How a surprising breakup led me to live around the world

Solo Traveler screenshot

Nora on her first trip to Europe

Nora on her first trip to Europe

Photo: Nora Dunn

  • Name: Nora D.
  • Age: 46
  • Location: He is from Canada
  • Marital status: Single
  • Favorite solo trip: Peru

If there’s one thing you should know about Nora, it’s that she loves adventure and wants to help you do the same. She has been traveling alone since 2007. A solo trip turned into a solo lifestyle. She pulls back the curtain and gives us an insight into her travels, as well as some tricks and tips she’s learned along the way.

Solo Traveler Inspiration

TravelAwaits: What inspired you to travel alone?

Nora: I would say separation. When I started traveling full-time (back in prehistoric times in 2007), it was with my partner at the time. I was prepared to go alone, but we made a date and it felt weird to just say, “I’m selling everything to travel, so bye.” (In hindsight, given how long we’d been dating at the time, it was even weirder for me to say “do you want me to come?” but I did).

It was good for me to have someone with me. It gave me a dose of confidence to take a giant leap into the unknown at a time when full-time travel was unheard of and words like digital nomad didn’t exist yet. But we weren’t a good match and ultimately didn’t work out, and honestly, parting ways is kind of ugly. I wrote about that breakup—and what it taught me—here.

First solo trip

TravelAwaits: What was your first solo trip?

Nora: After the breakup, which happened in Australia, I left alone. And it was incredible. I poked my nose in Sydney (because that’s what one does when they embrace the freedom of solo travel, no?), then volunteered to trade for free accommodation in New Zealand for a few months.

Meanwhile, I had accumulated a lot of frequent flyer miles through a special bonus offer that meant I could fly anywhere in the world in business class. I circled the globe looking for the farthest place in the world from New Zealand and my finger landed on Spain. This turned into a 5 month adventure in Europe.

It was 2010 and it was just the beginning. Since then I’ve been traveling all over the world (mostly alone, with people).

Favorite aspect of solo travel

TravelAwaits: What is your favorite part of traveling solo?

Nora: The feeling of empowerment I feel not only when I realize that I can actually travel alone and survive, but also that I can do whatever I want, wherever I want and with whoever I want. I also love how easy it is to meet people, which may seem unimaginable until you experience it. Traveling alone does not mean traveling alone.

Favorite solo trip

TravelAwaits: What is your favorite solo trip so far and why?

Nora: I mentioned Peru as my favorite solo trip. But I should clarify that it’s just one place that set me apart in an entire lifestyle of solo—or mostly solo—travel that I’ve been living since that breakup in 2009. So you could say I’m still on my favorite solo trip. Peru stands out because it was a sharp left turn from life as I knew it when I apprenticed with a shaman for a few years, working with herbal medicine. It was a big leap forward in my self-development and personal growth, and a road I had to walk alone (solo).

The biggest individual travel worry

TravelAwaits: What was your biggest worry before your first solo trip and how did you overcome it?

Nora: I think I was more excited than worried. But I’ve always been independent and had enough travel experience by the time I took off that I was confident I could handle whatever was thrown at me.

Group or independent travel

TravelAwaits: Do you travel with a group or independently and why?

Nora: Mostly independently. However, I’ve traveled with groups a few times along the way, and it’s always been a blast. I’d like to try one of those co-op programs that have you travel/live/work with a group of like-minded travelers with a location-independent lifestyle. I think this could be a blast.

Favorite travel product

TravelAwaits: What’s one product you can’t live without on your travels?

Nora: Besides the obvious answers like laptop and phone, here’s something I can guarantee no one in this thread has mentioned: I never take a trip — long or short — without my travel extension cord/surge protector. It helps me keep all my devices charged, protected and easy to use, no matter how inconveniently placed or infrequent outlets are. Watch my video about it here.

I wish I had joined a group for this trip…

TravelAwaits: Is there a solo location/destination that would be better in a group and why?

Nora: This is highly subjective, but I remember early on in my traveling lifestyle, I met a couple who had just visited India. They started their time in the country by going on a group tour, before breaking away and spending time on their own. They advised anyone visiting India to do the same. A decade later, when I landed in India, I took their advice and I’m glad I did. India is one of those places that can be challenging regardless of your level of travel experience. Learning the ropes in a group setting can reduce the initial feeling of overwhelm.

My own experience in India ran the gamut from riding the world’s most luxurious train to collapsing with butter in my eyes, and everything in between. It resulted in one of my favorite pieces of travel writing, if you have the stomach for it.

Best tips for solo travelers

TravelAwaits: What advice would you give to someone thinking of traveling alone?

Nora: Here’s a platitude to get you started: Breathe through the discomfort. It won’t last. Once you get out there, you’ll love it.

And now for some more practical advice: diversify your stuff. Have a spare credit card and some cash stashed away separately from whatever bag contains your wallet. Back up your phone and passwords in multiple places. Back up your laptop/tablet to the cloud and hard drive and never keep all your tech in the same bag. Use a password manager and share your master password with someone at home. Always carry a photocopy of your passport with your travel company/policy number/phone number written on it.

If you can’t tell, this genre – and many, many others – is my jam. I help people plan their lifestyles and arrange their affairs so they can travel long-term while working remotely. Travel insurance, cards, banking, mail, finding accommodation and how to make this whole trip work for you… is my mission. Here’s a free checklist of 10 things to do before traveling long-term to get you started.

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