Every Thursday, A Dangerous Business will be shining the spotlight on a world nomad, travel blogger, armchair adventurer, or just someone really cool in the travel world. This week, the traveler is Jonny Blair of Don't Stop Living. Johnny is a passionate world traveler. Hailing from the seaside town of Bangor in Northern Ireland, he has been on a mission to explore the world for the last decade. He has backpacked, worked and charmed his way to all seven continents, taking in over 70 countries in the process. His travels have seen him live and work in places like Sydney, London, Hong Kong, Montevideo and Poatina. Off the beaten track, Jonny has also passport stamps from Antarctica, Belarus, Botswana, and Suriname. Follow his journeys on Don't Stop Living, one of the longest running travel blogs out there, having started life in Toronto in 2007.1. How do you define the word “traveler,” and why would you consider yourself one?
Somebody who doesn't like to stay in the same place all the time. Somebody who doesn't follow the usual “travel routes” and gets off the beaten track. I have been to places like Belarus, Antarctica, Iraq, Iran, Nagorno Karabakh, Suriname, Swaziland, Brunei, North Korea and some really remote parts of Taiwan and China, all without ever having a set home. I hope this qualifies me as a “traveler”!
2. What has been your favorite travel experience thus far?
I'd have to be really obvious and say Antarctica. It was just an incredible experience to step foot on the world's most remote, most cold, most windy and most dry continent. It is a place of true magic. A travel gem and I loved it. I worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for a few months on broccoli farms in Australia to save up for it and I did it. I got a special offer of a 2 week trip and took it. It was total travel bliss!! I recommend Antarctica to everyone out there. There is so much to see and do there. From glaciers to harbour cruises past icebergs to visiting a museum, a British base, even a post office. And of course penguins, not to mention Deception Island. Head to Ushuaia in Argentina and get it booked!! I have a great post on how to do Antarctica for cheap if you want to check it out.
3. How about your proudest travel moment?
Either hiking the 4 Day Inca Trail in Peru, hiking to the top of Mount Kinabalu, or working on the world's first broccoli harvester in Tasmania! It's hard to choose between the three. The Inca Trail is easily the best hike I've done and it was such a proud moment on Christmas morning walking on the final descent down to the lost city of the Incas, Machu Picchu. Recently hiking to the peak of Mount Kinabalu was just fantastic. It is the most breathtaking mountain I've been on and I loved the views and the entire experience. Also working on the world's first broccoli harvester was a great proud moment for me. I was chosen to be on it due to my speed at harvesting broccoli and I got a pay rise, more working hours and ultimately was able to save a lot of money for my next adventure!
4. Have you had any travel mishaps or bad experiences? If so, have these influenced how you view the place where they happened? Would you go back?
I have had lots but the worst ones all happened in Venezuela! I had guns to my body on three searches at the Cucuta to San Antonio del Tachira border. I was almost mugged in Altamira in Caracas, and in downtown Caracas I saw guys swapping cocaine for guns and had a money changer rip me off. On top of this I was refused service in a restaurant, ripped off in a coffee shop (got my own back by taking a water on my way out) and declined money from ATMs. All this happened in a matter of days, the same time I had my Suriname Visa rejected (I finally got it). I won't go back to Venezuela in a hurry, though I did miss out on visiting Angel Falls and the biggest ice cream shop in the world.
I've also been robbed in Prague and lost over $1000 in the water in Laos. There are always lessons to learn on the road and I've learnt a few things from my mistakes.
5. Name one thing you can’t travel without.
It would be too obvious to say my passport as in fact I don't need it for some places (most of Europe, Antarctica, etc.) so I'll say PASSION. You need to be enthusiastic and passionate about travel to love it and continue doing it. Everyday is a day of passion and I cherish each moment no matter where I am. If I lose my passion, I won't travel again, and believe me, for a few months in 2009 I did lose it. I was down and out. So what did I do? I booked a one way ticket to Taiwan from where I was living at the time (Bournemouth in England). My passion keeps me inspired.
6. Name one thing you wish you COULD travel without.
Money. It would be nice to not have to worry about it…but it makes the world go round and there is also something nice about getting new currency when you hit a new country. I love collecting banknotes and coins, but I'd love to be able to forget about money and just travel…
7. What do you think has been the biggest thing you’ve learned while traveling (about yourself, a destination, a culture, travel itself)?
The main thing I have learned is to live the life you want. Think of what you love and design your lifestyle around it. I love meeting new people, trying new food, drinking new beers, crossing borders, writing, taking photos and watching football. Combine all those and it's clear that I can have them all if I live a lifestyle of travel, so that's what I do. I know that some people are just not living the life they want and can. I know people who work in offices in places like London, San Francisco and Sydney and they say they “want to travel but they can't”. They're too scared to leave their jobs and flats behind. But they CAN DO IT. All it takes is to make the first step. Anyone can do it.
8. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Very tough question so I'm going to cheat and make up a place consisting of my favourite places!! I'll have the laid back lifestyle of Montevideo mixed with the bars and pubs of Sydney, the football of Belfast/Bournemouth, add my family, girlfriend and friends to that and give me a decent airport nearby so I can go anywhere I want and I'm sorted. A remote island which has a ferry to a big city would also be nice. I haven't found anywhere that has it all yet! Hong Kong is a good base but it's miles from my family and my favourite food, drink and football teams!
9. Name one place you’d like to see or one experience you’d like to have before you die.
I've “ticked off” a lot of my places already, especially the Inca Trail, Soweto and Antarctica but I'm hungry for MORE!! One place only? OK then South Pole or North Pole. I'd like to stand at one of them and sip a beer!
But I'm also really excited about places like French Guyana, Mexico, Kosovo and Gibraltar, which I hope to make someday.
10. If there was one thing you wish somebody would have told you before you started traveling, what would it be?
These are great questions Amanda! This is a tough one and I guess the only real thing that I wish I had known or been told back then would be promoting and monetising my blog a lot more. I started Don't Stop Living in 2007, I constantly updated it, I wrote about 1,000 posts yet had hardly any followers, not many comments and the site was hard to navigate round. Then in 2012 I upgraded to its own web domain, kept on writing and reaching out to other bloggers and sharing my stories and tips. I was one of the first travel bloggers out there, yet I didn't really see the potential of my site nor understand how the internet works until recently. I'm getting there now and my site statistics have gone up a lot. I'd like to have worked on my blog a lot more in the early days (2007 – 2011). Apart from that I'm a happy traveler and I have loved every minute of the last decade, about to head to Hong Kong again for a few months before hitting Brazil for the World Cup.