Nora Dunn sold everything in 2006 and went traveling, turning her dream of culturally immersive, long-term sustainable travel into a reality. But of course, it hasn’t been an easy ride over the years!
We talk about finding home bases in different places around the world — and why Peru was particularly memorable, how ‘slow travel’ makes long-term digital nomadism more sustainable, tips for working on the road, and the more existential questions of whether travelers can ever stay still for long.
Nora Dunn, The Professional Hobo, has been a digital nomad since 2006. She is a professional speaker, podcaster, and the author of How to Get Free Accommodation Around The World, as well as Tales of Trains, Where The Journey is The Destination. She has lived in and traveled through almost 70 countries and specializes in financially sustainable travel.
- Why Nora left her financial planning practice, sold everything, and went traveling — for the long term
- Finding home bases in different places around the world — and why Peru was particularly memorable
- How ‘slow travel’ makes long-term digital nomadism more sustainable
- Tips for working on the road — and switching away from a ‘vacation’ mindset
- The ‘work’ of travel
- Common fears and how to deal with them
- Tips for financially sustainable travel
- Recommended travel books
Transcript of the interview
Joanna: Nora Dunn, The Professional Hobo, has been a digital nomad since 2006. She is a professional speaker, podcaster, and the author of ‘How to Get Free Accommodation Around The World,’ as well as ‘Tales of Trains, Where The Journey is The Destination.’ She has lived in and traveled through almost 70 countries and specializes in financially sustainable travel. So, welcome, Nora.
Nora: Thank you so much, Jo, for having me. It’s so amazing that we were able to connect. When I saw you at a conference that we were both attending and speaking at, I fan-girled you in the bathroom—
Joanna: And here we are. Oh, no, it’s exciting to talk about these topics. But let’s wind the clock back —
What initially led you to sell everything and spend your life on the road?
Because I feel like there’s a point when all of us feel like, ‘Oh my goodness, let’s burn it all down and go traveling,’ but not everyone does that. So, what happened to you initially set you off in that direction?
Nora: There definitely was an inflection point for me, as I think there are for many people, but that point itself, of course, was a culmination of smaller inflection points that just built up to this frenzy point.
So, basically, in 2006, I made the decision to sell everything I owned, which included a busy financial-planning practice in Toronto, Canada, in order to embrace a dream of mine. And this had been a lifelong dream, to travel the world in a culturally immersive way, to really crack the code of countries around the world, to break bread around dinner tables around the world, climb mountains, volunteer, really experience what it’s like to live around the world rather than merely traveling through it.
And through various attempts, I had tried to experience this level of cultural immersion through vacations, as long as one month, and I still found that, every time I left that country, I left with more questions than answers.
So, that, combined with constantly trying to quell this inner voice inside of my head that said, ‘Nora, you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing, there’s something else out there for you.’
I had filled my life with so many activities trying to find that life satisfaction to the point where, basically, my health came into the fray, I completely burned out, and I was forced to ask myself, ‘What it is I really want to do?’ And in that moment, of course, the answer was, ‘I just want to retire.’
However, the age of 29, or 30 at the time, that was not a possibility. But I also could not imagine putting another 20 years, 30 years into the conventional work system.
I mean, I had achieved a modicum of success as a financial planner at that stage of the game, technically, all I had to do was work less and earn more money for the rest of my career, which was, obviously, a tempting thing. But I just couldn’t face the idea of just putting time in for decades while waiting for this conventional retirement where I might be able to live my dream. And the understanding, the very real possibility that, when I reached that retirement age, I might not be willing or even able to do those things that I wanted to do. And living with regret was not something I was willing to do.
So, I took the bold move, I sold all the things. In 2006, this was not something you did. Words like ‘digital nomad’ and ‘remote work’ and ‘location-independent’ did not exist and I really didn’t know what I was going to do. But I figured it out along the way, and I have been a digital nomad coming up on 17 years, and that life and lifestyle has taken many different forms in many different places. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Joanna: So, it’s interesting, I like that you talk there about the sort of cultural immersion and wanting to live in places and not just travel through.
I set off in the year 2000 and I was away for 11 years. But it’s so funny, right now I’m back near where I went to school, I’m in Bath, in the UK. I was born in the county of Somerset, and that’s where I’m living now.
And I feel like, in a way, I don’t know what home is, and maybe we’ll come back to that, but I feel like a lot of people go traveling but people generally then find somewhere and stop. So, I wondered, why did you continue to travel? Did you just not find anywhere where you wanted to stop or did you, as you said, you stopped for a few months and then moved on again?
Why keep moving for so long?
Nora: That’s an excellent question. And actually, Jo, I think your life and my life have paralleled one another quite nicely in that, actually, I returned to my hometown of Toronto after 12 years. So, you came back after 11 years, I came back after 12 years. And I got a home base in Toronto. So, I do have a place now that I use as a base of operations. And I travel as and when I want for as long as I want.
Now, as an example, this year…we’re at the end of July, and I’ve been in Toronto for a total of three and a half weeks. So, I really do hit the road for longer periods of time but I do have that base. And I contend that the digital-nomad lifestyle, as in the purest definition of a digital nomad, to be proverbially homeless and to perpetually wander is a lifestyle that, unto itself, has a shelf life.
Most of my compatriots who started around I did, they all came off the road, in one form or another, around the 10-year mark. This seems to be the mark where people start to feel that they want to have a little more sense of permanence. It’s not that they’re hanging up their traveling shoes but it’s that they’re shifting the way they travel and live around the world.
For myself, I think I lasted as long as I did because I traveled sometimes so slowly it was imperceptible. And, like, I set up bases around the world, and these were places that I wanted to have a base to use for further exploration of that region of the world or, in some cases, I thought that maybe that was my new home with a capital H.
So, as an example, I spent about a year and a half on and off in Australia, I spent about nine months in New Zealand, I spent two years in Peru, a year in Ecuador, two years on the Caribbean island of Grenada. Those were some of the longest periods of time that I stayed in some places. And in many other places, I would stay up to six months.
And that slow travel, of course, helps me achieve the feeling of being able to live somewhere and to dig below the surface of what we would experience as travelers. But then, also, I do believe that this is a function of sustainability in the digital-nomad lifestyle, not only financially but also emotionally and metaphysically, if you will.
Joanna: No, it’s really interesting. And I mean, I stayed away a long time in Australia and New Zealand but those are easy countries really to live in. And you mentioned there Peru and Grenada as a couple of the examples of where you stayed longer. So, pick one of those and tell us what was it about, where you found a home there for longer.
Are there any particularly memorable places where you lived?
Nora: Well, Peru certainly is one that would stand out in my memory in that I found myself going there kind of on a whim. Most of my destinations tend to choose me and they choose me in the form of an opportunity, whether it’s to stay with someone or there’s a serendipitous connection or there’s an opportunity to house it or volunteer.
So, Peru was one of these magical places that I found myself wandering into and falling in love with almost immediately. I was staying in the Sacred Valley of Peru. And, within a few months, I actually found myself apprenticing with a shaman.
And I spent two years living and apprenticing with this shaman in the Sacred Valley of Peru. This was one of those examples where I thought my life was moving in a completely different direction. I’d actually kind of tabled my online business and done only what had to be done in order to keep that going because I had what I can now in hindsight call ‘delusions’ of this new lifestyle of working with plant medicine and living in the Sacred Valley and whatnot. And that came to a glorious halt in the most dramatic of ways you can imagine.
And that’s okay. I mean, it was an experience, certainly. I was working with Ayahuasca in San Pedro. So, that was an experience, an unbelievable experience, not only for my own healing and self-development and growth but then also to facilitate that for other people. It was incredible.
I could not have described or imagined a more idyllic place to live. I would wake up every morning and I’m literally in the middle of the Sacred Valley, like, these gigantic mountains were towering on either side of me. I had this curtain of jasmine outside my front door that just filled the house with an unbelievable scent, I called it ‘the jasmine palace.’ And I was in this wonderful rural location but then also within walking distance of everything I needed. So, I had the conveniences of life with the joy and the fulfilling nature around me.
And I was doing this amazing work with this shaman who I absolutely adored and idolized — I think that was part of the problem. Because there were definitely some challenges in that relationship. But it was an incredible experience.
And Peru was a country, I mean, whether or not you’re gonna work with plant medicine or apprentice with a shaman — which I, frankly, don’t recommend — Peru is an amazing country. I mean, I felt like, every time I left the front door, I mean, the color and depth of the culture, especially the Andean culture within the Peruvian Andes and the Q’ero nations, were just unbelievable.
So, I mean, as much as I felt like I was in familiar territory. I was getting my residency, like, I felt at home there, I also felt, every time I left the house, like I was a traveler.
So, I had that beautiful synergy of both those experiences, of feeling like traveling without having to move. And that was really key that satisfies that desire again. I think once a traveler, always a traveler. I think you and I probably can see eye to eye on that idea that, being a traveler is as much a state of mind and being as it is a function of where we physically are in the world.
Joanna: Yeah, sure. And it’s so interesting. I mean, you talked about how beautiful that Sacred Valley was but we get — overfamiliar — I think, is probably the word.
There’s a phrase ‘hedonic adaptation,’ which is you get used to stuff even when it’s amazingly beautiful and, like, everything’s brilliant. And we have that human sense of, ‘What’s next?’
And perhaps, I don’t know whether that’s part of the traveler’s soul, which is about seeing further ahead, perhaps I like walking so much because I like the sensation of moving across the world. I like staying somewhere different every night but not for too long.
I like to stop eventually and come home and for things to be normal. So, that sense of going away and coming back, I guess you talked about that at the beginning sort of now finding that Toronto is that place for you again. But is that what kept you moving, the need for change almost, the need to move?
Nora: It’s a fabulous question. And I would say there are a few different motivations that people have for traveling, especially for adopting a lifestyle like this. And it often is a push-pull thing.
We’re either moving away from something or we’re moving towards something.
And it can also be a mix of both. And I will say the reason I came back to Toronto had much less function of the fact that I’d ever been running away from anything.
Or, in Toronto, I thought I was moving towards something but I was actually a little bit misguided in what I thought I was moving towards in that, after 12 years on the road, I had lost all sense of belonging in the world, in that I was always the odd man out. I mean, again, this cultural immersion, this primary objective of living around the world in a very local way was exactly what I was doing, but it also meant that there was nobody like me in any of the places I was living in.
No one had this travel lifestyle, no one had remote careers, no one knew what a digital nomad was. So, they didn’t understand that I wasn’t a traveler, I wasn’t on vacation. They didn’t understand why I wasn’t conquering their destination and doing all the things within two weeks and that time spent on my computer was actually working, you know, like, I had a job, it just didn’t involve me having to clock in somewhere. So, I felt like it was constantly swimming up this stream of misconceptions and constantly having to define and even defend my lifestyle along the way.
So, after enough years of that, I really started to feel like I had lost all my sense of belonging. So, I returned to Canada thinking what I was looking for was a cultural sense of belonging. And fairly quickly found out that, in fact, actually, Canada is not my people. I mean, they are my people in a sense but the people that I was looking for were other people who shared this lifestyle and who shared this passion for travel and discovery and having these new experiences. Because, wherever you travel, there you go…what is it, ‘Wherever we go, there we are?’
Joanna: Yeah, ‘there we are.’ That you can’t get away from yourself, basically.
Nora: Right. So, the whole idea of running away from something is inevitably going to catch up with you at some point. But what I do find is, when I take myself out of a familiar environment, it gives me a chance to examine myself a lot more and how I react to new situations and circumstances. And it gives me a chance to, with a dose of awareness, change up my dance moves and decide how I want to react to new situations that come my way.
And that’s one of the things I connect with your desire for the pilgrimage in a similar way, I think that that’s also a great exercise in self-exploration. And especially when you’re walking alone and you have a lot of time with yourself to really assimilate all our experiences.
One difference between I think the way you like to do a pilgrimage and the way I would like to do one is I want to stay a little bit longer. So, there’s a pilgrimage shed that just opened up in the Julian Alps in Slovenia called the Juliana Trail. And I think it’s a 17-day town-to-town track.
And I love the sound of it, however I wanna take like three months to do it. And I will bring my stuff and what I will do is I will walk to a town and I will stay there for a few days, I’ll get a flavor for the place. And whenever I’m ready to move on, I will move to the next town. So, I’ll make it a pilgrimage of lifestyle versus getting through to the destination.
And one of the beautiful things about lifestyle design and working location independently and being a digital nomad is you can do what you want, when you want, where you want, and how you want for as long as you want.
And there’s definitely a double edge to that sword but, if we just look at the design aspect…you returned to the UK and got a home base, I returned to Canada and got a home base. I initially thought I was hanging up my traveler’s shoes, and I was no longer a digital nomad, and then, magically, they brought in the definition of ‘digital nomad’ to be anybody who works and travels, regardless of whether or not you have a home base. So, apparently, I’m still a digital nomad.
And this is also what I said earlier about we are all travelers at heart. I think that this is something that can exist within us. This exploratory nature is inherent, versus something to just get out of your system. At least for some people.
Joanna: You mentioned doing what you want, your lifestyle design, doing what you want for as long as you want, and also working while you’re traveling. And I did want to ask you about this because I do love traveling but I really struggle to do my work when I’m traveling because I’m almost in input mode.
I write a lot of notes when I travel and I take a lot of photos but, in terms of actually work work, like opening a laptop, I just can’t do that while I’m traveling. So, I wondered what are your tips for people who want to do that kind of digital-nomad or even just working type longer time away, not a whole year perhaps? But even a couple of months, like, people will still need to log on and do their work.
What are your tips for working on the road in strange places?
Nora: You know, it’s constantly a battle. Work-life balance is a moving target, and you’ll always feel guilty. Just get used to the idea that you’re going to feel guilty.
When you’re working, you’re going to feel guilty for not exploring whatever gorgeous vista lays outside your window. And when you’re out exploring, you’re going to feel guilty for not working. And I think the pandemic has now helped people realize that, when you can work anywhere at any time, it becomes difficult, for some people anyway, not to work everywhere all of the time. So, striking that balance, I think, is an important thing to do.
And it has to do with mentality as well. So, if you are in a vacation-style mentality, you might be less inclined to want to open up the laptop and get work done. However, if you need to, if it is a necessity to work and continue working full time, or however you wish, as you are traveling, probably my top tip is slow down.
If you’re just going to go away for three or six months, do not pack this trip the way you would if you were not working.
The act of travel itself is a job. It’s a lot of work.
I mean, even just learning the daily tasks of life, trying to figure out where to buy milk and how to do laundry in a new country, is a thing.
And I always encourage people to think about what your lives and lifestyles are like at home while you work. So, if you work full-time, how often do you go out and do things, something that might be equated with a touristy activity abroad?
You might go out once or twice on the weekends, or maybe once during the week, but the rest of the time when you’re not working you’re just tending to the daily tasks of life, shopping, cooking, exercising, Netflix and chill. Everybody needs some downtime, it doesn’t matter where in the world you are. Because if you don’t have that balance of life and lifestyle, you will burn out.
So, the only way you can experience a destination in any mystic sense is then, by extension, to stay longer. So, afford yourself, give yourself the gift of time in a place. Generally speaking, I say at least a month.
And that may seem like a lot at the outset but, if you do that…because, if you’re changing locations every month consistently, you’ll also find that that is a really fast pace of travel in terms of the overall sustainability of a digital-nomad lifestyle.
Joanna: I love that you said that the act of travel is work. I’ve done lots of podcast episodes now. No one’s ever said that, but I completely get what you mean. But can you expand on that and, I guess, how we can reframe it as an acceptable part of the experience? I feel like there’s a lot of moaning about travel but, like you said, it’s part of the work of travel. So, what else do you include in that work?
Nora: So, if we just look at the logistics of a travel lifestyle, right off the hop, you’ve got to choose a destination. So, you have got to decide where you’re going to go. Then you’ve got to figure out where in that country you want to stay. And then you have got to figure out where in that city you want to stay. And then you have got to figure out how to find a place in that city. And then you have got to make arrangements to get to that place from wherever you currently are. You haven’t even traveled yet, this is all the pre-work, right?
Then you have to get there and get the place. And then you have to figure out how to survive there. ‘Where do I get my groceries? How do I do the laundry? Where are the things and the places and how do I find the activities that I want to do? And do I need to rent a scooter or a…’ All of this. Again, just learning to survive in that destination.
And that process takes often a few weeks before you even start to feel remotely comfortable or familiar in your surroundings. At which point, if, for example, you’re moving every month, you’ve now got to start the entire process over with the next destination. So, if you’re moving once a month, I mean, again, if it takes you two weeks to figure out how to get to the place, and then you get to the place and it takes you two weeks to figure out how to be there, it never ends.
So, I often say that, in order to cut yourself a bit of a break, something closer to the two-to-three month mark is much more sustainable and rewarding when it comes to this lifestyle. Because the next thing is it’s nice to make some kind of social inroads. Now, it’s not often that locals or local communities are going to invest a lot in a friendship with you if they know that you’re going to leave in a couple of weeks. However, you might be able to have some deeper relationships with people if you’re staying for a couple of months.
And then there are also opportunities to connect with maybe expat communities or other digital nomads who are in the area.
There’s a huge…I mean, if being a digital nomad was a movement prior to the pandemic, if it was a trend or a wave before the pandemic, it’s a tsunami now.
Because, of course, millions of companies around the world were forced to go remote or become obsolete because of all the lockdowns that happened around the world, which means now there are millions, if not billions, I don’t know, of people who work remotely. A portion of whom are going to be interested in taking their jobs on the road and experiencing the long-term travel lifestyle while working remotely. So, the infrastructure that is being developed globally to enable this is incredible. And it will make travel much easier in the coming years for people who want to experience long-term travel in this way.
Joanna: On your website, you share loads of tips, and your books contain loads of tips. And there is a digital-nomad online community now where you can pick up these tips and come to this city and do this. And so, there are all of those aspects. And there’s things like traveling long-term with children and all of that. So, there’s almost the answer to any question.
So, that’s all the practicality side of it, but let’s just talk about fear. Because, I mean, for me, I mean, before the pandemic, fear of ill health and getting sick somewhere else is a big thing. And, I mean, especially, particularly with Americans listening maybe with healthcare.
Or, in fact, I get petrified of getting sick in America because I always have insurance, like, I’m obsessive about health insurance when coming to America, but it always worries me, ‘What if something happens and it fails?’ Because it’s so expensive. There’s other countries that might be cheaper but they might not have such great healthcare, for example.
What are some of the common fears that people have or that you’ve had, over the years, and that you’ve overcome?
Nora: You know, fear is often intrinsically tied with the unknown, the what ifs. ‘What if I get sick? What if something happens?’ What if, what if, what if. And it’s good to consider the what-ifs and to create those contingencies. So, kudos to you for making sure that you have travel insurance, I am a big proponent of travel insurance. I think if you cannot afford insurance, you cannot afford to travel.
And the people who say, ‘Oh, if something happens to me on the road, I’ll just crowdsource and then,’ you know, ‘the universe will take care of me,’ I react viscerally to those kinds of statements. Because, again, maybe the financial planner in me, it’s like, if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.
But also too I have experienced — I’ve had three tropical diseases, I was in a near fatal accident, I’ve had robberies, I’ve had a lot of life. I’ve survived three natural disasters. A lot of stuff has happened to me on the road. And it’s important to have that infrastructure in place.
So, I think that we can mitigate some of those fears of the unknown by creating this infrastructure and putting measures in place. A lot of the standard questions that I get from people, insurance is a big one, ‘How do I get my mail? How do I do my banking? How do I make sure that I have cash when I need it?’ And there’s a lot of things, there’s a lot of minutia that might stop people before they start into this lifestyle. And if we tackle each of these challenges one by one, I believe the fear factor reduces significantly.
However, you will never eliminate that fear. And I think anyone who is a traveler is the sort of person who enjoys putting themselves out of their comfort zone. If you didn’t enjoy or crave that experience, you wouldn’t travel.
So, I think a little bit of fear is a good thing because, I don’t know, it makes us feel alive. When I’m in a new place, my senses are totally heightened. And partly because, especially when I’m traveling alone, it’s a safety thing. I need to be really aware of my surroundings and what’s happening around me because I am in the unfamiliar and the unknown.
So, I’m practicing street sense and doing all the things. Again, I know how to be and how to live and how to travel but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t just that little bit of an edge to the experience, which I think is something that makes us feel alive.
Joanna: Absolutely. And that’s why we want to do it again.
It’s interesting, you mentioned ‘comfort zone’ there. And I always feel like — and it’s a hazard of being someone who likes to travel — is that our comfort zone is out there doing other things and moving and experiencing new things. And we actually feel out of our comfort zone when, I don’t know, doing something locally with people who’ve been in the community a long time.
Or the comfort zone is almost reversed and we struggle in a more domestic situation. I feel like, when I’m tired, then it’s fine, but when I’ve got some energy, I’m like, ‘Right, it’s time to go. I need to get out.’ Again, which is why I do a lot of long walks, which I can actually do in my area. And then, by the time I’ve walked myself into submission — that’s how I put it — I’m like, ‘Okay, I can just sit down now and relax in my house.’ But do you find that?
Do you find your comfort zone is different to other people’s?
Nora: I think that a lot of what I have learned on the road are things that I can apply, with a degree of consciousness, to my life in home base in Toronto as well. And actually it’s such a timely question because, in the last few weeks, like I said, I’ve spent most of this year, so far, abroad.
And I came back to Toronto to experience the best of what Toronto has to offer, which is the rest of summer and autumn, and immediately felt like, ‘Oh gosh, I don’t really wanna be here,’ and feeling, really questioning, like seriously questioning whether or not I want to keep this base here at all. Which was a pretty stark departure of how I felt, you know, a few years ago when I got this base.
And I thought, ‘Okay, well, before I throw the baby out with the bath water, let me try a few new dance moves.’ And what I decided to do was I decided to apply that traveler mentality and that experience of, perhaps, pushing myself out of my comfort zone or having and doing something new to a place that was familiar.
And so, what I did was I chose a pastime that I had been interested in digging my heels into, proverbially and literally speaking, for quite some time, and that was dancing. So, I threw myself with a vengeance into the salsa and bachata community in Toronto. And as I dove down into this rabbit hole, I discovered there’s a huge thriving community of salsa and bachata dancers.
And so, now, instead of being in that routine that I had, especially also to…I was locked down in Toronto through the pandemic, so, there’s kind of pandemic energy hanging on the walls of my place and it’s really easy to get locked back into that daily routine that I was in when I was unable to do anything else.
And, in order to shift out of that and to make the most of Toronto, I’ve now adopted a new pastime that will put me out of my comfort zone again without having to get on an airplane. So, being able to apply the lessons that we learned on the road to life at home I think is a really valuable experience.
Joanna: Absolutely. Seeing it in a new way, I think that’s really important. So, well, you talked there about, like, dancing and taking on new things, and I feel like money is such a big deal, mainly probably because most of us, when we travel, we spend more money than we would at home because we’re doing special things or whatever. And you, obviously, were a financial planner but you also do still blog about financially-sustainable travel and you’ve got this book about free accommodation.
People can find lots of tips on your website, but what are just a couple of tips about financially sustainable travel that can get people started?
Nora: So, when I hit the road, the financial planner in me, of course, never went away. So, I was tracking my expenses, because the first step to creating any kind of budget is to understand how you spend your money. And I was tracking my expenses and I discovered, in my first couple of years abroad, much to my surprise and delight, that the cost for me to travel full-time was significantly less than I ever spent to live in one place. And I was shocked by this. And I immediately wanted to show other people that this lifestyle is possible and that it doesn’t have to be expensive.
So, for my first 10 years abroad, I actually published my annual income and expenses, all in, to prove that full-time travel can be financially sustainable. In so doing, I inadvertently coined this phrase of ‘financially sustainable travel.’ Which hinges on three pillars.
The first pillar of financially sustainable travel is earning money remotely. And that could be a lot of money or a little bit of money, that spectrum is quite wide. The second pillar is making creative conscious spending choices. And the third pillar is balancing the first two, balancing the money in and the money out so you can maintain this lifestyle as long as you want.
So, this is why, when people ask me for budget templates for long-term travel, I say, ‘I can’t do that because this lifestyle looks dramatically different for everybody. Your speed of travel, your destination, the sort of activities you like to do are all going to be very different.’
But in my first couple of years of travel, I didn’t have a lot of money coming in. So, the creative conscious spending choices that I made were different and creative. For example, in my first 10 years on the road, I saved over $100,000 by getting my accommodation for free. And I didn’t know, prior to my travel lifestyle, that there was a whole world of free accommodation and, I literally wrote the book on it, there’s five different forms of accommodation that you can get. And that includes volunteering, house sitting, living on boats, hospitality exchanges, and, if you still have a home base, home exchanges.
And each of these play very interestingly into the travel lifestyle. Some are definitely better than others in terms of how well they go along with remote work as well. But all of them provide really interesting experiences that I could not possibly have had any other way by staying in hotels or hostels or even Airbnb. So, they were really culturally rewarding and immersive experiences but then also had the advantage of saving me boatloads of money along the way.
So, that’s an example of how, in fact, actually this travel lifestyle can be much more achievable than we often think it is. Because again, the concept of travel is so often intrinsically connected with the idea of vacations. It’s difficult to break out of that vacation mentality and also the budgets that we often consider that go along with that.
Joanna: Absolutely. It’s all a matter of choices. And as I said, you’ve got loads of stuff on your website about that. But we’re almost out of time, and I did want to ask you, since this is ‘The Books and Travel’ show, apart from your own books —
What are some you recommend about digital nomadism or travel in general?
Nora: I’m a sucker for a good travel memoir. So, the books that come to mind for me…there’s definitely three that I can think of and two are almost more about the author than the book, but a book that I read many years ago and just continue to adore is Anthony Bourdain’s ‘A Cook’s Tour, In Search of The Perfect Meal.’
His writing is unbelievable. And it’s funny, it’s culturally-sensitive. And that particular book is also interesting because he wrote it about and while he was filming a TV show. And I have a former career in television, so, being able to kind of experience the behind the scenes of what it’s like to film a travel TV show while also experiencing food and culture was, like, the trifecta of joy for me. And he’s so engaging and funny, so, I’m actually working my way through all his books.
Another author whose books I really like to work my way through is J. Maarten Troost who is probably most well known for a book called ‘The Sex Lives of Cannibals‘ because he spent a few years living in Micronesia. So, he’s written a few books in that area. Excellent, again, engaging, funny, culturally-insightful. But one of his books that I found really interesting was also called ‘Lost on Planet China.’ And he wrote it coming up on the turn of the century because, you know, around Y2K, the word on the street, if you may recall, was that we would all be speaking Chinese within 20 years because China’s GDP was just huge around the year 2000. So, he was raising a daughter at the time and he thought, ‘Well, if everyone’s gonna be speaking Chinese, if this is gonna be the way we’re gonna go,’ he said, ‘I better go to China and figure this place out.’ And, well, the title says a lot of it but the book says even more, so, I’ll leave it at that.
And then the third book I really enjoy is by Rolf Potts, who, of course, is known for having written the book called ‘Vagabonding,’ which inspired the world, in many ways, to embrace long-term travel. And that’s a good book but the one that I really like is called ‘Marco Polo Didn’t Go There.’ And it’s…
Joanna: Great title.
Nora: Right, it is. And it’s a collection of articles, he’s a very very talented article he’s written for a lot of magazines over the years, and it’s a collection of these articles that he’s written that have been republished. But the magic of this book is he also has footnotes that fill in the backstory of, perhaps, what really happened in that experience as it contrasts to the article that got written.
Because often, as travel writers, especially if you’re writing, if you’re limited by a word count or a publications platform, you can’t always write the full story. And so, as a travel writer myself, that was a really insightful way to see how a story gets crafted from an experience without necessarily sharing the full experience in the story itself.
Joanna: Great recommendations.
Where can people find you and everything you do online?
Nora: My online home is TheProfessionalHobo.com. And you can find all of the extensions of that home, which includes YouTube and all the social things and places, from there. And I also have a free gift for anyone who’s listening who’s interested in learning more about the long-term travel lifestyle. If you go to theprofessionalhobo.com/freegift, I have made a checklist for you of 10 things that you must consider before you travel long term.
And these are some of the things that we talked about earlier that can help you cover the bases of the things, those questions, you know, ‘What do I do with my phone plan?’ and ‘how do I get money?’ and all of these things so you can take care of those logistics so that you can travel stress-free and long-term for as long as you wish.
Joanna: Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for your time, Nora. That was great.
Nora: Thank you, Jo. It’s been a pleasure.