Since deciding to chuck all the trappings of a so-called “normal” life back in 2006, Nora Dunn has been traveling the world and chronicling her experiences on her blog The Professional Hobo. Seeing as how this is an extraordinary experience an awful lot of people aspire to, I thought it’d be interesting to look at the full-time vagabond life Nora’s created for herself to see what we can all learn about living out our dreams:
What prompted you to do this? Does this lifestyle choice reflect a deeper philosophical outlook?
I was on the brink of my 30th birthday, running a successful financial planning practice in Toronto when a long string of illnesses finally made me realize I was burning the candle at both ends. One day while feeling especially trapped by the super-busy lifestyle I’d created, I thought “I just want to retire!”
I wanted to explore the world. I wanted to climb mountains. I wanted to do humanitarian work. There was so much I wanted to do, I didn’t even know where to start. But the one thing that I knew for sure was that I wasn’t going to be able to do half those things on my list if I waited 30 years for a more conventional retirement to get started.
What kind of resistance did you encounter once you decided to do this, both from others and from the voice in your head?
For as long as I can remember, the voice in my head had been telling me I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing. So when I made this decision, it was finally happy!
As for everybody around me, I encountered almost unanimous support. There were some people who just couldn’t understand why I’d want to sell everything and travel the world, but the most common reply was “Oh wow! I wish I could do that.”
How has the reality of this experience measured up to your expectations?
Measuring any of my experiences that way is pretty difficult. I “expected” Costa Rica would be my first destination, and I’ve yet to make it there. Instead, serendipity has led me to new places over and over again, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My life is constantly evolving and it actually exceeds any expectations I could have set going in.
What has been the best part of the experience so far? What has been the worst?
Some of my best and worst experiences have been one and the same. Twice in two years my boyfriend Kelly and I found ourselves caught up in natural disasters, including the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in Burma (Myanmar) and the worst bushfires Australia has ever seen.
But even though these might seem like negatives, they actually became high points as we spent our time volunteering full-time with the relief efforts. To fully understand what I mean, you can read the complete stories of our efforts with the Burma cyclone relief and the Victorian Bushfires on my blog.
You’ve been in Australia for some time now—do you still consider yourself a wanderer or have you begun to settle down, maybe without realizing it?
Coming off the cyclone relief efforts in Burma, the Victorian Brushfires, and a week in the hospital with Dengue fever was all pretty exhausting, so we’ve been happy to stay in one place for a while.
Right now, Kelly has been lured in by a rewarding job that will mean using this area as a home base for a bit. But I’ll be doing some solo traveling around Australia, New Zealand, and Europe and will return just in time for both of us to uproot completely and find a new place to explore next year.
What advice would you have for someone who was thinking about following a similar dream?
Do it! Okay, for a minute, I thought of leaving it at that, but here are a couple of more specific pointers:
- Put your financial house in order before setting out. Juggling debt on the road is hard, unless you have enough money coming in to both make those payments and pay for your travels.
- Speaking of money, you need to find a way to earn a location-independent income if you want to make long-term travel financially sustainable. Once you figure this out though, you’ll have the freedom to live—and work—just about wherever you want.
You can also follow Nora’s exploits on Twitter @HoboNora.
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