Interview: Jonny Blair of Don’t Stop Living

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Travelers find other travelers. We even seek each other out. When found, there’s no limit to the conversations about adventure, visas, heritage sites and local cuisine. Have you stayed at that hostel? Did you eat at Joe’s Beerhouse where your toes wiggle in the sand as the feast arrives at your table? What did you like best about that certain city? The questions are endless and the stories come with a side of travel adventure and usually a lot of laughter. Jonny Blair is a long term traveler and travel writer at Don’t Stop Living – A Lifestyle of Travel and Backpacking in China. Jonny has visited around 600 cities/towns in 90 countries across all 7 continents in the past decade. He is one of those travelers you might find at a hostel lobby or in that famed restaurant regaling others with stories of journeys while enjoying local fare. Here he shares his travel experiences and his advice to ‘work anywhere and get ready for a crazy time’.

Jonny Blair and an elephant in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka elephant visit

1.When did you get started traveling? My first trip away from my parents was in 1991 on a school trip. But after working in a load of dead ends jobs, it wasn’t until 2003 that I actually left my home country of Northern Ireland. I haven’t been traveling constantly though – I’ve had plenty of “bases” over the years including London, Devonport, Sydney, Hong Kong and Bournemouth. During that time I have managed to backpack my way to almost 100 countries across all 7 continents.

2.What made you decide make the jump to a location independent/travel-based existence? I hate routines. I get bored of them easily. All this 9am – 5pm melarkey – I can’t be done with it and I hate the idea of keeping the same job your whole life. I worked in a busy PR office in London from 2006 – 2007 and as soon as I quit that job, I was off exploring and backpacking the globe. That was the trip that I started my travel blog and since then things have just developed into a travel based lifestyle. I’m not completely location independent as I use Hong Kong as my base for a few months each year and I need to be online on my travels as I work on the move. There was also no decision involved – this is just the way life happened for me – I didn’t plan it…Let life take you where it does.

Jonny Blair of Dont Stop Living in the seas at Atauro Island East Timor

In the seas at Atauro Island East Timor

3.What benefits do you feel you get from this lifestyle? How do you handle the nay-sayers in your life? I get to live my life to the fullest while I am young. I can do anything I want. If I want to fly to Romania tomorrow, I can! If I decided I want to work in Ethiopia tomorrow, I’ll just go and do it. This lifestyle is diverse and constantly entertaining. It has no limits or boundaries. I don’t listen to the nay-sayers but I’m sure there are people who would love to travel the world like myself and others who do it, but they will never admit it.

4.How did you save money to be able to afford living ‘on the road’/traveling often? How long did it take you to make the jump to a location independent/travel-based life? I’ve never really “saved money” – it’s not in my nature, I spend the money I earn. I prefer to live life while I can, while I have the money, time and mobility; I use it to travel. I spend almost every penny I earn on my adventures. I work hard, normally in multiple jobs at the same time – no job is below me – I’ll work anywhere and I’ve had over 50 jobs through the years. I’m good at budgeting and I’ll share a room with 30 people, sleep in a tent, or sleep in a bus station if I have to. It doesn’t cost that much to travel, as you’re always earning money and not spending much. I spend less money traveling the world than some of my friends who stay in the same place. I don’t have any bills to pay, and haven’t for about 5 years now.

On a tour in Hebron

5.How do you choose your destinations and for how long you’ll stay? What type of accommodations do you typically choose? Are there any specific resources you recommend? It all just falls into place for me – I don’t plan things too much. This year though obviously I’m heading back to Brazil as it was my dream to go to the World Cup and now I can. The time of stay just depends on visas and how much there is to see there. We only spent 10 days in Azerbaijan as that was enough, but our visa for Iran lasted 30 days so we used it all up. I’m constantly wanting to explore every part of China so I have been back about 20 times now. For accommodation I usually pick the cheapest and easiest way – dorms in hostels has been the norm for me and every now and then through saving money on that, you can afford a night in a hotel with hot showers and comfy beds. You can’t go wrong with the top 100 travel blogs out there – we’ve all been to these places and written about them – trust travel bloggers before you trust commercial companies.

6.How much money do you traditionally need annually to support this lifestyle? Good question! I’ve never counted it, but probably around $20,000 US. When you’re working and staying in the same place, typically you’ll earn a lot more and spend a lot less, so this can be halved most of the time too.

Jonny Blair working as a steward on Car Ferries

That time I worked as a steward on Car Ferries

7.How do you make money on the road and save for retirement? I make money on the road but I certainly don’t save for retirement. Over the years I have worked in hotels, restaurants, schools, banks, ferries, offices, ice cream huts, pubs, remote farms, factories and post depots. It’s easy to find a job when you’re on the move. These days I do a lot of travel writing and itinerary planning to bring in extra revenue. I also have staff running a number of niche websites for me, to earn some advertising revenue to keep me on the road a bit longer.

8.How do you handle visas, vaccinations, legal documents/passports, taxes and healthcare while living without a home base or an ever-changing one? I carry a folder with all that stuff in it – visas are easier to get while you’re traveling as you can push the tour agents and embassies in person more as you need the visa within days to visit a place before you overstay your current visa. Health care – if I’m ill, I go to the doctor – simple as that. Even if I have to pay – I just pay it. There is no price on health. It’s number one, always.

Jonny Blair at Rinadeena - the peak of the Western Wilderness Railway in Tasmania

In Rinadeena – the peak of the Western Wilderness Railway in Tasmania, Australia

9.If you decide to settle somewhere – where and when do you think it will be? I could easily live in Hong Kong, Australia, England or Germany but no idea if the day will ever come to “stay in one place”. I spent a full year staying in the same place from 2009 – 2010 (Australia) and don’t really fancy doing that again. I’m closing in on the 100 country mark and want to get that one ticked off and out of the way before I decide where I want my life to go after that.

10.What advice do you have for others trying to make the jump to a location independent/ travel-heavy lifestyle? If you want it, you’ll get it. Never use the word “can’t.” You can. Don’t set limits, don’t set boundaries. Work anywhere and get ready for a crazy time.

Jonny Blair at Neko Harbour in Mainland Antarctica

At Neko Harbour in Antarctica

 

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