The next traveler featured on Curious Nomad’s interview series “How They Did It” has extensive experience from working his way around the world and visiting all 7 continents. He’s got valuable insight to share from traveling to what many may consider as high risk destinations. Without further ado, here’s Jonny…
Jonny Blair, from the travel and lifestyle blog known as “Don’t Stop Living”.
Where are you from?
I grew up in the seaside town of Bangor in Northern Ireland.
Why do you travel?
It gets boring to spend your life in the same place with the same people doing the same thing. There’s a bigger world than the town you grew up in. Let’s go check it out!
How do you decide on where to go?
I’m not into repeats, so it normally has to be somewhere new (That said I’ve just spent a month doing repeats!!). The last few years I’ve concentrated on Asia – mostly China. My most recent trips however were to Iraq, Iran and the UAE. I don’t really have a set pattern or way to decide where we’re going next. I’ve pencilled in Brazil for the World Cup though so sometimes an event like that will shape our travel plans. After Brazil, it’s anyone’s guess!
How do you overcome your travel fears?
I don’t really have too many fears when I travel, but money and flying are probably the only 2 things I actually fret about. For money, I just work hard and try to earn as much as I can and spend as little as possible. For flying, I just have to do it if I want to get somewhere fast. It’s better not to have fears.
What is the cheapest you’ve spent per day and where?
Obviously it’s zero, as I’d imagine a lot of long term travellers have had their free days. I’ve done that a load of times. Normally staying with friends, family, working on a farm or more recently a free room in a hotel. In Iran we went days without spending money – our hosts cooked all the food we could ever wish for!
How do you save money to travel?
I work as much as I can and in multiple jobs but I wouldn’t say I physically “save” money but I do know how to budget with the money I earn. I don’t stay in posh hotels, I don’t book guided tours (unless it’s essential), I try to avoid taxis and expensive restaurants.
I stay in hostels, I do a lot of walking, I use public transport, I look out for offers, I take sponsored and free trips, I drink during happy hours, I eat cheaply and often buy food on the move in supermarkets
What is your favorite travel gear or gadget?
I would have to say my laptop but I won’t name the brand as I hate that brand. I can’t be without a laptop these days as I love writing up my stories and interacting with people through the internet. It’s also a great place to store photos and videos. I do some online work so it’s basically a travel essential to me now!
How long did it take from when you realized your dream to travel to actually making it happen?
I’m still realising it, so for me it’s a lifelong process. The whole story really began 11 years ago though. That was when I left my hometown properly. I didn’t expect I’d still be on the road some 11 years down the line, but here I am, 85 countries up and counting…
How did your friends and family react when you told them that you’re traveling the world long-term?
I never planned to do that so there was never really a moment of realisation or reaction! When I first left my hometown, I just planned to work and study for a few years in the south of England. There was no initial plan to travel the world. My family know I’m travelling now and they’re happy with it – I still try my best to keep touch and see them about once a year. My friends these days are mostly ones I’ve met on the road. I rarely hear from my childhood friends who I hung out with back in the 80s and 90s. Our lives have all gone in separate ways and I reckon they’re not really interested in the whole.
What is one of your most memorable adventure stories?
Working my ass off on remote farms in Tasmania in 2010. I worked in any job going, for about 98 days out of 105 and slept in a tent, in a barn, in a car and above an Irish pub. I did it all so I could live my dream and visit Antarctica. From the farming work, I was able to pay the trip off outright, I then earned a load of money in pubs while I slept on a mattress in Sydney so I could backpack round South America while I was at it! By the age of 30 I had been to all 7 continents!! I was pretty proud of that to be honest!!
Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu for Christmas Day was also nice and hitting the 80 country mark was also a proud achievement – Azerbaijan was the one that cracked it!
What is one challenge you faced traveling? How did you overcome it?
Falling in love with a girl who didn’t want me. It destroyed me and my dreams and I had to walk away and change my life. The only way I could do it was by leaving the town where I fell in love. She chased me out of town. I booked a one way ticket to Taiwan, that’s the way to do it!! I never looked back.
What is a guilty pleasure you seek out on the road?
I’m not sure if this is what you mean by “guilty pleasure” but it has to be football and Guinness. I won’t miss my football team’s matches when I’m on the road. I’m talking Northern Ireland, Bournemouth and Glentoran. Those are my three teams and I always try to catch their games. In terms of beers, as a Northern Irishman I love a pint of Guinness. I’ll search random cities in China and Azerbaijan for an Irish pub that serves the stuff!
Have you volunteered abroad? If so, what was your experience? What was the impact?
I’ve been involved in volunteering projects but I’ve never been stationed in a set place as a volunteer. All my work has been paid. I visited schools and kids camps in Tanzania, South Africa and Swaziland.
What is happening in the world, where you are currently (at the time of this interview), that isn’t being reported in the media?
I’m in Iraq right now and the media only reports on negative things here. They don’t report about the charming people, the beautiful countryside, the lively cities and the lust for freedom. Iraqis and Kurds deserve a life of freedom and hopefully one day they will all get it. It disgusts me as to why there aren’t more tourists here and why people think heading to Thailand or France is “real travel” and Iraq and Nagorno Karabakh are off limits. Have no limits, have no fear and ignore the media. In fact F##k the media. I used to work for them. I do my own PR now 😉
What advice do you have for aspiring travelers?
Lose your fears and inhibitions and get out there to see the world. While you’re at it, work pretty hard in whatever jobs you can get, save your money, spend it wisely and explore. Meet other travellers, meet lots of locals and gain new friends in all sorts of countries. Also go to a place you’d never heard of – a really good way to get off the tourist trail and get exploring.
About Jonny Blair and Don’t Stop Living
Jonny Blair is a nomadic Northern Irishman with a sense of wonder. He left his hometown back in 2003 and somehow has turned himself into a travel obsessive without boundaries, limits or fears. Jonny backpacks through places like China, Iraq, Venezuela and Tanzania enjoying life as much as he can. Away from his days bungy jumping, sky diving, teaching English and harvesting broccoli, you’ll find Jonny in a pub with his mates watching the football. These days his focus is on travel writing, but he’s always prone to another stint in barwork along the way. His website name is also his catchphrase in life, Don’t Stop Living.
Are you a travel blogger or nomad that would like to inspire others explore? If you want to be featured on Curious Nomad’s “How They Did It” interview series, hit me up.
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