Written March 2010.
When first told to profile a journalist whom I’d like to emulate, I struggled because I can’t think of one particular traditional journalist that I religiously follow. I try to stay current on what is going on in the news, but it’s hard for me to really pinpoint one specific person that I look up to, especially in an age where technology borrows news and creates links upon links to the point where you can’t decipher where the original story came from. There is one thing that I instantly thought of, the one thing I consistently read. It happens to be a blog, but I do consider some blogs as journalism.
Personally, I’ve always been interested in travel. Since my trip abroad to Italy in high school, I’ve been fascinated by foreign places and writing about them. I even found myself leisurely reading magazines, stories, tips and blogs about it online. When I took online journalism last semester, I decided to try a travel blog of my own. I searched for other travel blogs to read for inspiration when I came across The Professional Hobo. Written by Nora Dunn, it encompassed everything I aspire to do and be which is why I’m choosing to profile her.
Although Dunn is not a journalist, at least in the traditional sense of the word, she does perform acts of journalism. I feel that anyone who writes to inform others in an honest way is just as worthy of the title as someone who studies it and writes for a major newspaper or magazine. That being said, I was lucky enough to get a hold of Dunn in the midst of her travels.
After a few brief questions about her reasoning behind her methodology of picking up and leaving, it begins to not seem so extreme to do the same, and I even find myself considering it now.
“At the age of 30 and after sinking myself into my business and ignoring the ever-present voice in the back of my head suggesting I had an unfulfilled dream, I decided to sell everything I owned to travel full-time.
“That was back in 2006, and since then my boyfriend and I have been on the road. We travel slowly everywhere we go, staying weeks to months (to years) in each location. We often work in trade for our accommodation to reduce expenses and get a more local experience, and my writing helps pay for other incidentals. As such, we travel full-time in a financially sustainable manner (read: we can do it forever if we want)”, said Dunn.
Dunn decided back in 2006 that there was more to life then a dull job and satisfactory life, so she sold her belongings, sold her financial planning practice and moved with her boyfriend to travel wherever the wind took them. And twice a week she writes about the places she sees, the people she meets and the things that she deems important to blog about.
“Blogging was initially a way to stay in touch with family and friends while I was on the road. Once I was traveling, I realized there is more to traveling with an internet connection than I had anticipated, and paying writing gigs started to materialize, along with the increased popularity of my own blog. Now I still use my blog to stay in touch with family and friends, but I also write for a much wider audience,” said Dunn.
There doesn’t seem to be any concrete strategy as to how this blog is written. When Dunn encounters interesting and compelling individuals or comes across a useful travel tool or tip, she posts it. That simple. The one great thing about travel writing is that it all appears to be interesting to an outsider, simply because we are living the experience through the author. And as far as future plans are concerned, there are none. The whole point of this journey was to get away from schedules and the mundane everyday routine of life. Dunn even admitted that sometimes things would come up, such as natural disasters, which would take precedence over another story she was working on.
“In northern Thailand, my boyfriend and I stopped our itinerary in its tracks to raise money for the survivors of cyclone Nargis, who were hanging precariously on to life in the aftermath in May 2008. We raised $15,000 internationally and successfully sent aid into Burma. (http://theprofessionalhobo.com/category/burma-cyclone-relief/)
The week after we finished our fundraising campaign, my boyfriend spent a week in a Thai hospital suffering from Dengue Fever. (http://theprofessionalhobo.com/2008/05/hospital-life-with-dengue/),” said Dunn.
The Professional Hobo has gained a lot of press within the past year. I think what makes her work so appealing is her language. She has a way of writing that makes it seem more like a story from a postcard or letter than some formal piece. I like the raw excitement in every entry. It’s like the reader can feel her passion and enthusiasm about each place she visits, which gets them more interested. Another great attribute of her work is how vivid it is. Most of her readers may not even be knowledgeable of where she is, but she does really well with helping the reader understand where she is and what she’s doing.
Following is a link to one of my favorite stories, where Dunn and her boyfriend attempt to find the bottom of a cave. Her words are descriptive and help the reader to imagine what it was like. (http://theprofessionalhobo.com/2007/09/disaster-point-an-ominous-caving-experience/)
What makes a great journalist is someone who is open to new people, ideas and experiences. In a profession like this, it is fundamental for a writer to be without bias and judgment. Dunn tackles this challenge in a great way. Traveling probably helps her, and other travel writers like herself, better understand the world we live in and the people that make it up. Her writing is appealing to readers because it is diverse. Stories vary from profiles of locals, adventures of sightseeing trips, tips for travelers, photos and descriptions of places she’s been and even some book reviews.
Although some would argue that what Nora Dunn does isn’t journalism, I’d have to disagree, just based on the grounds that the content is there and that, to me, is the most important thing. She may write for a blog and her stories may be unconventional, but nonetheless they are compelling and people enjoy reading them. I’ve been inspired to study abroad this summer by this blog and write about it. Hopefully I’ll be able to do something similar to Dunn when I’m a working professional.