In 2006, Nora Dunn sold everything she owned in Canada (including a busy financial planning practice) to embrace her dreams of traveling the world full-time. Since then she has lived in and traveled through over 50 countries, and she makes ends meet as a freelance writer and blogger. Sounds like bliss, right!? Read on to find out more about Nora’s experience freelancing and her new book with Chris Guillebeau; The Unconventional Guide to Working on the Road.
Many would say that you’re living the dream, traveling the world non-stop since 2007. What was the catalyst for you selling up your life and hitting the road?
The catalyst for my full-time travels was mostly my inner voice, which has been a lifelong companion (or pest, depending on how you look at it). For years it regaled me with the same phrase: “Nora, you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing. There’s something else out there for you”. When that voice kicked in it usually led me to a career change, so throughout my 20s I bounced from job to job and career to career in a somewhat haphazard fashion.
After starting a financial planing practice however, I refused to let this voice dictate another change after the blood/sweat/tears I poured into building my business. So I filled my life with other activities that I hoped would quell the voice; I became a Toastmaster, a Rotarian, I got back into professional acting/singing/dancing, and a host of other activities that eventually meant I was busy busy busy – 20 hours a day – and still unhappy.
So when I burnt out and became very ill (which was inevitable in retrospect), I was forced to stop everything and ask myself what I really wanted out of life. It was travel; long-term immersive world travel. I took vacations regularly, but they weren’t satisfying; I usually returned home with more questions than answers about the place I visited.
And at the age of 30, I couldn’t envision awaiting a far-off retirement to realize my dreams of long-term travel, in another 30 years I might be unwilling or unable to dive into the world in the way I so dearly wanted to. So….I sold everything I owned to travel the world, full-time.
You have written books and many blog posts about financially sustainable travel, you’ve also proved that it’s possible. So why do you think it is that more people do not live this style of nomadic life?
When I started traveling full-time in 2007, I thought I was the only person in the world to do such a crazy thing. I wasn’t of course, but I would venture to say I was on the leading edge of a movement which has been growing steadily since then. Part of the reason it’s a growing trend is because of the internet, and the ability for people to live and work using the internet – which is how I financially sustain my own travels as a writer.
The internet has also been instrumental in connecting people around the world, creating culturally immersive experiences such as hospitality exchanges, local tours, and volunteer gigs. In fact, one of the first pillars of my own travel style (and the subject of my first book) came from the internet: the ability to get free accommodation around the world using tools such as volunteering, house-sitting, living on boats, hospitality exchanges, and more.
Your new book is written in partnership with Chris Guillebeau, and titled ‘The Unconventional Guide to Working on the Road‘. What can we expect from this book?
As I mentioned earlier, the internet has been instrumental in not only connecting people around the world and providing valuable travel experiences, but also in providing income streams and job opportunities. There’s an ever-growing movement of people who have become disillusioned with the standard North American template lifestyle and want something different (like long-term travel), but they don’t know how to make a living in the process. Chris Guillebeau and I were musing on the topic one day, and he said “Nora, you’re an expert on various ways to make money while traveling the world. I think you could help a ton of people change their lives. Why don’t you write a book about it?”
And so, “The Unconventional Guide to Working on the Road” was born. In it, I outline various ways to make money including both location independent careers as well as ways to get work “on the ground” as you go. I discuss how to embark on the long-term/full-time travel lifestyle by exploring various logistics, tools to help you travel smartly and make money, and I even delve into the good/bad/ugly aspects of it all. I interviewed dozens of people from a wide variety of backgrounds who are all working on the road in one form or another, and they share their advice and experiences as well. It’s a massive resource!
Where else can people learn from your experiences and read your words of wisdom?
On own site, I explore various elements of the full-time travel lifestyle, Financial Travel Tips, tales of my adventures around the world, and I also have a popular Week-In-The-Life series which features the daily lives of other full-time/long-term travelers. (I also offer a free e-course on how to travel full-time in a financially sustainable way).
In addition, I have a monthly column with CreditWalk.ca called “Dear Nora” (like “Dear Abby” but for travelers) where I answer reader questions about how to travel effectively, safely, and get the most out of the experience with tips on how to travel ultralight, how to carry cash, plan finances, earn money, avoid travel mistakes, and more.
Where are you writing this from and where to next?
After being nomadic for eight years, I’ve established a home base in the Sacred Valley of Peru – a magical spot that simultaneously feels like home and also allows me to explore a new language and colourful culture that makes me feel like a traveler every time I leave the house.
But I’m still a traveler at heart, and thus I’m on a two month trip taking me to Colombia, Florida, Colorado, and Costa Rica. Right now I’m probably on a plane somewhere between these destinations!
Photo credit: Her facebook page