Jonny Blair is a hardcore backpacker who would lay down and die before giving up his adventurous lifestyle. Over the last decade he has made his way through 75 countries, stepped foot onto all 7 continents, and held over 50 different jobs all around the world in order to fund his intense obsession with travel.
He has taken the polar plunge in Antarctica (fully naked), backpacked through Iraq, visited one of Saddam Hussein’s Houses of Horrors, and scored a signed football shirt from Northern Ireland goalkeeper Alan Mannus in Azerbaijan. He has never owned a TV, a bed or a wardrobe, and instead spends his money on his lifestyle of travel.
Jonny Blair is this week’s inspiring traveler.
What do you love the most about travelling?
The sense of freedom and adventure. The fact that every day is different. The new people you meet. The new places you see. The fact you never get bored. The fact that you are out enjoying life to the fullest.
What inspired you to start travelling?
There’s no one answer to this question so I’ll list a few of the catalysts for my obsessive travel habits.
1. As a kid I used to love the Panini football sticker albums for the World Cup and looking at teams like South Korea, Uruguay and Italy thinking I’d love to go there one day.
2. While working in a local butchery in 2002, we ran out of meat during the foot and mouth crisis which meant I had a day off. Bored, with nothing to do, I plotted my route away from my home country and decided I’d change my lifestyle.
3. I worked in London for a year in a PR company and decided that lifestyle wasn’t for me so I put my backpack on and headed out into the sunset!
Describe your travelling personality.
I’m a hardcore traveller who doesn’t have limits or boundaries. I backpack quite incessantly through numerous towns and cities. It’s always about seeing as many places as I can, meeting as many people and doing as many things as possible. Along the way I pick up as many jobs as I can to earn cash to keep me on the road.
I’m a tight ass, cheapskate backpacker at the best of times. When I’m not busy working I like to socialise and have a beer with my travel buddies.
What is “Don’t Stop Living” all about?
I started “Don’t Stop Living” back in 2007 when I was backpacking in Toronto. At the start it was just me telling my stories from my travels, my jobs and my lifestyle. Over the years it became a lot more extensive and popular than I ever could have imagined.
When I realised this, I switched to a new domain and now see my website as a resource for anyone out there that wants to travel. I give travel tips and advice as well as sharing my experiences, stories and wisdom. I want to help others travel and I want to keep travelling myself!
You’re a “one man travel guide to all seven continents” – which continent is your favourite?
It has to be Antarctica. Antarctica was always my dream continent to visit, so when I finally stepped foot on it, it was a great moment.
The best continent for moving experiences has to be Africa, while the cheapest and easiest continent to live in is Asia. All that said, I also believe that South America is an outstanding place! And I’m from Europe so I have to mention it.
What is the most fascinating place you’ve been?
I normally answer this type of question with Antarctica. But recently I’ve been backpacking in Iraq and find it so fascinating.
There are virtually no other travellers about and it’s safe enough in the northern Kurdistan region. I went to one of Saddam Hussein’s Houses of Horrors which was a truly scary place but something worth seeing. What was once a complex for the Ba ‘ath party torturing innocent people, is now Iraq’s first museum and sits, almost unchanged, in the city of Sulaymaniyeh. A really moving experience.
Aside from the reminders of Saddam’s regime, the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan are stunning. I loved the mountain town of Amadiya. This is a gem for any adventurous traveller!
You’ve been to Antarctica?! What was that like??
It was just an amazingly memorable experience. I had basically locked myself away in the wilderness of Tasmania to work on remote farms for 5 months just so I could save money and afford to go to Antarctica and South America.
Antarctica has volcanoes, museums, mountains, icebergs. It’s a continent of extremes and it will blow your mind. I try and encourage everyone to go there!
How do you afford to travel?
Working hard and earning as much cash as I can. I’ve had over 50 jobs through the years, including some bizarre ones such as welcoming guests to functions, selling hot dogs, harvesting echinacea and planting pyrethrum!
I try to have at least one job at any one time and haven’t been out of work through choice since I turned 18. As well as working hard, I also save hard and cut out luxuries. I’ve never owned a TV, bed or a wardrobe and I haven’t signed a contract for a flat in over 5 years.
The coolest person you have met on your travels?
I bumped into Roger Federer when I was in Melbourne and I got a signed football shirt from Northern Ireland goalkeeper Alan Mannus in Azerbaijan.
But the coolest girl I met is my girlfriend – we were on the same cruise to Antarctica!! The coolest guy I met is a fellow travel blogger and Northern Irishman, Johnny Ward – he runs the awesome site “One Step 4Ward” – well worth checking out – the guy is a backpacking legend.
Biggest cultural shock you have experienced while travelling?
Really good question – never been asked about this before. Probably the time I was staying in a Muslim only hostel where no females were allowed and where even water was banned at night.
It was in Doha in Qatar and I wasn’t ready for it. It was just me and 50 Muslims. There were no other backpackers in town!
Getting used to the completely ridiculous mindset of Hong Kong workers also was a big culture shock – they seem to burn themselves out and believe that work is the most important aspect of their life! Not me, when the clock struck 5pm and my shift was over – I was out and back to my life!
The greatest challenge you’ve faced while travelling?
Another cracking question here. I have had a few depressing moments on my travels. I’ve lost my camera and wallet before. But probably the biggest challenge is picking yourself up after a bad moment.
My mates left me stranded in Tasmania in 2010 and I was a bit sad the day they left as I was alone again. I had to pick myself up. I found a job the next day in a broccoli farm, made new friends and moved on.
Funniest or most embarrassing travel moment?
Funniest was probably going naked in the waters of Antarctica. We all did a “polar plunge” at Whaler’s Bay and I got my kit off and loved the freedom of it all.In Antarctica…fully clothed!
Three things you can’t travel without?
Passport, wallet, camera.
Which destinations are at the top of your bucket list?
I’d love to go to Cameroon, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea and the North Pole. Too many to mention. The Sahara Desert and cruising the Nile is also on my list. And Gibraltar.