Justin and I were arguing when the topic of our leaving came up and I found myself in tears.
What I hadn’t told him was that – even though I’m really excited about moving away from the Philippines – I’m nervous and anxious about it as well. We’re going to be far from home, my family, and everything I’ve grown up with and I’m worried about a bunch of things:
What if we grow apart?
What if I don’t find any friends or nobody likes me?
How will we deal with the stress of traveling together?
After I mentioned this to Justin he told me he’s worried about some of these things too. We ended up sitting down and writing out some of our fears and worries. He mentioned I should put them together in a blog post for other location independent couples having some of the same worries and concerns.
I wanted to lay out our top fears and insecurities in the hopes that they help you realize you’re not alone – these are things we all deal with.
Feeling Left Out & Growing Apart
Whenever we’re out and hanging around a larger group of people, we tend to wander off and make connections and don’t always stay together. This can be great for meeting new people, but not so great in that we can get disconnected from each other and build connections apart instead of as a couple.
This is particularly scary for me as the social circles we hang out in tend to be other entrepreneurs and I often find myself in conversations that I don’t really understand. This can be awkward for me when the conversation turns to business, although I’ve gotten better at connecting in these social situations over the years.
Running a business and meeting other business people on the road can be hard. Let’s face it – I don’t actually have a business and so it’s hard for me to relate! The people that surround us are usually expat entrepreneurs sharing ideas with each other on how to improve their business.
This awkwardness and feeling uncomfortable can be hard, but the real worry is that it gets worse and that we get further and further away from each other.
Here are a few of the things we do to stay close and connected?
1. Don’t forget to introduce each other. To every event you attend – there’s always new people that you will meet and hang out with. If your partner is with you, make sure to introduce her/him to your new friends. This will help you avoid feelings of being left out and forgotten.
2. At least spend 50% of your time out with others together. While it’s great to go out alone and build your own social circles, it’s important that you also be seen as a couple and have shared experiences and new friends. If you find yourself spending more and more time alone, try to include your partner in more of the events, hangouts, and things you’re doing.
3. Learn + understand more about each others interests. To be frank, Justin sometimes goes and does things I don’t really like and am not really interested in…but it’s important to do things together as a couple. The more we can understand and respect each others’ interests, the stronger our relationship can become.
Fitting In And Finding New Friends
While there are amazing advantages to being location independent and an expat – being away from home is hard. You’re used to be around family and close friends that you can turn to whenever you have problems or something bothering you. Adding to this stress – meeting new people from different parts of the world can be even more confusing. There can be cultural and interests barriers that seem awfully large.
Here are a few of my worries:
What if these new people don’t like me?
What if I don’t like them and my partner does?
Will we find couple friends that we like to hang out with? (And that like to hang out with us)
It can be fun meeting new people and sharing new experiences, but I have some insecurities that hold me back:
What can I talk about with other expat business owners? (Especially if I don’t have a business of my own)
What if I can’t put in (English) words what I’m trying to say? Will someone laugh at me?
I’m not the best with my grammar and English and I really hope others don’t hold it against me.
Here are a few of the steps we use to help us better fit in and stay connected:
1. Be open to new types of people and new experiences. Learn to be more open-minded and give everyone time to know you better. It’s not a one-time deal – we have all the time in the world to know each other better. We want to avoid being judgemental and just learn how to enjoy life with our new found friends.
2. Be yourself. This is really important to me. You can’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Instead, just being yourself will allow the right type of people to find and connect with you.
3. Be open to a range of conversations + learning new things. Sometimes I get a little nervous about the topics and conversation, but when I relax and stop thinking about it, I notice that I’m just having a good conversation with new friends. Even simple conversations about sunsets or cool locations around the world can be amazing if you relax. The best conversations happen when everyone is open to learning something new. If everyone acts like they know everything you’ll never have room to grow.
Anticipating The Stress Of Travel
If you’ve ever been constantly on the road before you’ll know that there’s a certain amount of increased stress that comes with that travel. Having to regularly book flights, look for places to stay, things to do, etc. can weigh on you. This can be even more difficult when traveling as a location independent couple.
Regularly planning your next trip or location can have you on edge and can negatively impact the relationship. Both can be easily agitated and quicker to anger. The once small problems or issues quickly become gigantic and inflated.
So – how do you deal with the added pressure in the relationship? Here are a few tips:
1. Discuss the stress with your partner – know that it’s coming. It’s almost guaranteed that the stress levels will be higher, so it’s a good idea to discuss beforehand so that you both acknowledge and are in a better position to deal with it when it pops up.
2. Don’t let your travel planning take over your life. This is something Justin has struggled with. He’s constantly checking AirBnB, looking at flights, etc. Instead, set aside some time for your travel planning and don’t sweat it the rest of the time.
3. Have a “secret word”. Ok, so this sounds a little silly, but it’s something we use to help each other out when we know that we’re fighting/arguing and not letting it go because of pride. We have an agreement that when the word is said, we have to quickly get over the issue and back down from our prideful stance. I think this can be used for more than just pride fights, though – try using it when you know you’re fighting or arguing because of increased stress! Make sure to pick a word you wouldn’t use in regular conversation (baboon, gorilla, etc.)
Missing Family & Friends
As a Filipina, we are known to be very family-oriented. It doesn’t matter how old you are, whether you have your own family, etc. children will often live with and be close to their parents well into adulthood. Being away with my family and not seeing them for a long time is very difficult.
If someone in my family is sick or has a problem, it’s very hard to return home and be with them, to help them, etc. This will be extremely difficult for me in that my family is very close and we are very supportive of each other.
Here’s how I’m going to try to deal with these issues:
1. Set my family up with Skype, Google Chat, etc. Technology has come a long way in helping you to be close to family while away. Having these types of apps set up where you can always communicate and check in with your family is very helpful. You can be extremely far away and still feel close through meaningful conversations, Skype video chats, etc.
2. Set a date to return, even if it’s far into the future. Make sure that even if you’re so far away from home you still have a plan to come back and visit. Book yourself a ticket – even if it’s far into the future – to give yourself an assurance that you’ll be back with them soon.
3. Some insurance providers cover returns for death in the family. It’s a tough subject, but some companies like Integra Global’s Premiere plan will compensate you to travel back to your home country in case of a death in the family. It’s not cheap, but it’s good to know that you can quickly return in the case of an emergency when your family needs you most.
How To Deal With Fighting On The Road
Being an expat means you’re further away from what you’ve traditionally used as a support network. This means some of your standard go-to’s for getting over fights are no longer available. (Your best friend, talking with family, etc.)
This also means you may have some amazing experiences that are “ruined” due to a fight. (We had an issue going through immigration in Bali that REALLY sucked! Pro-tip: Save your fights for AFTER you get through immigration!)
There’s also the worry that you might not get over your fights as easily once you’re away from home. It might be easier to fight and makeup in a comfortable environment – will it be the same when you’re gone?
Here are a few of the ways we deal with fighting on the road:
1. You have to rely on each other for support. It may seem a bit scary to lose your support network, but what we’ve found is that it’s actually beneficial. Being forced to turn towards each other can bring your relationship closer and actually cut down on some of the fights or arguments.
2. There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship. Yes, you’re going to have arguments while viewing waterfalls in Nicaragua, strolling through temples in Thailand, etc. The good news? You’ll have plenty of time to see and experience many, many more things! Don’t stress yourself out thinking that everything has to be perfect at any one time.
3. Discuss fighting when you’re NOT fighting. It’s an awkward situation to discuss your fights before you actually have them, but understanding triggers and each other will help to minimize the impact of fights and arguments when you’re in the thick of it.
Have you struggled with any of these fears and insecurities while traveling as a location independent couple? Anything else we should be aware of that you’ve struggled with? Let us know in the comments – we’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic!