'Digital nomad' dating apps are helping remote workers to find love
As tech employees flee Silicon Valley to travel the world as 'digital nomads', startups are scrambling to create dating apps to help people find love on the road.
Remote work has never been more popular or more possible. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, millions of people are working from home. Some companies say that this will remain long after the pandemic is over.
Twitter and Square have announced that their employees can work from home forever if they choose, while Facebook will allow employees to work remotely until 2021. The mandatory work from home movement has caused many companies and their employees to reevaluate the pros and cons of reporting to the office every day.
While some remain working for their employers from their living rooms, others have used this time to take the leap to become a full-time “digital nomad”—a remote worker who jumps from location to location, marrying work with travel.
The reasons for making this lifestyle transition are different for everyone. I became a digital nomad in June of 2018, and since then, I’ve spent months exploring the temples of Myanmar, driving the roads of Iceland, sampling sashimi in Japan and basking on the beach in Bali while expanding my career as a travel and food journalist and copywriter.
My decision to leave my corporate job in media came after almost a decade of living and working in New York City. To put it bluntly, I was tired and looking to improve my quality of life and work-life balance. So I decided to give my notice, sell my things, and pack my suitcases.
Many new digital nomads are still working for corporations
Andrea Walne, a General Partner at Manhattan Venture Partners, and her husband have lived in San Francisco and worked in venture capital for ten years.
“In Silicon Valley, you don't pay for space, you pay for access. And when I say access, I mean vicinity to like-minded individuals and to your core community and network. Because we no longer have that access, we decided it didn't make sense to keep paying for it, so we decided to hit the road,” says Walne.
Major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are seeing people move out in record numbers. A recent study by Redfin, a real estate company, revealed that 27.4 percent of their website users are looking to migrate from the bigger cities to smaller cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix this year.
“I think everyone in Silicon Valley has been on the brink for a long time due to the city's political climate and the rising cost of living. And in the back of the mind, I think residents have been desperately trying to find a way or reason to get out,” says Walne. “Though the circumstances are unfortunate, this pandemic has given everyone the chance to make an exodus happen en masse, which I sincerely think reduces the stigma around leaving.”
Since March, Walne, her husband and her dog have been to Sonoma, Las Vegas, and Arizona, renting long-term Airbnbs with workspaces. While they may return at some point, they’re enjoying having no commute and being more productive than usual.
The lack of ability to network and socialize in Silicon Valley also caused Taige Zhang to pack his bags. A former digital nomad hopping around Europe running his own business called Wellingtons Travel, he missed the tech world and moved back to San Francisco in 2017 to work for medical startups including Quest Analytics and Medcorder. But as a result of the pandemic, his company is now 100 percent remote. So he’s decided to become nomadic again, crossing the country to explore East Coast cities like Philadelphia and Miami.
But when you're constantly on the move, finding love can be tricky
While working for his employer, Zhang started another business designed for digital nomads. Fairytrail is a new app dedicated to helping digital nomads find love while on the road.
“We're wired for connection, and when we have good relationships, the rewards are tremendous,” says Zhang. “It’s actually one of the most important things in life for mental and physical health. For remote workers, freelancers, nomads, and frequent travelers, this challenge is exacerbated.”
So he created Fairytrail to allow single people passionate about travel a place to connect. Each person chooses a fairytale character based on their Myers Briggs Personality Test. Once users match, they play a mini-game where they decide where they want to visit. If things go well, users can book a public adventure or virtual experience together.
“Unlike other dating apps, it also helps matched couples meet safely on public group adventures powered by Airbnb and TripAdvisor for their first dates -- providing safe, fun, and memorable experiences that are great for building relationships,” says Zhang. “Best of all, Fairytrail’s travel agency service can help ensure no one is on the hook to meet up by taking payments from both parties before actually purchasing the tickets.”
Zhang reports Fairytrail has tens of thousands of users around the world, with over 70 percent of them in the US, and activity has picked up in recent weeks. “As more people become remote workers and as travel opens up, we expect user growth to accelerate,” says Zhang.
Aline Dahmen, founder of Nomad Soulmates, a Facebook page with 13,700 users and growing, expects the same. “I’ve been a digital nomad since 2016. I found it relatively easy to meet people, but it was a lot harder to find someone to share this lifestyle with. I was interested in something serious and meaningful, but as a traveler, you get a lot of small talk, and people come and go, so it gets frustrating,” says Dahmen.
The Nomad Soulmates app is currently being built, and already has over 7,000 members on its web app. The finished product will include pop-up events that encourage spontaneous meetups, a travel planner to match your plans with others and a “Discovery page” to see other single nomads with matching interests. Dahmen says, “It’s our mission to help millions of people find love, so that the lifestyle that gives us freedom keeps thriving.”
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