.
You have a better story to tell. An interesting life story is an extremely attractive thing. Your decision to lead a life of permanent travel can communicate a story of courage, ambition, adventure, and willingness to flout convention. That’s sexy.
You have a better chance of meeting a fellow traveler. If travel and exploration are some of your primary values, then the right person for you will probably hold them too. Many people say they want to live a life of travel but never take real, committed actions toward that end. By actually traveling, you give yourself the best chance to meet others who are living out their values as you are. Your next romance might be sitting in the same long-distance bus, co-working space, or café as you are right now.
You’re less likely to tie yourself up in a relationship of convenience. Perhaps the greatest advantage of nomadism is how antiseptic it is to low-quality relationships that we enter into for the sake of comfort and convenience. It’s not that nomads aren’t susceptible to such casual relationships; it’s that the relationship is doomed to end as soon as the nomad moves on to their next location.
The struggle makes you stronger. There’s a good chance that you simply won’t date much as a nomad, because most other people want someone who is physically present in their same location for 12 months of the year. Look at this way: a life of permanent travel gives you extensive practice in finding peace with being single. And when you lead a life of fulfilled singleness, ironically, you become even more date-able.
Sustaining a long-term relationship may be the most challenging part of living nowhere, and it’s one of the main reasons that many of us quit the lifestyle.
This is understandable. Long-term relationships are one of life’s great experiences. A life of permanent travel without the experience of a deep, meaningful, committed relationship would be a life wasted.
But don’t give up hope quite yet. I’ve witnessed many different approaches to this problem; below I present all of them.
Solutions I Don’t Like and Don’t Think Are Helpful
Do permanent long-distance. If you’re like me, you don’t like doing long-distance in a relationship for any more than a brief span of time, with a clear end date. Even highly independent people want to be around their partner for at least two-thirds of the year. Permanent long-distance, in my observation, leads to loneliness, resentment, and eventually cheating.
Become polyamorous. Dating multiple people in different states, countries, or continents simultaneously might sound sexy, but it also has the potential to spread your attention thin, weaken your primary relationship, and turn all secondary relationships into de facto flings. Ultimately I think the tortoise approach (slow, patient) of giving your total emotional attention to one person at a time is superior to the hare approach (fast, scattered) of giving it to many. I speak only from my plain-vanilla, monogamous, straight male perspective, of course.
It’s impossible, give up. In other words: Bury your feelings, stay single, and only pursue flings and short-term relationships that match your travel schedule. If you’re genuinely on the market for a long-term relationship, then this is just a defeatist path that will ultimately lead to frustration, unhappiness, and depression.
A Solution I Don’t Like but Is Probably Valid
Stop living nowhere. Give up your nomadic lifestyle, move to where your partner is, and be with them. If you have the power to choose your location, why not use that power? View this choice as your next big adventure and attempt to continue traveling and keeping feeding your wanderlust in smaller ways.
I don’t like this answer because, by sacrificing a core part of your personality and the lifestyle that inspires you, I imagine that you’ll also become a less happy person and therefore a worse partner. But perhaps not. Perhaps the benefits you’ll get from a rooted relationship will far exceed the benefits of being nomadic, and you’ll become a better person in the balance. As I mentioned, pursuing a great relationship is one of the best reasons to end your nomadism. You can always return to your wandering ways if it doesn’t work out.
Solutions I Like and Strive for Myself
Wait to meet someone who has the means and desire to travel full-time with you. Focus your search on the elusive Great White Buffalo: a partner just as nomadic as you, who possesses a complementary amount of location flexibility and work flexibility, and who happens to want to spend time in the places that you want to spend time in, too. Yes, we are shooting for the moon here, and yes, there’s a good chance this person doesn’t exist. It doesn’t stop a romantic idealist like myself from trying.
Wait to meet someone you admire, and who admires you, enough that you’ll happily modify your plans for each other. This, I believe, is the best long-term relationship goal a nomad can aim for. Date widely and wait to meet that person whose life fascinates you and makes you a little bit jealous. Someone who you think is really cool and you’d love to hang out with even if these pesky romantic feelings weren’t involved.
If the connection feels genuine, and your partner feels the same way about you, then go for it! Dive in and design a life together. Be excited to adapt to each other’s lifestyles and borrow the best parts from each. If your partner loves ski patrolling or summers in New York, find a way to make your life work in those places. Be clear, honest, and up-front with your partner about your lifestyle wants and needs; you’ll only make successful compromises if you both lay your cards on the table. Don’t hide or change your priorities in the pursuit of being loved.
If your partner is heavily rooted in one place—with a job, home, or community that they simply will not leave for any meaningful amount of time—then the chance of equal compromise falls precipitously, and you’ll land back in “stop living nowhere” zone. Unfortunately, I believe that it seldom works out between hardcore nomads and heavily rooted folks. That’s why I, for one, will wait for a partner who is at least a little bit nomadic.