Meet Gay Digital Nomad Couple Brent & Michael
Meet Brent & Michael: A Gay Digital Nomad Couple
wolfyy interviews Michael Jensen and Brett Hartinger, a long-time gay digital nomad couple and creators of Brent And Michael Are Going Places, who decided to leave their home of Seattle behind to live abroad.
What influenced you to become digital nomads?
We’d always planned on doing extensive traveling at some point in our lives, but honestly if not for the election of Donald Trump back in 2016, we probably never would have become nomads.
It’s the honest truth that we decided to leave the country the night Trump was elected. Our friends all thought we were just talking until a month later we had our house sold!
But we didn’t even learn about the term digital nomad or coliving until we were doing research on just how we were going to live. As soon as we heard it we thought, “Hey, that’s us!”
Where have you loved living most?
That answer is different for both of us and is really hard to answer as every place we’ve lived has had something about it we absolutely loved. Some places, like maybe Italy and Vietnam, have been like we imagined beforehand, but most have been wonderful in truly unexpected ways.
But if pressed, Michael’s favorite country is Switzerland. We actually got live in a Swiss chalet located in Grimentz, tucked way up in the Alps. Even for a guy who grew up in Colorado the natural beauty of Switzerland was simply astounding. Plus, he made some pretty important decisions about his life there.
Brent was a big fan of the food in Thailand and Italy, but really loved Eastern Europe, especially Tbilisi, Georgia. There are so many stereotypes about Eastern Europe — that it’s dirty and polluted, and the food is terrible — but they’re simply one hundred percent false.
But part of what is so wonderful about it is that it is so unfamiliar to most westerners, so there was an almost constant sense of discovery. And you really can’t beat the incredibly low cost of living (by Western standards).
What’s it like being partners with another writer?
Like everything in life, it has its pros and cons. It’s great knowing we both understand the ups and downs of being a writer. Even if you’re successful, writing involves a lot of rejection. Plus it requires a lot of focus, so we each understand when the other is in “the zone” and preoccupied with their work.
And it’s great to have somebody to read your first drafts and give you their honest feedback.
As LGBT authors, which pieces of work are you most proud of?
Michael has published two historical fiction novels – Man & Beast and Man & Monster – but he’s most proud of his work as a gay journalist.
Together we founded a website that covered gay entertainment and as the editor of the website Michael really got to have a hand in improving how Hollywood represented gay and bisexual men in movies and on television.
Brent is the author of a young adult novel called Geography Club, which has become something of a gay teen classic and inspired a bunch of sequels as the character from that book grew older.
But he’s always seen himself primarily as a screenwriter, and what he’s most excited about is all the upcoming movie projects he currently has in the works.
What’s the toughest thing about moving to different locations around the world?
Our first year as gay nomads, we would probably have said it was getting used to each new place and figuring out things like the currency, where to shop, and dealing with whatever drawbacks we encountered. And whether it’s a bad bed or the climate being too hot, there’s almost always something.
But having just started our fourth year, we can honestly say it doesn’t feel like there is anything that tough to deal with.
And while there are occasionally “bad” surprises, there are way, way more positive surprises. The “lokum” candy in Bulgaria we’d never even heard of before, the endless street food in Mexico City, the incredible fresh fruit in Thailand. The mangos are unlike any mango we’d ever tasted!
The world is even more interesting than we thought, and — at least once you get outside of the “tourist” areas — most locals have also been incredibly friendly and welcoming.
In fact, these days, what’s become tough for us is being in one place too long because we start to get very itchy feet!
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What advice would you give aspiring gay digital nomads?
With apologies to Nike, just do it! We totally get how completely upending your life and becoming a nomad can feel like an intimidating thing.
But honestly, it’s amazing how easy it is.
If you’re a native English speaker or speak it as a second language, then you’re going to have almost no trouble wherever you go. There are Facebook groups all about being a digital nomad in almost every location you go. And coliving almost always gives you an instant group of new friends.
There’s a whole community of nomads out there ready to give you advice and help you learn the ropes. And nomads are an incredibly friendly bunch. We were a little worried about fitting in as an older gay couple but we’ve never felt unwelcome anywhere and have made more wonderful friends over the past years than we ever expected.
The other thing we were worried about was the money because we assumed being nomads would be expensive, like being on vacation or holiday. But we’ve spent far less traveling the world as nomads than we did while maintaining a very modest house back in Seattle.
So don’t be afraid! The water is fine, so come on in!