Today's interview features Jonny Blair who runs dontstopliving.net since 2007 and boy he certainly hasn't stopped living!
How, why and when did you get started to blog your thoughts on travel?
It was July 2007 and I had just quit a high profile PR job in London, England. I got my backpack ready to go round the world and started writing notes along the way. In Toronto in Canada, I met 2 other travel bloggers and I decided to transfer my notebook writing onto a computer and the internet so I launched my blog and called it "Don't Stop Living". I just wanted to use the internet as a platform to keep my friends and family up to date with where I was and what I was doing.
What is your blog all about?
It's a travel lifestyle blog for EVERYBODY. I don't want to leave anyone out so I cater for everyone in the world who likes travel and wants to. I believe that anyone who really wants to travel, will travel. It's in your own hands. I document my personal stories, my crazy tales, my working career and the places I go.
Are you a full-time blogger? If so, do you live a rich lifestyle? 🙂
I started my blog in 2007 and have written over 2,000 stories so I'd say I'm pretty full time!! My main blog has had on average a new post every 3 days for the last 7 years. I have worked in a load of jobs along the way though so I won't always say blogging is my main profession. It's just the hobby that has slowly become my job over time. I don't live a rich lifestyle in terms of money – I'm a cheapskate. I'll eat 3 potatoes for my dinner if I have to. But I'm rich in my knowledge of the world and how to travel on a budget. If money ever comes my way as a result of my travel stories, I happily take it and help it to improve my lifestyle.
What has been your most popular post so far?
Probably the one about how to have sex on your travels. It gets the most views and shares, though my post on how to go to the toilet is also one of my favourites. But my personal favourites are my 40 plus posts on Antarctica, which nobody seems to ever read. I literally wrote about places nobody else in the travel blogging industry has ever been to, yet nobody seems to care! This proves that your readers decide what posts are the best. The ones I think are truly epic end up flopping, the ones I write half heartedly over a quick coffee seem to get the most views!
What's your favorite country/place you have traveled to and why?
It's too tough a question. For country I'd say Taiwan, Iran or Bolivia. Taiwan is just a place with friendly people, awesome sights and not many backpackers. Once you've don't the bus trip from Taidong to Hualien up the east coast, being a traveller will never be the same again. In terms of welcoming people and hospitality, it's hard to beat Iran. Literally everyone you meet in the whole country wants to say hello, wants you to have a good time and lots of people invite you to their home for dinner. Bolivia has the most awesome countryside and a load of off the wall activities such as mining tours, salt lakes, desert plains, mountains, world's highest city, Amazon, dangerous roads etc. It's a paradise.
My favourite place that isn't a country, has to be Antarctica. I did a 13 day tour there a few years back and loved it. Everyday was different, it was an amazing adventure and provided me with my top travel moments to last a lifetime.
Also ran – Azerbaijan, China, Uruguay, Australia and Ethiopia.
Where would you want to live if you'd have to settle on one place?
It's too tough a question to answer. I have settled in Australia, Uruguay and Hong Kong for spells. But home is where the heart is and that will always be Northern Ireland for me. But there is too much of the world to see first so I won't exactly be buying a flat in Belfast anytime soon!! If I'm being honest (and greedy) I'd like to have a choice of places to settle – owning a flat in each of Hong Kong, Australia and Northern Ireland would be a dream!
If I would be looking for beaches, mountains, city life, nightlife – where would you send me?
You want all four at the same time?? That's a tough one – Georgia is pretty good for all that – beaches of Batumi, mountains at Kazbegi and Sighnaghi, city life in Tbilisi and great bars and restaurants, plus opera and dance. Australia also obviously has a good mix of all four.
How many countries have you been to?
Officially it's 85, though in the Traveller's Century list I've just cracked the 100 mark. At the start it was just about backpacking and experiencing new cultures, but now having been to so many countries, I like to keep a note and I do want to visit every country on the planet. I do a city/town count as well and am just under the 600 mark.
What places/countries are the most overrated?
United Arab Emirates, Thailand and United States. I'd happily have made them the last 3 countries I ever visited. Especially somewhere like Dubai which is such a disorganised and inhumane city, yet has somehow built a reputation round the world as somewhere to be that is cool. Same goes for Bangkok – it's all a bit seedy, dirty and tacky. As for the USA, I get a bit annoyed seeing US influences everywhere – McDonalds, Apple, US flags etc. – it would be a better place if tourism came before commercialism, politics and money. You could probably throw Canada and Germany into the same mix.
What's currently in your TOP 5 list to go to?
Again this is tough but I'll go with:
The Transiberian Railway
What was the most embarrassing travel situation you ever faced?
I've had a load of different ones. I got refused a visa for Suriname when I was in Venezuela once. In Laos while I was tubing, I lost $1000 US and my camera and photos into the stream. As they floated away forever, I swam through the currents to safety. I won't be going back to Vang Vieng in a hurry.
What was the most rewarding travel situation you encountered?
It has to be visiting a school in Tanzania in the city of Arusha. The amount of happiness, smiles and welcomes we got from the kids was unreal. It felt so nice to be with kids in a school in a poor area and yet these kids had more than half the western world in their own eyes. A moving experience.
What is your most embarrassing travel pet peeve?
Picking my nose, not washing my clothes for days and almost always bargaining a hotel or hostel price down. I can't remember the last time I paid full price for accommodation!
Did you encounter celebrities during your travels?
I've met a few – the most notable was Roger Federer. I was backpacking in Melbourne the night after he won the Australian Open and there he was just hanging around by the river waiting for journalists. He was a nice bloke. Others I've met include Northern Ireland football internationals Neil Lennon, Keith Gillespie and David Healy.
What's the most recent food discovery from your travels?
I tried Camel Meat Stew in a city called Yazd in Iran. it was truly a top feast!
What was the most complicated flight itinerary you have ever booked?
Good question. I've missed a few flights down the years, and I've also had to run like crazy through airports just to make a flight. I once had 9 flights in the period of 8 days, as it saved me money. Crazy as it sounds but it worked out cheaper to fly from Bali to Jakarta to Guangzhou to Hong Kong. Three flights to Hong Kong on that itinerary worked out at $100 US cheaper than the direct flight!! Plus I got extra free meals. I'm really am a budgeter!
What was the longest time you had no sleep/ hotel bed in a row? Tell us the story behind it!
I'm actually just off a 2 day stint of not sleeping but the worst one was when I crossed from Colombia to Venezuela in 2010. From the day I left my mate's farm, it was 3 full days until I had a hotel bed to sleep in, after a few buses (2 of them were night buses), taxis, lifts and even the metro, I finally arrived in Caracas. I still couldn't sleep even when I checked into my hotel as I was on a tight schedule to secure my Suriname Visa, so it was about 72 hours without a wink of sleep. Coffee and cake kept me sane!
Worst/Best pickup line you have used?
I always have the worst ones but I don't need them anymore thankfully! I used to just be a bit abrupt with girls. Ask them something a bit crazy or tell them a wacky story. I've also been prone to some crazy moments in hostel – mild nudity and fancy dress parties brought out the best and worst chat up lines. I've had girls tell me they work for "xxx beauty company" before as if it would impress me. I'd probably have been more interested in them if they told me they hadn't washed in 3 days due to night buses!!
What is your favorite airline product you experienced and why?
I'm not really big into airline products, I never buy them, but the food and drink on Singapore Airlines is top class. You even get a cherry and pineapple in your Singapore Sling!!
What is your favorite hotel you stayed at?
I'm a hostel man so hotels don't really suit my lifestyle. I'll namedrop the Why Not Hostel in Tbilisi Georgia, the Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem and the Hunni Hostel in Jakarta in Indonesia as my favourite places to stay in the last few years.
Do you have a travel product that nobody has ever heard of that is a real gem?
Not exactly, though my site is the longest running one person guide to all seven continents. Many travel bloggers these days don't really travel, some have only ever been to 2 continents, so I aim to put my niche in the spotlight and kick a few wannabes into touch…I'll be working on a few new adventures in the next year or so though
What airline/hotel are you craving to try?
I still like Ryanair and British Airways – one is cheap – the other is professional so I can't go wrong with either. I'd love to stay in an underwater hotel someday, or a tree house. Camping out in the Sahara would also be cool as would a 5* hotel for a night in somewhere with an awesome view.
What are your favorite travel websites and why?
For travel blogs I love eTramping, Live-Less-Ordinary, One Step 4 Ward and Wandering Earl. In terms of commercial sites, I do like Wanderlust Magazine.
What gadgets help you out on your travels?
A mouse is always useful as my Apple laptop sucks and can't scroll down most of the time. Aside from that a good old pen and notebook are what I rely on. A camera is a must and I always need spare memory cards and hard drives to cope with my notorious photo and video taking. A flask is a handy tip as it keeps tea cold until you reach the top of the mountain.