From financial planner to professional hobo

November 18th, 2009

IMG_2841_1Nora Dunn is known as the professional hobo, living a life of pure joy and happiness as she travels the world.  Welcome Nora!

Living the life of one’s dreams is something many people believe to be a myth….yet; you are living proof that one can achieve this goal…Tell us about the path you traveled to arrive where you are today:
I was turning thirty. I was enjoying a successful career as a Certified Financial Planner, running my own practice and helping people to become financially empowered to chase down their life’s dreams and goals. Somewhere in the mix however, I had forgotten about my own lifelong dream; one that was hatched in a life-defining moment when I was all of eight years old; one to travel the world.

I had taken plenty of vacations (and nice ones at that), but never left my destination feeling that I had any real sense of how the people lived, what they ate, and generally what life was like there. My yearning to travel the world obviously extended beyond what I could get with a standard vacation (even a month-long one, as I took in South Africa once); I needed longer. I needed the freedom to explore these foreign lands…as a local.

I am also a mountaineer, and want to climb the mountains of the world and hike the valleys of the world.
I am also a humanitarian, and want to provide a helping hand wherever in the world my hands (or skills) might be of use.
And I knew that if I waited until a conventional retirement to chase down my dream of travel, there would be a good chance that I would not – or could not – do all the things I wanted to do.

And so…at the age of thirty…I “retired”! I sold everything I owned – the business, the sportscar, the skydiving gear, and all my belongings – and took off to travel the world. Since then (almost 3 years ago) I have developed a location independent income through writing, and as such, my travels are financially sustainable for as long as I wish them to be.

What kept you moving forward on the days things were not going exactly the way you were hoping they would?
I felt that I was in relatively un-chartered waters while I was selling everything I owned to jump into a land of unknowns. I wished I had somebody to learn from – somebody who had done it themselves, but I was unable to locate and connect with anybody, and I took on the journey myself (quite unnecessarily I’m sure, as I have subsequently met all kinds of people who travel like I do – I just didn’t know where to look)!

So when I felt like I was in a dark place or was questioning myself, I simply asked myself what I wanted in life. And the answer was still unequivocally that I wanted to travel full-time. That was my green light to keep going.

I was also sure not to burn bridges along the way, in order to create safety mechanisms and leave doors open to return to my old life if that is what I chose to do later down the road. (Those cushions as well, gave me an emotional safety net that came in handy. However with some experience and traveling confidence now, I don’t believe I will ever return to my old life).

What piece of advice would you give to someone who has decided they would like to live in a world of their own creation?
There’s nothing like living in your dream world. It may sound airy-fairy, but truly – if you could live in a world that meets your dreams and wildest imagination, why would you not?! We only have one shot at life, and I believe we need to make the most of it.  I regularly ask myself the following question: “If I were on my deathbed today, is there anything I would regret?” If I have an answer to the question that isn’t “no”, then it’s something I need to look at!

What special things do you do for yourself daily to maintain your momentum and energy levels?
Although I’m not a health nut per se, I believe strongly in eating very well (balance is the key), exercising, and enjoying a balanced life. I can suck myself into work too much at times; and despite my complaints that I have no free time, those are the days I need to go outside for a walk the most.

There is a delicate balance between traveling and working, as I do. I can make a living with an internet connection anywhere in the world, but this convenience also makes it difficult to “leave the office”. When I feel like I’m losing balance – in any direction – that is when my energy and momentum lags. A good dose of what’s missing, and I’m back up on the horse again before long!

What is your favorite audio material and what do you enjoy most about this material?
Since I started traveling, music is the audio material I tend to listen to, and it is usually whatever is popular in the place that I am visiting. I love latin beats though…I can’t wait to hit Central and South America!

What is your favorite reading material and what gives it that special place in your heart?
My favorite reading material is (not surprisingly) travel memoirs, which allow me to live vicariously through the author/traveler’s adventures. It inspires me, energizes me, and gives me great fodder for my own writing and travels.

What do you see in your future?
One of the most exciting aspects of my traveling lifestyle is that although I can plan for the future to a certain extent, the opportunities I need tend to come to me, and I am flexible enough to receive them.   Having been headed for Costa Rica originally, my boyfriend and I have been taken “off-course” three times now to places that weren’t on our initial hit-list of destinations to see. But each incident was an opportunity that we just couldn’t turn down. So for my future, I would like to project that South America will be in there before too long. But life happens while you’re busy making plans…

A perfect example of taking what life throws at us came when we were in remote northern Thailand. We watched a huge storm blow by us on the not-too-distant horizon, and when we returned to Chiang Mai, we discovered that the storm was Cyclone Nargis; a devastating storm that blew through Burma (Myanmar) in May of 2008.
Although we had plans to continue our travels through Malaysia and Singapore, we stopped everything on the spot to do what we could to help. What started as a small plan to do a little “grassroots” work quickly snowballed, and within two weeks we had raised $15,000 internationally and donated it to an organization that we could confirm was getting aid into Burma (a country with closed borders and ugly politics), and all without deducting any administration fees from our donation.
It was a fabulous way to give back and to do the humanitarian work we vowed to do; and all because we remain flexible in the face of our best-laid plans.

Where is your favorite place in the world to spend time, what is special to you about this location?
I am a real fan of the mountains. I have lived and played in the Rocky Mountains of Canada – which I would count as my all-time favorite place to be. But mountains anywhere give me a surge of energy and vitality; I look forward to seeing and exploring the Himalayas, the Andes, the Pyrenees, and Kilimanjaro, among so many other mountains and ranges big and small (like the tiny range that I currently live at the base of in Australia), throughout my lifetime of traveling.

Who has been your greatest support system and how have they shown you their support?
I would say that my greatest support system has indeed been my traveling partner and boyfriend, Kelly. Traveling full-time is a challenge in any right, and traveling full-time with another person presents its own set of challenges. But to have somebody to bounce ideas off, share the day’s victories (and tragedies) with, and to simply be there and understand – contextually – what I’m going through, is gold.

What / who are you most thankful for and why?
I just have too much love to give to narrow it down to one thing or person!

I am thankful for an upbringing that taught me about balance and planning for tomorrow – but not at the expense of living for today.

I am thankful that I have the ability (health-wise and financially) to travel and do the things I can do to give back and create my adventures.

I am thankful to have been born into a privileged life (on a global scale); one that earned me an education and step up that so many people in the world don’t have. And I vow to do whatever I can in my travels to help those people who don’t have the safety net I do in life. And wow – am I ever thankful for that.

What is your favorite way to contribute or give back?
I am dedicated to giving back to various communities around the world. As a Rotarian, I visit clubs around the world, and roll up my sleeves with them on various volunteer and fundraising projects of all calibers. As described earlier, I also found an opportunity to help the victims of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, and I jumped on that too.

In February of 2009, I was caught in Australia’s worst-ever natural disaster; the Victorian Bushfires. We were evacuated from our home for over a month, while fires burned out of control on all sides. What’s a traveler to do? Well, my boyfriend and I immediately found a way to help, and in the ensuing months, we volunteered full-time, running a warehouse that accepted and distributed donations of supplies and clothing to those who had been burnt out; the donations (heartwarmingly) pouring in en masse from all over the country, and we had up to 70 volunteers in the warehouse every day coming together to help.

When fellow travelers contact me asking where to find volunteer opportunities that don’t cost an arm and a leg to participate in (like “volunteer vacations” do), I simply advise that they keep their eyes open. Giving back can be as simple as helping somebody into their car with a heavy load, or calling a local orphanage and playing with the kids one afternoon. Opportunities to contribute are everywhere; you just have to see them.

Please share the top three things you feel people would benefit from doing if they truly desire to create the life of their dreams?
If you wish to create the life of your dreams, here are three things I would recommend doing:

1) Find others who are doing what you want to do, and contact them. Having a mentor – or somebody who can help prevent you from reinventing the wheel – will help immensely. Not only that but they could become a great friend and confident, since you share the same passion.

2) Do it. Don’t wait. Don’t let cold feet get in your way; don’t let irrelevant incidentals be obstacles. Be honest with yourself, and chase down your dreams with everything you have. Don’t ever get stuck saying “I wish I did…” when it’s too late.

3) Repeat step two until it sticks.

What products and services do you offer to assist others on their journey?
I recently co-authored a book called 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget, which has been going like gangbusters in the States, and is being released in Canada, China, and other countries with every turn. You can find out more about it and order it here:

Thank you Nora for sharing your words of inspiration with us today.  I encourage everyone to take a few minutes and visit Nora’s site at: and connect with her today!

In gratitude,

Caryn Gottlieb FitzGerald, “the Manifesting Queen”
Set your mind to it and create it today!

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EmbracingMyJourney L.L.C. was created by Caryn FitzGerald in 2008.

Caryn, known as "The Manifesting Queen" is a motivational columnist, speaker and writer, she has been featured in and published several books, including "Tulips In The Sand" "Fish Sticks, Books and Blue Jeans" “Manifest Success” “Visual Arts Junction Interviews” & “Online Marketing Success Stories..."

Caryn is a domestic violence survivor who has triumphed over a 10-year battle with anorexia and bulimia. She is a wife, mother, healthy-aging-specialist, writer, speaker, blogger, coach and a health food enthusiast Click to connect with Caryn at her website

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3 Responses to “From financial planner to professional hobo”

  1. You are blessed and we pray you will be giving us more stories like the fire downunder? If I were young, 67 now, it would be fun to go your route. I do hope to get a sailboat and go that way. Love you.
    James and Iris.

  2. Thanks, Brian! Indeed – I believe we’ll experience some pretty interesting things in India. Travel is only part of the journey….the inner journey always perseveres!

  3. Beautiful Story Nora! You and Kelly are assisting in a global conciousness to change the world. Congratulations on your dedication to this worldly cause! I have heard stories of fantastic tales in India, in and around the Himalayas. If you get to Darjeeling enjoy an authentic tea and see if you can find a Spiritual Master for true enlightenment that will assist you in your cause!!!
    Many Blessings and Visions of Greatness in your travels and your love of all
    Brian J. Donley
    Author, The Original Psychology of Success, Methods to Attain a Positive, Powerful Winning Personality

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