This week Meet the Travel Bloggers talks to travel blogger Jonny Blair of Don’t Stop Living whose been on the road for 10 years.
When, why and how did you start your travel blog, Don’t Stop Living?
It was July 2007 and I was backpacking in Toronto in Canada. I was already keeping a written diary from everywhere I went and then I met two other travel bloggers in the hostel one night, Mike and Lee. They were also round the world travellers. Straight away I knew I was starting a travel blog. I typed my posts up initially as emails I sent to myself before finally launching Don’t Stop Living in August 2007 on the Blogger Platform. That got a bit too big so last year (2012), I moved it onto its own domain; I thought my stories deserved the upgrade!
How did you get that name and what does the name mean to you?
It also comes from Toronto in Canada – the words “Don’t Stop Living” were graffittied onto a wall by a high school when I was wandering round the city. I thought “that sounds good!” not just as a blog title, but a general way to live your life. I live my life by the phrase now.
What is the thing that keeps you the most jazzed about blogging?
These days it’s connecting with other bloggers. At the start, I’ll be honest I lived in a shell and just wrote about what I was doing and didn’t even have a Facebook Page for my blog. Now I love reaching out, being featured on other blogs and getting to know more travellers. Knowing I’m not the only person who wants to visit places like Nagorno Karabakh, Cameroon and the North Pole is a pleasing thought.
When did you leave your native Northern Ireland for global travel?
It was exactly 10 years ago, September 2003. I initially left my hometown of Bangor just to move to England to study. But after a few months, I was working with people from all over the world, trying to get a degree, working hard and saving to go travelling in Europe. I started with Spain, Germany and Poland. It soon developed into a wanderlust I could not have predicted. I went to China soon after, then ended up in Australia for a couple of years before conquering all seven continents. I still managed to get my degree in the middle of all that though. After touring the world, I headed back to Bournemouth in 2007 to complete the degree.
How do you finance your travels?
I’ve had a hell of a lot of different jobs down the years, so I’m always pretty busy with work. I try to work in multiple jobs at the same time and will take any work going. Anything! This has seen me clean toilets on ships, cut broccoli, milk cows, answer phones, teach English, serve in bars and even a stint working in PR for a massive computer company named after a fruit. If there’s money going, I’ll gladly put in the hours to get it.
Do you mostly travel solo?
Over the years I’ve travelled alone, with friends and with my girlfriend so I like to mix it up a bit. I need my own space as well, but love sharing the experience with my girlfriend and the banter with my mates. People kind of assume I travel solo a lot because of my one man blog, but that’s not really the case, these days it’s mostly with my girlfriend. I’ve a load of travel buddies around the world who join me for different trips too.
Are you constantly on the road or do you prefer long-term stays?
I like to use places as my “base” for a while. The last three places I’ve done this with are Hong Kong, Sydney and Tasmania. I also stayed in Montevideo for a while. I prefer to be on the move, but we need to work so finding a base and earning money for a while has featured a lot. I’d love to be able to do a month in one place, and then move on, but because of the jobs I’ve had I haven’t managed that yet. As I have been away from Northern Ireland for 10 years now, I like to say I’m always on the road. I’ve been back there twice in four years, and they were for special occasions.
What excites you most about travel?
The word “NEW”. Just going to new places, wakening up in new cities, arriving by bus in new places I’ve never heard of, meeting new people, finding out new facts, trying new things, drinking new beers. Everything is new when you travel because we haven’t been there before.
On the road, do you seek out some experiences more than others?
I always like to try some kind of local food and meet the local people. Other than that, I go with the flow. I’ll try anything and go anywhere – I don’t really have many limits.
You spent a bunch of time in Antarctica. How did you get there? How long did you stay?
Ha ha! It must seem like I spent a load of time in Antarctica as I write and rave about it constantly. I’ve written over 50 posts on the white continent (for my own blog and for others) yet I was only on a 13 day tour! But it was THAT good, I still write about it!!
I was camping out in Tasmania in early 2010 and I happened to visit the Australian Antarctic Centre. It was then that I hatched my plan to go to Antarctica. Initially I thought about going back to work on the ships and doing it that way; by working on a cruise that went there, but I had been working endlessly on farms for five months and I had enough money to book a proper trip, so I did.
So, in November 2010, I boarded a ship called the MS Expedition and left Ushuaia in Argentina to explore Antarctica. It was one of the cheaper trips around at the time and the people I met on board were just amazing – many of them cheap ass backpackers like me.
So I stayed less than 2 weeks but loved every minute of it. We did some decent hiking, snow diving, and swimming as well as visiting a museum. Once you’ve backpacked up a remote island in Antarctica, then nothing in travel will ever be the same again. It was pure bliss. I totally recommend all your readers to get out there!!
What’s your most memorable travel experience or favorite trip ever?
Well I have covered Antarctica in the last question, so I’ll plump for the Inca Trail in Peru. It was just the whole journey of it all. It was a dream of mine to do it. I had a mate who went there by bus and did it in a day to tick Machu Picchu off his list. I was horrified that someone could do that and miss the whole hike. So I got to Cuzco and headed out to the start of the four day hike having got just four hours sleep. It was ridiculous. But as soon as I started the hike I was just in awe of the views in the valleys. I have hiked a lot and the Inca Trail is without doubt the best hike I have ever done. And to top it all off, on the last morning, the mist cleared and I got a view of Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas. Having walked for four days, slept in tents that were wet, got soaked, hadn’t even showered or barely changed; to be confronted with the ruins of Machu Picchu was just incredible. It is a moment that will stick long in my memory and one I will never forget.
It seems like you’re an adventurous guy. What is the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done? Would you do it again?
Maybe sky diving in New Zealand; or crossing the border from Colombia to Venezuela the day of the black market crash. I’d do a sky dive again for sure, but I’m a cheapskate so I’d love a company to pay for it. I’m not really keen to do the Venezuela to Colombia border again. I must have sweated a couple of kilos as the guys held guns all around me.
What’s your favorite place on earth?
Northern Ireland. It’s home. I’ll always feel happy there. My friends, my family, my football teams and the local food are all there for me. But Northern Ireland can wait – I’ve a whole world to see first!!
Where are you now and where are you off to next?
I’m in Zhuhai in China at now, in two weeks I’m off to Burma, in four weeks off to Tanzania and in two months it’s Georgia and Azerbaijan!! I literally am so excited about all of it!!
What’s the biggest fantasy on your bucket?
Going to the moon and opening up a pub there. As a James Bond movie title once said “the world is not enough”. But that’s just a dream. I’d like to visit every country on earth, which is a more realistic fantasy, I’m a third of the way there…
Travel blogger Jonny Blair is a global nomad from Northern Ireland. He left his hometown of Bangor a decade ago out of boredom and has since been on an amazing journey round the world. His adventures have taken him far and wide, covering every continent and almost 500 towns and cities along the way. You can read about them on his blog, Don’t Stop Living. Aside from all this travelling, Jonny likes to relax, do some blogging and have a beer. You can follow him on Twitter, like his Facebook page and view his adventures on YouTube.
Jonny wrote about his home country, Northern Ireland, earlier this year.