How A Surprising Breakup Led Me To Living All Over The World

Solo Traveler Snapshot Nora on her first solo trip in Europe Photo credit: Nora Dunn

Solo Traveler Snapshot

Nora on her first solo trip in Europe

Photo credit: Nora Dunn

  • Name: Nora D.
  • Age: 46
  • Location: Originally from Canada
  • Marital Status: Single
  • Favorite Solo Trip: Peru

If there’s one thing you need to know about Nora, she loves adventure and wants to help you do the same. She’s been traveling solo since 2007. One solo trip turned into a solo traveling lifestyle. She pulls back the curtain and gives us a view of her travels, plus a few tricks and tips she has learned along the way.

Solo Traveler Inspiration

TravelAwaits: What inspired you to travel solo?

Nora: I would say a breakup. When I started traveling full-time (back in the prehistoric times of 2007), it was with my partner at the time. I was prepared to go on my own, but we were dating and it felt strange to simply say, “I’m selling everything to go travel, so bye.” (In retrospect, given how long we’d been dating at the time, it was even more strange for me to say “wanna come?” but that’s what I did).

It was good for me to have somebody with me. It gave me a shot 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 yet exist. But we weren’t well-matched and ultimately it didn’t work out, and frankly, breaking up on the road is kind of ugly. I wrote about this 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 was off on my own. And it was incredible. I pierced my nose in Sydney (‘cus that’s what one does when embracing solo travel freedom, no?), then volunteered in trade for free accommodation in New Zealand for a few months.

In the meantime, I’d accumulated a glut of frequent flyer miles through a special bonus deal that meant I could fly anywhere in the world in business class. I spun the globe in search of the furthest place in the world from New Zealand, and my finger landed on Spain. That turned into a 5-month adventure around Europe.

That was 2010, and it was just the beginning. I’ve been traveling the world (mostly solo, on and off with people) ever since.

Favorite Aspect Of Solo Travel

TravelAwaits: What is your favorite part of traveling solo?

Nora: The feeling of empowerment I get from not only realizing I can indeed travel solo and survive, but also that I can do what I want, where I want, and with whom I want. I also love how easy it is to meet people, which can seem counterintuitive until you experience it. Traveling solo 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 must clarify that it’s just one place that stood out to me 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 took up an apprenticeship with a shaman for a few years, working with plant medicine. It was a big leap forward in my self development and personal growth, and a road that I needed to walk alone (solo). 

Biggest Solo Travel Concern 

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

Nora: I think I was more excited than concerned. But I’ve always been independent and I had enough travel experience by the time I took off that I was pretty sure 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 have traveled with groups a few times along the way, and it has always been a blast. I’d like to try out one of those coliving coworking programs that have you traveling/living/working with a group of like-minded, location-independent lifestyle travelers. I think that could be a blast.

Favorite Travel Product

TravelAwaits: What is one product you cannot live without on your trips?

Nora: Aside from the obvious answers like laptop and phone, here’s something I can guarantee nobody in this series 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 and protected and handy, regardless of how awkwardly placed or scarce the outlets are. Check out my video about it here.

I Wish I Would Have Joined A Group For This Trip…

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

Nora: This is highly subjective, but I remember early on in my travel lifestyle, I met a couple who had just visited India. They started off their time in the country by doing a group tour, before branching out and spending time on their own. They recommended anybody visiting India to do the same. A decade later when I landed in India, I heeded 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 covered the gamut, from riding the most luxurious train in the world to having a breakdown 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 Advice For Solo Travelers

TravelAwaits: What advice would you give someone who is considering solo travel?

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

And now for some more practical tips: diversify your stuff. Have a spare credit card and some cash hidden separately from whatever bag holds your wallet. Back up your phone and passwords in multiple places. Back up your laptop/tablet to the cloud and on a hard drive, and never keep all your tech in the same bag. Use a password manager and share the master password with somebody back home. Carry a photocopy of your passport with you all the time, with your travel insurance company/policy number/phone number written on it.

If you can’t tell, this kind of stuff — and much, much more — is my jam. I help people design their lifestyles and arrange their affairs so they can travel long-term while working remotely. Travel security, cards, banking, mail, finding accommodation, and figuring out how to make this whole travel thing work for you… is my mission. Here’s a free checklist of 10 things to do before you travel long-term to get you started.

For more Solo Traveler Journals like this one, check out these articles: