Solo vs Couple Travel – Brooke Johnson

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Hi Brooke! Please give us an overview of your background (who are you traveling with, how long have you traveled, what made you want to go the digital nomad lifestyle etc.) so we can put a persona to the content that follows 🙂

Every time I travel I tend to go anywhere from 1 month to 8 months, so definitely extended travel. This past summer, my husband and I went to Europe and it was my 6th extended trip. However, I would not call it a trip but a brief digital nomad lifestyle. Some people I know can be on the road for years on end, but I like coming back to my country and being at a home base for a while in between. And it’s a lot easier to chill in your own country where you don’t have to worry about a visa running out, so that’s the other factor for coming home in between.

I am freelancing now. Before that, I worked at YouTube and then Maker Studios and DanceOn in Hollywood. I was working my way up that corporate ladder but knew that my soul wanted something more meaningful, something I could call my own. Since quitting my 9-5 job, minimizing my life expenses, and getting used to a smaller paycheck, I started venturing into being a digital nomad and enjoy the fact that I can blend adventure with making a living at the same time. 

You and Dru seem to have found a good balance in splitting the workload from both the business and travel plans. Could you elaborate more about how it works and how you guys came up with this system?

My company is Flowstate11, a Micro Digital Video Marketing Agency. We help small businesses and personal brands build their name and story on YouTube and other social media platforms that accept video. We run point on pre-production, video coaching, post-production so that it is optimized for the web, and marketing the video once it’s launched. I love it because my #1 passion is editing, so I get to create stories for brands on all sorts of topics. The arts, medical, psychology, you name it, we’ve probably created content for it. When things are super busy I have a team of other freelancers where we divide and conquer. However, when traveling I tend to tone the workload down to whatever I can take on so that I’m not trying to manage others, myself, and clients while traveling. 

When traveling there are more things to consider then one would think. Finding flights, booking flights, getting from point A to point B and which forms of transportation are we going to use? There’s getting to know the city or place you land in even if you are only going to be there for 5 days. There’s finding the best wifi around, currency exchange, learning new languages. There’s booking a place to stay, normal bill stuff, then finding the fun stuff and adventures in between, so traveling is a full-time job! That’s why it’s great to have a partner. While I am working at a wifi cafe, Dru is booking our next flights, Airbnbs, discovering what things we should check out. We are both good at working independently and getting things done so I think that’s why it works out so well. 

Digital Nomad Brooke

One common issue among digital nomads is the difficulty in building meaningful or lasting relationships because we are constantly moving around. Would you like to share about how you and Dru met and came together?

Dru and I met at the Eclipse Festival in Oregon in 2017! Apart from traveling, I absolutely love transformational music festivals and find myself involved in so way or another. I had worked with the festival for about a week in pre-event stuff. Then I finally had a day off when the event started.

Dru and I had met before but we finally ran into each other that day and decided to hang out. We were both involved in festivals so we had that in common, and we both had a strong sense of adventure. We decided that we’d love to be travel buddies. One thing led to another and after going to Burning Man together a week after and getting ‘playa married’, we decided to get an actual marriage in Nebraska a month after that with family. We just kind of knew that it felt right and this was it. He’s a nomad in his own right so our adventures weaved together, and in this 1st year, we’ve been to over 50 different places.

To answer the question about building meaningful and lasting relationships. First off, be open. Don’t close off to people even if you know you might only get to hang with them for a day or a few days. A connection is a connection and you never know when your paths will cross again.

This is very true in our case. When Dru and I went to Europe and visited 15 countries, part of it was because we had so many friends to see! Our friends that we knew from Festivals in California were in Sweden, so we went to help them through a techno event. Then we had to see some of my closest friends in Denmark whom I had met in Bali 2 years prior. Then we met up with our Austrian friends that we had met previously in Mexico and so on and so on. I believe during this summer we had seen and met up with 17 of our friends. We made a few new friends along the way which was nice too.

Just be grateful for getting the chance to meet people and connect and the rest will work itself out. If you feel sad that it’s so fleeting, it’s just a sign that you care and you are human with a heart. It is better to have loved than to have never loved at all.

You have experienced the nomadic lifestyle both as an individual and a couple. How different are the two lifestyles? Do considerations and priorities change?  

As an individual, it’s more work because it’s just you doing everything. The work, travel logistics. I would most likely stay in hostels because it was cheaper and it was a great way to meet other travelers. I spent a lot more time on the computer actually as a solo digital nomad, which is good but not so good if you want to go experience a lot of where you are at. It was more of an introspective journey and eye-opening to the world. I go and do and see whatever I wanted, no one was there to have a different perspective. 

As a couple, it’s like a dance of two travelers. You get to learn so much about each other and what you like or don’t like. You work together so there’s not so much to worry about which is nice. We rented Airbnbs instead because it’s actually more cost-effective than two people at a hostel. We didn’t meet as many people and we were in our own little bubble a lot of times, but there was a sort of comfort in that during travel that I had not had before. The Con is that we don’t meet as many people, and we have to compromise on what we want to do. I want to eat local food but Dru doesn’t want to eat local food, so we work together and find something we both like. Or I do my own thing and he does his own thing. Instead of it being an eye-opener to the world, it was an eye-opener to what the world is like to see within a couple dynamic.

brooke-and-dru
nomad-couples

What are tips or advice that you have for maintaining a healthy couple relation while traveling together all the time?

This is something I wish we had known at the beginning of our journey – Every couple of days, take a day off from each other. Take time to yourself, do what you want to do, and see it through just your own eyes. At 8 am go off and do your own thing, and they do their own thing and journey. Then when you meet back up later in the night you have stories to tell each other and you had that time. We didn’t do that really but this was advice a couple gave me that had been on the road with each other for over 3 years. Even the happiest of people can drive each other crazy if together 24/7.

Are there any other key challenges that you face as a digital nomad traveling either individually or as a couple.

Yes! Timezone is a bitch, so you must be very flexible. I was transparent with my clients that I was traveling and that I was on a different timezone than them. Always make it extremely easy for communication so that they won’t decide to let you go because of inconsistency. Luckily, I have never lost a client because of this but it’s smart to just be careful. 

I would also say, ALWAYS keep looking for work, whether traveling or at home base. You never know how long or short a client work will go for and so it’s best as a business owner to keep that wheel of opportunities turning. I learned that the hard way. I laid back for a few months because everything was smooth sailing then things changed with clients within a week and I lost 1/2 my income. Nothing personal, but the startup I was working with, cut their budget drastically and I didn’t know until I got the notice. It happened 2 days before flying to Europe as well, so never take your clients for granted and always keep looking for clients. Best advise. 

Wifi can be frustrating at times when certain countries are behind the times. Clear communication and reasonable deadlines are important, AND understand that sometimes you can just get stuck and there’s not much you can do about it. Breathe, let go, and know that the sun will come up tomorrow, you will be back online in no time. 

Don’t overpack! You can always buy things that you need. 

Couple advice – Have compassion and patience for each other. Travel will test your relationship. It’s a huge growing experience. Know that it’s not always sunshine and roses and that sometimes you are going to feel icky and no fun. But that’s ok! You are traveling all over the world, something most people would only dream of doing and it takes a toll. Therefore, have compassion for yourself and just go with the flow, and that will make it that much easier for your partner as well. 

travelling-brooke

What advice do you have for couples who wish to go nomadic? What preparations should they make or are important?

Have a savings account! I have traveled so much without a savings account but this last trip with my husband, I’m really glad we had savings. It gave us peace of mind in case of anything. 

Never go to bed upset. Find a way to communicate and work it out. We would have arguments every once and while but we would figure it out and we were never mad at each other for more than a few hours. Communication is key.

If you’re independent like me, let go, and let your partner lead the way. Controlling everything is stressful and overwhelming. The sooner you guys share the aspects of travel and business, the better you will be in sync. 

Figure out what’s important to both of you during travel. Is it food? Is it weird and cool art places? Is it adventures like swimming, biking, hiking? Find out what each other likes beforehand so you can better prepare to do all the things you want to do so that no one feels like it was one person’s idea. Share what are your favorite aspects of travel and honor them. 

Have compassion and patience for each other. Travel will test your relationship. It’s a huge growing experience.

PLANNING YOUR TRIP? CHECK THESE RESOURCES!

Book Your Flight

I usually use a combination of 2-3 of the following search engines to find cheap flights: Skyscanner, Momondo, Google Flights

Find Your Accommodation

Booking.com is my usual platform for finding accommodation options as they have one of the largest selections. Hostelworld is great for booking hostels. For more private or long term accommodation, Airbnb is my go-to platform.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is important for to protect yourself against unforeseen circumstances. I usually look at a few insurance companies depending on my travel needs.
  • SafetyWings for Travel Health Insurance
  • IMG Global for added Insurance when doing activities outside of usual coverage
Packing for your trip? Check out the packing list for ideas on what to bring

For more travel resources, check out my resources page for best platforms and companies to use when you travel.

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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.

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