August 29, 2013

Travel Interview with Jonny Blair from Don't Stop Living

It's a honor to have Jonny Blair, from Don't Stop Living, in an interview for Mindful Travel. He's been traveling the world for 10 years now, visiting over 75 countries and his travel blog is six years old! I really love his moto: fearless, boundless, 7 continent travel. Jonny is a real traveler!

Travel Interview with Jonny Blair from Don't Stop Living
Zorbing in Rotorua New Zealand

1.  When and why did you decide to left everything and travel the around the world?

It was 2003 and I was living in my hometown of Bangor, Northern Ireland. Life was pretty mundane and I needed a change. I first left to move to England, using "university" as an excuse to get away. Once in England I started selling ice cream and through that job met people from all over the world, so I was hooked on travel. I first backpacked round Europe, before hitting China and Russia. By 2009 I had relocated to Australia before backpacking in South America and Antarctica. These days I spend most of my time in Hong Kong in Asia and I love it!

2.  When, why and how did you start your travel blog?

It was in July 2007 when I was backpacking in Toronto. I had just left a high profile PR job in London behind and was out seeing the world. I met two backpackers in the hostel (Lee and Mike) who had travel blogs, so I decided to start mine. That was 6 years ago now. I stole the title "Don't Stop Living" from graffiti that was on a High School Wall in Toronto and that was that.

3.  What is the best thing of travelling?

Seeing new places and meeting new people. Everyday is different. I hate mundane, repetitive, routine lifestyles. I don't know how people can do the same thing every day. We're not cows in fields. We have the ability to be different all the time and I love going to places I haven't been before and meeting new people. I'll never tire of that, but I get bored easily if I'm staying in the one place with the same people.

Jonny Blair drinking with mates in Trieste German Bar Italy 2008

4.  What thing you always put in your luggage and you never forget?

My passports. I carry two at all times and I never forget them. It's a hassle to get new passports abroad and replace visas etc. so it's the most important thing to me. I've lost my wallet, my money and my camera all before. They can be replaced easily (though the photos can't) but your passport is your unique record of your journey and cannot be replaced.

5.  What kind of traveler are you?

I'm a cheapskate budget backpacker. I go for the cheapest hostels, the cheapest tours and the cheapest transport options. I try and avoid taxis, posh hotels and rip off merchants. For the same reason I never buy brand name clothes. I totally don't see the point in it. Football shirts are as expensive as I go. The cheaper the better everywhere I go.

6.  What’s your most memorable travel experience or favorite trip ever and why?

Antarctica in 2010 is still my highlight. Just being out in the open with the clean, clear and crisp fresh air and a beautiful white wilderness in front of me was special. I had worked for 5 solid months on farms in the wilderness just to pay for this trip and on arrival in the white continent, it was all worth it. Penguins, peace, seals, glaciers, volcanoes and even a post office and a museum made this the most special trip I've done and without doubt something I recommend to everyone out there.

Jonny Blair at Half Moon Island Antarctica

7.  And the worst?

Venezuela. Being robbed. Being almost mugged. Being searched 5 times. Being ripped off. Being refused a visa. Witnessing a cocaine raid. Seeing a gun snatch in a local pawn shop. I hated it, though I did meet about 3 or 4 decent people there to help me through my crazy moments!

8.  Is there any destination you would never want to go?

Not really - I'm open and wanting to go everywhere. Especially places like North Pole, South Pole, Iraq, South Sudan, Somaliland, North Korea, Libya. I want to go everywhere. There are a few places I wouldn't go back to but that's about it!

9.  Please, tell me three things you always have in mind when you are planning a trip.

1. Budget. I'm always trying to save the pennies
2. Visas. What do I need in advance to get there, where can I get it, how much does it cost, how long can I stay and what are the longer term implications of having visited that place.
3. Internet. These days as I do so much online work, I'm always looking for a bar that has wi-fi, or even better a hostel that has it. Then I can relax while I get my online stuff done!

Jonny Blair trying Portuguese style egg tarts in Macau

10.  Do you prefer relax or adventure? Why?

Sadly it's been mostly adventure and I've been backpacking way too fast to relax recently. The last 10 years have been totally crazy, so hopefully the next 10 years I can relax more. My girlfriend helps immensely - she likes to relax more and it's rubbing off on me. Hiking to the top of a mountain or getting a crazy night bus is all cool. But having a beer to watch the sunset and getting a slow train can be just as rewarding.

11.  Do you know Spain? If yes, what do you think of the places you visited?

I've been to Spain three times and to different parts. On the mainland I visited Valencia, Alicante and Torrevieja. I loved Valencia for its big city vibe and football stadium. But I also loved the beach resorts, the afternoon siestas and the pink lake. The beer and food was good too.

I have also been to Menorca and toured round the island and on a lads holiday to Magaluf in Majorca. I speak a bit of Spanish as I studied it in Uruguay to get by and I'd love to visit Barcelona, Madrid and Gibraltar (that's the British in me) some day. 

12.  Is there any culture that changed your thinking?

Yes - a lot of them have - here are a few highlights:
- The Irish and English taught me to drink more
- The Australians taught me not to stress
- The Chinese taught me to be rude and aggressive to get what you want
- The Taiwanese taught me to enjoy what you have and be proud of it
- The Uruguayans taught me to relax as often as you can
- The Italians taught me that they have the best food in the world
- The Venezuelans taught me to be bitter, take revenge and don't pretend everything is good
- Office workers in London, Hong Kong and Sydney proved to me that all work and no play makes you a dull person.

Jonny Blair and Northern Ireland Flag in Kibowa Tanzania

13.  Have you ever try couchsurfing? If yes, where and how was your experience?

My girlfriend has done it and a few of my friends have hosted others, but officially I've never done that myself, though I've been registered on their website for about 5 years!

14.  What is your advice for people who just started their travel blogs?

Keep writing passionately and write about things that nobody else does. Who cares what the top 5 things to do in Paris are? Write about stuff like feeding hyenas in Ethiopia and living on a Colombian farm. They're real travel stories that are unique. Going shopping in New York is not.

Jonny Blair feeding a hyena in Harar Ethiopia

15.  Where are you off to next?

China and North Korea immediately then it's off to go backpacking round the Middle East. Hoping to catch up with some old friends in Baku in Azerbaijan and attend a mate's wedding in Afula. I really cannot wait!!

Follow Jonny around the world in Don't Stop Living - A Lifestyle of Travel