In 2015, Australian travel blogging duo Alesha Bradford and Jarryd Salem of NOMADasaurus opened up about the struggles of being a globe-hopping social-media couple.
Although Bradford and Salem were shooting up into social media stardom through a blog and Instagram, their relationship was struggling. They openly blogged about why they needed time apart.
“Being a nomadic couple, making a decent living through social media and blogging definitely seems like the perfect life,” Salem tells CNN. And when every photo is a gorgeous landscape or an amazing adventure, it’s easy to think life is just sunshine and roses.
“But there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes,” he adds. People should be aware that behind each beautiful Instagram photo might be hours of work, logistical issues, planning and money.
“Social media allows us to create a staged, ideal representation of our life. Followers should love every image, but take the perceived lifestyle of famous Instagrammers with a grain of salt,” says Salem.
It’s been two years since Nomadasaurus opened up about their relationship struggles. They’re still together and still on the road, but now they talk regularly about their challenges, says Salem.
“Opening up has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. People respond to honesty and can relate more to real stories rather than just perfect picture after perfect picture.”
MORE: Couple from NOMADasaurus blog said travel hurt their relationship
IdleTheoryBus (Kit Whistler and J.R Switchgrass)
Kit Whistler and J.R. Switchgrass have lived in a 1976 bus named Sunshine since 2012.
“Everything we own is in the bus. Every single thing,” says Whistler. “We don’t have a storage unit anywhere.”
Their IdleTheoryBus Instagram account has taken off, reaching 141k followers. As they travel, the pair work manual labor jobs, take photos, write and create videos. Living this way allows them to balance work, leisure and idleness.
The whole social media thing came as a surprise, Whistler tells CNN.
“We never sought out a following and never thought it would be a central and pivotal tool to our life on the road.”
For the first year of travel, the pair had only flip-phones with no Internet capabilities.
“You definitely do not need social media or the Internet to live on the road,” she adds. But being connected has allowed them to make some of their dearest friends.
“Van life” comes with its own challenges.
“Sharing 80 square feet can definitely take its toll on our relationship. We fight, often, especially in winter when it’s cold and there are 12 hours of darkness,” says Whistler. “The fights are bad sometimes. I’ve locked J.R. out of the bus all night, no joke. He’s left me on the side of the road with only a backpack.”
Family dynamics are also tough.
“They tolerate our lifestyles. At first, it was bad. They thought we were throwing our lives away.”
Despite the challenges, Whistler points to many benefits. “We have found ourselves with more time to pursue our passions, instead of material possessions.” This year the couple made a dream come true by publishing their first book, Orange is Optimism.
“It was totally supported by our blog and social media.”
For anyone wanting to pursue a life on the road, Whistler suggests checking motivations. “Living in a vehicle will not solve your problems; it will only amplify them. There’s nowhere to run at night when you’re frustrated and you haven’t showered, and you’re out of propane so you eat an orange for dinner…Things can get bad.”
Still, adds Whistler, it’s worth it. “You can plan your life away and completely miss what’s right in front of you. Make sure you know yourself, your priorities, and just leap.”
READ: How travel blogger Johnny Ward became a millionaire on the go
NoDestinations (Chris and Danika Garlotta)
In 2014, Chris and Danika Garlotta quit their jobs, sold their stuff and left San Francisco for an epic around-the-world trip. The husband-and-wife pair hasn’t stopped since.
Today their Instagram account, NoDestinations, has over 150k followers. Pictures show them strolling beaches in the Maldives and watching sunsets in Sri Lanka. They finance travels through working remotely while growing their Instagram brand and website.
“I did a lot of traveling alone before I met Danika,” says Chris. “I’d pick a new destination, get there, look around and think how exciting it was, but I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it.” Now he has Danika.
“Traveling alone is great, but when you’re there with someone to share those moments, it makes it more special.”
Danika points to a particularly romantic evening in a tiny Kyoto hotel. Restaurants are expensive so the couple opted to visit the local 7-Eleven. “It was amazing, with sushi, sashimi, little dumplings. We’d grab those, and also bar snacks and a bottle of wine.” Back in the room in their pajamas, they sat with knees touching, enjoying a 7-Eleven date.
Being together 24/7 can be stressful, Chris admits. “We bicker a good deal. We each have strong personalities. Sometimes we’ve just got to let [the fight] go.”
Danika laughs that she finds alone time by playing Candy Crush in the bathroom.
“Or I go out, get two minutes out the door, realize I have no idea where I am, I don’t have a SIM, and I come back with the puppy dog eyes. Basically, there’s no time to get into a fight. You have to get over it,” she says.
“If you’re not traveling with your best friend, those fights might be more difficult to get over.”
Traveling and working together as a couple has left no room for secrets, says Danika. But they wouldn’t do it any other way.
“I like traveling, but I love being with Danika even more,” says Chris. “I’m just happy that we’re able to do all these things together.”
FindUsLost (Selena Slavenburg and Jacob Taylor)
After falling in love in Southern California seven years ago, Selena Slavenburg and Jacob Taylor of FindUsLost have roamed sun-drenched locations around the world.
“Constantly experiencing new places and cultures is addicting,” says Taylor. Being able to share the journey has been an amazing part of the adventure. “There are certainly times when it can be exhausting, but we are always looking forward to our next trip.”
Challenges happen, adds Slavenburg. “During one trip Jacob’s laptop broke, which had all of our photos and editing software on it. We were in the Czech Republic and spent hours driving to unofficial Apple retailers!”
The important thing with traveling as a couple is to know your limits before hand, Slavenburg continues. “I’m all for getting outside your comfort zone while traveling – but within reason. Establish up front what you feel comfortable with.”
Being realistic is key. “Don’t embark on a journey you aren’t comfortable with. You can always change your mind.”
As for the most romantic spot the couple has ever been, they only have one answer: Santorini, says Slavenburg. “It might be cliche, but we both fell in love when we visited.”
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AdventureFaktory (Mitch Hyde and Thuymi Do)
Dubai-based Instagram couple Mitch Hyde and Thuymi Do of AdventureFaktory agree that opening up about the inevitable on-the-road challenges makes social media feel more genuine.
“Travel wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t have stressful moments,” says Australian Hyde. He points to missing planes, being ripped off by taxis or booking the wrong bus tickets.
“But with Snapchat and InstaStory, our audience gets to see these moments as they happen. We think that makes us relatable. Travel is not always happy and perfect Instagram shots. Things can go wrong,” he adds.
Both Do and Hyde hold down full-time jobs while traveling, running their website and managing Instagram. Hyde hopes that will change in the future, with travel becoming the main gig.
“We love every minute of our journeys. Traveling gives us a chance to see the road less taken, and using social media allows us to find spots that we’d never have discovered on our own.”
Kara Buchanan and Nate Buchanan’s vlog
YouTubers Kara Buchanan and Nate Buchanan set off last year with a goal of visiting 100 countries by 2019. They upload daily vlogs along the way.
In Santorini, sipping glasses of Vinsanto (a local sweet red wine) while watching the sun set across the Aegean sea, the pair found real romance.
“We’re now 16 months in, and the money we’re making from our [YouTube] channel, plus related activities, is sustaining our travels. Hopefully it will carry us to our goal,” says Nate.
The most challenging part for the globe-hopping couple is working together. “The majority of our arguments stem from having different creative visions for our videos,” Nate tells CNN.
“Kara has a more casual style, and I like polished and professional.” While it’s not always fun finding that middle ground, he adds that it helps create a unique style and strong brand.
The stress of travel means the pair do fight more, says Kara. “We have no routines and we make 100 times more decisions than we did at home.” Add to that the tendency to argue when hungry, tired or lost – all while on the road – and tension is a given.
“We usually don’t include our minor disagreements on the vlog, but we also don’t try to make it look like we have the perfect life on the road,” Kara says. She points to an instance of accidentally paying for the wrong capsule hotel in Japan.
“Although I wouldn’t say it was a fun night, it was definitely memorable!”
Despite the challenges of being together on the road, the couple emphasizes they wouldn’t change a thing.
“If you truly want to travel full-time, pick a date and start telling people you’re leaving. Do it! Quit waiting for the perfect time,” says Kara.
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AnnaEverywhere (Anna Lysakowska) and ExpertVagabond (Matt Karsten)
While many traveling social media couples opt for one shared account, Anna Lysakowska from AnnaEverywhere and Matt Karsten from ExpertVagabond keep both their sizable Instagram brands separate.
“When we met, we’d already established our blogs and Instagram accounts with different themes and audiences,” says Karsten.
It’s better for business, Lysakowska adds. “We work on a mix of projects, some individually, others together, depending on the theme and what a client is looking for.”
Currently the American couple travel around six months a year, sharing experiences and helping each other capture moments for social media. There are certainly romantic moments: in Trinidad, Cuba, they roamed cobblestone streets lined with colonial architecture and 1950s cars.
“It can be challenging,” Karsten adds, citing difficulties deciding what to do or where to go next. Having separate social media accounts also creates situations where both Instagrammers are trying to snap their own photos in limited amount of time.
“Maybe there’s not enough time for both [photos], the light is fading, other tourists walk into the shot…” says Lysakowska.
Ultimately they note that traveling together is a great relationship test because of the endless highs and lows. “Patience and compromise are very important,” says Lysakowska, advising others to start with short “test’ trips before jumping off the deep end and traveling full time.
“Also remember to take some time off for yourselves once in a while.”
Salt in our Hair (Hannah Spelt and Nick Noordijk)
Instagrammers Hannah Spelt and Nick Noordijk of Salt in our Hair post sun-drenched scenes of frolicking through fields in Holland, swinging from palm trees in Sri Lanka and lounging by pools in Marrakech.
In Da Nang, Vietnam, the pair rode scooters at sunset and stopped at small food markets. “It’s not known as a romantic city, but it’s our kind of romantic,” says Spelt.
“When Hannah graduated school we decided to take four months off to backpack,” Noordijk explains of their start. Currently the blog and Instagram are side gigs, but they hope to make it full time.
There are challenges, Spelt admits. “We’ve been robbed by a cab driver in the Philippines, but we didn’t share this because we didn’t vlog or have Instagram stories at that moment.” Recently, when their drone was confiscated by customs in Morocco, they shared everything with their social media followers.
Spelt advises people teasing with the idea of travel to dream big. “Believe in yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not going to make it. Go for it, fall down and stand up again.”
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Danae Mercer is a freelance travel journalist who lived in the UAE for more than two years.