In 2006, as she was turning 30, Nora Dunn left the work force to travel the world. Shes been at it ever since. A lady of no fixed address, she likes to call herself.
To get started on her odyssey, she sold her Toronto financial-planning practice and a good portion of her possessions. And to conserve her capital while on the road, she found ways to keep costs low and generate income from freelance writing.
The dream of traveling had been with her ever since the age of 8, when she was shown a documentary film in school about Europe. I gazed at the screen showing people who were dressed differently, eating foreign foods, speaking different languages, and living in a land with unfamiliar buildings, streets, and countryside. I immediately wanted to understand what life was like for them .
Things came to a head in 2006. She was working hectic 18-hour days running her expanding business, going to Rotary and Toastmaster meetings, and doing professional acting, singing, and dancing in film, television, and theatre appearances. It was all too much. She got a bad case of burn out and her body shut down. In frustration one day, she exclaimed: I just want to retire!
Upon reflection, she realized she didnt really have to wait until conventional retirement age to enjoy her idealized retirement lifestyle of travel, doing humanitarian work and meeting people. In fact, with no guarantees in life it became evident that waiting 30 years until I was in my 60s to retire was more of a risk than a sensible thing to do, if I was to be true to my dreams and myself.
In the past four years, she has frolicked in the Rocky Mountains, fallen off the grid in Hawaii, managed tropical hostels, survived Australias worst-ever natural disaster, led eco-treks on Llamas, and nearly froze to death in a camper van. She was recently in Ireland enjoying the pub culture and getting to know the real sweet liquid gold taste of Guinness even though she is a dubious beer-drinker at best.
In terms of doing humanitarian work, close scrapes with two natural disasters in less than a year were opportunities for volunteer work. In May of 2008 she watched Cyclone Nargis on the horizon devastate parts of Burma, and afterward spearheaded an international fundraising campaign. In February of 2009 she found herself smack in the middle of the Victorian Bushfires in Australia – the country’s worst-ever natural disaster, and became instrumental in relief efforts.
From another perspective, Nora can be seen as part of the growing trend toward location-independent careers, made possible by digital cameras, laptop computers and Internet connections. In most locations, “The Professional Hobo” (as she also calls herself) earns income by sitting down during the week to writearticles on travel and personal financesfor various publications.
In the initial two years of travel, I used some of the proceeds from the sale of my business as a buffer while I worked on building a freelance writing income, she reports. But by the time my first [co-authored] book, 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget, was released in May 2009, my income was large enough to sustain my full-time travels.
Its not like she needs a lot of money to keep on traveling, anyway. In many places, the purchasing power of Canadian money goes a lot further than it does in Canada. And she has found several ways to keep costs down — below $14,000 a year, as a matter of fact. She describes them in a popular postshe wrote for the I Will Teach You to Be Richblog. For example:
better discounts (up to 80% off) on flights can be found on websites other than the main online search engines
check resources such as Caretakers Gazetteand WWOOFingto find free accommodation (and often free board) in exchange for taking on duties such as house-sitting, caring for the elderly, farm work and campground maintenance
working for periods of time at jobs like bartending or guiding.
Anyone interested in following her adventures and/or dropping a line can visit her website at http://theprofessionalhobo.com.
Update:For more on location-independent careers and businesses see Digital Nomads.