Riding The Iron Ore Train in Mauritania
Riding The Iron Ore Train in Mauritania

Don't Stop Living: Northern Irish Wanderer Writes His Way Around the World (and Back!)

Northern Irish globetrotter Jonny Blair is a professional writer, blogger, teacher and author from Northern Ireland with a passion for travel, writing, football and most importantly a passion for all things Northern Irish!

Currently living in Warszawa in Poland, it is a far cry from growing up in Bangor, Co Down! As a child, he remembers browsing through every country in the Mexico 1986 Panini Sticker Album and thinking that one day he would love to visit all those countries. “I was so proud to see Northern Ireland in the World Cup against these huge countries, and so I wanted to visit them all!” The travel bug was born!

In his teenage years, Jonny visited England, Scotland, Spain, France and USA and then in his twenties, he went much wilder, by visiting China, Belarus, USA, Taiwan, Poland and many more countries before moving to Australia.

It was around the age of 32 to 33 that my writing became professional and I was able to travel further and easier thanks to my blog and the opportunities that arose from it. It was all a wild dream and the bandwagon rolls on to this day. I think the travelling bug doesn’t wane easily. I ended up in places like Antarctica, Suriname, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Iran by the age of 35.”

Jonny Blair

On his travel list, he’s been to 223 countries he recognises and has been to every FIFA recognised country in Europe and mainland America. From Asia, he’s only missing The Maldives, Bhutan, Tibet and a few separatist regions like Chechnya.

"As my saying goes “if it exists as a place, I’ll go to it”. My backpacking odyssey has included lesser ventured spots like Sark, Barrientos, Atauro Island, Uzupis, Nagorno Karabakh, Northern Cyprus, Maasai Tribes, Macau and The Azores. I’ve visited some truly wild, unknown places such as remote parts of China (example Danxia Shan and Shuhe Town), India (example Andaman Islands and Vrindavan), Brazil (example Oiapoque and Juquitiba), Iran (example Shahr-e Kord and Rayen), Afghanistan (example Tashkurgan and Balkh) and Australia (example Poatina and Beerburrum)."

Aside from all of that he’s also been welcomed to a few micronations as a guest, and these include Romkerhall, Austenasia, Druze People, Adammia and Podjistan.

Walking With Rhinos in Zambia
Walking With Rhinos in Zambia

A natural born writer since primary school where he often wrote travel diaries, football fanzines, football match reports and poems, the travel blogs came easy to Jonny. His first blog – Don’t Stop Living started in Toronto in 2007 while backpacking. “I saw the words “Don’t Stop Living” written on graffiti on a High School wall off Wellesley Street in Toronto and just nicked that as a title because it fits my philosophy of an intense life of everyday adventure.”

Jonny wrote about his travels into diaries and journals all the sights he saw, food he ate, bars he drank in, experiences he had. He met two travel bloggers, Mike Burkimsher and Lee Price and even though he didn’t know what a travel blog was, after checking out both of their blogs, he realised he needed to start an online travel blog and start telling his stories to the world online! The blog turned professional in 2012 with his first sponsorship and since then it’s acted as his flagship site for advertising, marketing, sponsorship and many other aspects to his travel life - opening up so many doors and made travelling easier and more unpredictable.

As well as the blogs, Jonny has also written in total, seven printed books, four e-books and has been featured in two other printed books.

The books are mostly about my travels and the places I visited. I have one book that acts as a guidebook, but most of them are storytelling and adventure books and all are fact and reality. My first two books were short eBooks on travel, then I did some collaborative eBooks with fellow travel bloggers.

Crocodiles at Kachikally The Gambia
Crocodiles at Kachikally The Gambia

“Writing, travel and football are my three main passions. Within that magic hat-trick though, also comes reading books, going to poetry events and guitar concerts. In football, I love groundhopping and the culture that comes with football, so the singing, the banter, the pre-match food and drinks and the following of geek facts and statistics. I support Northern Ireland and AFC Bournemouth most of all but also am a fan of Dunmurry Rec, Glentoran FC, Klub Pilkarski Starogard Gdanski and Legia Warszawa. As far as travel is concerned, I prefer backpacking, crossing borders, getting visas and collecting new border stamps, banknotes, coins, stamps, beer labels and beer mats from all the new places I visit. I also usually buy my Mum a Fridge Magnet from every significant place I visit.”

When Jonny is back home in Northern Ireland, he’ll usually just spend time with family, mostly with his Mum and Dad in Bangor.

I used to always coincide my trips with a Northern Ireland home match at Windsor Park. Some things I almost certainly will do are eat Tayto crisps, soda bread, potato bread, drink Nambarrie Tea, have a wee Bushmills, and more likely than not, I’ll munch a pastie supper and an Ulster Fry!

Teaching English in Tanzania
Teaching English in Tanzania

So what’s next?

I want to focus on releasing my new book series, “This Is The Next Century” and finishing backpacking through my list of 300 countries to visit (I’m currently on 223 on my list). I don’t have many new countries to visit now, but once I have seen them all, I want focus on writing and releasing poetry. After that, I’ll hope to visit every football stadium in the top four divisions of both England and Northern Ireland and get back into football writing.

When that’s all done and dusted, or before it, I’d like to find love, marriage, have children and start a family. It’s never too late for that, once the world has been backpacked!

But I’ll never stop writing!

List of Jonny's books to date:

Backpacking Centurion Series – A Northern Irishman’s Journey Through 100 Countries.
Volume 1- Don’t Look Back In Bangor
Volume 2 – Lands Down Under
Volume 3 – Taints And Honours
Volume 4 – The Black Volume

This Is The Next Century Series
Volume 1 – Aftershot
Volume 2 – Starogard Girl
Volume 3 – Average Inhabitant
(Volume 4 – TBC, possibly Fool Circle)

I Went To Gdańsk With Somebody
Champian Stewartnova

The Backpacker’s Guide To The Inca Trail
My First Ever Travel Blog

All those books can be bought on Amazon and Lulu.

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