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Discover the World with Nora Dunn: Your Guide to Traveling Smart in Style!

Are you dreaming of a life where the world is your office, and every day brings a new adventure? Meet Nora Dunn, the Professional Hobo, and your ultimate guide to mastering the art of long-term travel while working remotely. Since 2006, Nora has been living the digital nomad dream, exploring the globe and sharing her wisdom on how to travel smart in style. Whether you're a seasoned traveler or just starting your journey, Nora's insights and tips will help you navigate the challenges and joys of a nomadic lifestyle. Join her as she shares her experiences, from finding the best remote work opportunities to living comfortably on the road.

1. What inspired you to leave your traditional career and lifestyle to become a full-time digital nomad back in 2006?

 Back in 2006, I was working as a financial planner, a career that I enjoyed but felt increasingly constrained by. The turning point came when I realised that my desire to see the world and experience new cultures couldn't be fulfilled with “normal” vacations; I really wanted to travel long-term and in an immersive way. I decided waiting for a conventional retirement age wasn't in the cards for me, so at the age of 30, I sold the lot to travel the world on an open-ended ticket!

2. Can you share some of the core principles or tips from your Travel Smart In Style series that help fellow female travellers maintain a balance between affordability and comfort?

One of the main principles of my Travel Smart In Style series is to prioritise quality over quantity – on a variety of levels. For example, investing in versatile, high-quality travel gear and clothing can save you money and hassle in the long run. But you don't need to fully kit yourself all out at once if it's prohibitive! I have curated my own gear and systems over years (decades, actually). 

Additionally, I like to emphasise the importance of researching and choosing accommodations that offer a good balance of comfort and cost-effectiveness. I saved over $100k on accommodation expenses by getting it for free in my first 10 years abroad! The most complementary form of free accommodation to the digital nomad lifestyle (which involves working full-time) is house-sitting; you get all the comforts of home – just somebody else's home! (I wrote a book all about it; check out How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World if you want to shortcut the process of landing the best free accommodation gigs). 

3. How has the digital nomad lifestyle changed since you first started? What are some of the biggest advancements or setbacks you've observed?

The digital nomad lifestyle has evolved significantly since I first started. One of the biggest advancements is the increased accessibility of technology, making remote work easier and more reliable. High-speed internet is now available in many remote destinations, and there are numerous tools and platforms designed to support remote workers. On the downside, the popularity of the digital nomad lifestyle has led to some challenges, such as visa issues and the gentrification of certain areas, which can impact local communities. Nonetheless, the overall growth of the digital nomad community has fostered a sense of belonging and support among like-minded travellers.

4. You emphasise sustainable travel practices. What are some of the key ways travellers can reduce their environmental impact while on the road?

Sustainable travel is a core value of mine. Some key ways travellers can reduce their environmental impact include minimising single-use plastics (I have a zero waste travel kit), supporting local businesses, buying eco friendly travel gear, and choosing eco-friendly accommodations. 

Also, the slower you travel, the less you'll consume on a variety of levels (and I believe you'll have a more rewarding travel experience overall). 

Travellers can reduce their carbon footprint by opting for public transportation, biking, or walking whenever possible. Being mindful of water and energy consumption, as well as respecting local wildlife and natural habitats, are also crucial practices. 

Lastly, considering the carbon offsetting of flights can help mitigate the environmental impact of air travel.

5. What are your top three productivity tips for remote workers who are constantly on the move?

My top three productivity tips are:

   1. Establish a Routine: Even when you're constantly changing locations, having a consistent routine can be the only constant in your life; it's important! For me, it's a morning routine that includes exercise and nutrition, and then I get to concentrated work. This routine plus knowing what times of day are best for me to concentrate on work helps me stay focused and productive. 

   2. Create a Dedicated Workspace: Wherever you are staying, try to create a designated area for work. This helps signal to your brain that it's time to focus and can increase your efficiency.

3. Don't Forget Ergonomics: I travel with an ultralight collapsible laptop stand to keep my computer screen at eye level, and a bluetooth keyboard/mouse to keep my elbows at a 90 degree angle. This means no matter what setup the world throws at me, I can work in an ergonomically friendly way. This helps massively with productivity!

6. Can you describe a particularly memorable experience where you deeply immersed yourself in a local culture? How did it impact your perspective on travel?

I've had a few! There are times I traveled so slowly it was imperceptible. Ha! 

For example, I lived in the Andes of Peru for two years, while apprenticing with a shaman working with plant medicine. It was a life-changing experience on so many levels; among other experiences, I befriended locals who I wouldn't have met if passing through, and from them I learned about different ways of living life and viewing the world that ultimately affected my own world views! 

The experience on the whole impacted my perspective on travel in many ways, good bad, and otherwise. The truth is, perspective is always changing, because it comes with age and experience – and travel is ALL about experience! Some of the biggest perspective changes I've experienced have been less travel-related and more interpersonal; the more I learned how there is no right or wrong answer or way to do something, the more compassionate I became.  

7. As a solo female traveler, what safety strategies do you recommend to others who might be apprehensive about traveling alone?

Safety is a top priority for any solo traveler. Some strategies I recommend include:

   - Research Your Destination: Learn about the local customs, areas to avoid, and any specific safety concerns.

   - Stay Connected: Keep in touch with friends or family members and share your itinerary with them.

   - Trust Your Instincts: If something doesn't feel right, trust your gut and remove yourself from the situation.

   - Stay Aware: Be mindful of your surroundings and avoid distractions like wearing headphones or looking at your phone while walking.

8. How do you manage your finances on the road? Do you have any advice for aspiring digital nomads on achieving and maintaining financial independence?

Managing finances on the road requires a solid online setup that includes password management/encryption, a phone setup that allows you to get 2-factor authentication texts to log into accounts, backups in case information is lost, and a VPN if you need to do any financial transactions on an insecure WiFi connection. I have a checklist of 10 Things to DO Before You Travel Long-Term that covers these items as well as other issues from mailing addresses to luggage selection. 

I also track my expenses diligently and budget for both short-term needs and long-term savings. For aspiring digital nomads, I advise building a financial cushion before taking the plunge, get the foundations of your income in place (be it a business, remote job, etc), and making sure that you're not spending more money than you are earning (unless you specifically planned for that with a dedicated savings account for travel). 

9. Out of all the places you've lived and visited, which ones stand out as your favourites and why?

Travel is contextual, and “favourites” are less about the place itself and more about how you're feeling, who you're with, and what you're doing. 

That said, I do have a soft spot in my heart for Peru and New Zealand. Both places offered unique experiences that left a lasting impression on me, from breathtaking natural beauty to deep cultural connections.

10. After nearly two decades of travel, what are the most valuable lessons you've learned, both personally and professionally?

Over the years, I've learned the importance of flexibility and adaptability. Travel often comes with unexpected challenges, and being able to adjust your plans and maintain a positive attitude is crucial.

Both professionally and personally, I've somewhat recently learned the value of networking and building relationships within the digital nomad community. These connections can provide support, opportunities, and inspiration. In 2018, after 12 years of full-time travel with no base (and living very locally), I realised I had lost all sense of belonging in the world. 

I eventually figured out it was because I didn't have a strong community/network of like-minded people (ie: who have travel lifestyles and/or work remotely). I later found that community by attending events and conferences, joining professional mastermind groups, staying in co living spaces, and participating in coliving/coworking programs

Be careful though: if you're traveling to live in and integrate with local cultures, it's easy to lose sight of that and only hang out exclusive with other expats/travellers and never discover your destination on more than a cursory level. I think there's a balance between interactions with locals and other foreigners. 

I wrote an article about 12 Truths about Travel...and Life. In it I share the top 12 lessons I learned in each of my first 12 years of full-time travel. Check it out! 

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