Digital Nomad Living The Dream Of A Location Independent Lifestyle

Living the dream of a location independent lifestyle as a digital nomad is the vision of many long-term travellers these days.  I’m thrilled that Nora Dunn of The Professional Hobo has taken time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions related to this very topic.  She’s an inspiration for many and her travel blog offers a wealth of information and tips for those looking to do the same.

Life Overseas As A Digital Nomad

Q1) How long have you been living overseas as a digital nomad?

I’ve been nomadic since 2007, although not all “overseas”; I spent the first nine months of my full-time travels in my home country of Canada.

Nora's Office in the Caribbean As A Location Independent Digital Nomad

Q2) What is something you’ve learned recently that you wish you had known when you first started out as a location independent traveller?

The learning curve since the day I started travelling has been enormous (heck, the learning started well before I hit the road). And as technology and the location independent industry has changed and evolved (something that is a constant process), the learning has continued.

Something I learned relatively recently was how effective having a newsletter with a strong subscriber base can be for developing a loyal following who will be the the first in line to buy and promote anything you sell.

Okay, I’ve probably known this for a while, but I was procrastinating on creating yet another task that requires ongoing management. Now that I’m finally putting together some e-Products and services, I find myself behind the curve on the newsletter front.

So with hindsight in tact, I’d have started a newsletter much sooner.

(But I have a newsletter now, with access to an exclusive 5-part series on How to Travel Full-Time in a Financially Sustainable Way! Click here to subscribe).

Exploring Kathmandu As A Digital Nomad

House Sitting To Live Abroad

Q3) You’re an experienced house sitter. How has house sitting played an important role in your career and can you offer any tips or suggestions for those looking to do this for the first time?

Since I started traveling full-time, I’ve spent most of my time volunteering in trade for accommodation in one form or another – house-sitting having been the most recent incantation. Saving money on accommodation has helped my travels to become financially sustainable, and staying for months in a given location has given me time to work while deepening my connection to the people and the place I’m visiting.

House-sitting in particular is a great fit for location independent travelers, as it offers free accommodation, lots of personal space and time to work, and an ability to experience a slice of local life around the world.

For tips and suggestions, check out this article:

10 Tips for Landing the Perfect House-Sitting Gig

Q4) Do you have a favourite travel destination or a place you potentially could see yourself settling or staying on a seasonal basis?

I used to cringe at the “what’s your favourite place” question, because I believe travel is very contextual; your current emotional state, who you’re with, and what you’re doing are often more influential factors in determining our “favourite places” rather than the destination itself.

But I must admit, two places I’ve returned to at least twice have been New Zealand and the Caribbean island of Grenada. In fact, I’m currently setting up a home base of sorts in Grenada, from which I can continue to travel (but I don’t have to bring everything I own with me any more)!

Attractive Digital Nomad Bases

Q5) What do you think makes an attractive base for a digital nomad? Can you recommend any particular regions, countries or cities for someone looking to base themselves overseas for the first time?

One of the most important factors for any digital nomad in choosing destinations is access to the internet. I know some digital nomads who lived in Bangalore for a few months. Why Bangalore, I asked? Because it has the fastest internet in India, they replied.

So if we’re looking at attractive bases for digital nomads, then wherever it is, the internet needs to be fast and reliable. Luckily, this doesn’t rule out too many places these days.

Next, it’s always nice if you can play currency differences by living in a place where the currency you’re earning can go farther. This often rules out places like Scandinavia, where the currency is strong and cost of living is high. Asian and South American locales tend to be popular with digital nomads with the relatively cheap cost of living.

Beyond cost of living and internet access, the attractiveness of a destination is in the eye of the individual digital nomad and where they want to go.

I’ve actually spent quite some time in pricier places (like Australia, Hawaii, New Zealand, Europe, and the Caribbean), but because I’ve had free accommodation, I’ve been able to manage the rest of the expenses on my location independent income.

Nora exploring the Alps of Switzerland As A Location Independent Explorer

Q6) I’ve noticed you have several different forms of income streams. Do you feel diversifying your earnings has been an important part of being able to continue your nomadic lifestyle? Is there any type of projects or ways of potentially earning money you’re interested in pursuing that you haven’t done already?

As a freelancer and entrepreneur as well as a digitally nomadic one, income diversification is key!

Presuming that any one source of income (from a specific client or product) will always be lucrative or in demand is dangerous.

My main forms of income come from freelance writing (with a number of regular columns in both print and online forms), advertising on my site (advertising being an example of a fickle form of income with constant changes being made to online policies), and affiliate sales.

One of the most attractive forms of income that is great for digital nomads is passive income; income earned without you having to directly trade your time for it. My affiliate income is largely passive, since the affiliate links are built into posts that I wrote up to four years ago, but that readers continue to read and click on.

But to answer your question about income streams I’d like to pursue, it’s high time for me to develop my own tools to help people adopt a life of full-time financially sustainable travel. Ebooks are an ideal form of passive income; they require very little additional input after the initial creation and setup process. And having my own team of affiliates to sell it for me will further boost passive sales.

I’ve also got my sights set on larger scale books, coaching courses, and public speaking opportunities – all ways of further diversifying my income.

If you’re curious what my income is like, here’s the dirt:

Financially Sustainable Travel Part 1: My 2011 Income

(And with very little additional effort, my income for 2012 is going to be almost double this; another testament to passive income).

New Location Independent Projects

Q7) What are some exciting new projects or travel plans you have in store for the rest of this year and next year?

I’ve just redesigned my website, started a newsletter, and am in the process of figuring out how to write all these books I’ve been told by so many people that I simply must write.

Travel-wise, I’m changing the focus of my travels by having a home base to return to in the Caribbean. I look forward to booking return tickets instead of coordinating one-way adventures, and I anticipate attending (and speaking at) more industry conferences, enjoying the odd press trip, and hopefully hosting some travel tv shows!

Q8) Could you please tell us more about your travel site. What can readers expect to find?

The Professional Hobo started as a travel log of my adventures in selling everything and becoming a full-time world traveler. Six years in, it has morphed into a resource on financially-sustainable full-time and long-term travel. In addition to my own observations of life wherever I am living and traveling, readers can enjoy weekly Financial Travel Tips, bi-weekly diary week-in-the-life accounts of the daily lives of other full-time/long-term travelers, and roundups of useful articles on travel, personal finance, and lifestyle design.

Nora at the base of Mount Doom in New Zealand

Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo: a Canadian who in 2006 sold everything she owned (including a busy financial planning practice) to travel the world. She has roamed the world ever since, traveling full-time in a financially sustainable way.  She is an international freelance writer and travel blogger for publications such as Wise Bread, Flight Network, and Transitions Abroad, and recently penned the popular e-book How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World.   

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  1. says: Laura

    Great questions and interesting answers provided by Nora, thanks for sharing 🙂 It is motivated to rekindle our email newsletter…something we’ve been meaning to do for a while!

  2. says: Ben Hanna

    Hi I’m just trying to spread the word about this site, I think some fellow Digital Nomads Could find it useful, Its an online community for Digital Nomads, with Forums and articles on The Digital Nomad lifestyle and a rowing accommodation section listing monthly rates of apartments and hotels around the world
    The idea is to connect with other Digital Nomads or learn to become location Independent from those who are already.

  3. says: Nora

    Thank you everybody for the comments and support! I’m thrilled people enjoy my random musings. 🙂

    To answer a couple of questions:
    1) In the last picture, I’m doing the Tongariro crossing in New Zealand, but the mountain behind me has a different name – and is most known as “Mount Doom” from Lord of the Rings!

    2) For those who are interested, I’ve recently released my 2012 income numbers, which differ quite dramatically from my 2012 income:

  4. says: Dana Carme @ Time Travel Plans

    Great interview! I’m glad Nora included a link breaking down her 2011 income as I’ve been curious to get an idea of how much money a successful travel blogger can make in a year.

  5. says: Josie

    Nora consistently and intelligently gives good advice and inspiration, making it no surprise she’s a top travel blogger!
    Her review of my book on house sitting continues to boost sales, and I’m happy to pay her a monthly affiliate fee.

  6. We recently came across The Professional Hobo website and found it to be so informative and interesting! Since we’re long-term travellers ourselves, it was interesting to read how she makes her money or how she works in exchange for food and accommodation. I really enjoyed this interview…another travelling Canadian, right on!

    Cheers 🙂

  7. says: Steph |

    Great interview Sam! Love Nora’s site as well…she has one of the most useful and practical blogs out there for location independent dreamers! Was glad to be part of her Week In The Life series recently! Always learning new things from fellow digital nomads!

  8. says: Paul

    Thanks for this interview Samuel, and thanks Nora for the answers. As a travel addict who aspires to a location indepenedent lifestyle, I love reading things like this. It’s so inspirational to read the stories of people like Nora and great motivation to keep at it 🙂

  9. Great interview. I’ve been reading Nora’s site for a while, but love that interviews always reveal just a little more about how people make the whole living the location independent life work. Thanks to you both 🙂

  10. A great interview! I am happy to know that there are people who dare haunting their dreams, who ruin the stereotypes and lead lives they really want to. I believe that continuous traveling broadens horizons and opens up new opportunities.

  11. says: John

    I really enjoyed this post – one of my favourite travel bloggers interviewing another of my favourite travel bloggers!

    Inspirational reading (especially for those of us who would love to live the location independent lifestyle). Going to have to look into some house sitting gigs…

  12. Cringing at the “What’s your favorite place question”, I think I can very well relate to that. House sitting is the one thing I definitely need to try as soon as possible. Have heard a lot about it from friends.

  13. Great post. In just a few months I’m leaving to start my hand at an adventure of possibly infinite duration. While just starting out, my goals seem far away but working towards them will be a rewarding experience.

  14. Ah-may-zing! Reading this post made me feel soooo much better about my decision to quit my job to travel the world. I was getting a little nervous, but now I think I’ll be okay. This is a great interview! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  15. says: becci

    I think I’ve got a new life-crush! It must be amazing to have the ability to tavel non-stop without having to head home for work.

  16. says: John

    House sitting while your working abroad seems like a great idea. Saving huge money and living among the locals. Its a win win situation.