Getting Paid To Travel: Exclusive Interview with Nora Dunn

An Interview with Nora Dunn – The Professional Hobo

At Travefy, we like to throw the spotlight on travel pros and bloggers that we’re falling in love with. Meet Nora Dunn, she’s a Canadian that literally sold everything back in 2006 and has been traveling the world since–and getting paid to do so. #Jealous

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Q. Where are you from and how long have you been travel blogging?

ND: I’m originally from Toronto Canada, and in 2006 I sold everything I owned (including a busy financial planning practice) to embrace my dreams of traveling the world long-term, and in a culturally immersive way. I’ve been on the road ever since!

As for how long I’ve been travel blogging, I started an informal blogspot travel blog before I left Canada (at a time when blogs were glorified online journals) simply to muse about my travels for my family and friends. As the years passed, and as increasingly more people were tuning in to my musings, my current blog – The Professional Hobo – was born.


Q. How did you find your way into travel and blogging?

ND: I’ve been a traveler all my life, but as with most people relegated to 1-2 week vacations each year, I was never able to “crack the code” of the place I was visiting in such a short time. I’d had a lifelong desire to deeply understand cultures around the world, and to proverbially (and literally) “break bread at dinner tables around the world”.

My last traditional vacation was a month in South Africa. I figured with a whole month I’d get a deeper understanding of South African life and culture; instead I returned home with more questions than answers. That’s when I realized if I wanted to live my dream of really deeply traveling the world, I had to do it now, and not wait another 30 years for a far-off indefinable retirement. (Read a the full story on How I Became The Professional Hobo).

Now. When I decided to travel full-time, I had no concrete idea how I’d make ends meet. But as I tinkered with my own travel blog, I found some postings for online blogging and freelance writing gigs. Given my lifelong penchant for the written word, and having little more than a laptop and internet connection, I realized I could develop an entire career as a writer that I could travel the world with!

This isn’t to say it was fast or easy to develop a career as a freelance writer and blogger (it took a few years) – but it was certainly very rewarding for me.

But blogging is far from the only way to make money when you travel. I recently published a guide that profiles dozens of ways to make money while you travel and live on the road – Working on the Road: The Unconventional Guide to Full-Time Freedom.

Q. What’s the most eye-opening experience since you started traveling eight years ago?

ND: Whoo – boy. I’ve had a lot of those! But one of the biggest surprises I discovered while traveling was the number of opportunities that exist to live and travel on boats…often for free.

It came about when I was house-sitting on the Caribbean island of Grenada and befriended some people in the yachting community. I had a few months to kill between house-sitting gigs, and I found a volunteer position on a yacht in St Martin. That led to three months of living solidly on five different boats (all for free – one gig even paid me), spanning three countries.

I’ve shared some tips in detail on How to Get a Job (or a Free Ride) Working on Boats.

Q. What’s the most frustrating thing you’ve dealt with traveling?

ND: You know, I find that some of travel’s best adventures and stories start out as mis-adventures. And I’ve had quite a few of those. I survived three natural disasters (including Australia’s worst-ever bush fire disaster in 2009), near-fatal accidents, I had my passport (and a bunch of cash) stolen by a house-guest, I’ve had rough breakups (a few of them), tropical diseases (a few of them), and more!

None of it has soured my taste for travel however; life has mishaps regardless of whether you travel. At least these mishaps make for great travel stories!

For a collection of these stories, check out: Brace Yourself – Travel Isn’t all Roses and Lollipops.

Q. What’s your best kept secret for planning a trip to a place you don’t know anything about? 

ND: I don’t tend to choose my destinations; rather, they choose me. For the first six years of full-time travel, my specialty was to travel places where I had a free accommodation opportunity. This could be through volunteering, house-sitting, living on boats, etc. The reason I did this (besides saving money with free accommodation) was because it enabled me to live locally, on a longer-term and more immersive basis than a standard tourist could manage. I offer some tips for readers: How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World.

As such, I never needed to do a whole lot of research about my destination (nor have I ever bought a guidebook), since I discovered it more organically through living there and interacting with locals.

Here is some sage planning advice: 16 Things to Do Before Arriving at a New Destination.

Q. What’s the next trip you’re going on?

ND: I’ve recently changed up my nomadic lifestyle a bit, and I have a home base in the Sacred Valley of Peru. I don’t know how long it will be home for, but for now, it feels great.

But I’ve far from stopped traveling; just recently I returned from 2.5 months of traveling to Colombia, Colorado, and Costa Rica. Next up, I’ll be attending a conference in Portland in a few months. After that: who knows!


Q. What’s your favorite travel accessory?

ND: For the last few years I’ve traveled full-time with carry-on luggage only (which I love). But without my Hoboroll to organize and compress a huge variety of items, I’m not sure I’d be able to manage with such a small bag.

I’m also a big fan of having a small headlamp…handy in oh so many scenarios!

About The Professional Hobo

Former Certified Financial Planner, Nora Dunn has been traveling the world full-time since 2006. She has a location independent career as a freelance writer and blogger on the topics of travel, personal finance, and lifestyle design, and on her own site (The Professional Hobo), she teaches people how to travel full-time in a financially sustainable way.

Check out some of Nora’s awesome books on travel, tips and planning: How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World, Tales of Trains: Where the Journey is the Destination, and most recently, the incredibly popular Working on the Road: The Unconventional Guide to Full-Time Freedom.

Follow Nora’s travels on: Facebook and Twitter