Travel Tales with Nora Dunn – The Professional Hobo

Nora decided that she just had to travel the world. So in 2006 she sold everything she owned and has been travelling around the globe ever since.

She has also published an Ebook on How To Get Free Accommodation Around the World, which you should definitely check out – along with this interview of course

The professional hobo

Tell us where you’re from, and a little about your blog?

I’m originally from Canada, which is where I was in 2006 when I sold everything I owned (including a busy financial planning practice) to embrace my dreams of traveling the world full-time. When I started traveling across Canada, I was regularly asked by people what I do for a living. I would say I was a “Professional Hobo” as a way of making fun of myself given the oxymoronic implication….but people liked it and it stuck! Thus, I chronicle my journeys (and how to pay for them; more on that later) on my site The Professional Hobo.


You’ve been travelling for quite some time now, where did you start your journey, and where are you currently?

I started off by traveling across Canada by train and living in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta for seven months. Then a volunteer opportunity took me to Hawaii, then Asia, then Australia, and about 50 countries after that in the last eight years.

One of my techniques to keep my full-time travels financially sustainable over the years has been to take advantage of free accommodation. And I’ve far from “slummed” it: rather, I’ve stayed in relative palaces in amazing locations around the world! I wrote the book How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World to help other people do the same.

I’m currently in the Sacred Valley of Peru, where I’ve established a home base from which to explore parts of South and Central America (and beyond).


You’ve stayed in some cool spots along your travels – which one stands out the most for you?

Ooh, that’s a tough one. I have a few favourites: I lived in New Zealand on and off for nine months, and I also lived on the Caribbean island of Grenada on and off for two years. I also had a blast house-sitting in Switzerland for three months.

The Professional Hobo

in Paris, showing off my Anatomie clothes

What’s your country count at the moment?

I keep losing count, but I’m around the 50-country mark.


Is there any country you’ve not yet visited that’s a must see destination for you?

The other day I was looking at a map of the world, looking at all the places I haven’t yet visited. Although there’s a lot of places I haven’t “conquered”, I’m also not in a rush to do so.

Having said all that, I currently have my sights set on other latin American countries such as Colombia and Ecuador (where I’ll likely be visiting in early 2015), and Guatemala.


What first made you want to travel?

Travel in general has always been in my blood. When I was nine years old, I was shown a documentary in school about other countries and cultures. I was fascinated with the streets and architecture I didn’t recognize, the local garb, the foreign food, and more. I wanted to know how the other children there played, and what people talked about around the dinner table. That sparked my lifelong ambition to live around the world, rather than merely pass through it.

That’s also what sparked my desire to travel full-time; throughout my 20’s, I traveled, but only on 1-2 week vacations, and usually those vacations were an attempt to escape the winter chill in Canada. After a month-long trip to South Africa (where I thought my hard-earned month off would be long enough to “crack the code” on the country), I returned with more questions than answers. That was when I realized if I really wanted to experience travel the way I dreamed, I had to make a complete lifestyle change.


If you had to choose your favourite destination so far, what would it be and why?

Tough question! I have a few favourites: I lived in New Zealand on and off for almost a year (and I plan to return), the Caribbean on and off for two years, and now I’m camped out in Peru. These three would be among my favourites so far, as well as Switzerland and Holland. I also spent a few short but wonderful days in Corsica (France), and I’d love to return there as well.


Name two personal items that you can’t live without while travelling?

My laptop is tops on the list, since it’s how I manage to financially sustain my travel lifestyle as a writer, as well as stay in touch with family and friends.

Another must-have would be clothing, since traveling naked is generally frowned upon. Specifically, I’m a big fan of Anatomie designer travel clothing for women.


The Professional Hobo

Exploring Nepal

What’s your most epic travel story to date?

Whoo-boy. I have a few epic travel stories. I’ve survived three natural disasters (including Australia’s worst ever natural disaster, the Victorian Bushfires in 2009. My diary recounting the events of that fire were archived in the National Library of Australia as a piece of “history). One of the other natural disasters was Cyclone Nargis which obliterated Burma in 2008. Although I wasn’t directly hit by it, I was very close in Thailand, and what started as a humble effort to help out the survivors of the cyclone exploded into my spearheading an international NGO and making world news.

I lived on sailboats for three months, spanning five boats and three Caribbean countries – despite (or actually, because of) my fear of the ocean. I’ve had various romances – and hectic breakups – around the world. I’ve filmed two different television shows in three different countries. And in 2013, I traveled through eight countries in three weeks.

I also have a real thing for train travel. In Australia, I rode over 16,000kms of trains, including 11,000kms in 11 days – all to see if it was possible to get bored on a train. That was the catalyst for me to do the Ultimate Train Challenge the following year: 30 days all by train from Lisbon to Saigon – 25,000kms. Did I get bored? You’ll have to read Tales of Trains: Where the Journey is the Destination to find out.


What motivates you to keep travelling, and do you have days where you think a more settled life back home is more attractive?

Although I sometimes get a bit apathetic about actively traveling the world, it’s usually borne of travel fatigue. In 2010 I was constantly on the move, spending an average of five nights in any one bed (the longest stint was 2.5 weeks). So when 2011 rolled around, I needed six months in New Zealand just to recover.

But a more settled life back home? I have a lot of problems with that phrase. You can check out more in this rant: Why “Settle Down” is a Bad Word – or Not.

The secret to keeping my travel motivation up is to travel slowly. This fends off travel fatigue, and allows me to get a peek into what local life is really like, which is really what my travel passions are all about. After a few months in one place, I’m usually ready to experience something new.


Connecting with locals can be one of the most rewarding things about travel. Do you agree?

Absolutely! Travel for me, is much more about the people than it is about the places I visit. That’s why I like slow travel, and living as locally as I can by doing things like house-sitting and volunteering.


Is there any one country that you’ve been to that you didn’t like, and would make you not want to return?

Russia did very little for me. Again, it has more to do with the people I met and the circumstances under which I was there, since I know many people who love Russia and cite the people as being very friendly and warm. That just wasn’t my experience.


In order to sustain a life of travel, you need to have some sort of income stream. How have you funded your travels?

I fund my travels with my location independent career as a freelance writer and blogger. I write about travel (because that’s what I do), personal finance (because you need money to travel), and lifestyle design (for crazy people like me who want to sell up and travel long-term/full-time). On my own site I combine these three topics to teach people how to travel full-time in a financially sustainable way.

On my Travel Resources page on The Professional Hobo, you can see my annual cost of full-time travel reports, as well as my annual income reports.


What are your travel plans for the future?

I’m currently camped out in the Sacred Valley of Peru, where I’ve got a home base that I love. I have all the comforts of home, a great community or people around me, beautiful mountains and nature surrounding me, and every time I step out my front door I’m in a colourful cultural wonderland that makes me feel like a traveler every day.

But this is far from the end of my world travels. In early 2015, I expect to visit Colombia and Ecuador, and later in the year I’ll visit Portland and a few other places. I also have designs on returning to Holland at some point, and I’m gunning to revisit New Zealand and Australia – possibly in early 2016.

The Professional Hobo


Favourite travel quote?

It’s not really a travel quote, but it applies:

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.” (Benjamin Franklin)



Nora Dunn sold everything she owned in Canada in 2006, and has been traveling full-time ever since. She financially sustains her travel lifestyle as a freelance writer and blogger, and teaches other people how to travel full-time in a financially sustainable way. She penned the books How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World, and Tales of Trains: Where the Journey is the Destination. In early 2015, she will be coming out with The Unconventional Guide to Working on the Road.


You can connect with Nora on the following:

Website URL:

Facebook page:

Twitter: @hobonora