Born in Northern Ireland, today Jonny Blair is currently living in Hong Kong and claims to have worked more than 50 different jobs on the road. Read our last interview for finding out why he is a perfect match for our On The Road Interview Series!
- Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started to travel. Do you remember your 1st travel experience? Why are you (if that’s so…) passionate about traveling?
The first time I ever went traveling without my parents or family was in 1991. I was only 11 at the time and went on a school trip to the Netherlands. Things just developed from there really. As a kid I had loved watching football and especially the World Cup. Seeing all those far off places in magazines and sticker books, I knew I wanted to get out there and see them. Despite a few more trips in my teens and early 20s, it wasn’t until I was 23 that I properly got out to see the world. That was 10 years ago now! I started by backpacking in Europe then decided on North America, China and Russia.
Since 2003, I have been to all 7 continents, visiting around 80 countries and 500 towns or cities. I’ve also had over 50 jobs along the way. I’m addicted to travel now!
- Now that we know where do you come from… could you tell us where are you heading to? Which are your plans for the future in terms of traveling?
I’ve neglected the Middle East so far on my adventure, so it’s up next. I’ll be heading to a friend’s wedding and backpacking my way through the countries in the Middle East and the Caucases. I’m also hoping to watch some football in Baku, Azerbaijan on the way as my team, Northern Ireland are playing there. After that I want to head to Africa and South America again.
- What do you think of traveling with a purpose or meaning in mind? What do you look for when traveling long term?
I don’t really think of a purpose or a meaning most of the time. I get bored of being in the same place so I want to go somewhere new and that’s it. I just want to see new places, experience new things, meet new cultures and get to know the planet a lot better. I also like to help promote the fact I’m from Northern Ireland and hopefully inspire people I meet to want to visit my home country.
- How do you fund your travels? Have you found a job or income source that allows you to be on the road fulltime? Tell us what you do for a living.
I’ve had about 50 different jobs down the years. I’m pretty much always working, and I have multiple income streams most of the time so I have enough cash to keep me on the road. I won’t name all 50 jobs but I profile one job-related story every Wednesday in my Working Wednesdays feature. I have a degree in Public Relations and I’m an experienced barman. My range of jobs down the years have included weeding bean fields, selling ice cream, telephone banking, welcoming hosts to events, teaching English, working on ferries, harvesting broccoli, milking cows, writing for magazines, being a PR rep, preparing a theatre for events, etc. Too many to mention. These days I’ve been doing a lot more online work – planning itineraries, travel writing and any platforms to make money that arise through my travel blog.
- Did your job, studies, volunteering experiences or other projects help you to travel the world? Where have you been thanks to those? If so, tell us a bit about those experiences.
Yes – totally. As an experienced bar man, this has led to working in over 25 different bars round the world (so about half of my working career has probably been in bars/customer service). As a PR guy, this has led to opportunities through my travel blog and outreach. By working on car ferries a few years back, I got a lot of free and discounted trips. Recently I’ve also had media trips and discount through my travel blog. Most of my world travels have been through hard work. You don’t get much for free. I lived in my tent in the mountains working on broccoli farms to afford my Antarctica trip. Similarly by teaching in multiple schools in Hong Kong, I was able to backpack round lots of parts of Asia, specilaising in China. The key thing is to work hard and you’ll get opportunities.
- What would you recommend to someone who wants to follow your steps? Which kind of training or studies is necessary? Would an investment be needed in the first place? Please, give 3 pieces of advice (you wish to have known before starting) of what to do and what to avoid in order to succeed.
Honestly – just work hard. Work in multiple jobs at the same time. When I first started out traveling, I worked 5 days a week selling ice cream, 2 nights a week in a busy hotel and 2 nights a week in a local supermarket. 6 months of doing that and I’d saved a lot! In terms of other things – a degree is a nice thing to have because people are more likely to employ you. Experience working in customer service is also important as these types of jobs are all over the world – especially bars and shops. So get some experience before you set out on the road. Another thing is don’t buy things you don’t need like beds, TVs, wardrobes etc. Travellers never buy or own these types of things. I’d save the money hard and then book a ticket onto the next destination. Of course investment and starting with money is necessary but you’ll get that through working hard. 3 pieces of advice?:
- Work hard
- Do a bit of research (visas, injections, job opportunities, etc.)
- Book a one-way ticket and see where it takes you from there
- What does a perfect day in your life look like? Do you follow any particular routine?
I don’t have a set routine but I’ll tell you what a perfect day would be, with my girlfriend:
7am – wake up and have a coffee while I check my emails and travel blog, etc.
8am – breakfast
9am – 1pm – Out sightseeing (pick a town or city – I’m there)
1 – 2pm – Decent light lunch in a relaxing place with a view
2 – 6pm – More sightseeing
6 – 7pm – Back to hostel to relax, shower, lie down, maybe have a cup of tea
7pm – Decent meal for dinner over a beer
9pm – Head to a bar and have a beer watching the football
11pm – Check in on my travel blog and emails again and type up a post
12 midnight – Bedtime!
(add the odd bus, train, flight, boat etc. moving onto the next place and that’s pretty much my travel lifestyle!)
- Where do you come from originally and where you call home now? Can you give us some local tips we cannot find in a guidebook but you highly recommend about your hometown?
I was born in Newtownards and I grew up in Bangor. Both are small towns in Northern Ireland. They are always my home as my parents and family are from there and I’m a proud Northern Irishman. I don’t go back as often as I should, but that’s the way I am these days – I’m out exploring the world. Local tips? My hometown has a decent beach which is off the beaten track, some great local food (Ulster Fry, Pastie Supper, Cheesey Beano Chip, Soda Bread) and some decent pubs. If you ever end up in Bangor, call into the Windsor Bar. That’s my old local pub and I still know the landlord. The nearest big city to Bangor is Belfast and it’s totally recommended. There are a lot of touristy things to do there including the Titanic Centre, the political wall murals and of course the many bars and pubs.
- Do you read, write, draw, listen to music, sing, watch movies or do something else while traveling? How do you interact with technology these days and which gadgets you definitely take with you everywhere? What is your favorite book? And movie?
I’ll answer these one at a time. I read books (mostly travel books but also history books and autobiographies). I don’t draw ever. I just write. I write notes in a travel book, on my laptop and on the internet. I listen to my music on my iPod when I’m on buses, planes and trains. I sing karaoke occassionally at social events, even won a competition for my singing in Melbourne. I never watch movies. I get bored after 5 minutes! In terms of technology I take my laptop, my camera and my iPod. I hate mobile phones and try to avoid them, though my girlfriend insists I have one. It’s not my thing though. Favourite book is Fifty Dead Men Walking by Martin McGartland (it’s a true story). Favourite movie or film is probably Live and Let Die with Roger Moore. I’m a big fan of James Bond films, but not much else movie wise!
- Do you keep a bucket list? Which are your (craziest) dreams? Where are your favorite destinations on earth? (feel free to add any other information you would like to share with our readers here)
I don’t like the term bucket list at all. But I do have some dreams. I want to visit 100 countries by the age of 35. After that I’d like to visit every country in the world. I want to watch the football World Cup, hopefully someday watching my own team Northern Ireland there.
My favorite destination so far has been Antarctica. It was simply a fantastic place to go, so far away from the commercial world we know and loathe. Aside from that I love backpacking in China – it’s just so remote and you go days without seeing another tourist. I’ve been to 12 out of the 29 Provinces so far and would love to see them all. I also love Taiwan, Uruguay, Bolivia and Ethiopia. It’s a tough question to answer really as I’ve been to so many places that I loved.
In my upcoming trips I am most looking forward to visiting Iran and Nagorno Karabakh. I love the off the beaten track spots, as you get a bit more freedom and are always more inspired.
We are sure you’ll get there soon!
Inspired by Jonny’s words? Head over to his blog Don’t Stop Living, twitter or Facebook for more!