I was lucky enough last week to spend some time with travel blogger Jonny Blair, author of the wildly popular “Don’t Stop Living.”
Here’s the transcript of our interview:
Who are you?
–I am Jonny Blair, a backpacking, whackpacking tourist who has travelled extensively around the world since leaving my homecity in 2003. I’m a backpacker, a barman, a blogger, a teacher, an author, a writer and a poet amongst glory days of watching football.
Where are you from?
–My birth town is Newtownards in County Down, Northern Ireland. I grew up nearby in the seaside city of Bangor, which has a beach, a golf course, and two main streets with a load of bars. I’m a proud Northern Irishman. I wouldn’t want to be from anywhere else.
Where have you been?
–I have been to every continent, and to over 200 countries that I personally recognize.
Where are you now?
–I live in Warszawa, Poland now and it’s where I started my new project, Northern Irishman in Poland. It’s a city I first visited in 2005. I have lived in quite a few different places down the years, in Poland I also spent 6 months in the beautiful seaside city of Gdańsk.
What are the top 3 places you’ve visited?
–Antarctica – it was a travel dream for me to visit Antarctica and I worked hard for months on the farms of Tasmania, living cheaply by sleeping in a tent and a car while spending money only on basics. That was how I saved for this trip of a lifetime, and then one day in November 2010, our ship sailed in to Antarctica. Our first stop there was at lonely, calm Barrientos.
–Gdańsk, Poland – the magic of Gdańsk is a huge inspiration in my life, yet I went here for the first time quite late in life. It was the place where I finally decided I needed to settle for a while, following the break-up of a long term relationship. I found charm immediately in the many bars and cafes, and I set about finishing my Backpacking Centurion series. Once those books were released, I then used the city to base my storybook on, “I Went To Gdańsk With Somebody“.
–Bangor, Northern Ireland – my home city is for sure the best place I have ever been, and I imagine most people will say or write that. It’s a charming quiet seaside city with a beach, a golf course, a marina and a lot of bars.
What is the best travel experience you’ve had?
–I have a lot of top moments, but probably arriving in Antarctica in 2010 was my highlight. It was just so remote, so magical, like nowhere else I had been before, or since. We sailed into harbor on a ship, then got onto zodiacs to take us over to the remote island of Barrientos.
What is the worst travel experience you’ve had?
–Falling in love is the worst and I would love to rewind time and choose not to meet certain people at certain times and not to fall in love with them. It really destroyed a lot of my life and delayed my backpacking adventures.
What is the scariest travel experience you’ve had?
–Again, there are so many of these that it’s hard to choose. I was searched for hours crossing the Colombia to Venezuela border in 2011 and was convinced the soldiers were going to kill me. Later, in Caracas, I was chased by a guy with a knife and managed to escape.
What is the most random job you have had on your travels?
–There are so many contenders for this question. Delivering Phone Books in Northern Ireland seems like a random one now, given that nowadays those huge phone books don’t actually exist and are not needed. These were really heavy books with landline phone numbers in them and I had to deliver one to every house in a certain area! I was paid only about £150 for it and spent long days driving and walking into houses delivering them!
–I also purified echinacea while working on the farms of Tasmania in Australia. That was a nuts job where you’d stand for hours, pulling mud out of echinacea plants and getting them ready to go to the factory to be converted to a product which could be sold.
How do you fund your travels?
–Working hard, working every day. I don’t go a day without checking my email, and it’s only when I have no internet access and am offline that I don’t work.
–My jobs down the years have ranged from serving meat in a butchery counter, to ice cream selling, to barman, to teaching English, to farming, to working on ferries to PR work. However, since 2012 I have been a professional travel blogger so most of my income now comes through the “Don’t Stop Living” platform and a myriad of other blogs and websites that I own and run. Aside from this, I have been a professional teacher since 2011 and have been able to find work in this industry regularly, both face to face and online. My biggest dream would be to earn enough money from my books, to allow me more time to keep traveling and writing.
What 3 tips would you give a new traveller before they set off on their adventure?
1.Don’t set limits. You can go anywhere.
2.Don’t believe the media. They lie, they are biased, they are wrong.
3.Don’t trust anyone you meet. Even people you think you can trust can turn very nasty on you, as I found out in the cruelest way.
What are your future travel plans?
–My dream is to visit every country that I recognize, but it’s a long process so little by little, I go on jaunts to visit new places. My count in July 2023 was 218 countries, which includes quite a few debated regions and entities. Perhaps when I reach the magic number of 250 countries, I will be satisfied. But even then, there are so many remote islands, micro-nations and debated regions still to visit.
I’m releasing a lot of books on my journeys and that’s another big plan. My books are:
Backpacking Centurion Series
Volume 1 – Don’t Look Back In Bangor
Volume 2 – Lands Down Under
Volume 3 – Taints And Honours
Volume 4 – The Black Volume
I Went To Gdansk With Somebody
This Is The Next Century Series
Volume 1 – Aftershot
Volume 2 – Starogard Girl
Volume 3 – Average Inhabitant
Jonny Blair is a Northern Irish travel writer based in Poland. He was born in Newtownards in 1980 and grew up in Bangor in Northern Ireland. Since leaving his hometown in 2003, Jonny has traveled far and wide, detailing his journeys on his one man travel blog, Don’t Stop Living. Jonny has visited over 200 countries across all seven continents including Iran, Ethiopia, Andorra, China and Suriname. Jonny has also traveled to some lesser known places such as the Republic of Uzupis, Podjistan, Nauru, Kugelmugel, Sark, Antarctica, Nagorno Karabakh, Iraqi Kurdistan and The Empire of Austenasia. As well as working as a freelance writer, editor, teacher and copywriter, Jonny has also worked in bars, hotels and restaurants as well as on ferries, in farms, in schools and in offices. Jonny writes every day in some capacity and is also a poet and a football fanzine editor. Aside from travel, Jonny is a passionate football supporter of Glentoran FC, AFC Bournemouth, Klub Pilkarski Starogard, Legia Warszawa and Northern Ireland. Jonny aims to inspire other people to get out there and see the world with their own two eyes.
Links (Website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, YouTube)